Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

Here we go...lots of pictures from our Christmas celebrations! Charlie and Lily had a great weekend and were spoiled, spoiled, spoiled. ;) We kicked things off on Friday the 23rd with a visit from Daddy dressed as Santa. Each year Joe buys them each a special gift and brings it to them dressed as Santa. This year, however, Lily has entered her "scared of Santa" phase and was not so happy to see Santa Daddy walk into the room. (When Joe went and changed out of his Santa suit, causing Lily to proclaim, "Oh good! Daddy got changed!")
Charlie thought it was a fun game, though!
Both Charlie and Lily loved their special gifts, regardless of their feelings on Santa Daddy. Lily got a Dora the Explorer backpack complete with Map and Boots.
Charlie got a big firetruck. And I got a gift too! Charlie and Lily went to Build-a-Bear (with a little help from Daddy and MomMom) and made me a polar bear. When I press the bear's paws I hear recordings of Charlie and Lily singing "Jingle Bells" and proclaiming "Merry Christmas, Mommy!" It's pretty awesome. After spending some time with their presents, Charlie and Lily painted the salt dough ornaments we had made earlier in the day, and then we went to our favorite restaurant for dinner before driving around to look at Christmas lights.
Christmas Eve was spent at Aunt Linda and Uncle Mike's house. Charlie and Lily kicked off the night by seeing Santa come by the house on the fire truck and then munching on the candy canes he gave them.
After dinner it was time to open Santa gifts. Charlie was much more interested in handing out the gifts and seeing what everyone received than he was in opening his own presents.
Oooh, Uncle John got a pie plate!
Lily was so excited that she just had to dance!
They both also enjoyed spending time with family. They were happy to see their great-grandfather, "Big PopPop."
When we got home from celebrating Christmas Eve, Charlie and Lily made sure to leave out some cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer before going to bed.
Then it wasn't long before Santa came!
Gifts were opened on Christmas morning while wearing our awesome matching pajamas made by my friend Amber (go to Facebook and "like" Piper's Closet for more info).
Santa left Charlie and Lily a special letter along with their gifts.
Lily was very excited to see her new doll house.
And they both really liked the double-sided easel. Charlie's big gift was a workbench complete with tools.
But the little light-up marble racer cars were his favorite gift from Santa.
The books were well received too!
Once the presents from Santa were opened, it was time for our families to visit. MomMom, PopPop, Uncle John and Aunt Bec arrived first with lots of wonderful gifts. Uncle John and Aunt Bec gave Charlie a fire truck and fireman's hat, and Lily received a new doll stroller and an Abby Cadabby doll and book. MomMom and PopPop spoiled them as usual with clothes, an Alphie, a music learning tablet, a Let's Rock Elmo with all the pieces to form an entire band...and that's just to name a few things. They also received some great gifts from their great-aunts and cousins. Next, Crackers, Grandad, Nana, Aunt Jill and Uncle John arrived with MORE gifts. There was a Thomas train set for Charlie and a Minnie's house playset for Lily from Aunt Jill and Uncle Aaron, great V-Tech number and letter writing toys from Nana, and a fun Fridge Phonics set from Crackers, along with a train table for Charlie and a baby doll care station for Lily.
After a (all too short) nap, it was off to Nana's house to visit with Aunt Diane, Uncle John and cousin Adam and to get some more gifts. Diane, John and Adam gave Charlie and Lily Magna-Doodles, Memory, Puppy Bingo and great animal-themed hat/glove sets. They also gave each of them a personalized Santa hat, which Lily insisted on wearing the rest of the evening. Finally it was on to Uncle John's for Christmas dinner. At this point Charlie and Lily reached an over-stimulated, over-tired high that left them giddy and racing from room to room of Uncle John's house. The fact that there was a bowl of M&Ms left within their reach also added to their wackiness.
But there are much worse ways to end Christmas than with smiling, chocolate covered kids :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy holidays, everyone! I have a million pictures from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to share but with all the holiday hustle and bustle I haven't had a chance to post them on here yet. But I wanted to share Charlie and Lily's Christmas card pictures, because I think they came out great (Thank you, Target. You never disappoint me.) and wanted to wish all our friends, family and readers a very happy holiday. We hope you are enjoying every second - we are!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thank you, Sandra Boynton!

Just when we thought we couldn't possibly love Sandra Boynton anymore, she sends us this amazing gift! A few months ago Joe was on Sandra Boynton's website, seeing if she had any new books coming out. He came across the contact page and decided to send Sandra an email, telling her how special her books are to us. I fell in love with her books while working in a daycare center in college, and one of the very first things we did when I found out I was pregnant was go buy some Sandra Boynton books so we could read to the babies in utero. Joe read to them every night while they were in the womb, and we read them a Sandra Boynton book every single night of their NICU stay. We read them Birthday Monsters on the 27th of every month for the first year of their lives. When Annaleigh passed away, we used the verses of Personal Penguin on her funeral prayer card. Now, Charlie and and Lily are huge fans themselves. Just yesterday, Charlie started randomly reciting What's Wrong, Little Pookie? to himself. They can both recite The Going to Bed Book from memory and they sing Snuggle Puppy and Personal Penguin.

Anyhow, Sandra's sister Pam, who handles all of Sandra's fan correspondance, wrote Joe back and forwarded his message on to Sandra... and a few days later, Sandra personally responded, which was exciting enough in itself. But then she went ahead and sent us these amazing gift bags! Charlie and Lily each got an autographed copy of one of her book/CD combos and a stuffed animal - and aardvark and a rhinoceros. A gift bag for Joe and me contained two ties (which Joe can't wait to wear to work), coffee, a mom's calendar (that I had put on my Christmas list!) and birthday planner, CD and book.
But our favorite item was one for Annaleigh - an autographed copy of Personal Penguin. Both Joe and I cried when we opened it up. It's something we'll always treasure. Thank you so much, Sandra (and Pam)! You are wonderful! And if you haven't read Sandra's books, you are missing out big time...get thee to a bookstore! I recommend Moo, Baa, La, La, La and But Not the Hippopotamus (two of my personal favorites!). Charlie and Lily are currently big fans of Let's Dance, Little Pookie.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reindeer and Snowmen

As I mentioned in last week's post, I am totally dedicated to Christmas right now! So this week's "lesson" focused on two holiday staples: reindeer and snowmen. We made these awesome reindeer cookies using just Nutter Butters, some vanilla frosting, pretzels, M&Ms and chocolate chips. (Thank you again, Pinterest!) Truth be told, I did most of the reindeer assembly because Charlie and Lily were way more interested in trying to sneak chocolate chips and M&Ms when they thought I wasn't looking. At one point during this project I got a phone call, and while my back was turned for two seconds to pick up the phone they both shoved handfuls of candy into their mouths. I looked back to find them both slyly chewing with chocolate all around their mouths.
For art we made these snow globe snowmen. We used paper plates for the snowmen, then filled plastic baggies with sparkles and taped them to a cut-out in the center of the snowmen. Lily insisted on using the sparkles to decorate her snowman's hat too. (I got this idea from No Time for Flash Cards - I've said it before and I'll say it again: that is the BEST blog!)
We also made these reindeer hats. Lily LOVED her hat and wore it all afternoon. When Joe took the kids downstairs to play, Lily got a glimpse of herself in the mirror wearing that hat and stood there totally fascinated by it. We also watched Frosty the Snowman on TV and sang Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Charlie has become obsessed with buckles. He is always going over to his booster seat to buckle and unbuckle the straps. He loves all things mechanical.
He also loves a good cuddle! But I think I was actually enjoying it more :)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Letter I and A Very Furry Christmas

Last week we learned about the letter I. I've decided that this will be our last week of alphabet-themed learning until after Christmas, because all I really want to do between now and then is Christmas themed crafts, activities and baking. This week, even though I meant to focus on the letter I, things still managed to morph into holiday activities so why fight it? 'Tis the season! We did stick to the theme with our craft and made these letter I ice cream cones.
We read If You Take a Mouse to the Movies and sang "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." We also attempted to make igloo cupcakes by topping vanilla frosted cupcakes with lots of mini marshmallows. Unfortunately, the Christmas sprinkles I found in the dollar bin at Target proved much more enticing to Charlie and Lily than the marshmallows, so we mostly ended up with green, red and white cupcakes instead. Topped with lots and lots and lots of sprinkles.
Yay Christmas!
Last night we took Charlie and Lily to Sesame Place for A Very Furry Christmas. They had the best time! Upon walking into the park, before we even got to the main entrance, we came upon these groves of character-themed Christmas trees. Charlie and Lily had a blast running between the different color trees and exclaiming over each one.
We saw the 1-2-3 Christmas Tree display - they loved the music and the way the tree lights "danced" to the songs.
And we saw The Count! Charlie and Lily love The Count and raced right up to him to give him hugs.
Then they took a break under the giant mistletoe. We tried to get them to kiss, but they weren't feeling the love.
We also saw Santa! Well, Charlie saw Santa. Lily decided he was best admired from afar. However, she did work up the courage before we left to give Old Saint Nick a high five and snag a candy cane from him. We didn't manage to make it to any of the shows, but Charlie and Lily did get a ride on the carousel which they thoroughly enjoyed.
And of course, we visited the gift shop! Charlie was so happy when we bought him not only a toy bus but also an Elmo ornament for the Christmas tree. (Elmo riding a TRAIN - what could be better for Charlie?)
Lily chose a Murray doll to add to our collection. She carried him around the rest of the night saying, "Oh, Murray" and kissing him. If you're in the NJ/PA area, I definitely recommend visiting Sesame Place for the holidays.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Letter H and the Christmas Spirit

This week Charlie and Lily learned about the letter H. I'm not going to lie - once again our poor letter of the week was kind of eclipsed by holiday things. We did manage to squeeze in a few H related activities though, like making these handy little H's. We also read But Not the Hippopotamus and Hippos Go Berserk.
The weather has been much cooler this week, but we still tried to squeeze in some playground time. Here's Lily encouraging Daddy to get his shoes on so he can take her out.
Charlie and Lily have also become obsessed with Dora the Explorer. They caught it for the first time on Monday and have been begging for it daily. They sing the songs and Lily is in love with Boots the monkey. She says, "Where Boots go? Oh, there he is!" about 50 times an episode. On Saturday morning the introduced Joe to Dora too.
Now that December is here we've started doing some Christmas activities too! This weekend our town had a great Winter Wonderland celebration in a local park. They had tons of lights and decorations, a Santa's village, a train ride, treats, and lots of costumed characters walking around. Charlie and Lily had a great time!
Charlie's favorite part was the train ride!
We even saw Elmo!
But strolling along looking at the lights (while eating giant cookies) was also nice!
Yesterday we put up our Christmas tree. We thought Charlie and Lily would be very interested in decorating it, but they really weren't all that enthralled. They were more interested in the fact that we moved their toys to a different spot in the living room to make room for the tree. The only part of decorating they really cared about was hanging up the star, so Joe made sure he did it twice.
The tree became much more interesting to kids, however, once Joe put the gate around it. Forbidden fruit and all that...
Charlie and Lily did enjoy decorating these paper trees though. First they decorated them with with dot paints to make lights, then sprinkled on lots of sparkles. Pinterest has given me tons of great Christmas craft ideas, so I know we'll be churning things out from now until the holidays are over!
If you're feeling the holiday spirit as well, I encourage you to please support The Jackson Malia Fund's 4th Annual Toy Drive. The fund was established by my friend Megan in honor of her son Jack, who passed away too soon, leaving behind his fellow triplets Katie and Charlotte. The organization offers support to special needs children and their families. The toy drive is for a wonderful cause and helping is simple! Just visit the toy drive's Amazon wish list , select a gift and send it directly to drive. Charlie and Lily are super excited to attend the drive's breakfast with Santa this year, which is next Saturday! Details can be found on the Fund's website if you are in NJ and would like to attend!