Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Farewell, 2014

And so we've reached the end of yet another year. And once again, I can't help but look back at the last 365 days and marvel at how much our lives have changed.

Last year at this time, we were celebrating the new year in Pinehurst, North Carolina, a very fun holiday stop on a Christmas road trip. Ellie was not yet two years old, had almost no hair, and her speech consisted of baby sign language and single-syllable utterances, many of which were intelligible only to her parents. Eric had just finished up his first semester as a teacher, and it was a hectic one that included teaching two subjects and coaching football. I was busy finding fun things to do with Ellie in Jacksonville while trying my best to keep first trimester nausea and fatigue at bay. It was one year ago at this time that we announced to the world that E.J. would be joining our family. We were still over a month from finding out he would be a boy!

This year has seen Ellie grow into a really incredible little girl with an impressive command of language and an endless imagination. She has grown taller and stronger and faster, and even grew enough hair to warrant a cut! She's obsessed with Doc McStuffins, owns four stethoscopes (two real and two pretend) and gives regular checkups to people and toys. She is also an incredibly doting big sister and demonstrates an unparalleled sense of fashion.

Eric is now halfway through his second year of teaching (the last of his Teach for America commitment) and is gradually gaining a better idea of what the future might hold for him professionally. Not coaching football this year has allowed him time to train for a marathon, which he will run next week.

As for me, I gave birth to an adorable baby boy on July Fourth. Now I am settling in nicely to being a stay-at-home mother to two kids, and we have a pretty fun weekly schedule of activities to keep us occupied.

And E.J., well, he is no longer an alien face on an ultrasound machine, but is the sweetest little boy you will ever meet, who is already almost halfway through his first year of life. He's happy and bouncy and working hard at sitting up on his own and scooting around on the floor to get his hands (and mouth) on anything in his line of sight.

2014 also brought a little travel for us (our very fun weekend at Disney World in February, our babymoon at Innisbrook in March and E.J.'s first trip to Cleveland just this past week), and a move to a new rental house (farewell, Apartment of Wasps!), and E.J.'s baptism. We did face some tougher times, including E.J.'s two-week hospital stay for "presumed meningitis," and the loss of my grandmother. My sister moved to Japan and will continue to live there at least for the better part of this coming year (that's great for her, but sad for me!). We've done a lot more exploring in Jacksonville and have found a neighborhood we really enjoy. We had a blast for E.J.'s first Halloween and all the winter holidays, and have spent some really great times with family back home. And most of all, we've enjoyed being with each other and living our new life as a family of four.

Things may have changed a lot in the last year, but even more so in the years since I started recording our lives here on the blog. My first New Year's Eve post went live just before we wrapped ourselves in every piece of warm clothing in our closets and ventured out to Times Square for the ball drop. We were relative newlyweds, brand new New Yorkers, freezing cold and excited for what the new year had in store for us. Each new year since that first has brought more adventure than the last, ultimately leading us to where we are today. What an absolutely fantastic journey.

It is looking back at the past progression of our lives that helps me feel secure in the knowledge that each change that comes our way puts us on the path to where we're meant to be. We're not through making changes yet, and could very likely face further upheaval this year. Sometimes it's hard to still feel unsettled, but all I need to do is look back at where we started and how we got here and I know that the right paths will open up to us and our adventure will continue just as it is meant to. And, I am accompanied by the most perfect travel companions!

So Eric and I will kick off this new year as we have for each of those we've shared since our wedding: together. And now, we are joined also by our two beautiful children. Our homes have changed and our family continues to grow but we remain happy, in love, and eager to see what awaits us in 2015.

VIDEO: A look back at our 2014

All the best to you in the new year, friends. May your 2015 be filled with happy memories and peace.

Signing off for 2014,


Thursday, December 25, 2014

For Unto Us a Child is Born

For to us a child us born, to us a son is given, and the government will be up on his shoulders. 
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
- Isaiah 6:9

Merry Christmas, friends and family! We are enjoying a wonderful day, our first Christmas as a family of four! There will be good food, lots of family time and many happy memories being made, all in celebration of the birth of our Savior. We have many, many blessings for which to be thankful!

We hope you all have a perfect happy day. Merry Christmas to you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


We took the kids to see Santa at the St. John's Town Center back on December 1, and it went amazingly well!

We hoped to get a decent picture of the two of them on Santa's lap, but had pretty realistic expectations - actually, I expected E.J. to smile happily, because that's what he does, and for Ellie to pout and cry, because, well. You know. After last year's Santa performance, I didn't have much reason to expect a much different outcome:

Ellie and Santa, circa 2013. THAT POUT!

We planned to buy a photo of the two of them regardless of how it turned out, but we also planned to buy a picture of E.J. by himself on Santa's lap because, of course, Second Child Syndrome. Ellie got two years of pictures of herself with Santa, so E.J. should have his own, too! At least for his first Christmas. By golly, that child will NOT feel neglected on my watch.

In the end, however, we ended up buying a ton of pictures of Ellie! That was quite the surprising twist, given that both before and after sitting on Santa's lap she was throwing the two-year-old-tantrum to end all tantrums. We weren't expecting much Christmas joy out of these two:

Those are some well-dressed but surly children.

The drama.

But that Santa was AWESOME. He was able to get Ellie to smile and play and dance with him, and she didn't even want to get off his lap! We got so many nice smiley pictures of Ellie, we could barely choose. I mean, we thought this one was really good:


And then this one was even sweeter:

What an angel.

But finally, we found it. THE PICTURE:

My favorite!

How adorable is she??? She really is such a sweetheart.

When it was E.J.'s turn, he first struck a pose reminiscent of Ellie's first Santa encounter:

Meeting Santa is very serious business.

Ellie's first Santa meet-and-greet on the left, and E.J.'s on the right. What's the deal with the hand up pose?

It was harder to coax a smile out of him than expected. That kid literally smiles at everything, but he was just far more concerned with yanking on Santa's beard than smiling for pictures. Eventually, however, he returned to his usual self and managed to out-jolly the jolly old elf himself!


We did also end up with a nice picture of the two of them:

Ellie is less smiley but still very sweet, and E.J. looks like he's posing for his presidential portrait.

Although compared to their super-adorably-happy individual pictures, this team shot just doesn't quite compare!

All in all, it was about the best Santa experience we could've hoped for! Kudos to the Town Center Santa for being so great with our kids, and of course, kudos to the kids for just being so unbearably cute!

Happy Christmas Eve, friends!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Cuties

A couple of weeks ago, Eric and I decided to dress the kiddos in their Christmas pajamas and have a little photoshoot in our living room in the hopes of snapping a picture suitable for our Christmas card. In fact, we ended up with a really adorable series of holiday photos of our two cuties!

Writing their letter to Santa

Check out this big guy, sitting up all by himself! He's wobbly, but he's doing it!

Little brother problems.

Oops! Outtake! That "sitting up alone" thing is still a bit shaky. Good thing Big Sister was there to catch him!

Drooly but cute face!

Waiting for Santa

Santa? Are you up there?

They're too much.

So which photo made the final cut for the Christmas card? This one!:

Look at those sweet faces!

And the card itself:

Card front

And the back! Stay tuned for more talk about those Santa pictures, too!

Those two are really making this holiday magical for us!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Baking Cookies

I decided that this Christmas, I wanted to bake some Christmas cookies with Ellie. She has some pajamas with gingerbread men on them:

and she was pretty into gingerbread men thanks to those PJs, so I thought making gingerbread men would be a perfect holiday activity. (Well, she was into gingerbread men, until we did the Gingerbread Man Dash in St. Augustine and she decided she was scared of the gingerbread man, but this plan was already hatched by then, so tough luck, kid.)

So, I gathered all the ingredients, we apron-ed up and went to work making gingerbread dough - Ellie's first baking experience! She was very into helping me pour stuff into the bowls, and she wanted to help stir. She did not care for the electric mixer (she doesn't like loud noises these days), so when I told her it was going to get noisy, she would just get down from her chair and go to her room until I told her it was over. Overall she loved the experience, especially the flour, and for days afterwards, every time we went into the kitchen she would say, "that's where we made flour!"

Happy bakers!

Ingredient-dumping action shot!


Unfortunately, I turned out to not be quite the domestic goddess/Mother of the Year that I fancied myself, because the dough didn't quite turn out. It was far too sticky to be able to do anything with it, so into the trash it went. Alas! I'm not sure if it was a bad recipe or my poor baking skills or what, but there was no saving it.

I had been looking forward to the cookie decorating portion of the program, so I decided we would just make sugar cookie cutouts and decorate those. I briefly considered making my Nana's homemade sugar cookie recipe, but the gingerbread debacle left me a little gun-shy so I went with a package mix. Hey, I added an egg! We'll call that baking.

When the dough was prepared, Ellie helped me make the cutouts.

She's a natural.

We baked them, then left them be until later that evening when E.J. was in bed (he currently lacks the dexterity for cookie-decorating) and Eric was around to help us decorate. Then we went to town with icing and sprinkles. Ellie seemed to feel pretty strongly that moderation is NOT key when it comes to sprinkles, so many of her cookies were so decked out that you could get a sugar high just from being in the same room as them. But, she had a great time (we all did!) and the cookies turned out great!

Decorating cookies!

Careful sprinkle application

A totally reasonable amount of sprinkles for one cookie

Sprinkle fingers: a delicacy!

Showing off some of our decorated cookies

Ellie and Eric's masterpieces! Also, Eric's tie and Ellie's most natural "smile" face.

It was so fun to make Christmas cookies with my daughter for the first time. This holiday season has been amazing so far!


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Our Holiday Home

Yesterday I shared E.J.'s stocking with you, so today I thought I would show you a little more of our holiday decor. The decorations themselves haven't changed much from the many other "holiday home" posts I've done, but we're decorating yet another home for the first time this year (and our first house!), so I wanted to share.

I suppose it makes sense to start on the outside and make our way in, don't you think? We've never put Christmas lights on a house before! I just put some greenery swags with lights in the windows of our porch and our big wreath on the front of the house. It's nothing fancy or elaborate, but I like how it looks.

Welcome to our Christmas house!

We also have our usual wreath on the front door.

Our red door is so festive!

Let's go inside!


Let's look at the dining room first and then backtrack to the living room. The entrance to the dining room is adorned with a mistletoe ball, a fun Advent calendar my cousin made for me last year and Christmas cards we've received. (There is also a snowman wall hanging on the left side of the doorway and an Advent calendar on the right, but those didn't make it in the photo!)

We've collected more cards since this photo was taken!

In the dining room, we have a festive tablecloth and our Advent wreath, along with some holiday wall art and a big singing snowglobe on the floor that my mom brought for the kids. We also have our old stocking hanger and stockings along the wall into the kitchen.

The dining room

Advent wreath, with my angel candle snuffer

We bought that stocking hanger when we lived in NYC, so we didn't have to tape our stockings to the heater anymore. I still love it, even though we have a real mantle now!

Even Ellie's little table nook is decked out with a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, her holiday artwork, some Christmas books and her Little People Nativity on the bookshelf.

Ellie Christmas decor!

Both kids also have stockings hanging on their doors.

Cute little stockings

Now let's go into the living room - my favorite, homey space!

The living room!

Of course, there is our dear little tree, standing strong despite being totally overloaded with ornaments.

Another year for this tree!

I especially love how the tree looks standing by our fireplace. The mantle is decked out in greenery and is adorned with almost my complete nativity collection (minus one that wouldn't fit and is breakable, thus is still packed away from toddler hands this year).

I mean, how cozy is this?!

My Willow Tree nativity is the centerpiece on the mantle

To the left is my Three Wisemen nativity from NYC, our little nativity from Pinehurst, NC, and a smaller one from Mexico

The nativities to the right: a teeeeeeeny tiny one from Christ Church in Philadelphia, a little one from Tanner's Orchard in Illinois, and a beautiful one my dad gave me.

And of course, all of our family stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

Achilles is in the center, and Ellie and E.J. are on the right

Eric's Santa stocking, and my felt ornaments (someday I plan to cross-stitch stockings for both of us, too!)

I just love our little Christmas house. It's cozy and homey and warm and inviting. I'm going to be sad to see the decorations go in a few weeks, but for now I'll continue to enjoy our tree with a glass of wine by the fire!

Perfect! Merry Christmas!