31 December 2011

12 Dates for Christmas

David is one of the hardest people to shop for.  EVER.  It's nearly impossible to surprise him with any gift because if he wants something, he'll either buy it for himself already or just tell you what it is that he wants.  And, trying to just buy him some sort of electronic gizmo?  Well, he has to Consumer Reports everything and that just takes the fun out of EVERYTHING.

Well, a couple of months ago while browsing Pinterest, I stumbled upon this and thought it would be a great thing to give to David.  I'm too impatient to wait for the beginning of each month for David to open up the envelope, so I made him open each one {wrapped in bags or boxes and mixed in with all of our gifts} on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.

Each time I was out without him grocery shopping/running errands, I would try to pick up a little gift card that could be used on our dates.  I didn't want every date just to be dinner out, but I also knew that with a baby under the age of one {for most of the year} who doesn't take a bottle, we would be sort of limited on some of the dates that we could do.

If you saw yesterday's post, you saw what I did for January.  Buffalo Wild Wings is one of our favorite date night activities.  In fact, it's the only date we've done so far since being out here.

Each one of the 12 envelopes follows this same pattern.  There's a cute little {Sanrio} sheet of paper with the month written on top and some sort of cutesie phrase describing our date plan.  Most include a gift card of some sort, except for one or two that are actually free dates {a hike and a museum trip - we can check out free passes from our library - how cool is that?}

I worked really hard at coming up with different, fun things to do and also tried to think about the time of year when we would do them.  I mean, really, who wants to go for a hike in August when it's 115 degrees?  Definitely not me!  Here's a list of our dates:

+ BW3, $25 gift card
+ Couples pedicure, gift card included
+ Trip to the movies, Fandango gift card 
+ Picnic/airplane watching, Jimmy John's gift card and a map to the local airpark
+ Hike, trail map included
+ Mini Golf & Arcade games, gift card for golf and arcade money
+ Museum
+ Staying home and making dinner*, grocery store gift card & Trivial Pursuit cards included
+ Wine tasting at local winery, gift card for 1 bottle included
+ Bowling, Gift card for several games included
+ PF Changs, $25 gift card 
+ Starbucks date, gift card included

And, here are a couple of my favorite descriptions:

* One of David's favorite things is to cook.  Unfortunately, it's not something he has a lot of time to do now.  {He is a sloooow cooker.}  When we were dating {and before kids came along}, he would cook dinner for me while I quizzed him with Trivial Pursuit cards.  Is he a nerd?  Yes.  But, I'm not and even I thought it was fun.  We haven't done it in forever, so I thought it would be fun for one of our dates!

I have to give a special thanks to my parents too because this gift is also sort of from them.  If it weren't for them offering to watch the girls, I know I would not be as willing to leave them and go spend some quality time with my husband.  So, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

I'll do my best to blog after each of our dates as well.  I'm looking forward to each month and I love that this is a gift I get to enjoy myself as well!

Hope you all had a wonderful NYE!  We stayed in and feasted on, ahem, Buffalo Wild Wings.

Happy 2012 from the Valley of the Sun!

Christmas Restocking, err ReCAP

My goal is to get this Christmas post done by New Year's.  So, here I am starting this on Friday night {woot woot, this is how I par-tay!} and I have one day to get 'er done!  David has Olivia at the gym and is picking up Vietnamese for dinner and Sydney is snoozing in the Ergo.  I am currently uploading 33 pictures from Christmas, and yes, that was me weeding it down a bit.  I'll try to pick through some of those as well so there aren't so many pictures  Or would you rather have more pictures and less words?  Anywho, on to the post:

Awww, this Christmas was absolutely wonderful!  I wondered how it might top last year's seeing as how we were in Hawaii for two weeks, but it was honestly VERY nice just being HOME.  Was it hectic leading up to Christmas?  Of course.  But, seriously EVERY day is hectic around here.  As much as I would have loved to pull out all the stops for Christmas - name plates, gorgeous table setting, etc - I realized it was way more important to enjoy doing some of the fun, crafty Christmas things with the girls because those would be remembered more.

We ended up going over to my parents' house on Saturday {Christmas Eve morning} for a scrumptious breakfast casserole after Ryan & David did some last minute shopping.  It was SO incredibly nice to just RELAX at their house after breakfast.  Ryan and Mom ended up taking Olivia up to one of the outdoor malls to do some more last minute shopping {let me tell you, that brother of mine is a GOOD last minute shopper} and Sydney ended up falling asleep on me in Dad's recliner.  So nice and peaceful.

We did let Olivia open two presents early - she got a new baby doll with lots of "mommy accessories" and a new dollhouse with some furniture in it.  David took her out for a quick walk while we got it all set up with her Strawberry Shortcake dolls and she was so excited when she came in and found it.

Mom put Olivia down for a nap and made her yummy chili for dinner.  Once she was up, we all got ready and went to the Christmas Eve service up at the clubhouse.  My uncle did an amazing job leading the service and my aunt did a fabulous job on her solo, despite being very hoarse.  It was a pleasant surprise seeing my cousin's family there as well.  It would have been nice if we had gotten a family picture before or after the service, but that would have just made 34 pictures being uploaded.

We went back to Mom and Dad's after the service and got down to business!  We didn't take our presents over there, so it felt a bit one-sided opening their presents without being able to give any from us.  But, it was still lots of fun!

Opening her Charlie Brown book narrated by Nana and Poppy.

Mom in the shot!
And, how happy am I that one of my gifts from Santa is a trip to the salon?!

Sydney opens her first teddy bear, Cooper!

Uncle Rhino got Olivia some of the coolest gifts!  He got her a veterinarian kit with all sorts of tools, two stuffed animals and a medical bag AND a veterinarian jacket with even more tools.  So, even when she opened up other gifts, she naturally assumed that her Uncle Rhino got them for her!  We got zero credit!

After opening our gifts there, we loaded them up and headed over to our house for Round 2!  We had a few snacks - a punch and some Oreo cake balls {in regular and candy cane flavored} - at our house to re-energize ourselves.  

Giving Cheers!

In hindsight, I think I would have suggested that we open up some more of the presents in the afternoon because we didn't get to finish the ones at our house before I called a postponement around 11.  We still had to get our kiddos to bed AND play Santa!

We all got some really great gifts from each other!  Mom, Dad and Ryan got our family a membership to the Phoenix zoo!  We are so excited to be able to go there whenever we want.  My brother got me a book, a gift card to get some new clothes and Felicity Season 1 {which I have already finished}.  David got me my much-coveted Erin Condren life planner, a camera coat, some new day clothes {aka pajamas} and a new fleece jacket.  He really made out with some fun stuff like a new electric toothbrush, a Magnum/Olivia/Sydney calendar and some house shoes.  Ha ha, but I also got all creative {by stealing an idea off of Pinterest} and put together 12 pre-paid dates for the two of us.  I promise to go into more detail on that on another post.  

Here's to getting more organized in 2012!

And, to some alone time with my husband!

The girls {well, to be honest, mostly Olivia} seriously hit the jackpot this Christmas!  But, as David so geniusly pointed out, Sydney gets all of Olivia's old toys PLUS new ones, so she really is the lucky one!  Olivia got lots of fun toys that I am excited to play with.  She got a cash register, her doll house, a new baby doll, the vet kit, cookware for her kitchen, books and new clothes!  And, that was just from OUR family.  That doesn't include what Santa brought her or what she got from her Grandma/Poppa and her Aunt Marissa.  Sydney got a new bouncy jumper from her Uncle Rhino {can't wait to hang that up!}, some new clothes and TONS of new bibs!

After the girls went to bed, we ended up moving our stockings into the playroom {which is right off of the family room and has doors that can shut} so that it wouldn't be tempting for Olivia when she got up.  If I do say so myself, Santa did a fabulous job stuffing those stockings!

Sydney's stockings

Olivia's stockings - yes, that IS a pink dinosaur!*

Eyeing her goodies for the first time!

Loving all over her pink dinosaur.  *She talked about asking Santa for a pink dinosaur for at least a month.  I was about to buy a stuffed pink dinosaur from Etsy for $25 when we stumbled on a plastic dinosaur in the dollar bin at Target.  A few days before Christmas I took some pink spray paint (that we already had) and turned him pink!  She plays with that dinosaur every day!

A harmonica

Sydney stayed awake for everyone opening their stocking, but was asleep by the time it was her turn.  Poor thing had slept through almost all of the gift giving the night before too.

I finally got smart and fixed her hair a little bit.  All I could hear in my head was a 20 something Olivia looking back at these pictures and saying, "Thanks, Mom, couldn't you have at least brushed my hair?" Done and done.

Sharing some of her new barrettes with everyone.

She loves the microphone attachment to her new keyboard.

Let's see how Arizona wines compare to California ones!

Pretending to be a vet

After Sydney woke up from her {super long} nap, she got to open up some of her presents.

Checking out the goods in her stocking.

Mommy loves you!

We ended up lounging around for most of the early afternoon and then had a delicious dinner with Honeybaked ham, green bean casserole, hashbrown casserole, corn pudding, and our favorite overnight salad.

Believe it or not, we still hadn't opened up all of our presents!  We still had presents from David's family and if you don't know already, let me just fill you in:  Irma is one of the best gift givers around!  The girls got some really fun gifts from her and Poppa Peter!  My favorite is probably the mini Ergo carrier!  Olivia LOVES it and has been carrying her little animals and babies around all over the place.  She likes being just like her mama.  Olivia even got her own electric toothbrush - a Hello Kitty one - and I honestly have to say this might actually be a gift for me!  It has made toothbrushing FUN!  She has also been loving her Hello Kitty flashlight and has gone on many a scorpion hunt with her daddy.   Stay tuned for some fashionista posts with the cute little outfits that each of the girls got.  {Olivia is especially loving the bright pink tutu from her Aunt Marissa.}  We also got a new picnic blanket and a wipe warmer.  I have to admit I was a bit skeptical on the wipe warmer, but I am LOVING it!  I feel like I'm at a spa every time I change Syd's diaper!

Love that Ergo!!

I was really disappointed that I didn't get any shots of the girls in their Christmas pajamas opening up their gifts together.  By the time Sydney woke up from her nap, Olivia was already dressed in regular clothes, but I was lucky enough to get a couple of pictures of them together before bed.  Ooooh, they just look so cute together!  And, I love how they are almost always doing the same kind of thing/making the same facial expressions in each of the pictures!

To say that we were exhausted by the end of the night is an understatement.  I'm pretty sure I crawled into bed around 9:30 and watched the first two episodes of Felicity while snuggling with Sydney and putting her to bed.  But, it was such a wonderful, fun day.  I'm already looking forward to next year when Sydney will be older and will enjoy opening presents even more.  This was such a fun age with Olivia - seeing the excitement and wonder in her eye.  We are so blessed to be able to experience Christmas with family - either in person or via Skype.  We hope you had a wonderful Christmas as well and best wishes to you and your family for a fabulous 2012.

Thank you for sticking with me through this long and picture-laden post!  I'm sure half of it doesn't make much sense and it's probably out of order.  Such is life in this household!  ;)
Time check:  4:30 on NYE!  Mission accomplished!

29 December 2011

A Most Special of Birthdays

Christmas Day was especially sweet for our little family as it also marked Sydney's four month birthday.  It was exactly one year ago on Christmas morning that I found out I was pregnant with her.  We were in Hawaii, packing up out of our condo and getting ready to fly over to Oahu where we would spend our last day on the islands.

What a blessed gift it was and has been ever since.  We love her SO much and I truly can't picture our family without her in it.  She is {most often} the calm to our storm - the one who keeps me sane when chaos abounds.  My friend Sarah once said that breastfeeding is God's way of forcing the busy mom to sit down and there are times that I appreciate that opportunity so much.  The craziness may go on around us, but in those moments, we are at peace.

We are hitting such a fun time - this 4 to 6 month age is one of my absolute favorites.  It seems like Sydney has grown up so much in just the last week.  She is awake for such long stretches, is sitting up in her Bumbo and is LOVING her playmat.  She is drooling like crazy and smiling up a storm.  Where it used to be just me that she wanted all the time, she will now happily let others hold her and play with her.  Her favorite {besides me} is probably her Poppy.  She loves to just hang out with him and let him hold her.  Not surprising since I was my Pappaw's girl as well.

Looking at her in these pictures, it just blows my mind as to how grown up she is.  I know that sounds crazy - she's only four months old - but she has lost so much of that newborn look to her.  As much as I love this new stage we are entering, my heart can't help but break a little at the one that has passed.  My sweet, beautiful, precious baby.  I love her so...

*I took Sydney in to the doctor for her 4 month check up on the 23rd.  She was 25 inches long and weighed 13 pounds 10 ounces.

23 December 2011

Traditions + Holiday Decor

Ooooh la la!  It's Christmas EVE!!  And, what better time than now to talk about some of our Christmas traditions.  I love having our own little family to begin new traditions with and to continue some of our old ones.  

In addition to making Olivia cry at Santa, here are some of our other holiday traditions:

+ Each year I've purchased Olivia a new set of pajamas as her first present to open up.  And so far, they've been footed pajamas.  I continued that this year and even got Olivia and Sydney matching outfits.  So excited for them to open them up and wear them together.  Since we'll be going to church on Sunday before opening our stockings, I'm not sure if I'll put them back in the pajamas for opening the stockings or not.  {I think I will though...}

+ I have also ordered Olivia a pewter ornament each year from Shutterfly with her picture on it.  I ordered one for her again and one for Sydney and they both turned out SO cute!  I hope Shutterfly continues to make these ornaments because I plan on getting the same style every year.  I can just imagine a small tree when they get older with only these ornaments on them.  My goal is to get them engraved with their names and the year as well.

(Excuse the crappy phone picture of these two)

+ Growing up, my parents gave my brother and I our own ornaments and now I have my own collection that I put on our tree.  In addition to the picture ornaments, I've gotten the girls their own ornaments this year (and Olivia in years past).  This year I went with two different Elf on the Shelf ornaments to signify the first year that we brought him into our home.  

+ And, speaking of the Elf on the Shelf, obviously he's a new tradition for us.  I'm so excited to bring him out again next year - he's been so much fun.  I'd love to continue the Elf on the Shelf breakfast like I did this year and plan on having the girls write letters to Santa Claus each year.

I framed Olivia's letter this year.  It says, "Dear Santa, We listen to Christmas music in the car.  Thank you Santa for getting me Bunky the Elf!  I want a pink dinosaur, please.  Are you going to bring Mrs. Claus?  Please tell Mrs. Claus that I am going to be a good girl.  Love, Olivia"

+ I'm really loving doing the advent with the Christmas books and will continue to do that each year, but will more than likely change out some of the books as the girls get older.

+ I don't know that this is necessarily a tradition, but we've all got matching stockings from Pottery Barn Kids.  We all have our names embroidered on them except for Sydney.  I figured it was more important to have it hung than have it away for a week or so to get her name on it.  I'll have hers embroidered after Christmas.

+ For as long as I can remember, we have watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation in the days leading up to Christmas.  I actually have it on right now as I finish up this post.  

Favorite line:  If I woke up with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now.
Second favorite line:  Shitter's full!

+ I know some people do this, but we always open our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve.  All the presents that are from our family get opened after we go to Christmas Eve service and our gifts from Santa and our stockings are opened on Christmas morning.  I should note that it's also tradition for my mom to to suggest we wait until Christmas day to open up all of the presents, but it always gets vetoed!

+ Like I mentioned above, we go to Christmas Eve service every year.  The last two years have been the only exception with us being in Hawaii last year and having a new baby the year before.  But, that's not stopping us this year and we are going to take the whole family to the clubhouse to watch my uncle lead the service and my aunt sing a solo.

+ We may be starting a new tradition this year - we'll see if it sticks - but we will be having my mom's chili for supper after Christmas Eve service {and my dad's amazing toasted cheese sandwiches}.  When I was in high school and college, we would pick up take-out from Mark Pi's and take it back to our house after church and hang out with our good friends the Caldwells before opening our gifts.  {That gives me warm fuzzies thinking about that...}  My mom always makes a different punch for us to drik while we eat cookies and open presents.  So excited for that this year as I've made some yummy Oreo cookie truffles.

+ Growing up, my grandparents would always get a Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler in their stockings.  They weren't drinkers at all, but I think they would sometimes partake in these drinks just once a year.  A couple of years ago, I started the tradition for my parents and have a 4 pack in the fridge just waiting to be stuffed in their stockings.  {Hope this doesn't spoil the "surprise."}

+ David and I have sent out picture Christmas cards since our first Christmas together as a couple. Each year I keep a copy of the cards and have kept the ones with Olivia in them in a special box for her full of her keepsakes.  I'll do the same for Sydney this year as well.  I've also decided to hang onto all of the Christmas cards we've received from year to year and pull them out at Christmas.  It will be neat to see how the families have changed over the years!

We have some beautiful friends and family!

I'm sure I'm missing some, but I'm glad to have these down for us.  What are some of your holiday traditions?  Anybody bake Jesus a birthday cake?  I was thinking we may do that too.  (As if we need more sweets in the house!)

Merry Christmas, Everyone!