Thursday, December 29, 2011

Our Christmas Card and Newsletter

I had the HARDEST time with our Christmas Cards this year.  I wanted something simple, something classic, something with pictures.  But, I couldn't decide if I wanted color photos or black and white, if I wanted a white background, or black, plain or patterned!  It was just so much.  Then, I debated our holiday newsletter.  I didn't want to do a full page, but I also wanted to include our highlights.  Which meant I decided to fit it into a 5x7, which meant that as I wrote, I ended up in a 10pt font...

But, here it is, our Christmas Card and our Newsletter!

And here is the text of our newsletter for easier reading :)

Hello Family and Friends!

Can you believe another year has already passed?  It feels like just yesterday we were 
celebrating the New Year!

We’ve had such an incredible year!  We traveled to Las Vegas twice, during one trip Kaitlyn 
was a beautiful flower girl for the second time.  We also visited beautiful San Antonio, Texas 
and had the luxury of watching a Giant’s game at Chase Field in Phoenix, AZ and 
another in Oakland.  We had lazy days by the pool and lots of cuddling and story sharing!

Our year was filled with a gazillion memories captured in thousands of photographs. We 
shared too many laughs to count and enjoyed the company of good family and friends.

Kaitlyn graduated from the first grade with flying colors!  For 2nd grade we decided to 
transfer her to a school that challenged her more.  It has been challenging, but she loves it.  
She’s at the top of her class and made the Principal’s Honor Roll with her straight As.  She’s 
reading over a 5th grade level and mastering multiplication and division.  She loves Monster 
High and Victorious, riding her bike, playing video games and makes friends faster than 
anyone I’ve ever seen!  She is so excited about being 7 and we cannot believe how fast
 she’s growing up!

This year we celebrated Matthew’s 4th Birthday with our traditional balloon release at the 
cemetery with family and friends.  We are so incredibly grateful and thankful to those that 
continue to keep his memory and spirit alive.  Thank you so much to those that walk with us in 
March for Babies (did you know we’ve been the number 1 family team in both money and 
walkers for a couple years now??) and that join us in releasing balloons for his birthday both 
in presence and in spirit,  Kaitlyn has done a beautiful job of sharing Matthew’s memory with 
Samantha.  We can see so much of him and who he could have been in her.  Four years 
since his passing and we continue to miss him each day.

Samantha is absolutely thriving!  She LOVED her birthday cake and attacked it like she had 
never eaten a day in her life!  She has grown so much this year!  She’s really tall for her age 
and such a talker!  She had her tongue clipped over the summer and just has so much to say!  
She is completely off the bottle and in her own bed, most of the time.  She loves Elmo and
Sesame Street, running from Daddy and bath time.  She hates Kaitlyn going to school and 
just lights up when it’s time to pick her up.  She is such a joy and pleasue and has been the
perfect fit in our family.

We hope this year has brought you times of joy, peace and a lifetime of memories. 
May 2012 bring you wonderful times and nothing but happiness.  Thank you for being a 
part of our lives!


As 2011 come to an end, it's pretty traditional to reflect on the resolutions of the past year and to decide on resolutions for the one beginning.  The old saying, out with the old and in with the new, is pretty commonly heard these days, although I don't find it to be necessarily the best.  I mean, far too often, new is not always better.  New needs to work out the quirks and wrinkles to become the best, and why leave something that is working so well in exchange for something that may not work at all?

My resolutions last year were:  Live for today, concentrating on the positive people in our lives and get healthier.  Overall, I think I've done pretty good.  We make the most of every day and enjoy the busy days as much as the lazy ones.  We've spent more time and energy on those that are positive aspects in our lives and sometimes I am healthier ;).

I think my New Year's resolution this year is similar to those last year and an underwritten tone I had in 2011, striving for simplicity.  I think so far I've done a pretty good job of it.  My goal has been to make life simpler.  To me, that means a life without constant drama, a life with good friends and family, events that are more intimate to make things more personal and to concentrate on those things that really matter.

I've started the sometimes uncomfortable battle of weeding out the negative in our lives, saying good-bye to relationships that have been outgrown or are the result of feeling an obligation rather than a bond.  I've done what I can to end the issues of drama and being the doormat that is passive aggressive when something is bothering me rather than just out and out saying what exactly is bothering me to whoever it is.  We have one life, we have one chance and no one knows how long that life will last, so why waste time or energy on things that are not adding something positive to your life?  

I think I reached a point where I felt less lonely in a room of dozens of people than in a room with just a few.  It provided more of a distraction when that was all I felt I needed.  Does that make it right or healthy?  Absolutely not.  This year, I've wanted to expand and deepen the relationships that were really important to me.  Which meant I had to admit that I'm not a superhero with unlimited hours and energy.  I had to make a decision, is it more important to have superficial relationships with many or deep relationships with much fewer?  To me, having deep relationships just meant more.  I wanted to focus on those that had been such a source of support, those I trusted, those who I enjoyed spending time with, who I respected and who I thought were not only good for me to be around, but good for my kids too.

I want 2012 to continue the simplicity.  I want to focus on what matters, I want to spend less time in the car jumping from event to event and I want to spend even more quality time with our girls.  The weekends have become so valuable to me.  With Kaitlyn in school until 3:30 every, single day, and us getting home just a short time before it gets dark only to start homework, dinner and bedtime routines, I want to really enjoy the weekend with her.

I wish the same for everyone I've ever known, anyone that reads this and anyone who knows any of those people.  My wish for you this year is for a year of peace, of happiness and of joyful beginnings.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What a beautiful Christmas

I think Christmas is one of those magical times of year when everything just seems to come together.  For so many, the magic of Christmas is a lot of work, a lot of planning and a lot of strategy.  But, it's nearly always worth it.

This year, our Christmas started on Thursday the 22nd.  We hosted a small Winter Wonderland party for the kids of our closest friends and family.  We kept the invitation list incredibly short (it's the first time ever we've had anything and kept the invitations fewer than double digits!  And it was hard!) to keep things more intimate and kept the playroom lit only by the glow of Christmas lights.  The kids got to decorate Santa hats with glitter glue and cookies with frosting.  They got to run around on a sugar rush from hot coco and a variety of cookies before Santa made his surprise visit.  The look on some of their faces was priceless.  One ran from the room as quickly as she could, but quickly warmed up.  It felt like Christmas surrounded by some of our favorite people and delicious treats.

Friday we took care of last minute things.  Such as goodies for the stockings.  Kaitlyn and Samantha went to play with their cousin at Nana's house while I went to overly packed stores to finish up my shopping.  We went home to meet Daddy who was home at noon and spent the day relaxing, decorating gingerbread houses, watching Christmas movies and gearing up for the festivities of the weekend!

Christmas, and all holidays really, are typically jam packed with family fun.  We are incredibly blessed to be a short car drive from both sets of family.  We're even more blessed that we maintain such a close relationship with both and our kids are so excited to go to both.  There is something so heart warming to see the seamless merging of two sets of families and their extensions.  One of my favorite parts of the holidays is spending time with family.  I think it's so important for our kids to have a strong bond with their extended family that I couldn't ever imagine living anywhere else.  It's funny, but even when Dusty and I see other places that would be gorgeous to live in, or where the cost of living is lower or the laws are less ridiculous, unless both complete sets of family are relocating with us, I couldn't do it.  It also gives me such a deep depth of gratitude and respect for our military families.

Christmas Eve, we woke up, had breakfast, got dressed and sorted the presents that were going with us, loaded the car with plenty of diapers and toddler things and headed to Dusty's family's house to spend the day.  The girls played and played with their cousin, we ate some yummy food, talked, laughed and the girls all opened far too many gifts.  This year, Matthew received a beautiful snow globe from his Aunt Christy and Uncle Dennis.  The older girls enjoyed Samantha's toys almost as much as she did and the car was packed for the ride home late that night.  Kaitlyn's favorites of the night were her angry bird jammies and tablet for the wii and toys r us gift card, Samantha's favorites were her texting toy, baby doll and princess ride on.

Christmas morning came early for us.  Samantha was up at 2 AM with a really bad cold.  She tried to lay with me, but just was so miserable she cried and fussed until 6:45.  Then, at 7:15 Kaitlyn came running in desperate to find out what Santa had left her.  We held her off for about 45 minutes, then Samantha was gently woken up to go see what was behind the wrapping paper under the tree.  Kaitlyn was so excited Santa brought her the karaoke machine and Victorious microphone she had been asking for, Samantha was in love with her slide (once she realized what it was and I picked her up).  They ripped into their stockings and the gifts under the tree.  Although they were sorted, Kaitlyn still made a mistake on one of them, opening Samantha's and quizzically looking at the small shirt wondering what she was supposed to do with it before realizing it wasn't for her.

After a quick breakfast and showers, and a short nap for Samantha, we were back in the car.  It was time to go to the cemetery to take Matthew the stocking Santa had filled for him.  Kaitlyn helped lay out all of his gifts and we realized Santa has been bringing him too much every year because there is hardly a space left.  A very crabby Samantha explored the cemetery, looking at the beautiful decorations so many loving families had left out for their little ones.

From there, we headed to my parent's house.  We stopped at Walgreens for some more baby advil and unloaded our goodies to give from the car.  Kaitlyn was so excited to pass out presents for everyone to open and I have to tell you, it took a while.  Some of Kaitlyn's favorites were her Big Time Rush concert Tickets, DS games, jammies and clothes.  Samantha's favorites were her ABC train, adorable clothes galore and her very own twinkle toes!  Unfortunately, Samantha slept through most of the day, she was just so uncomfortable.

We left for home after dark and unloaded the car, then stood and wondered where in the world everything would go.  The girls went to sleep fairly easily and like that, another Christmas had past.

The only things that could have made Christmas any better would be having Matthew with us physically and having Samantha feel better.  We know that he is forever with us, and a part of the festivities in our hearts.

It was truly a beautiful Christmas, even if it feels like 2011 just started.  It's been awesome having Kaitlyn home all last week and I really look forward to having her home this week.  I want to get some pictures taken in one of the matching outfits I got them, we'll see how they are feeling though.  Today, the Christmas decor comes down and deep cleaning begins so we can start the new year with a fresh start.

I sincerely hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas filled with lots of love and laughter.  I hope your heart was filled with peace and you were surrounded by the ones you love.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

From one December to the next

Well, so much for trying to blog every day.  Obviously since it's been nearly 3 weeks!!!!  I failed.  But, you know what, even so, I can always try to start it again now :)

The Christmas spirit has done an amazing job of evading me.  A lot of this month, I've felt like I've been going through the motions.  I put the Christmas decorations up in hopes that it would get me feeling like Christmas.  It didn't quite work.  I put Cinnamon Apple glade plug ins, again in hopes of catching that spirit.  Dusty put up lights outside, which he was so excited about and did such an amazing job with, and again, it was refusing to come to me.  I had purchased a few gifts for the girls' cousins in August, but that had been all the shopping I had done so far, last Wednesday and Thursday, I did all the rest of the shopping.  I did a lot of wrapping, trying to get it all done before Kaitlyn was on winter break.  Samantha was an amazing trooper with lots of all day shopping.  We watched Elf as a family together (Kaitlyn's first time), we went to holiday parties, did family photos, sent out Christmas cards, we went and saw Santa, we looked at Christmas lights and still, it was just not happening.

On Sunday, we decorated the cemetery.  We took Matthew his tree.  We took him his Santa's, his nativity scene, his Jesus figurines and we made it sparkle just for him.  He is so incredibly missed.

This year would have been his 4th Christmas.  For Kaitlyn's 4th Christmas she was so excited for Christmas.  She told Santa she had to have the Barbie Diamond Castle doll house that made noise and lit up.  Santa, of course, was happy to oblige.  I wonder what he would have asked for?  A car to drive in the backyard?  A big boy bike?  Something to do with Cars or Toys Story?  Tonka Trucks?  Dinosaurs?  Would he be super excited or more laid back about it?  Would he have cried with Santa or ran up excited?  Would it have been harder to take Santa pictures with 3 kids in the picture instead of 2?

Decorating at the cemetery definitely helped.  It helped make our family feel like we were partially complete at Christmas.

Tonight we went to Discovery Kingdom's holiday in the park.  A place of wonder and magic.  A gazillion lights and fake snow hills to slide down.  A place with Santa's workshop where Santa has nothing better to do than spend 20 minutes talking to your kids about their year before handing out some Twix bars.  It was chilly, I could see my breath when I talked.  I had to actually wear a jacket and borrow Dusty's gloves.  It felt like Christmas.

It's Christmas time.  And I'm getting excited.  Tomorrow we are going to host a small, intimate and magical Winter Wonderland party.  The wind is keeping me from having it outside like I had originally planned, but I plan on using way too many twinkle lights anyways as we open our doors to some of our favorite kids and await the special visit from Santa.

I'm excited about giving a very special niece and nephew their presents and watching them open them.  I'm hoping they love them.  I'm excited about the family in Alabama getting their presents and hoping they have a blast playing with their gifts. I'm excited for Christmas Eve and watching our niece open her present and keeping my fingers crossed it's still something she wants!  And I am most excited about putting the littles to bed on Christmas Eve and then staying up with my best friend and partner in everything and playing Mr. and Mrs. Claus while setting up gifts and eating cookies.  I know the are both going to flip out Christmas morning when they see what Santa has left.

I cannot believe this year is already nearly over.  I cannot believe Samantha is already closing in on 14 months and Kaitlyn is more than halfway to teenagerhood.  I cannot begin to believe that Matthew is not going to be here for yet another Christmas.  I swear, the only thing that could possibly make this time of year any better is for him to still be here with us.

With Christmas just a couple days away, I hope that your heart is warm with Christmas Cheer and your life is filled with nothing but peace and joy.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Everywhere I turn.

You know, even though it's only December 1, when I go out and explore the world, I could easily guess it was much further in the month.  Old Navy has already marked down their winter clothes (20 days before Winter even begins and really just weeks after we started getting any cool weather at all!) and have the spring line out and on display.  Seriously people, it's December 1.

I am usually pretty torn on whether or not I like Christmas starting so early.  Normally, I love the holiday season.  It's so warm and comfy.  It's a time of spending together, watching the look of wonder on the littlest of faces, sharing the most amazing birth story imaginable and seeing minds of growing kids spinning with questions how Santa could really do so much.

It's the time of year we not only relax and enjoy our family and friends, but that we also rush as fast as we can do to as much as possible.  We take more pictures in December than I bet we do the rest of the year combined!

Normally, I decorate the day after Thanksgiving and pack it all up the day after Christmas because if I had to look at it for even another moment I would stress out from the clutterness of it all.  This year, I didn't.  I haven't decorated yet.  I'm going to try and put it off as long as I can.  I'm thinking maybe next weekend?  I'm sure that I'll be spending a lot of time keeping Samantha out of the tree, even with the gate around it, and I'm just not looking forward to that aspect.  I also want to enjoy the beauty of the decorations all season without reaching that point where I am beyond ready to put it all away.

And, because I haven't decorated yet, to be honest, it doesn't really feel like Christmas yet.  It's one of those catch 22's I suppose...

How about you, when do you normally start decorating?