Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cheers to the New Year

As 2014 comes to a close, I have been my usual, sappy self looking back at photos and remembering of all the amazing events that have happened this past year. This was the year that our baby took her first steps, said her first word (which, of course, wasn't mama), ate her first solid food, and had her first birthday. It was an absolutely amazing year that not only changed me as a person but our family as a whole. I am so incredibly thankful for each and every blessing in my life, but most importantly for the love of my family and the life that we have created together.

I look forward to a new year and the new opportunities it may bring. I look forward to new adventures, more firsts for each of us, and blog posts to remember them by. I hope to spend the evening reminiscing with good friends and making plans for a wonderful 2015. Wishing you all a happy new year and the chance to start anew. Twenty fifteen, kids. It's gonna be great!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

An Eldredge Family Christmas

Santa came to our house a little early this year due to our busy schedules and an upcoming trip out of town for the holidays. Sunday evening, Jake got off work semi-early, so we decided to give the tot her presents before bed time. We laid all of her gifts out in the living room while she was in her room reading (go figure) and then we called her in for the big surprise. She was slightly underwhelmed, but that was to be expected. After all, she's only 14 (almost 15) months old. I'm not even sure if she knew what was going on, but she headed straight for one of the chairs and sat right down!

Since she's still so young and doesn't know the difference, we decided to buy her sensible gifts that she needs rather than a bunch of toys that she doesn't. After all, I'm sure she'll get plenty of those from everyone else. The tot loves climbing on and off of things, so what better than some new furniture? We bought this little table and chairs set (which I plan on painting but didn't have time to) for her bedroom. It's time to begin the transition from nursery to big girl room or, in other words, make it more play-friendly. And since she's still too little to climb onto the couch, we also got her this little sitting chair to go in our living room. The gingham print matches our decor perfectly, and it's the perfect size for her to climb into. Plus, miniature furniture is just down right adorable.

Santa also delivered some jammies, an adorable new pair of shoes, tot-friendly silverware (another skill we've been working on), some crayons and color tablets to add to our bath time fun, and, of course, some new books. This girl can never have too many books.

Mostly, she just tried to eat the wrapping paper, but she also enjoyed rotating between the three new chairs. Overall, I'd say her gifts were a hit. She already loves to read in her sitting chair and climb on top of the table. I'm sure plenty of new bumps and bruises will show up any day now!

After the presents were opened and the wrapping paper had been slobbered on, the tot and her daddy spent some much needed quality time together. I couldn't help but snap a few shots of how adorable they are when they play. Seriously, just look at that smile on her face. Melt my heart.

I'm not sure what gift could possibly top having these two in my life. I am one very lucky lady.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! God bless.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Advent Update: Week 3

Since we were out of town last weekend, we had to make a trip to the grocery store Monday night or we would starve after work. Apparently, everyone else in town felt the same because the parking lot was packed as was every aisle we went down. After that nightmare, we rushed home to make a quick dinner and then get to Day 15's activity: Dance party in the living room to some Christmas tunes! As stated in the last post, Taylor is obsessed with nursery rhymes, so when I came across this assortment of Christmas videos I knew I had to make it an activity. While watching these videos, the tot does one of two things: dances, claps, and spins in circles like a crazy person or sits completely still and stares at the TV in a trance. Last night, the latter occurred. But I know she loved it, because when I turned off the TV she grit her teeth, strained her neck and let out a super-annoying squeal.Clearly, she didn't want the party to end, so I turned on Pandora and we continued our party straight into bath time. Nothing says festive quite like a Christmas caroling bubble bath!

Tuesday evening my quick and easy dinner turned into an hour and a half long process as I simultaneously prepped treats for our work holiday party the next morning. By the time the tot was fed, it was almost her bedtime, so we quickly got to our Day 16 activity of painting our nails red while singing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer! I must have been feeling brave, because instead of only painting her piggies (like normal) I decided to attempt her finger nails as well. Before we began, I turned on my secret weapon, and sure enough the tot sat completely still as her eyes remained glued to the Christmas videos the entire time. Our only problem came when it was time for the polish to dry. This little lady simply refused to keep her hands flat! I kept having to pry her chubby little fists open so she wouldn't mess up the polish. Regardless of the extra work, I must say that the final product was pretty darn adorable (even if it only lasted a day before chipping off).

I had been anticipating Day 17's activity all month long. Growing up, every week at Sunday School was spent either finger paint or playing with homemade play dough. We would get out the rollers and cookie cutters and go to town making one-of-a-kind creations only to smash them back into a ball and start on something new. My goal with this activity (which I'm sure will be done every year from here on out) is to instill those same fond memories in my daughter.  Tay had a blast with this activity and I didn't have to spend a single penny. It took less than 10 minutes to make and is something that will keep for months. It's easy to get distracted by fancy new toys (half of which I don't even know how to use) and giving our children the things that we never had, but sometimes the simplest things actually create the most fun.

When I picked the tot up from daycare on Thursday, her sitter handed me a bag full of Christmas presents and informed us she was handing them out early this year just in case an unexpected snowstorm hit or anyone came down with the flu. I guess both have happened in the past causing the kids not to get their gifts prior to Christmas, so we gladly accepted and rushed home to open our goodies. Day 18's original activity would have to wait until another day. Since we have a lot of family that lives far away, we have been opening our presents as they arrive. After all, the tot doesn't know it isn't Christmas and the more we space out her gifts, the more likely she is to enjoy each one. Typically, she is much more interested in the wrapping paper than the actual gift itself, but not this time! Our sitter knows this girl all too well. She bought the tot a copy of her favorite book at daycare, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? along with a touch and feel book featuring all of her favorite farm animals. Both were a huge hit. After our present high, we needed to keep the festiveness in the air, so off to the tub we went to create Santa beards with the bubble bath. This kid loves bubbles but hates washing her hair. Oh well, you win some; you lose some.

Friday evening came just in time, because this momma was spent. After a super long work week, I was so excited to pick up the tot from daycare, eat a quick dinner and then melt into my bed. Thankfully, Day 19's activity was to watch "Frosty the Snowman" and snack on some festive marshmallows. Taylor loves marshmallows so I knew she's be excited for this (but probably not as excited as she was for that cotton candy!). We finished dinner and the bath routine so quick that we were able to watch "Frosty" and "Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too." She was mezmerized the entire time, clapping and giggling whenever a song would come on. She's simply the best, and I love her silly little self so much. This was exactly what we needed after a very long week.

Saturday was supposed to be filled with wrapping presents and baking cookies, but since Taylor refused to nap all day we didn't get any of those things accomplished. After being confined to the house with a crabby toddler all day, I was bursting to get out of the house for Day 20's activity which was to visit the Magic Tree. I'm fairly certain they have done a large amount of trimming to the tree over the last year or so, because it was much fuller (and brighter) the last time I saw it. Jake was able to get off work in time to join us for our outing so I was excited regardless. Since we had the brilliant idea to go on a Saturday night, the place was packed! Taylor was more interested in all of the other kids running around playing than she was in the lights, but she had a good time and loved getting to ride on Daddy's shoulders! Since it was cold and muddy, we didn't stay long but I'm glad that we were able to go and experience at least one of our activities as a family. Trying to contain the tot and snap pics wasn't the easiest thing to do, but we did manage to get a few good shots (and a terrible family selfie). I think we were mostly just happy to spend the evening with Jake; it's pretty clear that we both have missed him more than he knows.

Yesterday was a stay-in-our-jammies-all-day kind of day at our house. Since the tot didn't nap at all on Saturday, she more than made up for it on Sunday. I was thrilled because I was able to finish up some homemade gifts and get some last minute wrapping done. I was also able to bake two batches of cookies (after I burnt the first batch) and get the entire house cleaned. Major momma win. Between naps, Tay and I turned up the Christmas music and got busy making some chocolate covered pretzels. She loved spreading her fingers in the chocolaty mess but I think her favorite part of Day 21's activity was getting to sample all of our tasty treats! This baby has been in sugar heaven all month long. I'm sure she's going to have major withdraws after the new year!

Well kids, we've made it through the third and final full week of Advent. That means we are officially just days away from the best holiday ever! Christmas is so close I can taste it...

In case another post doesn't arrive before the 25th (which I'm doubtful it will given our busy schedule), I want to wish all of you the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of holidays! God bless each and every one of you for reading my blog and sharing your sweet comments. I'm sure Santa will be good to you all! ;c )

Monday, December 15, 2014

Advent Update: Week 2

After Week 1's festivities, I was excited to dive into Week 2; however, working full-time and single parenting really started to wear on me by Monday night. A big round of applause for those of you single mommas out there who do this full time. I have no idea how you keep your sanity. My heart goes out to each of you!

Anyhoo, back to Advent. After leaving work late Monday night, packing for our weekend trip to Granny & Papa's, and an extremely late dinner, there wasn't much time left for our original Day 8 activity so I ripped open a pack of glow sticks, threw the tot in the tub, and turned off the lights. It took her a while to figure out what was going on, but she couldn't stop staring at the colorful lights in the water. This activity went over so well that I plan on keeping a pack of these on hand year round. You know, for full on meltdowns and other toddler problems that I just can't seem to control. Parenting at it's finest here, folks.

Day 9's activity stems back to October when we came across a collection of the classic Peanuts holiday stories while out looking for a Halloween costume for the tot. The Peanuts characters have always held a special place in my heart thanks to many hours spent watching Charlie Brown's holiday specials when I was growing up. So when I came across the tales in book format, I simply had to grab it! Yesterday was also my mother's birthday and since she helped to instill my love for Charles Schultz's famous characters, I thought it only fitting that we read "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown" on the night of her big day. I'm sure this will be an advent activity that we continue to do every year.

By midweek, we were both missing Jake something fierce, so Day 10's activity was Surprise Daddy at Work with Coffee! After I picked up the tot from daycare, we waited in line for 20 minutes swung by Starbucks to get a Venti cup of joe then headed to Miller's to "surprise Daddy" (although he actually knew we were coming). Despite his super busy schedule, he was able to grab a quick 15 minute break with the tot and I. He downed his java, Tay drank her milk, and they both snacked on goldfish crackers. I took full advantage of being in a room full of adults and caught up with a few friends I hadn't seen in a while. During our break, a few of Jake's co-workers ooh-ed and ahh-ed over how big the tot has gotten, and she gladly welcomed their attention. This girl is never shy around a crowd! Shortly after, it was time for us to say goodbye but not before we snapped a quick pic in front of the Miller's logo. Although we miss having him home with us this time of year, we're extremely grateful that he works for such a wonderful company that takes care of both him and our family. 

Day 11's activity was one of my favorite activities to date (second to watching Elf and eating cotton candy, of course). We were both in stellar moods Thursday evening and whipping up some cinnamon ornaments while we danced to Christmas music only made the night better! I highly recommend this fun and easy activity for kids of all ages. Just mix 1/2 c applesauce and 1 1/2 -2 c cinnamon, then roll out the dough onto a clean surface (adding extra cinnamon as needed). Cut out shapes then use the end of a straw to make out a hole for hanging (clearly, I was having too much fun dancing and forgot this step). Bake at 200 degrees for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until ornaments are hard. Taylor loved rolling out the dough, using the cookie cutters, and watching them bake in the oven. An added bonus to this activity is that your entire house will smell amazing. Who doesn't love the sweet smell of warm cinnamon?

Friday evening after work, we packed up the car and headed to my hometown for the weekend. With Jake at work all weekend and my strong need for adult interaction, I thought it best that we spend the weekend with family. Friday night just so happened to be my oldest niece and nephew's annual Christmas program at their elementary school, so Day 12's activity was to attend their holiday program. The terrible lighting, our horrible seats, and the madness that ensued during this program left me unable to snag a single decent photo; however, my niece was kind enough to pose for a pic after the show. She really is the most genuinely sweet kid you'll ever meet.

Since we were at my parents' house Saturday morning, we made the most of a lazy morning and stayed in our jammies as long as possible. Taylor was cracking us up in her raccoon earmuffs which she refused to take off. She played quietly on the floor with them on for the longest time! I swear, she's the funniest kid ever.

That afternoon, we went to my sister's house to babysit my nephew and twin nieces and complete our Day 13 activity - build a gingerbread house. Since I knew we would be attempting this task with three little ones, I bought a pre-assembled gingerbread house. My advice? Do this. It is SO much easier when working with little ones. Although the house was already put together, we still managed to make a giant mess while constantly removing pieces of candy from three little mouths throughout the entire process. They are such sneaky little things! Overall, our finished product came together pretty well. It didn't look exactly like the box, but it was finished and no one lost a limb or choked on anything. That evening, we celebrated my mom and niece's birthdays with homemade pizza and brownie sundaes. Taylor had a blast playing with her cousins, and I was able to have a conversation that didn't include the words "No, Taylor" fifteen times.

After a long and busy Saturday, I was more than ready for Day 14's activity which was to attend the Christmas Cantata at church. Taylor was so good throughout the entire thing, sitting on my lap, snacking on her Teddy Grahams, and waving at the people in the pews around us. She clapped and danced along to the songs and had a great time. It was just what we needed to put us into the Christmas spirit! Later that afternoon, after lots of hugs and smooches, we headed back home. The tot must have been exhausted because she was fast asleep as soon as we pulled out of the driveway. After such a great weekend, it was hard to leave knowing we would have to return to an empty house. Thankfully, Daddy arrived home shortly after we did allowing him to have dinner with us and put Taylor to bed for the first time in weeks! Definitely a great way to end an already stellar weekend.

Only 10 days to go until Christmas! With a busy work week ahead and lots of wrapping, baking, and packing to do, I hope we are able to squeeze in the rest of our advent fun. Don't be surprised if Week 3 contains a lot of glow stick and Santa beard bubble baths! They may be repetitive but at least they're still festive!