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Sunday, December 27, 2015

Letters to Emmeline : Twenty-Four Months

Dear Emmeline,

Back when I wrote the first letter to you, it felt like this day would never come. It feels like I wrote that first letter ten years ago and ten days ago simultaneously. My gosh. I just can't believe I'm writing this, that we've come this far (it's equally mind boggling to me that when Carys was the age you are now, I was pregnant with you!).

Man, this is a hard one to write. I keep staring at the screen and the words just aren't coming. (Me? At a loss for words? QUICK LOOK OUTSIDE ARE PIGS FLYING?). It's the end of a (personal for me) era. The end of your babyhood. The end of me raising babies, which I've just loved beyond anything. The end of counting ages in months, the end of toddling, the end of monthly letters. And the words are just failing me. So I'm sorry if this last letter isn't up to par - I'm writing it under duress.

I just can't get enough of two-year-old Emmeline. You're so funny - if you discover something makes us laugh, you repeat it ad naseum in an effort to keep us in stitches. You will be doing something totally normal, then suddenly you'll just start walking funny or making goofy faces and Carys and I will just start laughing and you love it. Your dad and I have often mentioned that this stage that you're in right now is reminding us that the 24 to 36 month stage with Carys was our absolute favorite (don't get me wrong - all the stages are pretty great, but that one was particularly adorable) and so we're both really excited to enter this stage with you and re-live it with you. It's a lot to live up to, but based on what we've seen over the last few weeks...it's going to be just as fun with you.

The only part of this age I don't like is the OMG INDEPENDENCE stage - but not the OMG I CAN ACTUALLY DO IT MYSELF stage, just the OMG I WANT TO DO IT MYSELF DESPITE THE FACT THAT I HAVE NEITHER THE STRENGTH NOR THE DEXTERITY TO DO SO stage. It's only a slight exaggeration to say that literally everything I go to do for you is stopped by you yelling, "NO! EMMELINE!" You want to pour your own milk. You want to get dressed yourself. You want to put your shoes on. You want to climb in and out of your car seat (which you can actually do, it just takes forever). You want to wrap the presents. You want to cook dinner. You want to chop peppers. I'm sorry for not letting you handle the razor-sharp knife. You can talk it out with your therapist in 20 years.

I'll get it out of the way here: yes, you still take a paci at night and naps, and will steal a paci if you find one at someone else's house. You're still nursing, though we've cut way back, and you don't nurse before nap or bedtime anymore. KNOCK ON WOOD but you're a great sleeper and really easy to lay down.

You're talking more and more every month and have even started singing. You sing "Jingle Bells" (Dinga beh, dinga beh, dinga beh, dinga beh, dinga all the da way, HEY!) and "Let It Go" (leh it goooo, leh it goooo, anyMOOOOOORE!). You're starting to express more and more complex thoughts and your vocabulary has exploded. Which, since you weren't a big talker for a very long time, is really good. I'm glad you've found your voice. It's a really cute voice. It's a voice that seems to never stop, so it's a good thing it's cute.

You know several colors - definitely yellow and purple. I think you know blue and green and red and pink but those are a little more hit or miss. Yellow and purple you can identify, say, and pick out. The others you can pick out of a pile if I say, "Emmeline, give me a green crayon!" but you don't say the words yet. You're starting to get the hang of counting, and pointing to items individually while I count. Your dad taught you to hold up two fingers and say "two!" whenever anyone asks you how old you are. He also taught you to answer "Daddy!" when he asks you who your favorite person is - stinker! He did the same with Carys. I can't be mad - it's cute.

You're still the tag-along to Carys and the other big girls - always a minute or two behind them. They'll run a lap around the house, yelling some phrase at the top of their lungs, and a few seconds later you'll come running the same path, yelling gibberish at the top of your lungs. It's so endearing (and a little heartbreaking). Soon enough, girl, you'll be able to keep up entirely. Too soon for my liking!

Maybe because you're always trying to keep up, you're a total climber and daredevil (although it may just be in your genes, since big sis was the same way). You learned to ride a trike during the last warm days of fall in late November and early December. You are nearly as good on a scooter as your sister is (in fact, you love HER scooter so much, there's one on your Christmas wishlist). You love being tossed in the air and playing airplane with anyone who will have you (but especially dad).


You've REALLY gotten into dressing up - I don't know if you developed this interest by yourself or if it's part of copying everything Carys does - but you're entering the "put the Anna dress on and then not take it off even to go to the store and throw a fit when I forcibly take it off you because you can't wear it to swim class" stage.  There are a few different outfits you like to dress up in - a tank top of mine, a shiny play skirt of Carys's - but by far your favorite is the Elsa dress. And the Elsa dress. And then the Anna dress again. And then Elsa.

Speaking of Elsa and Anna, it's the first movie you've really taken an interest in and ask to watch. You urgently point to the TV saying, "Movie! Elsa! Anna!" over and over until we put it on for you. We probably watch at least a snippet of it five days out of the week. Carys is pretty sick of it, but then I remind her that she was JUST as obsessed at your age, and she thinks it's cute that you are into the same thing she was, so she relents.

Almost concurrently with becoming obsessed with Frozen, you became obsessed with my phone. It's like a switch flipped and you suddenly recognize those screens can offer you entertainment. Much like your sister, I actively avoid letting you have my phone. Much like your sister, your dad thwarts my no-screen-time plans. But in the course of less than a week, you learned to navigate my phone almost as well as Carys can and it's a liiiiiiiiiiittle frightening.

We did some fun things this month, though it was pretty slow as we prepped for your dad's birthday, your birthday, and Christmas. We went to the Children's Museum. We had several playdates in the circle, and had the two daughters (Charlotte and Shelly) of friends from out of town over. We hosted Thanksgiving at our house. You slept through most of it, but I did manage to get you in the same outfit I wore when I was just a little older than you, and the same outfit your sister wore at your age. We saw Santa (and you wanted nothing to do with him - though you love pointing him out in pictures and saying "ho, ho, ho!"). Nana came into town - once for Thanksgiving and then again for Christmas break - and you've decided that she's your all-time favorite person in the entire world and attach yourself to her hip permanently. She'll leave again at the beginning of January to go back to Dubuque and I'll immediately start counting down the days until her next visit on your behalf.

You experienced the first snowfall of the year and absolutely loved it. This surprised me, because you strongly dislike being cold. But when you saw the snow, you ran out, touched it, ate it (why?), threw it, stomped in it, and enjoyed the heck out of it. I had to physically drag you back inside when your fingers turned purple.

You've also discovered that with snow comes hot chocolate, which to you is like manna from heaven. CHOCOLATE IN A CUP TO DRINK? YES PLEASE. AND MORE. MORE MORE MORE. (This is good for me because I, too, love hot chocolate and you present a great excuse to have it more often.)

Also you can see in these pictures that you still have your total cheeseball fake grin. 

We got an Elf on the Shelf this year and I didn't think you'd be into it at all - or even notice - but Carys really involved you and would ask if you wanted to go find Callie (named after our neighbor's dog). A few times, you'd find her totally on your own and would yell, "Callie! Callie!!!" and be so proud of yourself. We didn't follow the "no touching" rule for either you or Carys, so we'd often find you carrying Callie around treating her like a baby doll.

I am so, so, so eternally grateful for you, my sweet, spunky, hilarious girl. I love you so much.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Emmeline's 2nd Birthday : You Are My Sunshine

I've never been so conflicted on a theme for a birthday party before! I had a couple ideas I thought could be cute, but I (SHOCKER) way overthought it and couldn't decide. Partly because I wasn't super excited about any of them. But once I decided to just go with "You Are My Sunshine" - mostly because I had a lot of the stuff for the party already - I totally fell in love with the theme.

This year, I also started decorating a few days before the party, which made a world of difference in terms of organization and what I was able to do. Usually I'm scrambling to finish up as people are arriving and I'm not able to do everything that I hoped, but this year I got it all done and then some. PLANNING AHEAD? BRILLIANT. WAIT WHILE I WRITE A BOOK ON THIS REVOLUTIONARY IDEA.

Unfortunately for Emmeline, her birthday is close to Christmas, so her birthday decor has to compete with Christmas decor. I took down a few decorations to make room for birthday things, some we just left up and pretended weren't there (the tree, the garland/ribbon on the bannister, the ornaments decorating the built-in bookshelves), and some we worked into the decor (wrapped wreaths with a flower garland, for example). Had I been a better planner and more ambitious, it would have been awesome to cover the Christmas tree in suns to go with the theme, but...no. Taking off all the existing ornaments to do that would be way too much work.

As with most of the other parties, almost everything I didn't have already was purchased from Oriental Trading Company. I linked to sources (not affiliate links!) but OTC tends to change inventory regularly so I apologize if items aren't available anymore. Also as with other parties, cheap was like number one priority for this party, so nothing was expensive.

The kitchen got very minimal decor. Some paper lanterns above the cabinets, a sun that would later be a pinata, a bowl of lemons and a yellow tablecloth on the table, and a string of paper lanterns in the doorway.

Most of the decorating took place in the dining room. For the area by the mirror, I left the Christmas wreath on the mirror and wrapped it in a floral garland we already had, added window clings we already had, and used washi tape to put a picture up. And some balloons, of course.

I used crepe paper and a paper plate to create a giant sun on one wall of the dining room, and covered a folding table with a grass-print tablecloth and used some tissue-paper grass and paper fences to display cupcakes.

I had regular sprinkle cupcakes, then baked six in silicone "pots" that we already had and stuck suckers in them as "flowers."

 The sun was one of my favorite DIY projects since I've never baked a 3D cake before or used fondant like this (for Em's first birthday, I rolled it out and cut out snowflakes with a cookie cutter, but I've never used it to cover a cake).  I turned a small mixing bowl upside down to bake the cake mix in for the main part of the sun, then cut graham crackers in triangle shapes and covered them with the fondant for the rays of the sun (I used fondant to attach a toothpick to each ray to stick it in the cake). I used marshmallow fondant - easy to make and work with, and delicious. I baked the cake and cupcakes and made the fondant the night before and assembled them the morning of the party. You can very much tell that it was made by someone who had no idea what they were doing but it was made with love and that's what counts, right? RIGHT.

Some of the cupcakes also had fondant decorations - I just rolled out the fondant and cut the numbers and suns out with cookie cutters.

Another wall of the dining room was covered with a collage of pictures of Emmeline taken over the last year. I could stare at this wall all day. It might still be up because I can't bring myself to take it down.

These mason jar cups and wooden sporks were left over from Carys's first birthday, and a friend surprised me with the paper straws (which suck for acutal use but are SO CUTE so whatevs). The stickers on the cups were just labels that I printed the pictures on. Actually, the little glass jars were also from Carys's first birthday (originally from Target's dollar aisle).

I made some ruffled streamers and a little tassel garland to decorate a corner where Em could blow out her candles. I used this tutorial to make the tassels and this one for the ruffled streamers. The wine rack had a couple decorations (all of which we already had) and I stuck the favors (really just leftover things that wouldn't fit in the pinata) in the cubbies.



The sitting room houses the Christmas tree, so I only really decorated the buffet. I got the banner from Steals.com when they were having a 25% off sale (one white set and one craft paper set) and will use it for many occassions to come. I again wrapped a Christmas wreath with a flower garland, hung up copies of her birthday invitation, added some pinwheels that we already had, and decorated the ceramic Christmas deer with party hats and bows (this was totally Carys's idea and I was 100% on board). I also used the washi tape (which originally came from Target's dollar aisle) to make an "E" inside the wreath. I saw the little "you are my sunshine" wooden plaque project on the OTC website and decided to make it - super easy. 


The entryway got a wreath (a wooden form I got on sale from Target for <$3, wrapped with yarn, and stuck a picture behind), some tissue paper pom-pom balls, and a few things on the entryway table.

I printed the two "you are my sunshine" prints, already owned the "Hello, Sunshine" print, and covered a wooden "E" in tissue paper. Actually, CARYS did the "E" almost entirely by herself.

I loved how the living room turned out. Another banner, some streamers, and some paper fans on the mantle. I used the stocking holders that were out for Christmas to hang paper fans and display four pictures of Emmeline from the past years.

Probably no one at the party even noticed, but when I saw this pillow cover on Amazon for insanely cheap, I had to grab it for the party. Yes, I should have ironed it or something but honestly I didn't even think of it because who irons a pillow???

And some pics from the important part of the party - the people and the birthday girl.



The pinata was so fun! We didn't have a great space to do it indoors (plus I wasn't sure if Emmeline was strong enough to break it) so I cut a big flap in the back, attached six long strings to the flap, and then loosely taped the flap back in place. When it was time to do it, each kid got a string, and they all pulled on the count of three to release the candy and small toys (I used this OTC mix to fill the pinata).

Cake time!!

Present time!

Yes, that is a container of baby wipes. It might have been her favorite present. She's obsessed with wipes.

She immediately had to put the dress on, and immediately started pushing the stroller around.

I can't believe my baby is two. It's okay to cry over that, right?