Since having our two little ones we seem to laugh a lot more! It helps that Lily and Eli have the best little giggles we have ever heard! We thought this blog would be a good way to keep up with all of the friends and family who don't get to hear their giggle on a regular basis! Enjoy!
We sent out about 325 Christmas cards this year to our ministry supporters and close family and friends! Believe it or not there were still many people who didn't get a Christmas card from us, but we just simply can't afford to send one to everyone! So, in case you didn't get our card this year- here it is (and our Christmas letter too)! Once again I was disappointed with the results of our Sam's Club cards (notice how incredibly different the actual pictures look compared to the ones on the card- the ones on the card turned out really dark among other things)! You think I would have learned after being disappointed last year, but given that we have to buy so many cards it's just hard to pass up the Sam's Club deal (maybe I'll have to research and find something better for next year)! Anyway, I also wanted to post our card, pictures, and Christmas letter here so that I can have it to look back on in future years. So here it is...
Cousins' Christmas Letter 2010:
Last Christmas we managed to send out cards, but were just a bit too busy to write our annual Christmas letter. At the time we had our hands full (in the best possible way) with our newborn baby boy! A year has passed and it has been a very good year as we have watched our little family grow.
Just a few weeks ago we celebrated Eli's first birthday! Welcoming him into our family has been the most wonderful part of this last year. He has been a good baby and really brings us joy. Eli is both very serious and intense (growling like a bear) and also very goofy and silly. We have come to enjoy both sides of him. He is walking now and loves exploring everywhere and everything he can get his hands on! He loves music, wrestling, water, playing with balls, blocks and cars, and laughing at his sister.
Lily has adjusted very well to her role as big sister and loves making Eli laugh (most of the time). She has grown so much over the last year. She is the most social of all of us and loves spending as much time as possible with her little friends or out of the house on our many little adventures. She has started swim and gymnastic lessons and a little home school preschool (all of which she loves). This summer at Vacation Bible School she prayed and asked Jesus to come into her heart! While very simple there has been no greater blessing than watching her faith grow. Her highlights of the year would include her lollipop birthday party, the Diver Ed Cruise, our recent trip to the indoor water park, our many trips to Bar Harbor and the beach, doing ballets in our living room every day, and playing dress up constantly!
Joe has, as always, been very busy. Honestly I don't know how he manages to direct the Lifelines ministry here (and nationally) and be such a wonderful hands on dad. Ministry has been much more encouraging this year and Joe has really appreciated some great times of rock climbing and sharing life and God with a few guys at U-Maine. As I mentioned, Joe is a great dad and both kids just love all of the active play they get with him. In his little spare time this year Joe has enjoyed learning how to reload bullets. And after years of saving and much free time spent searching Joe found a wonderful inexpensive used fish/ski boat for our family and we are so looking forward to many hours spent together in the boat this coming year!
I have also been very busy this year just simply being home with Lily and Eli (which is really the most wonderful blessing). I am also back on campus working with students and our staff part time. In addition I continued to study photography this year and even started my own little photography business this fall! I still have so much to learn, but I'm loving it! This has been a very creative year for me as I have also learned how to sew (just the basics) and have taken on a number of other creative projects both with my children and on my own. I have found that life with my little ones has opened up a whole new creative side to myself!
I have no doubt that the year to come will bring much excitement and change as life in ministry with two little ones is seldom boring! And yet with all of the growing and changing a few things do remain the same. God is forever faithful and we see this lived out in our lives in so many ways. And you, our family and friends, also continue to be such a source of encouragement and support to us. We are so very thankful for you and for all of the ways that God has chosen to challenge us and bless us this year.
We did a little celebrating in the car on our drive to Wisconsin (on Eli's actual birthday), but his second 1st birthday party was with my family at my parent's house the day after Thanksgiving!
Growing up my mom always made me these fancy, elaborately frosted cakes for my birthday (I believe it was different Sesame Street characters for many years in a row). It always seemed like something beyond my capacity, but I was feeling creative and decided that with my mom's help I would give it a try! So here is Eli's 3D ducky birthday cake! I was actually pretty pleased with the way it turned out! My mom did the eyes and beak and I did the rest- which was actually so much easier than I expected! So cute!
Singing Happy Birthday
He didn't get nearly as messy eating cake this time around. He did, however, throw up all of his cake just minutes after eating it. Truth be told he was sick the whole day with some nasty little stomach bug (which lasted a few days after this). That day he had already vomited on Joe twice and me once. But interestingly enough he would seem perfectly fine after being sick and would go right back to happily playing. So in the beginning we thought maybe it was just a fluke and we didn't want to cancel his party- but it turns out it wasn't a fluke. Thankfully he still seemed to have a great time. So that would explain (in case you are wondering) why he is in three different outfits in these pictures! Poor baby.
This time around Eli was very interested in opening presents!
And after his big sister got him started he would happily rip away at the wrapping paper!
And was equally as thrilled with what was inside. The two gifts in these pictures were from my Grandma and Aunt Pam- and were little cars that spin around a giant spinning/racetrack/funnel thing. It's big and plastic and makes lots of noise (you know- not the kind of thing a parent would pick out for their own children)- but Eli LOVES it! He spins the cars in it, balls in it, various other toys and animals in it, and he even often tries to sit in it and spin himself (it doesn't work, but he keeps trying)! So, good job Grandma and Aunt Pam- he loves it and thus so do we!
Here's another toy he loved (from my parents)- a play tent/tunnel. Unfortunately he loved this one a little too much and after a week the tent poles were bent (Joe is currently trying to create new poles that will fit)!
The best part of this birthday party was having most of my mom's family there to celebrate it with us! Because Eli was so sick the only other time he was in Wisconsin (last spring) there were family members who just met Eli for the first time the day before on Thanksgiving! Thus it meant a lot to me that so many of them were able to be there with us to celebrate our little man's first birthday!
We had everybody at both of his parties sign this book with a special birthday message for Eli to keep.
The birthday flags that I made for him surrounded the living room.
Playing with the balloons
Notice the cute little 1 onesie that I made him!
Checking out his presents
Here's Eli laying down to get a good look at one of his presents- a set of 4 cars and trucks (which was wrapped with just ribbon so he could get a good look)! This was about as interested as he got in opening gifts during this party (I think when it came to the actual gift opening he was a little overwhelmed)!
Singing Happy Birthday
He was a little unsure about the cupcake at first!
So he thought he would just poke at it for a bit.
And maybe finally try some frosting.
And now he's starting to get into it!
Yes, now he's having fun!
He was covered in frosting and cupcake- although I didn't get any pictures of when he starting running the frosting through this hair!:)
I know that I'm a little out of order here (since I do still have many Christmas pictures to post), but I really wanted to get these pictures of Eli's birthday party in before 2010 ends! I've been wanting to post them for a while, but I've been waiting for my new editing software to arrive (ordered 2 months ago)! It's still not here, but I just can't wait any longer. So...here are the pictures from Eli's first 1st birthday party! We actually celebrated Eli's birthday three times! This is the first- a great party at our house with Joe's family and a few of our close friends!
We did all of the traditional birthday things like decorations, balloons, cake, presents and singing. We also did a lovely little meal of homemade soups and breads which was perfect for a house full of people on a chilly fall evening. We asked everyone to bring a wind up toy or toy that goes to share with Eli (it seemed fitting since our little boy is always on the move these days) and we attempted to have the kids race them. Except that wind up toys don't really move very fast and with a house full of people it is sort of hard to do. It was a fun idea even if it didn't quite work out like I had hoped. Lily and Eli have had a great time since though playing with all of the wind up toys!
My favorite part of the evening was watching Eli eat his birthday cupcake. My least favorite part was having to actually give Eli a shower after eating his cupcake because he was so messy! Eli really seemed to enjoy the party and many people mentioned that they thought so too. I think that his favorite part was probably playing with the many, many balloons!
Overall it was a wonderful way to celebrate the birth of my sweet, sweet baby boy!
Rolling out the dough and getting covered in flour!
So proud of her cookies!
Cutting out a bell- one of her favorites.
Letting dad help.
Using her own little rolling pin.
Eli (and his wild bed head) just sort of zoning out while we finish cookies!
This is about as interested as he got in the cookie dough!
A few hours and change of clothes later we were finally decorating the cookies! This one was for my mom who is obsessed with red hots!:)
Below: Eli was happy for a bit just shaking the sprinkle containers. We didn't dare let him actually get his hands in any- maybe next year!
A few days before Christmas we spent the entire day making Christmas cut out cookies. I'm quite serious in that it took us the whole day!:) Lily and I made the dough after breakfast. While I showered and she played (and Eli slept) the dough chilled. Then Lily and I (and Joe for a bit) spent quite some time rolling and cutting out the dough. Lily, as you can see, got really into it! She's does pretty good rolling out the dough and actually does quite well at using the cookie cutters. There were a number of cookies that she did all on her own that turned out great! She really liked to roll the dough, cut out one cookie right in the middle, and start over! Maybe that's part of the reason it took us all day!:) With a little dough left Eli finally woke up from his very long morning nap. We put him in his booster seat and I thought he would be thrilled to play with (and eat) a little lump of dough. After all this is the boy that will put anything and everything in his mouth! But I think maybe he was just still too out of it from his marathon nap to do much other than just sort of stare at us and every few minutes give his dough a little poke with his finger. That was it- he never played with it or ate any of it!
After cutting out and baking all of the cookies came lunch and nap time (I think Eli skipped his nap though since he took such a long morning one- a bad habit we are getting into). During nap time I got everything ready for decorating and when Lily woke up we all went to town decorating our many Christmas cookies! My mom had this rule growing up that I could only use 2 kinds of sprinkles/decoration on each cookie (so I wouldn't go too overboard). While that's probably a pretty reasonable rule in our house we just let Lily go for it and be as creative (and often heavy handed with the sprinkles) as she wants! Cookie decorating is always an adventure! After decorating it was pretty much time for dinner and then maybe a bit of play and bedtime. So, yes, it pretty much took us all day long to make our Christmas cookies. What a sweet day!
I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but this spring I started making handmade tutus- both for Lily and to give away as gifts. I'll have to post about it the next time I make one. I think that these tutus were the first things (other than pictures) that I had handmade to give away (as an adult). With the success of the tutus behind me I began feeling a little more creative and a little more brave- so I decide that I would try to do a few homemade gifts for the kids this Christmas! I just love the idea of handmade things- whether made by me or by someone else. So, here are my first attempts at homemade gifts for Lily and Eli.
The above is a picture of a little stuffed monster I made for Eli. This was my first attempt ever at making a little stuffed animal and while it is far, far, far from perfect I kind of love it. Along the way I decided to just let go, accept the many imperfections, and just enjoy the process of creating. The lines weren't straight and the seams were terribly uneven and all over the place- he's a mess really! And yet it kind of reminded me of myself: created with much joy- a terrible mess at times- and yet loved by my Creator none-the-less. He is such a cute little monster- perfect for my little Eli. I've decided that we will call him "Ya-Ya" since this is one of the few things that Eli can say (and does over and over again)! And this was one of my favorite presents of the holidays- homemade plays silks for Lily! I've been thinking and planning and dreaming of making them for about a year and a half! Somehow I convinced my friend Laura to do them with me which made it all the more fun. We bought white silk scarves and painted them with beautifully colored silk paints. It was a messy, long process and once again I had to learn to accept the imperfections but somehow it felt so much more fulfilling to do them ourselves rather just buy them (and much less expensive too)! The colors did fade a bit when they were washed, but they are still so beautiful! And now that it's after Christmas I can share that Lily loves them and that they have been used in the many many ways I was hoping! My favorite so far was watching her use the blue one as water and the green one as grass for the horses in the new wooden stable she got for Christmas.
They are no longer neatly folded and tied in the basket- they have now been loved on a bit!
To go with the playsilks I made Lily these colorful clothespins (so that she can clip the silks to make things like capes or dresses or whatever she can imagine).
And not to leave Eli out I made these pained doll pins for him. He is fascinated just taking them in and out of the bucket- such a hit! There are 12 solid ones and 12 polka dot ones so I also envision them someday being used for counting, learning colors, and other assorted games!
So there it is- my homemade holiday! Of course the kids got a few other things that weren't homemade (at least not by me) and I had two other projects in the works that I just didn't find the time to finish (maybe for Valentines Day?)- but overall I'm so very happy with my first homemade attempts!