Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from New England!

Bob Elf makes Christmas Eve Breakfast and does a little Holiday decorating

So excited to open an early present from Bob Elf

Goodies for Santa

American Girl Doll: McKenna

Molly enjoying her own Christmas Present- a new bone

Building a train with her woodworking kit

Sand Art before Bed 
Merry Christmas!  It's our first one in New England and to be honest, I wasn't sure how I would feel.  I have to say, I think it's been one of the best ever.  I think all three of us would say that.  Lily Grace has declared it several times throughout the season and I couldn't be happier.  It's been different from previous years in a very special way. Our first Christmas here in New England is definitely one I will cherish and remember.  
Christmas Eve brought with it a welcomed surprise from our elf, Bob.  We woke to find a red string running through the house which lead us to a festive setting for breakfast complete with apple cinnamon donuts (a rare treat at this house).  He also left Lily Grace a note wishing her goodbye and even left her with an early Christmas present which Santa gave her permission to open at breakfast. Inside the Santa wrapped package she found the game Sorry.  How fitting!  Bob told her that he was "sorry" but it was time for him to leave, but would see her again next year.  We had a great time sitting around in our pajama's playing Sorry, snacking on Christmas treats and most of all, spending time together laughing as a family.  I was most thankful to Bob for his wonderful idea. We had so much fun!!!
We also took time out during the day to reflect on what Christmas is all about and attended Christmas Eve mass followed by dinner out.  We had a wonderful time and again, it was just a special time together. 
This morning we woke with shouts of, "Mom and Dad, wake up! It's Christmas Day!"   We also woke to a beautiful gift from New England.  There was a light dusting of snow.  Just enough to brighten the ground and make you feel all cozy at the sight on Christmas morning.  (especially if you've lived your whole life in the south and never experienced a white Christmas) 
Of course Lily Grace wasted no time getting downstairs and once she did, smiles took over her little face.  She was thrilled to see McKenna.  The American Girl doll she had been hoping for.  Throughout the day, she has had her hand in many different activities from dolls, to sewing, to art, to her woodworking kit and all with Molly right in the mix.  Matt and I have enjoyed and cherished each moment of it. 
I've also enjoyed listening to Lily Grace pray at each meal today, always giving thanks that, "Jesus  was born into the world."  Thank you God that our little girl is growing with a love for Jesus in her heart.  Matt and I pray that she continue to do so.  Thank you also for a very special Christmas.  One of the best ever...
Merry Christmas to everyone, both far and near!

Christmas Fun with Friends

On Sunday, Lily Grace had two sweet friends over from her class.  It was the perfect way to start the Christmas weekend. 
The girls played nonstop and giggles could be heard all over the house.  They stayed busy.  They enjoyed baking their own pizzas, a Christmas craft and again, nonstop play.  They were so sweet together and had so much fun.  Matt and I also enjoyed a few laughs listening to them. 
Thanks for coming Erin and Cate!  You are always welcome!

A week of Christmas Fun with a Very Special Ending

Waldo was one cute puppy!
School Christmas Pagent

Last week, Lily Grace's class had a wonderful week of Christmas fun at school.  Things were kicked off a little earlier in the month with each student bringing in a "Good Deeds" box.  After much discussion at school  about the birth of Christ, we began.   Parents kept track of all good deeds performed and would periodically turn the list in to Mrs. C who would then trade each child a piece of straw for each good deed.  They were collecting straw for the baby Jesus.  It was really sweet and struck a chord with the kids.  Lily Grace worked hard and it was really important to her to get as much hay for Baby Jesus as she could.  On the last day of school the kids were told to bring their boxes home and place them under the tree or near the family Nativity.  Lily Grace was so proud and I have to say, we thought the whole concept was quite special and really helped convey a wonderful message. 
Her class also celebrated with fun activities like decorating gingerbread houses, a Family Pancake breakfast and a Secret Santa exchange among the kids.  Lily Graced loved Secret Santa.  Each day, she would take and receive a small little treat for the person she had drawn and then on the day of the class party, they exchanged a gift and revealed themselves.  You could hear squeals in car line as soon as the school doors opened each afternoon and first graders ran out excited to share what the day had brought. Believe it or not, I think they all managed to keep the secret of who they had.  
Lily Grace's class also put on a class play where they shared the true meaning of Christmas entitled, "Waldo Tell Me About Christmas."  Lily Grace was Waldo, the dog and did a great job with all of her lines.  The entire class did a wonderful job and it was the sweetest thing, followed by a luncheon for the parents.  What a special gift!
On Friday of last week, we were treated to a MOST special ending to the last week of school before Christmas vacation.  The entire school put on a Christmas pageant that Matt and I agree was one of the most moving things we had seen and been a part of.  It wasn't your typical kids singing Jingle Bells with a few religious songs scattered through and a few speaking parts here and there, it was a complete celebration of the birth of Jesus.  The lights were turned out in the gym and all the kids proceeded in with candles singing.  There was a living nativity (right down to an actual infant) and the telling of the story of Christ birth.  It was extremely moving.  Again, it wasn't about bells and whistles and the inclusion of all holidays, it was about the birth of our Savior.  It was special and something I'm so proud that Lily Grace was a part of and gets to experience. 
Thank you so much God for the birth of your son and for the blessing of Lily Grace's Catholic education, where it really is, all about You. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blessings sometimes come in Blue

Lily Grace and a classmate were asked to carry up a special gift to Archbishop Mansell of Hartford at the school's Blue Ribbon ceremony today. 

Today, Lily Grace's school was honored with the Blue Ribbon award.  It's a very prestigious honor and a good indicator of the dedication of  a school to its students and how well they are learning and thriving in the school environment.  
A lot goes into meeting the criteria as well as the process of qualifying and filling out endless documentation as well as other requirements.  
Having been a teacher, I'm familiar with the Blue Ribbon and Lily Grace was leaving her school in Memphis which I adored and had itself received this honor the year before her Kindergarten year.  
Needless to say, I was very worried about finding a good school for her and especially a school that lived up to what I knew she  had at St. Francis.  Now the public schools  here are amazing, but not an option for us as we are committed to having her in an environment that promotes our faith and a love of God.  
Her school now is much smaller than her last and again, I worried about being with the same group day in and day out.  (You've been locked up over  a long holiday with family in town right??-HA!)  I was also worried about friendships already made before her arrival as there is only one class of each grade level.  
I had talked to God about it and Matt discussed it on several occasions.  In the end, God steered Matt and I to stay the course, follow our heart and send her to this small Catholic school.  Let me just say, God is good.  Lily Grace has been welcomed with open arms.  She has made friends and everyone knows everyone.  Each day, I grow to appreciate the school more and more.  We were given a host family and they have been AMAZING.  The principal, Sister C. is a delight.  Lily Grace adores her and her love for those kids and for God shows.  
Thank you God for always hearing our prayers and for this little school that is growing in big ways and making an even bigger impact on our family. We know that our little girl is safe each day and that she can freely speak and hear about you.  Thank you for still speaking to us when we question you.  Thank you for the blessing of this school, not because they are a blue ribbon winner, but because they are  about learning, with you at the center and because of  that, they can do great things. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Cheer!

Sorry for blurry iPhone photo.  Here's Lily Grace looking too cute at violin practice.   
Getting ready for her class to lead prayer service

Bob Elf makes his first visit and does a little decorating.

Enjoys a little milk

And dances with a  nutcracker

The decorations have been hung

Lunch at Rockefeller Center

On the ice at Rockefeller Center

Holiday window displays

Harry Winston Jewelers Holiday Decorations

The 5th Avenue Apple Store-located right by FAO Schwarz how convenient

At Dylan's with a Lily candy bar 
Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral 
Lily Grace LOVED riding in the taxi because it meant sitting by mom and dad in a real seat.   
Outside the Lincoln Center
This year she chose a musical nutcracker
By days end on Saturday, Lily Grace thought she should get in on the taxi hailing.  Oh!  For the record this taxi did stop.  Matt was on his game at this point. ha!

Chrysler Building at Night

This is how you look on the train ride home after a busy two days.

Our family nativity

If you thought you could just stop by for a quick update, think again.  Only 10 days in to December and we have been very busy with holiday activities and having lots of fun.  So sit back and settle in because here goes a mega run down.  
To ring in some holiday cheer, we've been enjoying the strum of a violin.  Lily Grace became very interested in music over the summer at VBS.  She recently took two trial lessons in both piano and violin.  Violin won out and she  has been enjoying classes and even practicing.  She takes it pretty seriously.  She looks adorable playing and tries really hard.  She has a wonderful teacher and looks forward to each week's lesson.  
Next up for  her was a program.  Each class at her school takes turns leading a Friday prayer service and mass.  Lily Grace's class focused on the nativity and preparing our hearts for the season.  It was really sweet and she did a great job with her speaking part.  
The decorations have been hung but of course in a new house and place this year. I adore our new house all decorated.  It's warm and cozy and just brings a smile to my face.  I will say, there is something pretty magical about the season around here.  The town looks like something off of a postcard with all the woods and town charm.  You won't find all the commercialism, just a lot of traditional decorations, a town Christmas trees adorning the local Green and again, charm.  You can also count on the cold weather to create some ambiance as well. Maybe a little too much ambiance for me- ha!
Bob our elf has returned and did so on Molly's birthday.  She turned two years old.  She and Lily Grace are enjoying running around the house each morning to see where Bob is and what he may have done or left behind.  He arrived on our chandelier which he generously decorated.  Lily Grace's favorite Bob antic was when he dressed in a tutu and danced with one of her nutcrackers to wish her well on our recent trip into the city.
This year our annual visit to see the Nutcracker took us to the city to watch the New York City Ballet perform.  We had an AMAZING time. We actually took the train in on Friday morning and spent the night so we could enjoy a little extra holiday fun.  We visited Rockefeller Center and fulfilled Lily Grace's wishes, to see the big tree and go ice skating.  It was beautiful and so much fun even though it was misting rain the whole time.  I have to admit, I was a little giddy seeing the big tree and rink that until now, I had only seen on t.v.  Before skating, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Rock Center cafe where we sat by the class windows and had  a full view of skaters on the rink.  After lunch, Lily Grace and Matt took a few spins of their own.  She never stopped smiling and I had the best time watching them.  
Once we were completely frozen we were off to our next stop. FAO Schwarz where Lily Grace took a turn on the Big Piano.  From there we went to Dylan's Candy store, 3 floors of candy to be exact.  
We had been told to be sure and stroll 5th Avenue at night to enjoy the lights and we did just that.  Oh my gracious, they were amazing!  The decorations all over the city were just larger than life, but my favorite was Harry Winston.  I love how they decorated with what looked like diamond jewelry all around the store face.  Needless to say, I only saw it from the outside.  Oh well!  
Lily Grace loved the store window displays at Lord  & Taylor and Bloomingdales.  I couldn't even begin to explain how over the top and fun they were.  
On our way back to the hotel, it was starting to rain and we were all tired so Matt set about to hail a taxi.  Have mercy! Lily Grace and I laughed so hard.  I'll just say, we ended up walking back to the hotel.  He ended the day with about a 0-6 success rate. 
After a restful night and delicious breakfast (again, all the food could truly be a post on its own) we hailed a taxi and attended mass to celebrate the Immaculate Conception at St. Patrick's cathedral.  It was beautiful to say the least.  
Thankfully, Matt's taxi skills improved on Saturday. His success rate was about 4-4.  We
After church we hit a couple of more shops, enjoyed a fabulous lunch and then made our way to the ballet.  
 After the Nutcracker, we made our way to Grand Central and headed for home.  
Sunday after church we enjoyed a little bit of holiday cheer around the house.  Lily Grace had some family homework.  We were to create our own nativity using a shoebox.  The work was to be done  mostly by Lily Grace but as a family.  We had so much fun doing this and several laughs.  It made for a pretty special afternoon.  Now taking a look at the finished product, I know what you are all thinking.  The answer is no.  We will not be selling kits so that you too can create your own replica.  HA! HA!
Hope all of you are enjoying some holiday cheer!