Christmas Cookies

Decorating cookies was never part of my Christmas traditions growing up, but JDubbs has very fond memories of it from his childhood.  After years of helping each of my kids, as well as my niece and nephew, scrape frosting across perfectly baked sugar cookies, and dump cupfuls of sugar confections on top, I can’t believe that there was ever a Christmas in my life without these memories! Plus, Polar Express pajamas make every December memory that much sweeter.  Childhood memories for the win! IMG_3238 PicMonkey Collage

From Nana and Papa to uncles and aunts to five delighted cousins, everyone gets in on the cookie-decorating fun (and tasting)!

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These are the cookies we would leave for Santa, saving the last few for weeks to make sure he gets one made with love.  These traditions are ones that I cherish, the ones that bring us together in the simple acts of spending time as an extended family.  My favorite kinds of memories, made that much sweeter.

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Life doesn’t get much sweeter than this.

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Holiday Mashup

We had 24 hours in Massachusetts to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, and we crammed as much joyful family time into that day as possible!  We started with dinner with Grampy and the cousins Wednesday night, where the kids were up to their usual Grampy shenanigans.  Wish we could have been together longer, but it was a very memorable time!

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Afterward we went back to Auntie Amanda and Uncle Chris’s house for the night, and the next morning was full of many of our favorite things–food, family, Super Mario Party, and coloring.  The girls wore their fancy dresses from Amanda and Chris’s wedding (which Little H never got to wear so it was a nice excuse) and I even wrangled Jax into a sweater!  Cue obligatory family photo!

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Before Thanksgiving dinner, we helped Grammy decorate her tree while JDubbs and Amanda prepared their side dishes for the huge pot luck feast we were attending.  Decorating a tree while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was a hilarious holiday mashup, but it made the kids so excited to get our tree later that weekend!

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This year, the people who live in the same apartment complex as my mom and uncles asked if they could join our family for our beautiful meal, and of course we agreed.  It’s really quite something to hear that, in a building full of older people, so many of them are alone for Thanksgiving and just want to share a meal with others, even strangers.  Our kids brought a smile to many people’s faces, and it was in the spirit of true thanksgiving that we came together with thirty or so people to give thanks for all that we have, but most importantly each other.

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Merry Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good meal!

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Our Gratitude Tree

Tomorrow is the last day of November, and so we will once again wrap up this year’s Gratitude Tree, my annual attempt to keep the kids’ heads straight during the contagious and overwhelming excitement of the holidays.  October ends with a bang with Jax’s birthday and Halloween one after another, then the Christmas catalogs start rolling in and the kids get a glazed look in their eyes with the influx of holiday commercials and Christmas-themed television shows, not to mention the lingering sugar from their Halloween candy.  That’s why the first week of November we donated our Halloween candy to the troops overseas, and I think that is a tradition I will gratefully continue!  I thank my lucky stars that we live in a commercialized black hole, so the Christmas hype is easier to avoid for us than most, but I still like doing something every now and again to remind Jax, Em, and Little H that we are more blessed than we could have ever imagined.  Thus our Gratitude Tree was born.

I cut a tree silhouette out of butcher paper and since I never found those foam leaves this year as I had before, used the kids’ hand prints to form our daily “leaves.”  Then every day they rotated writing what they were thankful for, trying not to repeat too often, although Little H was always thankful for her “new bookshelf” and her bed!

gratitude tree @ Rub Some Dirt On It #thanksgivingcrafts #handprintcrafts

Em was definitely the most thoughtful; Jax often did one-word answers, such as “books” or “food.”  Em was my girl for the most varied and specific answers, which I loved as much as her investigative spelling.

gratitude tree @ Rub Some Dirt On It #thanksgivingcrafts #handprintcrafts

I put Little H’s autumn button branch above our tree with the words “Give Thanks” printed on it, and our kitchen has been more cheerful and gratifying all November because of it.

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So Sweet It’s Scary!

This year, Jax and Em decided to be two of their favorite characters from pop culture for Halloween: Harry Potter and Elsa (specifically, Elsa from Frozen Fever).  Little H decided that she wanted to be what she loves most in the world–Em’s sister–so she chose to be Anna to Em’s Elsa.  All three of them were so sweet, so excited, and so ecstatic to be in character, I think it may have been my favorite Halloween yet.

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These two are just a joy.  I love watching what amazing friends they are, listening to them whisper when the lights go out at night, always looking out for each other.  Little H had several ideas of what she wanted to be on Halloween, all based on her own interests and likes, but for right now, there is nothing she loves more than being as close to her sister as can be.

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This guy’s brain is always going a mile a minute, and whether it’s reading at home, processing all the incredible learning that’s going on at school, or just being the cool kid he is, nothing is more perfect for him right now than to be Harry Potter.  It is everything I cherish most about him: his sense of adventure, his love of reading, his boyish charm, his fun.  He’s counting the days until he turns 11 and fully expects an owl to arrive with a piece of parchment in its beak, inviting him to Hogwarts.

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I’m going to have to work on that.

Our afternoon and evening was filled with friends, lots of food, candy galore and very happy children.

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What a memorable holiday!  So very sweet!

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Happy Halloween!

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Apple Adventures

Ah, fall.  The time of falling leaves, gorgeous landscapes, jack-o-lanterns, and of course, the obligatory trip to the local apple orchard for apple and pumpkin picking.  Let Year 7 of this annual adventure, begin!

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Every year has a different twist our apple-picking advenures–for a while there it felt like I was always lugging a newborn around, and we switched it up recently and started going to a different orchard at Riverview Farm, where there is a corn maze as well as blueberry, pumpkin, apple, and strawberry-picking.  Some years we walk, others we hitch a ride on a tractor pull or horse-drawn wagon.  Sometimes we go with friends, others we try to sneak a spur-of-the-moment excursion in on a Sunday morning before a Patriots game, but the one thing that is consistent is that it is a truly wonderful way to spend an hour or two together.  And I love the pictures!

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JDubbs has never been able to come with us because he works weekends in September and October, so these are memories I have all to myself.  I hope that when the kids are grown up, they look back on these trips as fondly as I do, and reminisce about which type of apples they liked best and how amazing the fresh apple cider donuts were.

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Because one thing is for certain, the older they grow, I sure love my adventures with these three!

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Making Rainbows Out Of Rain

Into each life some rain must fall,” stated Henry Wordsworth Longfellow. With that sentiment in mind, it seems appropriate that on the last day of our vacation in Maine, when I was feeling a little down about not getting to the beach one last time because of afternoon storms, we were treated to this delightful sendoff after dinner.

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Which prompted us to think, What are we waiting for? and take the kids to the beach one last time, even with Jax and Em already in their pajamas.  We couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to Drakes Island, and while the rain sputtered to a stop, we had every inch of the beach to ourselves.  Rainbows make the best messengers.  Ours said, Get out and enjoy every last minute of your vacation!  So we did.  Who are we to argue with a rainbow?

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Farewell frolicking waves, farewell footprints and sandy toes!

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Farewell countless memories made, hours spent together just the five of us, solidifying bonds that go beyond just siblings into true friendships.

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Farewell to our happy place, until we meet again!

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Thank you for another amazing week full of breathtaking memories!

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When The Sun Goes Down

Labor Day has come and gone and I can feel the days getting shorter, the mornings more tense as we all adjust to earlier wake-up calls, fewer snuggles and hurried breakfasts.  I already miss the lazier pace of summer, when the time after dinner wasn’t just a precursor to bed, but a wonderful and tantalizing window of opportunity for the day to continue.  I miss evenings at the beach in Maine, when the big kids and I could follow in Em’s footsteps from the year before and leap from rock to rock toward the end of the jetty at Drakes Island.

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It’s not often Em gets to show big brother the way, but that evening it was especially pleasant.

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Back on land, JDubbs and Little H were enjoying the summer evening, too.  I think he even found a bit of buried treasure!

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After we were reunited and as the tide continued to go out, tide pools emerged for some last minute nautical exploration.  Little H finally warmed up to them and all three kids happily searched for some new sea friends, something we hadn’t had much luck with all week.

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On the contrary, I–being the resident photographer–had had more than enough luck all week, and as the sun went down found more and more opportunities to capture life and light, two of my very favorite subjects.

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The kids kept moving along with the sun, and the challenges of shadows and reflections kept me thoroughly entranced until we all had to admit it was finally time to head home.

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While I’m missing the pace of the end of summer days, the adventures of this school year are already making themselves known!  As determined as I am to appreciate all ages and stages, I will always have a extra-fond place in my heart for summer nights.

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