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Visiting Santa

Adelaide now knows the word “Santa.” I’m not sure how I feel about this – similarly to how I feel about her knowing the word “Elmo.” She’s seen ornaments of Santa, representations of him in books, on signs, on wrapping paper under the tree, in decorated windows. We point and say “Santa,” and somehow this has caught on.

A few weeks ago, we went to the Christmas tree lighting in our neighborhood. Santa was there, and I wanted Tim to take a photo of Adelaide and me standing next to him. Although I had Adelaide in the carrier and she was nestled next to my chest and not even touching Santa, she cried. I knew this was not a good sign. She didn’t even want to be near him.

A couple of weeks later we took Adelaide to the Dickens Christmas Village at the Macy’s in Center City Philadelphia. (It’s actually quite cool, but possibly a little creepy for young children since it tells the story of a Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and that includes animatronic grim reaper types.) Anyway, at the end of the Dickens Village maze, children can sit on Santa’s lap. We weren’t there to see Santa, but since it was the afternoon on a weekday and there was no line, we thought we might just pop in to check out the scene. Santa said hi to Adelaide. She watched him suspiciously. Then he said “high five,” and held his gloved palm up toward her. Adelaide abruptly turned away and clung to me even more tightly.

Since then I’ve seen two or three different Santa photos of friends whose kids are around the same age as Adelaide. The kiddos are crying in all of them. I knew we would have a similar photo this year. Although I wasn’t looking forward to seeing her cry, I knew that when we went to Florida to see Tim’s parents for Christmas, we would make the trek to see Santa for the traditional photo op. Sure enough, our prediction held true. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. Adelaide wasn’t exactly scared of Santa. She was “familiar” with Santa by this point. We watched other kids sit on his lap having a good experience. She even waved to him from the sideline before we began our approach. But, just because she waved hello, that didn’t mean she wanted to sit on the guy’s lap. Adelaide is such a Mama’s girl these days and wants me to hold her so much; I joked to to Tim that she probably would have had a similar reaction had I given her to him and walked away.

Immediately after they snapped the photo, I picked her up and she waved good-bye to Santa without any prompting. She still cried for another few seconds, but just minutes later she was laughing and pointing at the poster of a dog (apparently there are certain days and times when you can bring your pets to get their photos taken with Santa.) Anyway, I made Tim take a few photos of Adelaide happily pointing to the dog to prove that we weren’t bad parents, that Adelaide wasn’t traumatized forever. If we were going to have a crying photo, at least we got a good one. As the woman working the Santa booth said as she handed us the photos, “that’s the best crying shot I’ve seen in a long time.”

This year’s photo is a far cry (no pun intended) from last year’s Santa picture.


Well, my intentions were good. I intended to end the month of November with a five-day recap of our October and November. It may not have been five days in a row, but it is still the final day of the five-day series. (If you missed it, you can catch up here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4). And Day 5: Thanksgiving.

Anyone who knows me well knows I’m not the chef in the family. I know the basics of cooking and can follow a recipe, but it’s not my most favorite thing to do. I like to make an occasional meal or dish every once in a while, but to me, preparing daily meals is a chore. Sometimes I wonder what I used to eat back in my single days. I was waiting tables then, and I really think I just ate a lot of my meals at the restaurants where I worked. I made a lot of pasta and eggs and quesadillas and ate a lot of cereal and sandwiches.

We’ve hosted a small Thanksgiving gathering at our house the last three years. Two years ago, Tim made a bourbon-glazed ham. Last year he made pork tenderloin. This year, My sister flew in from L.A. for the long weekend, and we hosted Tim’s brother and his wife for the holiday meal, so Tim decided to be more ambitious and roast a 14-pound turkey.

He followed a recipe from Cook’s Country magazine, and it was very moist and delicious. Ben and Adrienne brought craft beers to sample and made an amazing brussel spout dish – I don’t even like brussel spouts and this dish was awesome. It probably had something to do with the bacon and the amount of butter used, but I definitely want to get the recipe. Tim also made his mom’s sweet potato casserole. It was covered in brown sugar, and was so sweet it was almost a dessert.

I took care of the signature cocktail of the evening. It was Smirnoff Kissed Caramel mixed into fresh apple cider (served either hot or cold). We had never tried caramel vodka before, and I must admit, I was surprised by how flavorful it was. I could just breathe in the aroma all day; pure caramely goodness.

I also made a bourbon sabayon and folded it into homemade whipped cream to top the pumpkin pie we purchased from Manna: Pie in the Sky. In the past we’ve ordered pecan pie from Manna, but the pumpkin was great. Plus, by supporting Manna we’re doing a good deed; each Manna pie purchased buys seven meals for families in need.

Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite holidays. I enjoy watching parades, spending time with family or friends, and enjoying a homemade meal that took days to plan. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, to feel sorry for ourselves for this or that, and to wish for things that are still down the road, but Thanksgiving is one day where we can all take the time to pause and remember how blessed we are.

The family before digging in.

The bird.

It isn’t often that Adelaide and her two aunts are in the same place at the same time. (Also, notice Adelaide carrying around paper and pen.)

Adelaide showing off her first day of wearing real piggy tails.

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s “Philly Fall in Review: Day 1,” I wanted to spend the last five days of November recapping the highlights of our fall. Day 2: Halloween. Last year, Adelaide and our dog Hugo were matching bananas. This year we wanted to reuse Hugo’s costume, and in order for them to still match, we dressed Adelaide as a monkey.

Since Adelaide is only 15 months old, we didn’t plan to take her trick-or-treating (maybe next year). Still, we planned to take her and Hugo to our dog park’s Howl-o-ween parade at the nursing home on Sunday the 28th and to my work’s Halloween party on the 30th (which was later cancelled due to Superstorm Sandy). I also figured I would dress her up while we passed out candy on Halloween night. At the last minute, I heard about a Halloween costume contest and craft fair in our neighborhood in South Philly. I didn’t enter Adelaide into the contest, but the event was another opportunity to get our money’s worth out of the costume. I thought she would enjoy seeing all the kids dressed up (she loves watching other kids), so I’m so glad we went. Adelaide had a great time, we got a free pumpkin and it provided a good photo op for me.

When I first tried the monkey costume on her, she screamed the second I pulled up her hood. I was worried that she wouldn’t wear the hood and that people wouldn’t be able to see the cutest part of the monkey costume. But luckily, when we were at the neighborhood fair and the dog park parade, there was just so much going on and so many interesting children and dogs to watch, she didn’t even seem to notice when I pulled up her hood.

At our neighborhood’s Halloween celebration and craft fair, Adelaide didn’t stay in her stroller for long.

We met up with her friend from daycare, Miss Chicken.

When Adelaide got tired of walking around the fair, she decided to rest.

My monkey and her banana at the dog park’s Howl-o-ween parade.

After the dog park parade, we made a playground visit.

This little monkey has my heart.

Next year may be the last year we get to pick Adelaide’s costume for her. I’m already brainstorming ideas to go with Hugo’s banana costume. The Chiquita banana lady? If anyone has a fruit basket hat appropriate for a 2-year-old, let me know.


My sister flew in from L.A. yesterday morning to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. It’s the first time she’s seen Adelaide in person since Easter. It’s strange to think that Adelaide wasn’t even crawling then, and now she’s walking all over the place, dancing and “talking.”

Gina brought a fun book called Big Words for Little People. I’m always skeptical of the trendy books authored by celebrities, but this one by Jamie Lee Curtis is really quite cute. It goes through some long or more difficult vocabulary words and explains the meaning in rhyme.

Persevere is to try and try, even though you might want to give up and cry. When doing a puzzle that puzzles your mind, you persevere till the right piece you find.”

Different means nobody’s ever the same. All bodies are different and so are all brains. Different is what makes this world so great. Different is never something to hate.”

But the part of the book that I like the best comes toward the end. As I heard my sister read it to Adelaide for the first time last night, it made me smile.

“But not all Big words are as long as the rest. There are three – though short – that I love the best.

Family is where we all belong, keeping us safe, making us strong. Family is yours, not matter — whatever! — we are about you forever and ever.

Respect is the way we all treat each other — mother to father, father to mother, brother to sister, sister to brother, and brother and sister and sister and brother…

Love is the biggest BIG word of all. Four little letters that help you walk tall. Love is your family, your siblings, your friends. Love is your ocean without any end.”

On this Thanksgiving Day, I’m so very grateful for my family. I often wish I could see them more often, and I feel sad that they don’t get to see Adelaide as often as I know they would like; but really I am so very blessed to have their support. Despite the miles that often separate us, I know Adelaide will grow up knowing how much she is loved. And I try to never take for granted the time we get to spend together.

Now, as I revel in the tradition of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, my sister naps on the couch next me (she’s still on west coast time), Tim is in the shower, and Adelaide is upstairs taking her morning nap. Tim’s brother and his wife will be over for dinner in just a few hours — a house filled with family, laughter and good eats. Happy Thanksgiving Day to you and yours, and may we all remember to count our blessings every day of the year.

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In my previous post, I mentioned the article 10 Great Ways to Be An Unhappy Mom.  Number two on the list is “Compare yourself to other mothers.”  It’s hard not to compare myself to all the mommy bloggers I see online.  So, I’m trying to keep this in mind when I consider Adelaide turns 15 months old today, and I have yet to publish my post for her first birthday. To my credit, I started the post just days after Adelaide’s birthday on July 28, but it took a while to get all the photos together and it’s been sitting in my “draft” box ever since.

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I started brainstorming ideas for Adelaide’s first birthday several months before the event. I knew I wanted to have a party — more for us than for her — but I also knew that with a late-July birthday, it was likely to be hot and humid. My parents were planning to visit Philly and help us celebrate the day, but we don’t have a lot of space at our place. We don’t have central air either. If we wanted to invite a size-able group of people for a party, our house was out. An outdoor party at a park was an option, but not very appealing in the heat and with the possibility of rain.

I asked around and searched online for an inexpensive room we could rent for a few hours. I didn’t have much luck. Places were either more than I wanted to pay or couldn’t have us until “after hours”–not appropriate timing for a one-year-old whose bedtime is 7:30pm. Fortunately, my friend lives in a condo building that has a fantastic community room on the second floor. It was exactly what I needed. A large air-conditioned space easily accessible to public transportation, and it was only $50 for 5 hours. I’m not sure the space is usually open to the public, but since my friend booked the room, it wasn’t a problem at all.

Several weeks later on Facebook I stumbled upon a photo a friend from college posted. It was from a formal party, but he and his wife were hamming it up and holding moustaches on a stick. “I could make those,” I thought to myself as I immediately started Googling “moustache on a stick tutorial” and “moustache party.” Soon, I had a new board on Pinterest dedicated to all the cute party ideas I was finding.  Apparently, moustache’s are really in right now.

Tim was on board with the party theme, and as the designer in the family, he volunteered to create our party invitation.

I used this moustache-on-a-stick tutorial from the blog Simply Modern Mom, and I found this fun recipe for a moustache cake on the blog Paisley Jade. It’s a circle cake that’s cut in half with a swirl, like a yin and yang symbol. Then, one side is flipped upside down to create a somewhat even moustache shape. I iced it in chocolate frosting. Also featured on this table were the party favors, Adelaide’s special individualized cake and the moustache cookies my friend Kathy made for the event.


Along with the moustache-on-a-sticks I made, I bought several packs of stick-on moustaches. I thought they would be easier for the kids, but the adults liked them, too.

Adelaide’s friend Genevieve came in the “facial hair spirit” by wearing the beard her mom crocheted for her. Her orange beard matched her dad.


 I also bought a couple of fancy bendable moustache’s like these especially for Tim and me. I thought they looked quite natural.

I’ve been taking monthly photos of Adelaide so I wanted to print out one from each month and display them at the party. This banner was perhaps my most favorite party decoration.

When it came time for Adelaide’s cake, she wasn’t so sure about it at first. But once we cut into it for her, she got the hang of it. I love the mischievousness in her eyes of this first photo.

At the end of the party, Adelaide and I opened presents together. She got many generous gifts from friends and family, but as is true for most kids her age, she was more interested in the paper, bows, boxes and ribbons. Happy 1st Birthday, baby girl. We are so happy to celebrate you, and your first year of life in this world. Whether they could be here to celebrate with you in person or not, always know there are so many who love you.

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At a family baby shower the month before Adelaide was born, we received a beautiful 4th of July dress. It was size 18 months, and I could hardly imagine the baby girl who would wear it the following summer. Fast forward to Wednesday, and we had baby’s first Independence Day. I knew she would wear the dress, but we didn’t have much planned for the day. All I knew was that I wanted to “go” somewhere and “do” something.

A friend suggested the 4th of July activities in Narberth, Pa., a suburban town on Philadelphia’s “main line.” I had never been to Narberth and had heard they had a cute downtown area, so I looked online to see what was planned. The activities reminded me of the small town activities hosted by my rural Illinois hometown. So, Narberth it was. We headed out early to beat the heat and met Aunt Adrienne and Uncle Ben there. We arrived just in time to participate in the “Diaper Derby” for crawling babies. Adelaide’s first competitive sporting contest!  Well, Adelaide didn’t move an inch. She just sat back on her bum and took in the sights around her — the crazy adults shaking their keys and trying to get the babies to come toward them, the crowd of people gathered around to watch, the other babies decked out in their best red, white and blue.

What can I say, the competition was tough. I joked that Adelaide will be a writer like her mom – more content to sit back and observe rather than “do.”

The adults shared cotton candy (I can’t remember the last time I’d had some), we bought Adelaide a star-shaped American flag balloon, and we supported the local vendors and had a little picnic lunch in the grass. We then drove to Ardmore for some frozen yogurt and went back to Aunt Adrienne and Uncle Ben’s to test out our sparklers. In fact, they still had some of the sparklers left from our wedding four years ago, so we pulled those out too.

That evening our friend Kendra invited us over for an impromptu BBQ, so after Adelaide had a quick nap at home, we took our dog Hugo and the whole crew over to her house. We grilled up some salmon, veggie kabobs and hotdogs, and lit the sparklers again. It would have been a near perfect 4th of July celebration if it weren’t for the hours of obnoxious neighborhood fireworks that didn’t end until 1:00 am.

Tim pointed out that this was the last of Adelaide’s “first” holidays. We had baby’s first Halloween, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter. Now, she’s almost a year old, and while I’m sure there are still many “firsts” in her future, this was her last “first” holiday. Her first birthday party is now less than three weeks away – yikes!

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