Monday, December 22, 2008

Roasting on an open fire

Last night we got to have a special treat - as Neal said, more for us than for Meredith. We made a fire and roasted marshmallows to make S'mores! This was especially exciting to me because at our old house we had gas logs, which meant 1) Neal always gave me a hard time about running the gas to have a fire at all and 2) Marshmallows and gas fireplaces don't mix. Meredith was very excited about the "treat" I kept talking up, but in the end, just ate chocolate (she decided the marshmallows were too hot in the smore and I think she didn't like how sticky they made her hands) - although she thought just that was great!

Meredith and Daddy with her first marshmallow roasting experience.

Just a slight mishap with the marshmallows - and she didn't even really injest any!

Life with Meredith and...

Finally a post to announce on our blog that Meredith is going to have a little sister! She is due on April 26th, although we hope that she will make an early arrival like her big sister, since Meredith was 10 days early and still weighed in at 9 pounds! And, after a lot of discussion, our little girl finally has a name...

Jillian Mae Hanks

Jillian is a name that Neal and I have both liked for a long time and we are naming her Mae, after Aunt Sandy who is so important to us. Meredith has both of her grandma's middle names (Ann) so it was very important to us that Jillian share someone's name too, so naming her for Aunt Sandy was perfect!

Here is a picture from her last sonogram
Look at that cute profile!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

All Aboard!

Today was a day that Meredith had been looking forward to - a ride on the North Pole Express in Grapevine (or as she might tell you a "choo choo twaaaiin" which makes her sound like the cutest little southern girl ever!) While waiting for the train ride, they sang carols to get us all in the spirit!

Meredith's choreography for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

On the way into the train, we got to walk through a Christmas Tree lined path and there was "snow" that Meredith loved!

The train ride was lots of fun - they played songs from the Polar Express movie and Santa even came by again to see all the kids on the train! We were just enjoying spending time together but then we also had a crazy announcer lady who at first seemed a little abrupt - she kept telling everyone to keep their kids quiet so others could hear the songs (what? you really expect a train full of toddlers quiet during a kid-friendly event?) Then she would tell us, in the most monotone voice ever, that we HAD to sing. And when it wasn't "loud enough for Santa to hear" she told us, "we'll have to sing again" sounding totally defeated. All of this might have turned some people off, but everyone on our car thought the whole thing was hilarious and would just laugh at her or tease each other about sticking to the rules.

I think Meredith's face is showing you the fear that she had of the announcer lady and her threats of keeping kids quiet...
Meredith, breaking the rules by laughing and she also had to walk in the aisles to get to Papa, but we were rebels.
This was more than close enough to Santa for Meredith.
Meredith loved waving to the conductor of the train after the ride!

Before heading home, we met Aunt Sandy and Uncle Perry for lunch. We walked to a restaurant down the steet, and came across this nativity scene. Meredith was so excited to pet all the animals and give Baby Jesus a kiss. So sweet.

Santa Claus

Today while we were in Grapevine for the train ride, we took the opportunity to see Santa. He wasn't the best Santa I'd ever seen and certainly not the cheapest, BUT I had reinforcements, there was no line, and we were there. All these things made it, in my mind the perfect time to let Meredith visit Mr. Claus and share her list for him (which depending upon the day, includes a doll house, a blue car, a train, and a rocket - a few of which were hints that Mommy dropped as ideas, others we are not sure where they came from - why a BLUE car?) We went slowly around the corner with Papa by our side to where Meredith could see Santa, and as we walked up to the front, she proudly said "I sit on Santa's lap!" and she even told the lady that was helping Santa that she was going to ask for a doll house. But as we got to Santa himself, her legs wrapped around me tighter and tighter and tighter. She had no plans of letting go. They tried so hard to get her to not cry, but I convinced them it was fine to just let her do her thing and get the picture. Here are a few that Neal took from the sidelines to give you an idea of this traumatic experience for Meredith! Of course we have a nice big one of her crying hysterically on his lap (it looks remarkably like last years!) that Meredith has loved to look at it throughout the day and tell about her sitting on his lap and crying.

Even though I was losing feeling around my middle from her legs wrapped so tightly, the tears hdn't started yet, so I was hopeful....
Now I am working to pry her legs from around me. Santa nicely offered to do a family picture, but I knew that would just mean that I had to be in it with her crying, so that seemed worse!

And the tears officially start and we work to try to get a picture as quickly as possible! Success, well, kind of.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Today was the first really cold day we have had, which meant I pulled out all the cold weather gear and bundled up our little cutie before heading out for the day - she loved her hats, scarf and most especially her gloves.

Then this evening, Papa very nicely went and picked up the new big girl furniture that we ordered for Meredith's room. Unfortunately it was incredibly cold and sleeting, but he got it all home, and best of all, Meredith got the special treat of seeing Papa on a weeknight! She got all bundled up so she could go greet him as soon as he arrived, and then immediately asked to go swing (her favorite thing to do with Papa!) Then the sleet (or what she thought was rain) started again. She got so sad, and I just thought that she didn't like the rain, but when we made our way back in from the garage, she went to the dish towel drawer, pulled out a pot holder and said very sadly "Dry the rain!" So against my better mom judgement, Meredith and Papa went out, dried the rain/sleet from her swing and had a great time!

Meredith (still with her pot holder - we used a real towel to dry the rain instead) having a great time swinging in the cold!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Santa on the Roof

Every year, a friend of ours from Playgroup hosts "Santa on the Roof." She and her family had this tradition as a child and she has started it back up for her kids. We started the night off with Christmas carols while we waited for Santa to appear. Finally, he showed up on the rooftop when we sang loud enough for him to find us. When he arrived, he had treat bags for each of the kids, and called them by name to come grab their treats. Meredith loved the singing, but was terrified when she finally saw Santa - she grabbed me and would not let go. When she started to see the other kids get excited and I explained that he was going to call her name and throw treats to her, she started to warm up to the idea. She anxiously waited for him to call her name and even ran up with me to get her treat (which meant she had to get even closer to Santa).

Meredith, singing with the other kids.
Gigi and Meredith singing and swaying.
Guess who just appeared??
I think her grip had loosened at this point.
Santa himself starting to throw his treats!

Meredith, with some of her treats straight from Santa.

Celebrating Christmas with Playgroup

Meredith and I got to experience our very first Playgroup Christmas party this week where the kids enjoyed making M&M Christmas trees, eating pizza, making cookies, and doing a book exchange. Meredith really looks forward to Tuesdays every week because she has so much fun with all of the other kids, but this week was probably her favorite of the year!
Meredith and her friend, Grace, after making their M&M Christmas trees.
Making cookies was Meredith's favorite part - as you can see, she decided that her tree didn't need the M&Ms for decoration, so she just ate them. She actually ate most of the icing off the cookie too, but she loved every minute of it!

Congrats Mike and Val!

The bride and groom

This past weekend, Neal's best friend since Kindergarten, Mike, got married in Las Vegas. We were honored to attend so that Neal could perform best man duties. The wedding was beautiful and we had a great time spending time with our group of friends that were there as well as just spending time together. We missed Meredith terribly but enjoyed having some time to be adults and even sleep in a bit! Some of the highlights, besides seeing two good friends get married, were seeing the fountains at the Bellagio (we even got to see them from Mike's friend's room in the Bellagio which was even more beautiful from above than from ground level), some really good food, seeing the Cirque du Soleil show, O, and just getting to be with Neal in one of his favorite cities (I hadn't really ever been, so it was a total experience for me!)

Neal and I enjoying the reception dinner

Toasting with the bride and groom.

Checking out the beautiful Christmas decorations at the Bellagio, after O.

Where Jesus' Mommy and Daddy take him...

Meredith discovered the fun that I am sure many of you had as a child with a nativity set this weekend at Bubbie's house. So Jesus was moved all over, riding the camel and sheep. She loved the "butterfly" aka the angel. And she also loved to let Jesus' mommy "hold you, Jesus" and putting Jesus night, night. My favorite part of watching her play was when she had Jesus, Mary and Joseph and she told us all that "Jesus, Jesus mommy and Jesus daddy go to Stars game!" I was laughing so hard I was crying. This confused Meredith a bit too so then she asked me "Mommy, you happy??" I reassured her that yes, she made me very happy.

Meredith has just put Jesus to bed by laying him in the manger and patting his back.

Jesus taking a ride on the camel.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oh Tamas Tree

Meredith is in love with Christmas trees and loves pointing them out everywhere we go - except that it sounds more like "Tamas Tree!" And for me, this year, I was even more excited to put up the tree than usual because our new house has what I like to call a "Christmas Tree Window." Seriously this was on my wish list when looking for a house. Neal thought this was ridiculous, luckily our realtor confirmed that she has heard this wish before. Now, I am not sure if she was trying to make me feel better or not, but I like to believe I am not totally crazy!

We did have a small issue in that we had a beautiful 9 ft tree that we bought just 2 years ago for our old house with the tallest ceilings ever was not quite going to work in our new house with 8 ft ceilings. Luckily my dad and Neal were able to chop off the bottom chunk of the tree so now it fits perfectly!
Meredith helping add a little pizzaz to the tree! Or to that one little section anyway - she didn't seem to mind ornaments sharing branches and I like it just the way she put them!

The tree topper I made this year after finally giving up on a quest to find one that wouldn't make the whole top of the tree lean over.
The completed tree - perfectly displayed in my Christmas Tree Window!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holidays in a Small Town

Sometimes I forget that we live in a small town, because it is surrounded by a really big suburb, but today we were reminded of why living somewhere with only 2,000 or so citizens is so much fun! All three of us were out putting up our Christmas lights, when we see policemen, the firetruck, and people in elf hats walking down the street during a little Christmas parade! And guess who was on the firetruck? Santa! And he had candy treats for all the kids! I was so excited we were out at just the right time. Meredith quickly came to see when we told her it was Santa, but then she got a little scared when he got a little too close. Even though she was crying and pretty scared, my polite little girl still managed to choke out a "thank you" to Santa for the treats. Santa was very patient with Meredith and tried to change her opinion of him, but I think we still have some work to do before we try to sit on his lap!
You would think candy might be a bribe to not be scared, but not for Meredith!
Progress- she actually let Santa reassure her!
After finishing up the lights (or as many as we could before we ran out!) we had a quick dinner and headed down to the park that is up the street from us for the Christmas tree lighting - a fun activity with popcorn, face painting, pictures with Santa (we didn't push two visits in one day), and of course the lighting of the tree!

All the kids get to hold a rope and pull to make the lights come on. You could tell that the kids that have done this for many years love this - they were lined up for a long time to get as close to the tree as possible! Meredith keeps talking about it too, so I know it is something she will be looking forward every year!
Showing Meredith the lights that she helped light up by pulling the rope.
The tree all lit up!

Christmas Cousins

We spent a wonderful Thanksgiving at Aunt Sandy's house complete with wonderful food and a huge table full of friends and family, including, of course, Landon on his first Thanksgiving! Sandy also got Landon and Meredith matching PJs so we of course decided we needed some cute pictures!
Sweet gingerbread men for sweet little kiddos
Oh wait, is this still being sweet? I think that was Meredith's intention, although I think Landon didn't quite see it that way...
Much better!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Go Stars!

Neal's good friend had some great seats to the Stars game that he wasn't able to use this weekend, so we were lucky enough to get to use them for him! We decided to take Meredith along to experience her first game, but we were very realistic in thinking we might not make it through an entire period before we had to head home. But Meredith surprised us by making it through not only the whole game, but overtime too!

She loved Daddy's shirt that had a star on it and then thought it was so strange that so many other people had on the same shirt! She spent a lot of time checking out the crowd, but loved the lights on the ice (especially the star shaped lights!), watched some of the action, got into the clapping, and even gave groans and "oh no's!" when things weren't going well for the Stars. Neal had jokingly said that he thought after 5 minutes of play she would declare the game "All done!" but it was actually all the way until 6 minutes that she asked "Mama's car, now?" Luckily we were able to distract her with junk food! After a bag of animal cookies, a trip for cotton candy, and helping Daddy with some popcorn, Neal was actually able to enjoy the whole game! I saw a little less of it than that, but I just had fun being there with my whole family together.

The best part was walking out to the car, Meredith was in Neal's arms and said "I had fun!" And she even woke up this morning talking about how fun the hockey game was, so we will call this outing a great success!
A rare moment of Meredith looking into the action on the ice - there was too much else fun going on around us!
Cheering with Daddy in overtime - sadly, the Stars still lost.

Aunt Katie's Dress

Meredith's Aunt Katie made her the cutest Tutu for her birthday this year - Meredith has an aversion to slightly funny feeling things being near her body, so since August, this beyond-cute dress-up item has just been hanging on her wall. Then on Saturday, she woke up from her nap to see it - and almost immediately insisted she wear "Aunt Katie's dress!" So we added it to her Longhorn t-shirt, jeans, and straight-from-nap hair, to give us this darn cute ballerina! I am so excited for Aunt Katie to see this and to know that the only reason it came off was because spaghetti was being served for dinner and there was no way we were going to get sauce on this!

Bathing Beuty

Here are some fun pics of Meredith at bath time - she loves playing with all of her letters, "hiding" her ducks under the water, splashing, and her new favorite is sliding on her tummy! This is the way we can bribe her out of almost any other fun activity to go hop in the bath!

Guess who was in charge of hair washing duty? Daddy always makes everything more fun!
Her post- getting clean treat - sliding on her tummy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tiny Dancer

Our family is extremely blessed for so many reasons, and a big one of those reasons is Aunt Sandy. For those of you who don't know about wonderful Aunt Sandy, she takes care of Meredith while I am at work even with hundreds of other things going on in her busy schedule. And she does it wonderfully - Meredith has learned so many things from her in all of the days she has spent with her and Sandy tries to introduce her to new things all the time. The entire Sook family has a love of music, theater and dancing and she has worked to instill this in Meredith, too. That includes a dance class one time a week when Meredith goes to Southlake. Today was parent observation day at dance, and I was able to make it just in time. I loved seeing Meredith in her adorable leotard and tutu and getting to see where she dances and watching the other girls, too. Meredith is a creature of habit, so having me there was maybe a hinderance to her progress in dance, but she is a smart girl, and I think she will pick back up what she might have missed soon!

Aunt Sandy helping Meredith put on her shoes.
A proud mama with her little ballerina.
The whole tap class - oh yeah, and me. Like I said, it took awhile for her to warm up while I was there, so I decided to participate too.

Trying out a move with a little help.
Meredith was actually more excited to move on to ballet - I got to stay by the wall!
The girls think this part is so funny - to get them to reach to their toes the teacher told them to sniff their stinky feet. Too cute that instead of taking her head to her toes, Meredith decided to bring her toes up!
At the end of class, the girls get to tumble - Meredith was definitely fine leaving me to do this one!