Thursday, November 26, 2009

picnics, parades and pumpkins

So it's November and I realized that I never blogged about Halloween or our other fun fall activities. Our weather in October was not very fall-like. It felt more like November. Luckily we were able to get outdoors a few times and enjoy this great time of year.

Of course with the start of fall comes yummy apples! Olivia loves apples and there are so many great kinds to choose from. Give her a big ole apple and she is a happy girl. I bought a ton of them for her and she is still chomping away!

In October we also attended the annual Three Rivers Montessori School fall picnic. This year the picnic had a Halloween theme. The food, decorations and activities all centered around the holiday. Each year the kids have a bike parade. They decorate their bikes and ride them around the parking lot while we all watch. Olivia usually slaps on as many decorations as she possible can on her bike, making it nearly impossible to ride. Once again, she really decked out her bike with Halloween stickers, streamers and balloons. They have a police escort, thanks to one of the dad's from the school. The kids love it!

The other picnic activity was a "trunk-or-treat". I had never heard of such a thing before. But instead of trick or treating door-to-door, people decorate their cars, open up their trunks and serve candy to the kids as they come around. The school was looking for parents willing to decorate their cars, and after a great suggestion from a friend I decided to volunteer. I have a black Volkswagen beetle, so you can probably guess what I choose to do. Yep...a lady bug (in reverse). It was a huge hit and I got a ton of complements from both the kids and the parents. Unfortunately I did not have Olivia's Halloween costume completed in time for the picnic, so she was one of very few children not in costume. I felt terrible, but I don't think she even noticed. Olivia had a great time and we enjoyed passing out candy to all of her little friends. It was another great event at the school.

With Halloween approaching we took Olivia on her annual trip to the local pumpkin patch. Last year was her first year picking out her own pumpkins and she had a blast. We went back again this year to choose some more. They have pumpkins of all sizes and Olivia likes picking out small pumpkins called, "spookies". They are just her size and easy for her to carry.

She picked out quite a few. It was hard for her to decide which ones she liked the best, so we just got them all! It was at this point that Olivia really started to get excited about Halloween. Each day she would say, "tomorrow is Halloween!" She would hardly contain her excitement for the big day.

Prior to Halloween we took her to the annual trick-or-treating event at our zoo. It is a great event they put on each year for the kids. They get to tour the zoo while passing candy stations. The zoo is decorated with hundreds of pumpkins and pumpkin displays. They do some pretty creative things with the pumpkins too. They make them look like animals and characters from kids movies. I was quite impressed by all of the hard work people put into this event, to make it extra fun for the kids.

Finally, Halloween arrived. This year I was adventurous and I attempted to make Olivia's costume. I am not a very crafty person, but I saw the idea in a magazine and thought I would easily be able to pull it off. It was not nearly as easy as I thought it would be, of course, but with a little bit of help from my Mom we got it figured out. So here she is...our little red crayon!

It was definitely a comfortable costume for her to wear. I was surprised by how many complements I received on it too. I thought it was cute, but nothing special. I guess it was a pretty unique idea, since we did not pass any other crayons on Halloween night. I think Olivia could have been naked and not cared, as long as she was still able to collect her candy. And that she did! We started by visiting some family, to show off her cuteness. We then came back to our house and spent time trick-or-treating around our neighborhood. She had a blast running from house to house.

You should have seen the bucket of candy she ended up with. She got tired quickly, so we headed out to see our friends, Korrie, Tom and their boys. Each year we end Halloween at their house, with some yummy chili. The kids get to go through their candy and we get to warm up with some nice comfort food. It was a great Halloween and Olivia is already excited about next year. Luckily we have Christmas coming up to distract her.

Finally, last month we had our annual family photos taken. Each year we have Olivia's pictures done right around her birthday. Last year we had just moved into our new house and we got some great shots of all of us in our new neighborhood. This year I found a new photographer, G.E.M. Photography, and we had an amazing photo shoot all around Fort Wayne. She was so good with Olivia and was able to bring out her bubbly little personality in all of the shots. There are so many great photos from our shoot it is hard to pick a few to share, but here are a few of my favorites.

You can view the photographer's blog entry, and more of the photos here. Now the hard part comes...trying to decide which ones to display on our wall. I have already chosen some for our Christmas cards, so that is one big decision out of the way. We have been very lucky each year to have such amazing photos of Olivia to look back on. She is definitely one photogenic child!

Today is Thanksgiving. I am looking forward to spending the day with family and thinking of all of the things I am thankful for. I often get wrapped up in all of life's little problems, and I should stop and remember just how blessed I am. I hope that everyone reading this has a very Happy Thanksgiving with their families as well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

a sweet celebration

Last week our sweet Olivia turned 3...yes, 3! I can't believe it and I don't want to believe that my little girl is growing up, but it is happening so I better get on board. Don't get me wrong, she is fantastic, but I would give anything to just stop time right where it is for a few years and enjoy this stage a little while longer. Aside from a few monstrous moments from time to time, Olivia is the sweetest, most loving, bright, full of life child on the planet. I know I am a little biased but I am allowed to be since I am her mother, right? Well, since I can't stop time I am just going to enjoy every second of her younger years before she decides that spending time with her mother is the most uncool thing on the planet.

Last week her birthday celebration spanned several days. She actually turned 3 on November 4th, but the big celebration took place on Saturday. I just love making a huge fuss over her on her special day, and I don't think she minds. The day of her birthday started with a special birthday breakfast...apples and a breakfast bar with a candle in the middle. Exciting I know, but this is Olivia's standard breakfast most mornings. I think I could have stuck a candle in the middle of anything and she would have been happy. All she wanted was to hear us sing "Happy Birthday" to her before blowing out that candle, and she blew it out like a champ...no help! We packed up her school things and the mini-muffins she was bringing as her birthday snack and headed off to school. She had a huge smile on her face the entire morning and was just itching to get to school so people could continue to make a fuss over her.

Later that morning, Todd, my Mom and myself visited Olivia's school to share in the special birthday celebration. Each child takes part in a special ceremony on their birthday, called the "walk around the sun". This involves the child walking around a small table that has a candle on it...once for each year of their life, while holding a globe. During each lap around the table something special about that child is shared. I wrote four special quotes that could be shared, one for when she was born and her 1st, 2nd and now 3rd year of life. After Olivia "walked around the sun" three times we all sang "Happy Birthday" and she blew out the candle. It was a cute little ceremony and she was beaming with pride the entire time. I must admit it brought a slight tear to my eye. I was proud of her for all that she has accomplished in her three short years of life.

After the ceremony there were a few minutes before she would be dismissed so we got to go with her onto the playground. The second she got outside she immediately ran for her BFF, Laurel. It was a cool day but there were tons of leaves on the ground and the kids were just having a blast running through them. It was fun just seeing Olivia in her element. Next it was off to the baby sitter's for the rest of the day but the birthday celebration would continue that night.

Olivia's birthday present from us was a surprise trip to Build-A-Bear. I thought she was old enough to appreciate the joy of making your very own teddy bear. I think she was in teddy bear heaven, once we stepped into the store. The first of many choices was deciding what style of bear she wanted. I was pleased that she picked a type of bear that she does not already have. Next it was time to stuff the bear. The people that work there are very friendly and helpful and did a great job of making Olivia feel special on her birthday. On top of that it was a Wednesday night, and the mall was dead, so we had the place to ourselves.

After her bear was stuffed and sealed with a kiss it was on to the grooming stations. She really enjoyed fluffing and combing his fur. I could tell that she formed an immediate connection with her bear and they were going to be lifelong pals. Olivia's one true love is her stuffed animals, or "stuffies", as we call them. She takes after me in that way. I wanted nothing more than to be surrounded by tons of stuffed animals, especially when I slept. The final step in the bear making process was to pick out an outfit.

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She changed her mind multiple times before settling on a cute little ballerina outfit. I can't say that I was surprised considering she loves to dance. What does surprise me is how many outfits there are to choose from and how quickly one can empty their wallet with all of the accessories that are available. When it was all said and done she had created her bear and aptly name it "Ballerina Bear". It was a fun birthday activity and one that I think may become a tradition each year.

The last stop on the birthday train was to my Mom's for presents and a special birthday dinner. Olivia was thrilled to open her presents. She got a ton of beautiful clothes from my Mom and a few special things from us, including an Olivia book, a hand puppet kit and the one thing she wanted more than anything else...Bendaroos! Needless to say, she was thrilled and relieved that we were able to find them for her.

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After a yummy birthday dinner of spaghetti it was finally time for cake. She sat on pins and needles while we sang to her one last time, anxiously waiting to blow out those candles. With a little help she blew all three out on the first try. I sure hope she made a special birthday wish. There was only pure joy on her face as she devoured that cake. It is the simple things that bring her such joy. For me, watching Olivia enjoy every moment of her special day brings me all the joy I need. When the day was over I tucked my three year old girl in bed, kissed her and told her how much I loved her. I walked out of her room wondering how she made it to three in a blink of an eye.

Olivia's birthday week came to an exciting climax that weekend with her birthday party. Many of you know the party had an "Olivia" theme. For those of you who do not know what I am talking about click here to learn all about Olivia the Pig. It is a series of books based on an adorable little pig who seems to have the exact same personality as our Olivia. Once she was old enough to notice she quickly caught on to the fact that she shared the name of this cute little character. There is even an "Olivia" TV program on Nick Jr. My challenge was finding a way to decorate for the party since they do not make "Olivia the Pig" birthday decorations. So I got a little creative. First, I called on a friend of mine...one of the Mom's from Olivia's school, who makes adorable dresses. She found some super cute "Olivia" fabric and came up with this great little dress for to wear at her party. She was so excited to wear it!

And then there was the cake? What to do? I so desperately wanted a cake in the shape of "Olivia the Pig" but I did not know if someone could pull it off. The secretary at Olivia's school is an amazing baker and she specializes in cakes. I told her what I wanted and she said, "no problem!". I was speechless when I picked up the cake on the day of Olivia's party. I had seen some of her work before so I knew she was good, but I never imagined the cake to be this perfect! It was the perfect touch to the "Olivia" party! You should have seen the look on Olivia's face when I showed the cake to her for the first time...priceless!

After our guests arrived and we enjoyed dinner we moved onto presents. Olivia excitedly tore into each present and was beyond thrilled with each gift she received...and she got some nice stuff! After all of the presents were opened and we were left with a hurricane of wrapping paper she stood up and announced to her guests, "Thank you everyone for my presents!". I was so impressed, and so proud of the fact that she is so polite and grateful. A few people even pulled me aside later and told me that she came up to thank them again for the gifts they gave to her.

Next, it was time for cake! Olivia's favorite part of birthdays. As you can imagine Olivia was not at all embarrassed, having everyone standing around her and singing while she waited to blow out her candles. She was ready to dig into that "Olivia" cake! Oh and before I forget we made a special treat for the kids to eat for dinner...pigs in a blanket! Appropriate, right?

When it was all said and done, I had a huge mess but a very happy three year old. It was hard for her to go to bed that night. I am not sure if it was because she was so excited about all of her presents, or because she knew that once she went to sleep her birthday week would officially be over. Regardless I think her party was a huge success and filled with wonderful memories. Olivia is so lucky to have so many generous family and friends in her life. We are lucky that they all took time out of their busy lives to celebrate with us.

I am so excited to see what the three's have in store for us this year. I have a feeling there will be many ups and downs, but never a dull moment! I look at Olivia and I am so proud of the little girl she has become. Well mannered, kind, caring, happy, smart...the list goes on and on. I know I have not been the perfect mother, by any means, but seeing how well rounded she seems to be makes me think I am doing something right.

I can't believe that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. I have not even begun to think about Christmas, nor am I ready to. I just realized that I still have not blogged about Halloween or some of the other fun fall activities we took part in. I will be sure to include all of that in my next post. One final, Happy Birthday, to my sweet Olivia! I can't wait to see how you will amaze us this year.