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the beginning of traditions.

happy new year, dear readers!

this christmas, i found myself thinking about two things the most -- the first, i wrote a bit about on instagram, was the line: "the weary world rejoices." how grateful i am that what christmas means most is that a weary world has reason to rejoice, no matter how weary we might be. when i focused on that, some of the hecticness, frenzy of the season faded away, allowing me to cling to what really mattered.

the second was about traditions -- how they begin, how they continue, why they matter. this christmas, we saw our families over the course of the month, but on christmas eve and christmas day, it was just our family of four, with two little girls watching us for what this time of year means. the season began, in so many ways with anna's birth, a few days before thanksgiving. it slowed life down in the beautiful way a newborn can -- she created space for us to sit, and hold her, and get to know her. more reasons to get out the blankets on the couch, read books, watch movies.

a few days after we brought her home, we decorated our christmas tree, getting out the decorations that now feel so familiar (it's amazing what five years of marriage, and six christmases will do). ellie was a christmas baby and i loved that, but i'm telling you, thanksgiving babies are incredible. i loved that the first month of anna's life, each time i needed to nurse her or hold her or was given some time to take a nap (thank you ryan, my parents & sweet friends who took ellie!) -- i found my way to that couch by tree, those simply white lights on a fraser fir that are just magical to me. i know she won't remember it, but my hope is i planted some seeds for her heart to love this time of year, when the weary world can rejoice.

christmas with a little girl on the brink of being three years old has its own kind of magic -- ellie was so, so present and enthusiastic about each part of the season -- from decorating the tree (one branch on our tree had to hold 7 ornaments i think!); to setting out the nativity (she was so worried we didn't have wise men we ended up adding them to our set this year to put her mind at ease); to reading some of our favorite books; singing (very off key, she gets it honestly) the twelve days of christmas; and then christmas morning (where she spent the first five minutes talking about how the reindeer ate the carrots, not that there were presents from santa under the tree, which was hilarious).

our girls are really little, which gives us grace to figure out our traditions, how our family will mark this season. at the heart of it, i go back to the idea of stillness, beautifully written about here. i want our girls to remember the time and space we created so the season doesn't fly by or end up a stressful march of things we "have to do," and in some ways, i know that's easiest when they are this little. i love the images above because they capture some quiet mornings we spent by the tree. these sisters were getting to know each other (including watching this lennon & maisy video hoping to do their own rendition one day...).

there were some other beginnings of traditions: a special date ellie & ryan went on (anna will get her own date with daddy when she's a bit older); croissants from our favorite bakery on christmas morning that ellie & i picked up together on christmas eve; watching white christmas many times (ellie squealed during the final scene saying, "all the daddies are home from deployment!!!!" which was enough to melt every parental heart in this house). and for ellie's birthday (the 26th) we began a tradition of decorating the birthday girl's bedroom door with streamers while she slept. all these traditions are meant to be simple and easy to do anywhere. as a military family, we know we will likely spend christmases lots of places, under lots of circumstances, and our hope is to have some traditions that can be constants, no matter where we are.

then there were some traditions from our families we continued with our girls: ryan's mom has given him a nutcracker each christmas, he and ellie set them up together. my family has eaten chinese food on christmas eve for over 65 years, an incredible story from a friendship my grandfather had. after our church's beautiful christmas eve service, we drove to pick up chinese carry out. after putting the girls to bed, ryan & i continued the tradition.

when i was uploading these photos, i was giving myself a hard time -- i meant to take more photographs, i left my camera out to do just that. then, i started thinking about this season of life and that part of the reason we didn't reach for the camera more often, was that our hands were literally full. taking care of a newborn and three year old means holding them, reading to them, doing puzzles with them, painting with them, changing diapers, feeding them. it means when they're sleeping we're often folding laundry, cleaning dishes, sweeping the floor or collapsed on the couch completely exhausted (when anyone asked how i was during december i would say, "tired, but so happy"). it reminded me that the photographs above are enough, and that these traditions will carry us back to this time soon enough.


gift guide for the guys.

so, i missed getting this done before christmas, but figuring out what to get ryan has been one of the steepest learning curves for me -- i hope he would say i'm getting a bit better each year! in case you're in the same place, here are some things i looked at for ryan -- many of which wound up under our tree! (this is especially geared to military guys ;)


flash boys -- we love michael lewis & this looked especially compelling!

redeployment -- being heralded as the best book by this generation of veterans.


the perfect coozie

this awesome speaker

what guy doesn't want a bean bag chair?! (and i wouldn't even mind having this one in my house!)


i love he loves to wear my college's gear!

everlane has the best basics!


the coolest soap i've ever seen (thank you fort lance for introducing us to it!)

this dopp kit for the next time we get to getaway the two of us!


ellie's christmas wish list - 2014.

so, it's more than a tad late for a gift guide, but a sweet little newborn & enthusiastic almost three year old have been keeping me busy, so better late than never! my hope is down the road these ideas might be helpful to you!

our family tradition is to do four gifts at christmas: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read (i found free, beautiful downloadable gift tags here!). we love the simplicity and intention behind this -- it works really well for us. some of the items above we have and love, others are ones i marked for ellie and just may wind up under our tree!


this scooter -- we haven't bought a double stroller, mostly because ellie wakes up every morning with more energy than the other three of us combined, so the idea of pushing her anywhere is almost funny to me. that said, as it warms up and we're venturing to the park or friends houses, my hope is something like this will be her mode of transportation & i'll have anna in the stroller (a mom can dream, right?!) lots of moms i trust love this brand!

mangatiles -- the most played with toy in our house; i was introduced to them by some friends of ours and a preschool teacher reader who mentioned them in the comments section of t&f, we invested in some over the summer and i honestly can't say enough good things about them. we build rocket ships, wedding cakes, skyscrapers!

i am so impressed with MOMA's store, especially for kids -- these NYC blocks are just so neat -- especially because her dad was born there and we love eloise, i think she'd have a lot of fun imagining with them!


this one can be hard -- what does a three year old really need? but we try to do practical things -- a coat, pjs, new shoes or something they need for school or an activity all come to mind as possibilities -- here are some specific ideas:

we LOVE honest company -- i first learned about them when i switched ellie to their diapers when she was 6 months old, then we slowly started using more of their cleaning supplies (their laundry detergent is awesome! the wooden dishbrush has become one of my favorite things in our kitchen!) this winter, the things we're using daily with ellie are their body oil (this after bath time works so, so well on her dry skin!). and we put a little of their breathe easy cream on the soles of her feet with socks before bed. those two little routines have become her favorite part of bedtime!

we bought this winter coat in a 4T for her this year and it's so great -- we'll get two winters for ellie and hopefully a few for anna out of it -- it's well made and warm!

our wood floors are freezing -- given ellie wears dresses morning, noon and night, the girl needs some slippers to keep her toes warm!

this little lunch kit would be perfect for her snack for school!


it's dresses ALL the time at our house (any advice for me?!) so this one and this one caught my eye!


christmas magic is my new favorite book for this time of year -- the stunning illustrations, beautiful story and pace of it just capture me. ellie has most pages memorized. it was a gift from dear friends who seem to find the best books!

julia, child is one i just added to my wish list, seems so appropriate with two little girls in our house!

this version of little drummer boy has such great illustrations, it has been a favorite of ellie's for two years running, she calls it "rumpumpum!"

for ellie's gift guides of past check here and here; if you need ideas for a baby look here and tons of book recommendations right here and here!


anna's birth announcement.

there was something about getting these birth announcements that made it oh so real to me that this little girl is our daughter -- there is this fog of new motherhood, and still needing to parent a very enthusiastic little girl, that hadn't given me a lot of moments to really let the reality soak in, but seeing these -- her name we so carefully chose and the simplicity of this announcement -- that made it all real, in a wonderful way. so, i cried (it's taken very little these past few weeks, just ask ryan!) and then we sent them on their way to dear friends and family we can't wait for her to meet.

as is our family tradition, we made these with minted, a company we love and now have used for our save the date, ellie's announcement and all our christmas cards (our 200920102011 & 20122013 cards!).


introducing anna!!!!


what i wore this pregnancy.

a few readers have emailed asking where i buy clothes for pregnancy. i have to tell you i get the biggest smile on my face because i just kind of love those readers! so, with full disclosure that this will likely be the most boring post because my answer is so simple, i'm happy to share a few thoughts! the shortest answer would be, well, have a super generous friend who lends you her great basics and buy a few pairs of black leggings. but i'll elaborate a bit more!

so, this pregnancy was different than mine with ellie because i wasn't going to an office to work and for the final twenty weeks i had to wear compression hose from the time i woke up in the morning, until i went to sleep (oh i could bore you for days with the joys of how my body does pregnancy, including varicose veins that feel like the worst shin splints!). so, once i got over throwing up every day and actually was getting dressed (most days) i realized that my maternity jeans were lots less comfortable with the compression hose, so those ended up being something i wore for a few hours or on a date night (i do think it's important to have one pair you love and feel beautiful in -- these are my favorite!).

the rest of the time it was dresses for the end of summer and then black leggings. every day. (i sort of wish i was kidding). but they were so comfortable and made the perfect transition into fall and the final 10 or so weeks of this pregnancy. most days i had some sort of neutral top, depending on the weather, maybe a few layers. the outfit in the photo above was essentially my uniform. it worked because it allowed me to be comfortable, to play with ellie, and to feel like i was really dressed. i could throw on a scarf or different earrings and actually feel like i was dressed up! so, i bought almost nothing this pregnancy -- i wish i had a good recommendation on leggings, my gap maternity ones are fine, but i'm sure there are better ones out there. (please leave ideas in the comments section if you have recommendations!) i do LOVE gap body maternity tops -- they're really well made, so soft and work really well all the way to the very end (the tops that are too short by week 36 really bum me out).

the other pieces that gave me a little variety and an option for date night were kind of random -- they were looser non-maternity tops i already had that worked great with a belt or just fit over my belly (the only way to figure this out is keep trying things on) and then a few shirts from the men's sale section at j.crew (which i get a surprising number of compliments on!). & then being due in november, it was fun to add some vests and jackets at the end -- there was no prayer they would zip or button (no matter how many times ellie told me i really should button my jacket!), but they gave a pop of color and easy layer.

some other places to look: my sonnet james dress was my go to pick me up for the first two trimesters, and i'm excited to try her spring line of dresses for nursing -- they're so well made & beautiful. if i could go back in time, i would have tried the storq basics. it's the one purchase i wish i had made.

i think my biggest piece of advice comes from a speech i once heard anne lamott give where she said: "i'm a firm believer that life is too short for uncomfortable pants." AMEN. that's pretty much the clothing mantra i live by, ESPECIALLY when you're carrying a baby (which is hard enough). i refuse to wear something that's not comfortable and so as soon as anything feels that way, i move on (it helps me to literally get it out of my closet). for every single woman this happens at a different point in pregnancy, and even pregnancy to pregnancy, it shifts.

this feels like the right moment, since i'm writing this 38 weeks pregnant and full of opinions to say: i'm also a big believer that the only thing you should ever say to a pregnant woman about her appearance is that she looks beautiful. anything about the size of the bump (and how big you think it is for that particular week of pregnancy!!), how "huge" or "ready to pop" she is, in my experience, always unhelpful. i'm not sure why we feel like when women are pregnant it's suddenly open season to comment on their looks, but man, it bugs me!

stepping down off my soap box :), to end with something i wrote on instagram about the above photograph & why i took this picture:

"that night when you think -- ok, so this actually could be my last night being pregnant, and you think about this daughter you're about to meet & what it will be like for her to grow up. that some day you will want to tell her about this pregnancy and what it felt like to carry her for 10 months -- how your love grew, how strong it showed you that you could be. that in this photo I had showered (miracle!) but I also had on compression hose, was battling heartburn, that my hips ached & I had lost my patience with her sister more than was fair. that the truth is we become mamas long before we're done growing up, so we grow together, best we can. that our little family could hardly wait to meet her."