30 December 2009

A Stark Christmas

Brian and Janet were heading to Oklahoma this Christmas, so we celebrated with them the weekend before Christmas. Matt, Noah and I headed down to Kimberling City on that Friday night, and we were able to have dinner with friends Steve and Amanda, their family and Janet and the boys. It was a fun night catching up with one another. It's been entirely too long since we hung out with the Livingston clan, and I couldn't believe how big their kids have gotten! Made me feel really old. ( I am almost 31! Yikes!)
On Saturday we spent the day with the whole family. I just love family get-togethers around the holidays. Whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, the 4th of July...whatever! I LOVE holidays! However, Christmas is the most special! As stated in this post, there are so many things that warm my heart when it comes to Christmastime, and being with family is very high on that list. So, spending the day playing with Parker and Tyler, watching Noah interact with them more than he's been able to up to this point, chatting and baking with Debbie and Janet, opening gifts with all the boys, eating a wonderful meal and delicious desserts, all added up to a beautiful day. I'm always sad when I can't be around my family, so I'm blessed in that I always have a good time with the Stark crew. They are my family too, and I love them so very much!


Christmas tree and gifts before the madness ensued!

Nana and Noah

Bow Boy

Noah wanted to put on his new cardigan sweater immediately.

matching sleeping bag backpacks from Papa
a special Bible storybook from aunt J and uncle Brian

after the gift opening craziness

eating at the kids' table...Noah wants his fork back

Parker the tool man Stark

hanging out at aunt J's and uncle Brian's before driving back to Saint Louis

Candlelight Symphony

Friend Gina invited me to her Bach Society Christmas Candlelight Concert at Powell Symphony Hall, and it changed my life! The music was heavenly and moving...the kind that takes you to another place. Several times throughout the concert I got goose bumps or tears. Gina even had a solo which was just ridiculous...this girl needs to be performing in NYC or London or somewhere other than Saint Louis! Serious talent. On top of the astounding performances, Powell Hall itself was spectacular. It was so old, so full of character, so majestic. The perfect setting for hundreds of instruments and voices to come together.

(I sneaked a picture during Gina's performance. She's the girl standing on the right at the front of the stage.)
Matt and I were out of luck on the baby sitter front, so he stayed home with Noah, and I hitched along with lovely friend Marisa and her hubby, Kyle. Marisa and Kyle have been to this concert every year for...a long time. I don't remember the exact number!
I hope to make this an annual tradition for me and Matt. He would have really enjoyed the concert as well. Hopefully we'll have some babysitters lined up by this time next year!

27 December 2009

White Christmas

What a beautiful Christmas morning we had!

The only thing that could have made it better would have been the presence of my beloved family; but otherwise, it was just splendid! (I'm watching The Sound of Music right now and am inspired to use the word "splendid.")

Noah was in a fantastic mood and came down the stairs smiling and jibber-jabbering.

Noah was a great gift-opener! He said "ooooohhh" at several of his presents. This was one he loved...a toy phone from me and daddy.
He also got lots of new books! A couple from us, several from grams and pops, and several more from uncle Ben and aunt Marsa`. We love books here in the Stark house, so they were perfect gifts! We've already read each one.
Here's the little one playing with his new blocks from nana and papa. He also received wooden blocks from uncle Ben and aunt Marsa`, and he loves them all! He's really in to stacking them up and then knocking them down. Grams and pops taught him to do this with the few rubber blocks we have, and he gets the biggest kick out of it. Perhaps all these new building toys will inspire a little architect! (daddy helped with the construction below)
This was one of Noah's fav's...the V-Tech electronic learning puppy from Grams and Pops mentioned in my previous post. You can see the "ooooohhh" on his lips. So cute.
We drank hot cocoa and hot tea, opened gifts, filled our bellies with spinach/bacon quiche and pumpkin bread, played with Noah on his new slide, watched movies, enjoyed apple cobbler for Pie Noon, watched more movies, had a delicious Christmas dinner, and finally ended the day with yet more movies. It was absolutely delightful! It was so nice to have nana and papa to celebrate with us. Christmas just wouldn't be the same without any grandparents around.
Thank you Jesus for such a merry Christmas, and we pray for another happy year with our Noah.
Hope yours was just as joyful! Happy New Year friends and family.

24 December 2009

A Month of Advent

(thanks to the purl bee for this great idea and photo)

Creating our own Advent calendar this year was really fun, and I think...I know, each year will get more and more enjoyable as Noah grows and becomes aware of it's meaning. And as he does, I will have to get more disciplined and organized when it comes to following the scheduled activities! Here were our activities/treats/gifts throughout the month:

1. got a Christmas Tree (didn't happen due to sick hubby)
2. made Christmas Cookies
3. got new Christmas PJ's and wrote a letter to Santa
4. Noah got to eat oatmeal raisin cookies on our way down to Springfield.
5. We were supposed to watch a Christmas movie...didn't happen.
6. got a Christmas tree
7. Noah got to eat special Christmas cookies, and we decorated the tree.
8. Noah got a slinky!
9. Wrote/colored on Christmas cards for Grams and Pops and Nana and Papa and mailed them.
10. Wrote/colored on Christmas cards for uncle Ben and aunt Marsa` and uncle Brian and aunt J
11. supposed to hang Christmas lights outside (actually did this the same day we decorated tree)
12. Noah got another treat. (to be honest, I don't remember what this was!)
13. Noah got a new book from Grams.
14. Today we chose three toys to give to the Salvation Army. (we still need to drop them off!)
15. We made Christmas cookies.
16. Today we read and were supposed to memorize Luke 2:11 (didn't do the memorization part...mommy is a slacker!)
17. Noah was supposed to get a new winter hat (i recently got him two new ones, so i didn't feel this activity was necessary.)
18. We were supposed to create a Christmas craft.
19. We opened gifts with Brian, Janet, and the boys at Nana and Papa's house.
20. Opened gifts with Aunt Sarah and Lula.
21. were supposed to make a Christmas tree ornament...didn't happen.
22. were supposed to color a picture and send to grandparents, instead we played with our friends Aidan, Reese and Finny.
23. made pecan goodies and triple chocolate chip cookies
24.were supposed to read The Night Before Christmas (couldn't find the book). We went to Christmas Eve service, then came home, had a delicious Christmas Eve dinner, lit all our candles, read the Christmas story in Luke, drank hot chocolate, opened one gift each, and then watched a Christmas movie (The Most Wonderful Time of the Year). After Noah went to bed, we put out all of our gifts under the tree; 95% of them are for Noah!

The one gift Noah opened tonight was a V-Tech electronic learning puppy from Grams and Pops. As soon as he saw it he said "ooooohh!" It was such a genuine reaction, and we were SO sad we didn't get it on video. He played with his new puppy until he had to go to bed. I think we have a winner. Way to go Grams and Pops!

Tomorrow is Christmas and I think I'm more excited than Noah. I can totally understand why my parents waited until we went to bed to put out all the gifts, and then made us wait until they had the camera set for us to walk out into the living room to see the tree in all of its 'gift glory.' I'm hoping Noah will notice that the living room has been moved around and gifts have been strategically placed. The stage is set! I am telling myself that he is only 16 months, so his reaction could be nothing at all. I'm prepared for that...may be. Wish us luck!

Merry Christmas!

17 December 2009

A New Kind of Christmas

(friend shanna helped me decorate the tree this year! isn't it a beauty?! and ps, i didn't forget about the bottom 1/4 of the tree. the missing ornaments and ribbon were purposely placed at a higher level! i'm sure you can imagine why.)

I have always loved Christmastime. Once Thanksgiving is over, I'm in a rush to get the tree up, put up lights, and hang stockings. I love Christmas music, and houses decorated with lights, and baking Christmas goodies, and singing Christmas hymns at church, and reading the story of Christ's birth, and accumulating gifts for the people I love, and picking out a wrapping theme, and of course actually wrapping the gifts! Oh, there are so many things to love.

Although I have always loved this time of year, this particular Christmas is different. It's a new kind of Christmas, and I am in absolute LOVE with it. The difference...my Noah is almost 16 months, and although not completely aware of what Christmas is, his little life has inspired a whole new level of celebration. Of course, technically last year was his first Christmas, and it was wholly and entirely lovely and special and everything I imagined it could be, but he was still an infant. Now he's a toddler, and he has a personality, and he responds and interacts with me! He gets to eat my Christmas cookies, he gets to make the light sign at the Christmas tree, he gets to play with his sock monkey ornament, he gets to look forward to seeing his grandparents and aunts and uncles, he gets to dance and clap to Christmas music, he gets to be with us to pick out a Christmas tree, he gets to help daddy put up the tree, he gets to look at holiday lights, and he gets to run around with a cookie stained face at Christmas parties.

Yes, this Christmas has a new life. Instead of focusing on how I can make the season special for me and Matt, now I'm flooded with ideas on how to make it special for Noah. I sure hope he loves it as much as I do.

In the coming years as he grows, I look forward to making Christmas ornaments, and stringing popcorn, and letting him help frost sugar cookies and gingerbread men, and teaching him the real meaning of Christmas, and getting his input on what tree we get, and snuggling with cups of hot cocoa in from of Miracle on 34th Street, and his excitement as we rush down each morning to look in his Advent stocking. Traditions...ah!

Speaking of traditions, each year Nana gets Noah a special ornament and I started doing the same thing for him. So this year, Nana got him a vintage toy telephone that is ADORABLE, and I got him a sock monkey. Debbie and I picked out the telephone because Matt and I both had the original as children, and my mom (Grams) has often talked about getting one for Noah, and Hallmark actually made an ornament-sized one! The sock monkey came about because, Aunt Sarah originally got him the traditional sock monkey, and then Uncle Ben and Aunt Marsa`gave Noah a sock monkey jack-in-the-box for his birthday, and they just recently also gave him a blue sock monkey. I say three qualifies as a collection, so, we added a fourth with the ornament. I put it low enough on the tree so that he can get it to play with.

Merry Christmas!

08 December 2009

Sunday Whirlwind

We really packed in the activities this past Sunday.

We went to church at 9am,

then we had brunch with Santa at Matt Harris's country club with his clan,
we sat with Santa, but did not enjoy it,

we checked out Shanna's tree design at the Children's Hospital Tree Display,

we swung on our new swing Pops built,

we hung out in the backyard,

we went to Ted Drews to find Noah's first Christmas tree,we strapped the tree on top and headed for home,
we watched daddy get the tree ready to bring in,
we helped daddy put the Christmas tree stand together,
and we helped daddy get the tree in place.
It was a busy day, but a really good one! One to remember.

A Rare Night Out

Last Friday was brother-in-law, Brian's, 30th birthday. Matt and I drove down to Springfield to celebrate with he and Janet, and we had a rare night without the kids. Debbie watched Noah along with Parker and Tyler, while we enjoyed some adult time. We spent almost 6 hours out, just catching up and chatting about life. We talked about our little ones, and we reminisced about the past. Good times!

04 December 2009

New Tradition

I love holiday traditions, and this year we're starting a new one. Inspired by my friend EJ, we put together an Advent Calendar made out of socks for Noah. Each day, Noah and I go to the corresponding sock, aka, mini-stocking, and pull out either an activity, a treat, or a small gift. The purpose for us is to count down to Christmas and as my sis-in-law, Marsa` says, it will help get us in the Christmas spirit! So far, it's been really fun. I've had to change around a couple activities already, but hey, it's my first year, and with a one year old and a sick hubby, plans don't always come to fruition!

The ultimate stocking Advent Calendar will be made of knitted stockings with embroidered numbers, but I've got to learn how to knit first! So for now, we're sticking with socks. The shining "GAP" logo, is totally subtracting from the overall effect, but what to do! They had the cutest socks I could find. (Thanks to Grams for helping to supply all the socks!)

So far we've:
1-gotten a Christmas Tree (didn't happen due to sick hubby)
2-made Christmas Cookies
3-gotten new Christmas PJ's and written a letter to Santa
4-Noah will get a special treat on our way down to Springfield

We're going to Springfield today to celebrate Brian's 30th Birthday! Happy Birthday Brian. We love you so much!

Letters to Santa

Yesterday, Noah's advent activity was to get new Christmas PJ's, so we headed to the mall with the Gourley clan to hunt down some new festive sleepwear. (Which, ps, was really hard to find.) We also ended up doing another advent activity that was technically scheduled for a different day...we wrote to Santa for the first time. (I'll have to re-plan that day.) But it was great because Noah got to share it with his friends, Aidan and Reese.

And then we dropped our letter in Santa's mailbox.

After so much concentration on our letter writing, we blew off some steam on the mechanical jeep and train. Noah and Reese shared one vehicle, and Aidan drove his own. Noah loved the buttons. He loves all buttons actually, but ones that light up are super cool.

Happy driving kids.

02 December 2009

The Power of Music

This morning as I was dressing Noah for the day, I started singing "Angels We Have Heard on High" and Noah hugged me and put his head on my shoulder. Every time I stopped singing, he would pull away and look at me, and as soon as I started again, he would put his arms back around my neck and lay his head back down. It was as if the music was affecting him, relaxing him almost. I've noticed reactions from him before when certain songs play. He's most recently started clapping to music, and he dances more than ever. If this little one doesn't grow up to be a musician, I at least hope that he will have an appreciation of music, and I absolutely intend to expose him to instruments at an early age.
Does anyone have suggestions for great kids' music? I feel like I've had a hard time finding some that doesn't make me want to shoot myself!