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It's Bay-ee Jeeyus!

Mark my words, there will be no shelf elves in this house. Not because you elf moms aren't stinkin' cute, but because I am not the mom who can keep up with the daily adventures of an elf. 

However, this year we decided to hop on the advent bandwagon. And, by the way, it was not a graceful hop. It was more like a rushed, frantic plop onto the bandwagon as it rushed by. But WE'RE ON IT. Actually, we started 2 days late because I ran out of ink and didn't get the cards all printed. There have also been several days already where we've had to catch up on the day before. So I'm really on top of things. 

The number one goal was to do something simple that would remind & teach us all of the true reason for the season. I liked the idea of a book gift a day, because that's something I knew Buck & Chuck would both get excited about. Brian and I wrapped 25 books, most of which we already had. On the front of each I taped a number to correspond with the date, starting with 1. On the back of each number I put a verse. I used this blogger's verse order for reference, and I made my own cards.

Because I am a big teacher-nerd and can't pass up a chance to incorporate some extra tidbit of knowledge, I made Beckett a big calendar to go along with our daily gifts. Each day, we're talking about today's date and then finding the gift that corresponds with the date. We read the verse, talk about it, and use pictures from books to put it in the context of a story. This seems like a long process but really, it's not. After we're done, Beckett tapes the verse on the appropriate date on our calendar. 

We're 15 days in and so far so good(ish)! This is our first year truly introducing the story of Christmas to the kiddos. I worried about doing it justice but I have been so encouraged and pleased with the verse a day idea. I worried that it would be difficult to explain or elaborate on one single verse, but we've actually had nice little interactions based on the verse and corresponding images. Not only do I feel like Beckett is grasping the basic concept of the verses, but I am also deeply enjoying re-experiencing the Christmas story verse by verse. The experience has likely been more meaningful and special for me than for Beckett. 

So far, Beckett can name the "characters" and give their very basic role in the story. He knows the angel Gabriel said, "Don't be afraid!," he knows that Mary has a baby, and he knows that we're working up to Christmas day, which is the day Mary had the baby. Also, if you ask him whose birthday we're celebrating, he'll answer enthusiastically, "Is Bay-ee Jeeyus!" MELT.

Charlie has spent most of her time ripping apart my cute board and opening books before it's time, but whatever man. She's having fun too. 

I hope we continue to do something similar every year!

Charlie Grace's First Birthday Garden Party

Once upon a time, I pretended like I wasn't going to go all out for Charlie's first birthday. I was convinced that our lives were way too chaotic and it would just be easier on everyone if we did something very small and simple. But then reality set in and we admitted to ourselves that there is no. way. that we are letting our only little girl's first birthday go by without celebrating in true first birthday (and Denise) fashion. So Charlie Grace's Garden Party was born.

I've always wanted to host a garden party and our current backyard was the perfect little setting. This party was so much fun to plan! I found the invitations, Charlie's dress & headband, and my skirt on Etsy. We ordered the cakes and fresh flowers from small shops here in town. We borrowed white table cloths and a couple of friends and my mom helped put together a beautiful spread of breakfasty type snacks.

Of course, we also had to have a mimosa bar. Because if you're over 21 and required to hang out at a first birthday party on your Saturday morning, you should at least get a mimosa (or 3).

We also had Stuart from Everbright Photography come out before the party to take some official first birthday photos of Charlie Grace (and crew) as well as the party. We did this for Beckett's first birthday and were so glad we did! Stuart did a FABULOUS job capturing our special little day and I was so grateful to know that we would have plenty of photos but didn't need to worry about taking them ourselves!

The [artificial] flowers for the kids table, high chair, and chalk board sign came from Hobby Lobby. I made those flower crowns! Are you totally impressed!? They took ENTIRELY TOO LONG and I definitely do not recommend it. Still, it was fun to see the kiddos play in them, even if just briefly.

I wish we could have cute parties like this all of the time! It is such a rare and sweet blessing to just be able to spend our mornings relaxing with people we love... and sitting around drinking mimosas!

Generally I'm really frantic and stressed during a party. There is always a million things to do. But I was pleasantly surprised when we were completely done with preparation and hostessy stuff by the time the guests had all arrived, so I was able to spend my morning enjoying our guests and celebrating my sweet birthday girl.

Charlie Grace kills me. This little girl is so full of spunk and sass. Unfortunately, she was a bit "off" this morning (of all mornings!) and spent a lot of time just snuggling her Uncle Russ. Then she fell asleep mid party! Luckily, she got all of best parts out of the way before she conked out.

We expected her to totally demolish the smash cake. She was a bit hesitant so we all pitched in to help her get started. Beckett was not shy at all. He took this brotherly duty seriously.

When it came time to open gifts, this girl perked right up. You'd think she'd done this before! Of course, she's totally spoiled and was showered with love and goodies. We're so blessed to have such an incredible support system, even in our "temporary" home! We were sincerely blown away by the group that came out. We love these people!

We are still blown away that this little girl is a year old already. We're also very grateful that we took the time and energy out to make this special little party happen. In the midst of chaos and exhaustion, it was a very sweet reminder of what is really important. Thank you to all of our wonderful friends & family who were able to attend. And happy birthday, Charlie Grace!!