Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Dear Cody... You're 10 Months Old

Cody,

Just like that - you're ten months old.

You've been on the go now for more than a month and every day you've gotten faster and you are officially anywhere you want to be. You cruise along the coffee table and couches. You are also able to stand up on your own for little stretches of time.

You love following your siblings around and playing with toys. You aren't a huge fan of crawling on the harder surfaces, so you will take small breaks by sitting on your buns or stick a leg out and do a half crawl, half walk position.

You love food and have discovered many new things you love in the last month. You will eat the occasional pureed foods, but you especially love everything you can feed yourself. We give you pretty much anything we eat and you haven't really disliked anything yet. You especially love bananas, sweet potatoes, bread, chicken, quesadillas, etc. You are still a big milk lover, too, and I feed you on demand anytime you'd like. Breastfeeding is a special time for you and me.

You started a much better sleeping habit this month and for the first time went in 8-9 hour stretches for a couple weeks. In the last week, you started getting some more teeth, so you're up anywhere from 1-3 times per night for some comfort and milk. I don't mind much because I know this time is going to pass too quickly.

You sleep great in your crib at night and during the day when you can nap. You are woken up often from your naps because of your big sister and brother's schedules, but you are such a trooper. You go with the flow, are usually always happy, and you are extremely chill. You do so great just hanging out in your little fold up high chair or just playing with toys on a blanket while we are at soccer. Everyone always comments that you are the sweetest little guy - and it's because you are. You have a happy spirit. You also love to laugh and making you laugh is extremely easy. A funny face or tickle will always do the trick!

One of my favorite moments this month was when Nolan was playing with a stand up toy right next to you. He leaned over and gave you a kiss, and you turned toward him and gave him a kiss back. He was so excited for your kiss, and it was all on your own terms. I melted inside. You really love your siblings and they adore you. It's fun to see you all interacting more and more.

You are wearing 12 month clothes and you still strongly dislike anything tight around your waist (pants or shorts). This has been all your life, so I am preparing for the cooler weather by getting some stylish one pieces (Gramz also has you covered with this). You are a size 3 diaper still, but we just started our last box and you'll go to size 4 soon. You are growing fast and will need your first hair cut soon. Everyone always comments on your darling chubby cheeks and beautiful blonde hair. And those big blue eyes - all I have to do is close my eyes and I can see them looking into mine.

You make lots of eye contact with us and babble quite a bit. You say mama and dada and seem to know who we are now. You love toys and you especially love the tv remotes. Anything you can get your hands on you will play with and stick in your mouth. You love to take toys with wheels on them and spin the wheels with your fingers. You don't mind riding in the car or stroller and love being outside anytime to get fresh air. You definitely recognize your family and you get so excited to see me, your daddy, Pops and Gramz. You have a special relationship with all of us.

You absolutely LOVE bath time and splash and play in the water like crazy. Sometimes I will just let you sit in there for 30 or 40 minutes and you go nuts. You are starting to catch on to "How Big Is Cody?? So Big!" and will stick your little hands in the air. You like sitting in your little high chair on the counter while we make and prepare food. You put absolutely everything into your mouth, so we have to be careful.

You get so excited when we come to pick you up and you will flap your arms and make lots of noise. You get really excited to nurse and while I am getting ready, you will laugh hysterically because you know it's coming. You are drooling a ton with all those teeth coming in. You love when we sing songs and dance with you.

You love to be held and snuggled still, and we do it as often as possible because lately you're starting to recognize your independence and like exploring. You make us laugh and smile every single day. You have the most amazing smile and sweetest little soul. You make me want 100 more babies just like you. You are such a good baby, and we say it all the time.

Cody, you are truly a wonderful little baby. I love you so much and you really fill my heart with so much warmth. Goodness gracious, we are so crazy about you and everything about you. It's truly impossible for you to fully understand just how much you mean to all of us. You're amazing, baby.

I am really enjoying our time with you in these last few months before becoming a toddler. We love you forever and ever times infinity.

Love,
Mama



Saturday, August 11, 2018

Cody... you are NINE months old!

Sweet baby Cody...

This last month has been a BIG one for you. Not only did you cut your top two teeth (ouch!) right at the beginning of August, you also started getting much more mobile. You started crawling and pulled yourself up on the coffee table on the same day (8/7). You really found your stride and enjoy playing with toys on the floor. You roll a lot and go from sitting to crawling, back to sitting, etc. You've also gotten more vocal and get mad when anyone takes something from you.

I worry a lot about you because I love you so much. I made a doctor's appointment to see Dr. Barretto and brought in a list of questions and she confirmed that you are healthy and I need to stop worrying so much. You are doing things in your own time and you are a happy baby. I still can't get over how sweet, squishy, and precious you are.

You don't talk a ton, but you do say "da-da" and "ma-ma". You still love to take a bath and you go absolutely nuts splashing in the water. You love to swing your arms around to express emotion. You also put your arms up when you want to be held so we will pick you up. You love to snuggle and be held, but you are also getting more independent.

You usually wake up at least 1-2 times per night. Once this month you slept for 8 hours and I made daddy go in to check on you before he left for work. You take at least one 1.5 hour nap a day, usually 3-4 hours after you wake up. You are very good on the go and will nap in the ergo or stroller.

You have starting eating much more this month and your favorite thing is still feeding yourself. You like avacado, love banana, strawberries, sweet potato, oatmeal, bread and you just started eating broccoli, pancakes, and waffles. I am slowly just giving you whatever I am eating (if it's healthy) and if you can feed it to yourself, you always try. You still enjoy some pureed foods and I try to give you at least 4-8 ounces of baby food a day so I can make sure you're getting enough to eat.

You are still nursing very well and that makes me so happy. You nurse pretty much on-demand all day because we are usually always together. This month I also took my longest trip away from you because we took a 2 night trip to Disneyland with out you. You stayed with Gramz & Pops and had the best time bonding with them. It was very hot in Southern Ca (mid-90s) and with the crowds, we thought it would be best. I thought of you and missed you SO much, but all I got back were pictures of you happy, playing, and being spoiled by all the love you were getting there.

You absolutely adore your Pops - you get so excited and flap your arms all over the place when you see him until he holds you. You love to sleep on his chest. You also have a very special relationship with your daddy and Gramz. Of course, I feel like me and you are just the best of buddies now.

You are wearing size 6-12 month clothes 12 month clothes. You are in size 3 diapers, but just barely - size 4 coming up soon. When I took you to the doctor you weighed more than 19 pounds. You are growing and thriving. You love any toys you can put in your mouth. You have a few nicknames: Cody-bear, Cody-shark, Cody-Cody, and I will sometimes call you baby bear or baby bug.

You smile very easily and make great eye contact when we talk to you. You are so easy going and such a good natured little boy. You are sweet, snuggly, and honestly, I can't get enough of you. I love getting to nurse you and hold you. You have the cutest big blue eyes. You smell so good. You have a full head of thick blonde hair (daddy is going to cut it soon). You are an amazing baby.

I can't put it into words how much I love you, Cody bear. When I look at you, it's overwhelming.

Mama

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Alaskan Cruise on the Disney Wonder

The memories we made on the Disney Wonder... wow! We've talked a lot about this trip and for me, it is one of my most favorite vacations we have ever been on. My super generous mother-in-law made this trip happen and honestly, if you have thought about taking a Disney cruise in the past and wondered if it's worth it... it is. For us, with the kids, it was a blast. The Disney hospitality shined and even though I did a non-disney cruise more than a decade ago to Alaska, I didn't appreciate it like I did this time.

Alaska has a beautiful itinerary. We went out of Vancouver, Canada (which, if you have kids, they need passports - even 7 month old Cody had one). First and foremost, I love this city. It's beautiful, friendly, and there is so much to do. We didn't even scrape the surface. Traveling there with our 3 kids (5, 3, and 7 months) and then my two nieces (4 and almost 1) did make it a different trip, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Yes, you move a little slower, carry a lot more stuff, and have to work around bedtimes, but it's worth it. You make the most of it! We also had family there to help us through it all, so it was a great experience.

I have gotten lots of questions, so I want to help anyone out who is thinking about doing this and share some of our favorite memories and photos :)
(You can pin this photo to save this link on your Pinterest for future reference)

What did we do in Vancouver? How did we fly in and get to hotel? Where did we stay?
We flew AirCanada non-stop to Vancouver. It was an easy 1.5 hour flight and getting through customs wasn't too bad because they saw we had kids and put us in a different line. We got to the hotel by way of Taxi (we did not bring carseats because it's a lot to pack and researched and was told we didn't need them - and we felt very strange with the kids in the cab for 25 minutes... so beware of that. The SkyTrain is another, probably safer, option for future reference). We stayed at the Marriott Vancouver Pinnacle Hotel and it was very close to Canada Place (where the cruise ship departs from). It's also walking distance to a lot of great areas of the city. It's expensive, so plan accordingly - all of the hotels in the area are. There are AirBNBs and some less expensive hotels just a little further away. You do not need to get Canadian money unless you'd like to. Our credit cards worked with no fees and almost every place (and person) accepted USD.

Our first night there, we ate at a delicious restaurant called Joey Bengal One. We ate outside on the patio and they were super accommodating to our large group (including 5 young kids). Our first day we got there pretty late, so by the time we checked in, we cruised around the hotel a bit and then had dinner and dessert. We had one full day to explore the city, and I would say we could have actually had two, but we were so excited to board the ship that it would have also been hard to wait. On our full day, we talked to the concierge and ended up booking a private tour van to take all 15 of us around. You can do the hop-on, hop-off tour, but it's about $50 per person and doesn't run all-day. By the time we worked out the numbers for our party of 15 - we figured out this was about the same price and it gave us all of the flexibility we needed. Our tour guide was also super knowledgeable about the city. We spent some time at Granville Island, and honestly, I could have spent a whole day there. It's super walkable, very cute, and has lots to see and do.

The tour took us most of the day. We didn't get out at anymore stops, she drove us around and we saw how beautiful the city was. When we got off, we walked around and visited a few shops. Then, we had dinner at Cactus Club (this is a chain in Vancouver). The food was good and they were super accommodating once again for our large party.

The next morning, my dad (who is a small-airplane pilot) wanted to do a Sea Plane ride over the city. Of course, he mentioned it and the kids were thrilled and wanted to go, too. None of us had ever gone, so a group of us went. It was stunning. A beautiful sunny day and it gave me so much joy to watch my dad in the co-pilot seat. The first thing Andie said when we landed was "can we go again!". If you go to the city and can afford to splurge on this, I thought it was worth it. It was especially neat because we saw so much of the city from the car the day before - seeing it from above brought a different perspective.



How did you board the ship? Where did you go? How did you get there?
We boarded the ship at Canada Place and our hotel was just a few blocks away. Luggage for 15 people (including strollers and small children) would make this walk challenging, so we had a large van drive a few of us with all of the luggage to the port. It backed right in and employees were there to collect the luggage. Disney mails your luggage tags weeks prior to going, so be sure to bring those along.

Boarding took a little while because you have to go through customs and their registration area. I would say it took maybe 30-40 minutes. It was easy, though. I got a little choked up when we arrived because they had some cruise ship members with big mickey hands on high-fiving us and singing as we arrived. This cruise was something I have always wanted to do and it meant so much that we were getting to experience the magic. I think the cruise line knows this is truly a special thing for a lot of people, so they do their best to make it magical!

I don't want to give away all of the secrets of Disney, but I will say they do something kind of fun when you walk aboard the ship for the first time. It's exciting and such a fun experience!

How did you plan excursions and which ones did you do with the kids? How do you book them?
Well, that's the one thing I think Disney has some work to do on. Planning excursions and booking them is all done online before the trip and their website feels like it hasn't been updated or changed since the 90's. It takes a while to book, and especially with a large party, it gets tricky. Have patience and look up the excursions before your time to book them. My mother-in-law actually picked the ones we did and she did a phenomenal job. We did the Musher's Dog Sledding adventure in Skagway, The Best of Juneau Tour, and the Duck Tour in Ketchikan. If I had to do with out one, I would say the Duck Tour wasn't all that great. Save your money and just explore on your own. But I have read reviews of so many excursions, so be sure to do your research. Having young kids, we were limited on what we could do, but it all worked out extremely well. I am planning a separate post to share about the Skagway and Juneau adventures so you can learn more!

We also did special dining at Palo while on-board the boat. I know it seems crazy to pay for a meal when you are pre-paying for all of your food when you book the trip. But believe me, it was worth it. We had the best waiter, and the food was absolutely amazing. We had a brunch on Glacier day at 10am. The views from the restaurant were stunning and honestly, it was one of my most-favorite meals I have ever had. I think it's about $30 a person, but it's all you can eat - and the food is some of the best you could eat! I, not being sarcastic, took at least 8 trips to the buffet and ordered off the menu. They encourage you to over-order and try it all! Pre-book this especially if you have a party of 4 or more and want to get in on a specific day or time.



How was the child care on the ship? Did the kid's spend a lot of time there?
Well, the child care area is super amazing! They have it all - themed rooms, slides, character visits, activities galore! It's a dream for kids. My two kids weren't thrilled with the idea about being left alone, so I wouldn't have left them there while we went off of the ship. But, when they were there, they had a great time. Cody did well in the "It's a Small World" nursery and the staff is incredible. I had to go in there to nurse him at one point and I was watching how they interact with the kids... believe me, they're well taken care of!

Checking in and getting registered is a little chaotic the first day. Do as much as you can on your online profile before you go and be prepared to wait in a few lines the first couple of days. They are very secure and have a smart bracelet the kids wear that they use to get in and out. When they check in it tells them everything about the kid and who can pick them up, etc.

Side note: if you have children under 3, they are required to be in the nursery. The nursery has to be pre-booked before you board. They do have slots once you board that you can try to get, but definitely plan ahead. It costs about $10 per hour, as well, but you book in 30 minute increments.



How do you communicate on the ship? Does your cell phone have service?
That depends! Our phones had service while we were in port, but whether or not your provider says it's free probably varies. We have Verizon and ours was free anytime we had service (Vancouver and Alaska). My parents have AT&T and theirs was free in Alaska but not Vancouver. In port, we used our phones like normal - but while at sea, they have something in the rooms called "Wave Phones". These act sort of like cell phones and you can carry them around the ship and communicate. We didn't use them much, but it's cool because the child care employees will text your real phone and contact you through the wave phone if they need you or your child is ready to go (which happened a lot). You can purchase internet packages on your phone if you are desperate, but it's not cheap.

They also have an app that I strongly recommend you download before your cruise. It's called the Navigator app. This was really fun because we created a massive group text between all of us and we used it to see what everyone was up to and where everyone was. They have really cute Disney Emojis that made it even more fun. The one thing they need to improve is how the app does notifications on your phone. You could only see the messages if you had the app open. So if you were trying to get ahold of someone, you had to hope they opened up their app to check it. Fingers crossed that gets better for future cruises!

Besides communicating between each other, the app also tells you everything that's happening around the ship so you can try not to miss a thing. Note about that: it's impossible to do everything. I feel like we could do this cruise 5 more times and still do and see more every time. Just do what you can and enjoy it, don't have FOMO or it will ruin your trip :)



What extra stuff did you do on-board? Did the kids do anything special? Don't they have deck parties?
Yes, yes, and yes. My mother-in-law is awesome and wanted the girls to do the Bippity Boppity Boutique as much as possible... so they did something called the "Castle Package", which was 3 trips to the boutique, and on top of that, they did the "Frozen Package" which meant they got dressed up as a character for the Frozen night. It costs extra (I don't even want to know). But goodness gracious, they enjoyed every. single. minute. Those are some of my favorite memories - so much pure joy and magic. And the lovely ladies in the Boutique knew us all quite well by the end. They treated the girls like royalty. To book the boutique, you need to plan ahead. Pay attention to what days they go and how it interferes with the excursions. With the castle package, it included a suitcase to bring home all of their new costumes and treasures, so plan ahead with that, too!

They have a Frozen Deck Party and Pixar Party Night. They also have the Bon Voyage Deck Party and they show lots of movies on board. The one thing I think Disney could improve is the timing of the parties. The Pixar Party was at 4:30 on Juneau day. We barely made it back by 4:30, so we were late by the time we got the kids changed and ready to go. We did get to see most of it and it was ADORABLE. Do not miss it - so many characters, so much magic.

The Frozen Deck Party was good, but not as great. Still worth seeing. But again, the times are crazy - it's around 4pm, and then not again until 10pm - which, my children were toast by that time. But definitely, with out a doubt, do not miss the Frozen Broadway show on-board. The girls were mesmerized by it and us adults thought it was pretty spectacular as well!

There are characters everywhere, almost all day long. So don't stress about that. Lines are typically pretty short except for on Glacier Day when they're outside and the views are unreal. Just get there about 20 minutes early and expect a little wait. This also goes along with what I said above... don't try to do it all, just enjoy what you can do!

The kids also loved the waterslide on board. There's a height requirement, but it's much shorter than most waterslides here at home (I believe 38 inches). Nolan was able to go and loved it. It doesn't land in a pool, so even if your kid can't swim well, it's worth it. They did that one of the days. I thought they would swim more, but really, there's just so much to do, swimming wasn't really a priority!

 

(This was our table at Palo)

What did you pack?
Oh goodness, this was something I researched heavily before we left and I will say, I way over-packed! My sister, however, said she used almost everything she brought. I am going to make a little list of everything I brought and share it in another post - but to be brief but to the point... pack layers. The weather was beautiful and sunny, and we also had some freezing and windy weather, too! Don't forget sneakers and warmer shoes for cruising around the ship.

How formal was formal night? And regular dinners?
Honestly, if you book Alaska, don't stress too much about this. We got a little dressed up for formal night, but not everyone did. No one was judging, it is what you want it to be! Most of the other nights, I went with what I was wearing that day. It's casual, comfortable, and just be yourself. Don't worry about trying to fit in with other guests because everyone was so different. I couldn't tell you what the people at the table next to us were wearing.

Disney Dining... some notes about your dinner time:
They do rotational dining, which is really neat. There are 3 themed dining rooms and each night you eat at a different place. The staff travels with you and it's fun because the menus are all different and the themes of the dining rooms themselves! You will know where you are eating because of the navigator in your room or you can look at the app and it will tell you. You waiters will also tell you where to be the next night.

We had the early seating at 5:15pm. It worked very well with us with young kids, especially. And, we were all hungry by that time. Most of the ports have an early boarding time, so we never really felt like it infringed on our time off the ship, but if you have older kids that can wait for the late seating (I think it's around 7:30 or 8) then it's not a bad thing.

What were the Ports of Call? Where was your room on the ship? Did you have a verandah?
For our 7 night cruise, we had 2 days at sea, a stop at the Glacier where you don't get off the boat (unless you do the one excursion they offer to get up close with the glacier), and a stop in Juneau, Ketchikan, and Skagway.

All of our rooms were in a row on Deck 8. We were forward on the ship and it was fabulous. We were also spoiled to be in the Verandah rooms and oh my goodness, if you can splurge for a room with a Verandah, you won't regret it. This cruise is close to land almost the entire time and the scenery is GORGEOUS. I kept pinching myself because I couldn't believe it was real. We spent a lot of time on those verandahs and it was nice to be able to hang out if the kids were napping or sleeping!

We were in the family size rooms and for the 5 of us it was great. We had two bathrooms - one with a sink and toilet and another with a sink and tub. The baby slept in a pack-n-play (our bed, too) and the kids loved the bunk beds.



Was it a rough cruise?
This is something I wondered a lot before we left.. and you may, too. The answer is - no. It's not a super rough cruise and I didn't see anyone getting seasick or anything crazy. That being said, you absolutely feel movement on your two days at sea. It's pretty mild and nothing to be afraid of, but bring along the little sea bands (I used them) if you are worried. The worst was at night so we slept through most of it.

For the majority of the cruise you can see land (& it is STUNNING) just a few hundred yards off the boat. I never felt far from the land and for the entire 3-4 days of the middle of the trip we never even really felt the boat moving. It was pretty windy for one of our days!


What would you do differently next time? Anything you wish you did that you didn't do?
Nothing. Honestly, this trip was so jam packed full of amazing experiences. I know we missed out on a lot, too. However, we made it to dinner every night and had the sweetest wait staff (shout out to Maurice and Nichola) and devoured so much delicious food. (PS: they are ridiculously accommodating for kids - including but not limited to: making mickey mouse ears when they put ketchup on their plate, ordering food that isn't on the menu and having it ready for the kids when we arrived, and cutting up their chicken for them). Believe me, the service is top-notch!

We also experienced several characters, explored off the ship in the beautiful little ports, and made the most of it all.

Maybe next time I would consider ordering room service for breakfast and going to their on-board coffee shop to get special drinks (they do cost extra, though). I would also maybe try to make a few more of the night-time shows (this was challenging with Cody). But my kids were the age they were and experiences are going to vary based on that. My advice: just go in with unknown expectations and enjoy it for what it is for you! Don't stress too much about planning every minute (besides the nursery time for infants, the Bippity Boppity Boutique and your excursions).

Also, I don't want to give away anything, but there are little surprises (beyond the towel animals) from your room attendant. Greg, our attendant, was seriously incredible! (I wanted to take him home with me). He made it really special for the kids and there was a few extra surprises we didn't know about that the kids loved!

The hardest part of the trip was the day we got off the ship. There is so much unknown when you board, and it's hard not knowing what to expect. But it's not overdone, it's not cheesy. It's fun for adults and kids. The kids were very sad to be leaving, but honestly, I think I was the saddest! I can't wait to go again.

It was the trip of a lifetime. So many special memories!




If you have any more questions, please let me know :)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Dear Cody... you are 8 months old!

Cody Bear...

I'm currently staring at you laying on the floor of the house in Sunriver and we are here with all of mommy's family. You spent your 7 month day boarding the cruise in Alaska with family - and now here we are again, with family enjoying beautiful Oregon.

You changed a lot this month and are now a rolling king. You can roll back to front with ease and do it quite often. You are starting to scoot yourself backwards in an attempt to crawl, still only have two teeth on the bottom, and have a smile that makes us all melt.

You love your Pops. I will probably be writing this in every note, but you are getting more and more attached to him and wave your arms and whine until he picks you up. You love laying on his chest, being held by him, and taking baths with him. You really know your family and really aren't a fan of strangers holding you anymore - you'd prefer to just stay with your people.

You aren't the best eater, yet. You prefer to feed yourself and we try to do that as often as we can. You like rice cereal with breastmilk and you seem to be okay with sweet potatoes and prunes. You won't always eat them, though, and your favorite thing is milk! You are up a few times at night still - but typically go in 3 hour chunks (you'll start the night with a 5 hour chunk and go down between 7 and 9). Vacation is different though, you don't care for your pack-n-play and you like to be in bed with us.

You are getting bigger every day and wearing only 9 month clothes or bigger (6-12 month sizes are still okay, too). You are in a size 3 diaper. You are babbling quite a bit and say "mama" and "dada". You really love playing with your brother and sister and are very content just watching them. People always tell me what a "chill" baby you are - because you definitely are. You just love to be with us and watch what's going on. You fuss when you're hungry or tired, but snuggling and nursing always calm you down and put you to sleep. You also love playing with toys - pretty much anything that can go in your mouth is a great toy for you. Being tossed in the air is another favorite thing of yours and you like being held upside down, too!

You smile all the time when you're happy and you are truly such a loving little bear. We love you so much. You have a big family who loves you so dearly, and that's my biggest promise to you... you will always, always, always, have people who love you. I get sad when I think about how much you are growing and getting older. You are my baby and your daddy and I just love you so much... forever!

Love,
Mama

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Dear Andie... You are FIVE.

My bouncy, beautiful, blonde baby girl.

I was watching you at the Club pool yesterday and how you interacted with some young girls who were there swimming that you've never met before. They were friends and I watched as you inched your way closer, started jumping in where they were swimming, and quietly introduced yourself. You didn't throw yourself at them, but I could sense you wanting to interact. I was so proud of your confidence and I loved watching you pick up on their queues of whether or not they wanted to interact back. This time, they were more interested in each other than making a new friend - so you went on your way, unbothered.

I have witnessed you put yourself out there time and time again over the last several months. You're blooming, fearlessly, and I hope this confidence in yourself never diminishes. You are truly a tough kid... you will fall right on your face and get up, brush it off, and keep going. If you stop to cry, I know you are either really hurt or really tired.

I can't believe you are FIVE years old (and almost two months). You're absolutely darling. You have thick, wavy blonde hair, toned little muscles, a smile that lights up your whole face, a dimple on your left cheek, and eyes that are as blue as the sky. More importantly, you have compassion, a wild sense of humor, a big imagination, and an intense empathy. You also have a manipulative side, and sometimes I can't believe how smart you are at knowing how to get what you want. Gramz always says to me, "she's a free spirit". Believe me, Gramz knows. And I believe it, too. Everything about you is free-spirited.

This year you have transformed from my sweet toddler baby into a little girl who can hold her own. You really enjoy the company of friends and family, playing dolls, swimming, doing arts and crafts, being outside, performing, and making big messes with that imagination of yours. This year, you finished Pre-K and did very well. You aren't reading yet, but you know most of your letters and their sounds, you can count to 40, and most importantly - you understand the social aspect of starting Elementary school. You really love to learn, and that's something I have loved to watch!

You and Nolan play very well together. The two of you play all sorts of games that you make up and you spend a lot of time in your swim suit (even when we aren't swimming). If you're not in a swim suit, you're in a dress - princess or other - and your outfit will change anywhere from 5-20 times a day. You also love your baby brother Cody. You are constantly doing everything you can to make him smile and laugh. Sometimes you're a little overbearing, but I know it's because you really love him. You are a wonderful big sister.

4 was a big year of change for our family. Not only did we welcome Cody into our lives, but we finished building our house and, quite chaotically, we moved from our rental house, in with Gramz & Pops for about a month, and then into our home. You did just fine and really worked through all of the change in your own way. I am happy to have you in your own room - your own little space. We also did some fun traveling - to Hawaii, Disneyland, Monterey, and some other smaller trips.

You're a great eater and a wonderful sleeper. You are an early riser. You are turning out to be a great swimmer and can swim easily across the pool. You learned how to ride a two wheel bike with out training wheels on New Years Eve. You love everything princess, girlie girl, make up, painted nails, etc. You were a flower girl in Casey and Annie's wedding shortly after turning 4 and loved every minute. You LOVE to sing, dance, perform, etc. It's one of your favorite things to do! You also played your first year of rec soccer. You did great and your daddy coached the team. You would set out to score a certain amount of goals, and you would usually accomplish that goal. Your celebratory dances were darling, but you also would get very upset when people played defense with you. It will be interesting to see your growth this year.

You are a lot like me. I can look at you sometimes and I know what you're thinking and what your next move is going to be if you're contemplating. You have a wonderful heart. Sometimes I cry myself to sleep because I feel like your childhood is slipping through my fingers like an hourglass, so quickly... I try to be present with you. Be patient with you and all you're learning. And one thing I want to do more of? Me and you time. When we were in the middle of our move, it was just me and you - we went to your soccer practice and then we had frozen yogurt for dinner. It was honestly so amazing - so simple, but so fun. And you talk about it all the time. You call it our "girlie-girl" time.

I am very proud of you, Andie. I hope one day, when you read some of these letters, you know how much I love you. You are growing up, changing every day, and baby, one of my favorite things about my whole life is being front seat to witness it all. You light up my entire world. You and your brothers are my biggest treasures. I may be hard on you sometimes, but it's because, darling, I want the absolute best for you. Work hard, believe in yourself, be kind to others, and remember that you're going to make mistakes. Learn from them, keep going. Life isn't always fair and we have to work through that. Your dad and I are always here for you, unconditionally. We love you and we believe you are absolutely one in a million. You are special.

Keep that free-spirited, happy-go-lucky, good-hearted, fierce, tough, and beautiful personality front and center. Look in the mirror and love what you see.

We LOVE you so much. FIVE. And absolutely fabulous.

Love,
Mama