A Very Peppa Pig 2nd Birthday

I swore when I was planning Gracia's 1st Birthday and going ALL OUT that I would NOT be throwing her a 2nd Birthday and beyond. I figured its her very first birthday so we HAVE to do something right? 

Well here we are a year later and I am throwing my daughter a 2nd Birthday party. 

Why? you might ask. 

Well, I justified it because she was seriously sick during her 1st Birthday and I don't believe she got the chance to really enjoy herself despite her best efforts. Even now, I am binding all illness that she is not sick during this Birthday.

Last year, she was into Disney's Sophia the 1st and this year she is in to Peppa Pig - so much so that she asks for Peppa every single day and night, when she wakes up, when she goes to bed. If it isn't on, she brings you the remote because she knows that we have taped all episodes on the DVR.

I wrestled with a few themes but in the end we knew that this would be a very Peppa Pig Birthday after all. I am not even sure how I came across the information that Peppa Pig, a popular pig cartoon from the UK that comes on Nick Jr. was doing her first US tour, but when I did I was hype because I knew that I could finally take her to something she would love. 

Not to toot our horns, but as a team of parents, Amos and I had pretty much mastered a good balance of how to keep the toddler entertained, engaged and not crying for too long when she got upset in public. We were more excited than she was since we knew where we were going and she had no clue. 

We get to the Warner theater in Washington, DC on the afternoon of Black Friday. I debated about getting tickets that when I finally decided to purchase, the better seats were in the balcony (or so I thought). We head up to our seats, which had a great view but ZERO leg room. The seats were so close together that my 5'7 self couldn't even sit down without deeply tucking my legs under. I knew that my 6'3 husband was not going to be able to deal. The family next to me saw my struggle and said "tight fit, huh?" I said "yup, I won't be able to take this." and they looked at me leave to make something happen, almost in disbelief. I went to the hostess and told her the issue and asked was there anything that could be done. She told me to hold tight, that there were possibly some tickets in the suites that we could have. We paid for three, but we got two in return and that was fine for the exchange of leg room and Gracia wasn't going to sit down in a seat anyway.

Needless to say, when she heard the familiar theme song of Peppa Pig, she was so excited!

Unfortunately, my hopes for a sick-free birthday season was not so. She is sick as we speak. But this time its not RSV or double ear infection, its her sinuses. We reluctantly welcomed the nebulizer into our home and he is now called "Mr. Seal". Day One was a screaming match, but by Day 3, she was a pro. 

She didn't let any of this damper her spirits though. She was all smiles regardless throughout her Birthday season and since she was born in December, my mother made me promise to always let the baby have a birthday and not smoosh it into Christmas. So her dad and I try to go above and beyond on Birthday. 

She had a small party at daycare complete with cupcakes and ice cream, which she loved!

We picked her up that night and took her too the Winter Festival of Lights at the near by Park. I noticed that as we drove through the neighborhood that she loved Christmas lights. It surprised me late one night that as we were driving she burst out with "oooh mommy, amazing!" and pointed at the lights. I knew then that she would like this huge light show. Her favorites of course are the Santa figures and the Gingerbread Men, which she calls German because Gingerbread was too many syllables. 

We then decided that instead of picking her toy for her, that we would let her pick out her own toy if she wanted one for her Birthday. We never made it there because she was too in love with the toy that she had just received at daycare. We instead took her to Hibachi, which ironically I always said I would do on her 2nd Birthday versus a party. We were joined by her Godfather, which was nice because she got to hang out with him and is starting to actually recognize him without us telling her these days. 

Nothing was more hilarious then watching her reaction to the Birthday Song complete with the Gong played loudly. She squirmed at the fire show that the chef gave but enjoyed her food and when the Chef left she screamed "bye bye Chef" as if they were the best of friends. 

I forgot that I ordered some Peppa Pig things online way before her birthday and judging by the delivery date I put it out of mind to be here after the new year. Once I got the package and realized it came from China, I see why it took a while, however it came right on time. She opened the package and she loved it! Squealing of course. 

Her party actually took place at the My Gym. 
The blessing of My Gym is that they literally do everything for you and have built in entertainment that is age appropriate. 

Now my child is a stubborn two year old so while everyone was doing circle time, she was off at some other part of the Gym. At first we tried to get her to participate, but in the end we just let her be and eventually she came to be a part of the group. 

My parents weren't able to be there but we were able to FaceTime and she loved that. It felt like Neena and Pop Pop were there with her. She of course mostly enjoyed the ball pit, dodge ball and the bubbles. At first she was unsure about the puppet show, but in true Gracie fashion, while every kid say seated, she ran over in front of them and stood there watching with a smile. 

When we came home, I asked Amos to put her gifts under the tree. He said "Why? They are for her Birthday." and he was right. Oops. I said well lay them near the tree so I can open them with her since her Birthday has passed. The first picture you see is the result of me not opening her new Minnie Mouse toy fast enough. (which by the way she has been sleeping with ever since she got it). 

Needless to say, she had a great 2nd Birthday. 
I promised husband no 3rd Birthday event, especially since her birth/birthday falls right in the middle of his busiest time of year as a musical director for a huge million dollar Christmas Extravaganza. But hey, I can't make any promises because we weren't supposed to have a 2nd. 

Happy Birthday Vashti-Gracia

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Decked the Halls... at my office

I can't lie, I started my work day with the spirit of Bah Hum Bug. Let's be honest, I wasn't prepared to be in a celebratory mood, let alone at work this particular morning. I was tired. I had participated in committees outside of my normal team duties and this was going to be my first day in the office. I wanted to "chill" (at least within the scheme of work). I still had appointments and a full voicemail box, but surely I didn't want to remind myself just how unprepared I was for the upcoming holiday since, I can usually manage one big event at a time. 

So, what made it worst was that my coworkers had all came prepared for the Christmas spirit. I simply grabbed a roll of last years wrapping paper on my way out the door. 

By the time we went to our Christmas Party lunch, we had the most tinsel and festive office in our building. I simply had one sheet of wrapping paper on my cubicle window. Done and Done.

I snapped a quick picture to send to my sister so we could laugh together at the gawdiness of how it all came together. But something happened.. 
I began tearing more sheets of paper that lined the lobby windows and replaced it with wrapping paper. As our Executive Assistant kept going all out for her space, her creativity and Christmas spirit became contagious. 
So I started helping her some more. and more. and more. 

It eventually spilled over into my space. 

By the time we were done, our cubicles ended up looking like this. 

I sent an updated photo my sister the next day - then this happened. 

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It's time for a Giveaway!!!

I am so excited to be hosting my second giveaway with Freshly Picked. In honor of Gracia's 2nd Birthday which is coming up next week, why not share the love with an awesome giveaway. 

It's simple to enter... that is, if you have Instagram!
That's right! I am taking the party to the 'gram. 

I want you to be able to get a glimpse of what's going on with me even when I don't get a chance to do a full on blog because as you know, life can truly be too much of a whirlwind to try to keep up. 

So head to @vashtijasmine on Instagram and look for the giveaway post, follow the directions to enter. 

Then check back on December 21st to see who won!
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The Tale of a Not So Perfect/Perfect Christmas Card with a Two Year Old

Let's keep it Real: Christmas Cards or any kind of family portrait is difficult with a Toddler involved. 
You might as well just embrace the fact that the youngest person in your photo shoot is going to run the photo shoot just like a true Diva. 
No matter how much planning you do to schedule family photos around their happiest times of day, more than likely they will become a horse of a different color when you want them to stand there and say "Cheese!!!!"

So, this year I decided, instead of the Pinterest worthy, perfectly posed Holiday Card that this year we would embrace our personalities and show that through our holiday photo card to our family and friends. My goal was to have a lot of laughs and hopefully no tears in order to have a great photo to send to our family, especially those who are far who may not have seen us in a while. 

This is the tale of Rolling WITH Resistance when you have two year olds.

I picked the late afternoon just before sunset right after nap time to take family photos. I thought my daughter would be rested and ready to "play". 

I think before every shoot, I hold my breath because God only knows how my child is going to act on a day to day basis...

Just look at this little mischievous face ... she just looks like "what can I get into..."

Then of course, she is in that phase of "monkey see, monkey do" where she imitates what she sees and hears. So, if the photographer is bending down to get on her level, she squats down too and refuses to stand. 

FINALLY, for a split second she stands and the photographer got the cutest shot of Gracia. 

When selecting your photographer, make sure that they continue to shoot beyond the poses. Here is why... you get the best natural shots while walking and having personal moments. Life isn't posed therefore, make sure your entire photoshoot isn't either. It is how you capture your family dynamics and personalities best.

I suggest picking a location that you love to frequent, where you can run and play if need be. 
Some suggested places could be: 
The Park (which is where we were - including a pond with ducks)
The Playground
Your own kitchen
Your favorite activity center

Embrace the world you live in.

Literally two shots in, she made us put her down and wanted to go do her own thing. Iris kept shooting away... 

Where was she going you ask?

She wanted to sit down.  Great.

We got her to come back to us, but she preferred not to be held but instead wanted to stand and watch the ducks. I would've let her play with the ducks, but these ducks were about the same size as she is.

We decided that if we walk away from the family of ducks, we could get her attention back and continue.

Clearly, she did not want to go. 

I believe she was even saying "NOOOO" and was trying to pull us in the opposite direction.

And then all of a sudden, the struggle stopped and we have a shot we can use. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent embracing "The Gracie Show". 
She does not lack in personality and determination to do what she wants, stand how she wants, go where she wants. Our talker, walker, climber, and helper (who loves to clean-up) enjoyed herself in the Park and luckily didn't want to pick up every leaf she saw.

In the end, it was a great afternoon that we had just walking around the park and spending quality family time together. We occasionally looked at the camera, but mostly we embraced that whether we are at home or out and about, our two year old kinda runs the show. Like I said, let's be honest. 

So she was rewarded with plenty of high fives and treats for doing such a good job. 

She made it through an hour or more of photos while only having 10 min attention spans. 

Now there is no point in investing in great family photos, if you don't select a great card that will help your photos look their best!

Thanks to TinyPrints, we were able to gather plenty moments for this years Christmas Cards.
They have plenty of new Holiday cards including glitter cards, metallic foil, even a Christmas Ornament card that you can send to family and friends. 

TinyPrints has so many selections that truthfully, it was very hard to decide which card I wanted to go with this year.

I selected a card that I felt would be able to tell our story.
We only send out cards once a year and I want them to make a last impression on my friends and family so that it will be worth posting or sitting on the mantles just like we do with the cards we receive from friends. 

This year, because my personal desire was to show more of an experience, I went with a Tri-Fold Card that I would be able to include 6+ pictures on the card as well be able to show both looks for that day on one card. 

If you want to select something similar, I chose to go with the Tri-Fold version of the Antique Glow in Linen. 

This is what the back looks like when you select the Linen color. 

As you can imagine, Gracia was just about through with us at this point. As we waited for Gracie to join us, we decided to just take some couples shots, which we hadn't done in over two years. Probably our last couple photo was taken on our wedding day.
This was her, "Are you ready to go Mommy and Daddy?" look.

Yes Diva, it is time to go. 

If you are looking to send out Cards this year and perhaps even considering sending New Years Cards, take it from me TinyPrints is the way to go. 

They make it super easy to do. 

You upload your favorite pictures into your account and then drag and drop them into their beautiful card templates. You can preview your design and they even have a Designer who will review it for Free before it goes to print. 

It doesn't get any easier or better than that. 

And so, I hope you have a Merry and Bright Holiday Season. 

Special thanks to Iris Mannings Photography and TinyPrints

*Full Disclosure: TinyPrints provided my Christmas Cards in exchange for telling my story in making my Christmas Cards this year. No other compensation was provided. Review of product is 100% true and my own experience and opinion and in no way influenced by TinyPrints. 
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We Took our ONE year old to Disney World


We broke down and took our one year old to Disney World. I was sure that I would never take her until she was at least three which is when I thought she would best appreciate it, but when an impromptu trip to Orlando came up, we figured why not?! The problem is, I had never been to Disney World myself - not since I was about 7 years old (maybe?) I truly do not remember how old I was - and then I went once again in high school when we used to Dance for Disney Music Days. Either who, I had no references on how to prepare to take my child to Disney World and ensure that we wouldn't be just pushing her around LOOKING at rides. I didn't even know if SHE liked rides. 

This was going to be an adventure for sure!

I of course took to google to see if anyone had at least written something that I could garner some tips but what I did find helpful is Disney's Mom Panel. There were some really great tips on there as well. 

However, let me give you a bit of my own advice. 

Tip #1: DON'T WAIT UNTIL YOU HAVE TO PAY TO SEE IF YOUR CHILD LIKE DISNEY... take them as early as you can. Let them get used to the idea of Disney World while it's not costing you and then take them back again when you have to pay for them and pay for the memories. Disney World doesn't charge for anyone under 3 years old. 

Tip #3: PLAN AS MUCH OF YOUR TRIP AHEAD AS POSSIBLE. I will elaborate on how to further do this, but it is crucial! If you want to beat lines and have on-going fun get familiar with the websites and what they offer and make sure you plan an itinerary EVEN IF you are a go with the flow kind of person. Trust me on this one.

Tip #3: DRESS THEM IN THE CUTEST DISNEY THEMED GEAR YOU CAN FIND! It's all a part of the experience. 
(Yes, I have on a Frozen T-Shirt and yup Gracie got more than a few things from Disney even though I told myself she was only allowed to have ONE souvenir).
My husband and I consider ourselves to be "Travel with Children" masters. We have been traveling with Gracie on airplanes since she was 3 months old and not once was she a bad traveler. We pick times for flights that coordinate with nap times and skip the rush of the frequent travelers. After all, when you are traveling for fun - there is NO RUSH! 

We get so excited especially when we Master the Art of wearing our Toddler out before we get too tired to enjoy ourselves on our trips! We used to burn ourselves out with lugging all of her strollers (yup the big boy britax and the umbrella stroller) and the car seat, etc... and decided let's just see what its like to rent a car seat with our car rental and found that it was so much easier on my anxiety to worry about one less thing. Especially since on this trip I was hand patted down because I was carrying baby food and eczema lotion by an aggressive TSA woman who was blamed for letting something pass. Either who... usually, we are all smiles. And we were the MOST excited for this new experience.

Now, to the planning ahead piece. Get a Fast Pass+ from Disney!!! Do IT~
Here is why.
You can select up to three rides for free that you know you want to beat the line for and they automatically draw up an itinerary for you to make sure that you are able to get to your ride. During that time slot that you select, you are able to ride the ride as many times as you want within that hour. My advice to you, pick the rides that have the longest wait times then wait for the others.

We went to the Magic Kingdom on a Sunday. I am not sure what the crowds are like on any other day, but that day worked best for us. We were able to get in the park with little wait time. We went to Magic Kingdom first and then went to Disney's Hollywood Studios second. The later you enter the park, the closer your parking space will be.
I linked our park tickets and our ride itinerary to our Fast Pass+ bracelets so that when we arrived, all we had to do was go directly to the gate and wave our wrist in front of the reader. There was no need to go to will call or anything. 
We brought our stroller with no issues because there were stroller parking at each ride and had no issues fearing leaving our baby bag or anything as there were attendants who would come from time to time to rearrange the parking situation.

Gracia's first ride ever was the Buzz Lightyear's Space Rangers Spin. It had great reviews by the Mom's Panel. It was a bit of a risk because there was no description of the ride but now that I know what it is, I am not sure if I would've taken her based on the description: Its a ride where you get in a moving cart, in the dark and shoot glow in the dark aliens with a ray gun for points. For a one year old? YUP!

She loved it! She loved moving the cart from one side to the other, she loved shooting the aliens in the dark. She loved it so much we went on more than once. Thanks to the Fast Pass it was doable without taking up too much of our time.. and did you know that you can link your credit card to it as well so that all you had to do was wave your arm at concessions versus bringing in your card with the chance of losing it. You can also link all of your photo ops as well and download it for later! (no this isn't a sponsored post - I was just so hype! that they made it so easy)


WHICH BRINGS ME TO WHY I LOVE DISNEY! My husband and I were both able to fit in all the rides, together - AND we are not short people nor are we skinny people. Gracia was able to sit between us or on our lap. Disney is made for Families! When we went to Universal Studios, it was not the case at all. 

When the lines were long at Winnie the Pooh, they had things for the kids to keep busy with so they don't just fall out screaming and crying because the wait was too long. 

Bring extra clothes for the kiddies. It rained on us and so she was in hot, wet clothes... so after a quick change she was ready to go enjoy more of the park. 

The ONLY thing I wanted to do was to take her to the live Frozen show, which was AMAZING!
Imagine every little girl who knows all the words, singing Karaoke to the most popular songs in the movie along with seeing the characters live on stage. It felt like church in there during "Let it Go!" 
Gracie had such a great time she was singing GOOOOO GOOOOO for a while after we left Disney.

We were also there during the launch of the Star Wars Weekend. There were so many Star Wars specific things and items for purchase... this may be blasphemous to some, but I am just not a huge Star Wars fan, so the light show and the party at the end of the night at Hollywood Studios allowed extra time for us to get into the studio shows with no lines.

Of course when we took Gracie to the Disney Junior section she did not want to leave. Her favorite is Sophia the First. It's why she had a Sophia the First birthday theme party for her 1st Birthday. I let her play in all the scenes. I think a little too long because she didn't want to leave.

All in all, my one year old had a GREAT time at Disney and so did we. We made great memories and although she may not remember. She will know that we took her through stories and pictures and of course we will do it again.

She picked out this Minnie Back Pack and would not let anyone touch it or take it from her for WEEKS!

So never fear, Disney Magic is real.. even for younger kids.

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