Preschool Update

I was all set to share this thoughtful post about how Esmé loved school so much, and all the fun things she loved doing while she was there after she finished her twos class this past May. I was so excited because it had been a relatively easy transition for her, and I couldn’t wait to share with everyone how smoothly it had gone. Then she started her summer session.

I don’t know if it was because the early drop-off room was significantly larger than when she was in the twos class, or if it was because it was different teachers, but she screamed and cried for two weeks straight.

It started at the stairs that led down to the room. She would slowly back away and say things like “Mama? I want to go home.” Or “Mama, I don’t want you to go.” Then I would lead her in to the classroom where she would plaster herself to my body saying “No. No. No. NO!!” and then her teachers would have to peel her off of me as it turned into a full-blown meltdown.

The last thing I would see every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday was her little face, bright red from being so distraught, with tears streaming down, and her mouth wide open in a wail. Her body was always twisting around the teacher holding her back to try and see me as she reached for me with outstretched arms. I left in tears every single time. I actually still cry when I think about it.

I HATED myself afterwards, every single time. What kind of mother was I to leave her when she was so upset? Why did I have to be so selfish to try and have some time to myself? It rattled me to my core and made me question if we were doing the right thing.

The crazy thing was that she still loved school. I know this because all of the amazing staff at the school had my cell, and would send me pictures/ messages as soon as she stopped crying, and then continue to send me pictures and/or messages throughout the day so I knew she was ok. Basically it was only torture for me as a mom. Super.

After those two weeks, she started to calm down. The third week she was slightly hesitant, but didn’t cry when I left. I’m pretty sure the entire staff did a little dance to celebrate 1) not having to listen to ear-splitting screams/cries of distress and 2) not having to ‘hold my hand’ for the rest of the day by texting me the whole time.

The fourth week she was rockin’ it. She practically ran into the classroom to go and play with her teachers. They actually had to remind her to give me a hug before I left. My feelings were slightly hurt, but I will take feeling snubbed any day over spending the whole day feeling like I’m torturing my child.

Now that I am emotionally stable, and can handle thinking about my child while she is away at school, I can finally write an update!

I did one of those first and last day of school comparison pictures, but I feel like you can’t really tell much of a difference. On the left is Esmé when she started the twos class in January, and the one on the right is when she finished this past May. I think it’s because we started in the middle of the year with her.

The feedback that I’ve gotten from her teachers so far is that she is a little quiet (which is a surprise to us as she is so loud at home), though very clear and well spoken when she chooses to talk. She likes to follow the boys around more than the girls (sorry Papa!). She loves being outdoors. She loves arts and crafts and is one of the few who is able to sit and stay focused on doing them for a long time. However her very favorite activity seems to be music class with Miss Rachel. I am told she loves to dance around and play all the instruments.

Basically, she is loving school. I love that it’s a chance for her to spend a lot more time doing all the things that she loves…art, music, reading, and playing outside. Any day she comes home with mulch in her hair (from digging, playing, and throwing it in the air), I know it’s been a good playground day. When she comes home with paint on her hands and her arms, I know that she’s getting to do her favorite art activity.

But what I love most, is when I catch her singing songs I haven’t heard before. She goes to a religious preschool, so they teach them little songs about God, and also prayer songs before they eat. To hear her sing some of these songs, or pray as she’s eating melts my heart more than anything.

Since I can’t share her singing with you, as she gets shy once I grab my phone and say “Sing it again,” I thought I would share some of the favorite pieces of art that she’s come home with so far…

This first group is from her twos class. The circle paper plate says “My planet is called Papa and it looks like Mama”-Esmé, and the butterfly painting says “My butterfly is eating grass.”

This second group is my favorites from what she has done so far in her summer session. They’ve done some sponge painting for fireworks and actually got to paint with watermelon, which i think is pretty cool. She also made me a lovely bracelet with “beatles (beads),” but I feel like the stickers on paper is the truest reflection of my child. She looooves her stickers and asks every check-out person, including the librarian if they have any (Trader Joe’s is the best btw because they give her like a whole roll, which she then covers her whole body with).

Having Esmé start school has definitely been a huge eye-opener. For one I have a whole new respect for working moms who have to put babies into day care, and had to go through this process when their kiddos were a lot younger.

I’m also acutely aware now that I won’t always be able to solve all my daughters problems for her, much as I would like to. I think that’s the hardest thing for me. If she’s upset because of something I did, fine. I can deal with that. But hearing your kid cry because of something you can’t control, or swoop in to rescue them from is HARD.

 

Three

I have been procrastinating writing this post for a long time in hopes that it would somehow make the month stretch out longer, therefore keeping my two year old a little while longer. But it seems that time has flown by anyway and I now officially have a three year old! Here’s what she’s loving and doing lately…

  • She still loves reading. We go to the library roughly every week/ week-and-a-half and we pick up 6 or more books at a time. Her favorite stories seem to be ones where the characters get a little silly and are shouting something in them (i.e.- Wolfie the Bunny, The Not So Quiet Library, Llama Llama Red Pajama, etc.). She also really enjoys stories that have really beautiful, fanciful illustrations in them like The Night Gardener, Miss Rumphius, or The Napping House. Her favorite thing to do is read to herself and her stuffed animal friends. Once she has me or my husband read it, she’ll say “I read it! I read it!” And she does! She’ll ‘read’ back everything she can remember including the names of the author and illustrator.

  • She got her first haircut this month! I took her with me to my salon and had my girl trim it for us. She was very curious about what was going on and kept looking around a lot, but other than that she did great. Obviously I kept the hair clippings. That’s just the kind of mama I am!

  • She’s still a water girl. She gets very excited when it rains because she knows that it means puddles. As soon as it stops we’re out the door in our boots to jump and play in all the puddles in front of our house. She also enjoys ‘washing her hands’ in the puddle water and picking out the drowned worms.
  • She is fully potty trained (nights too) and has been since about two and a half. This was something she chose all on her own, if you can believe it. Emile and I were very nervous to start potty training so early, but she had it down in about a week. Then that was that! If I’m telling the truth, I get a little nostalgic when I walk past the diaper section, because it reminds me of just how grown up she’s become.

  • The playground with the ‘bumpy slide’ is where it’s at. She requests to go to this specific playground in the morning when she wakes up, and in the afternoon as well. Every. Single. Day. That’s how much she loves this place.

  • This picture scares me a little because I feel like I can see the person she will grow up to be. Does that ever happen to you? When she was a baby Emile had this picture of her where we put doll glasses on her and I made him take it off his background because she looked too grown up. But I digress. This girl is happiest when she’s outside, which makes both of us equally happy. It is honestly my favorite activity to take her for walks in the woods. She always finds new treasures to take back home, and also attempts to tidy the forest floor by sweeping all the pine needles off the paths.

  • She looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooves music. Loves. Loves. LOVES it. I know that was a lot of “o’s” and love, but you have to understand that’s just how passionate she is about it. She loves to sing. She loves to dance, and she’ll play any instrument that you give her. Just last night Emile and I got to listen to her serenade her puppy to sleep with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as loud as she could, over, and over again. (Yes I know the above picture is in no way related to a musical activity)

  • She adores her Papa. Her face absolutely lights up whenever she sees him. She hates when he has to start work in the morning and calls for him to come back. Then whenever she hears movement from upstairs in his office she always asks “Is Papa done working??” Whenever he comes downstairs she’ll ask him directly, “Papa are you done working?? Is it the weekend?” He is always coming up with new ideas for games for her, and no one can make her laugh like he can.

For those of you interested, I actually did a little interview with Esmé so you could get her perspective on life at the age of 3:

  1. Who is your favorite person in the whole world? Me
  2. What is your favorite color? Pink and blue
  3. What’s your favorite television show? Little Einsteins
  4. What’s your favorite outfit? Pink
  5. What sport do you like best? Golf
  6. What song do you love? Frosty the Snowman
  7. What’s your favorite cereal? Wheetabix
  8. Who is your best friend? Kenzie and Savanna
  9. What do you want to be when you grow up? A Pirate Ship
  10. What is your favorite book? A Chair For My Mother
  11. What are you really good at? Making food (she really is quite the helper in the kitchen)
  12. Where do you wish you could go on vacation? Cape count (pretty sure she means Cape Town)
  13. What is your best memory? I like yogurt (no idea about this one, sorry)
  14. What would you buy if you had $1000? A skateboard (no clue she even knew what that was)
  15. What vegetable do you hate the most? Salad
  16. If you could have a wish, what would it be? A skateboard (now I’m thinking I got the wrong birthday present)
  17. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream? Chocolate 
  18. Who is your biggest hero? Kenzie and Savanna and Kristie and Thomas
  19. What do you like to do best with your friends? I like to play with them
  20. What do you hope you’ll get to do before your next birthday? Play

Essie love, you are the brightest sparkle this world has ever seen. You have hair that the cherubs in Michelangelo’s paintings would envy. You run with a bounce and a skip because there is so much joy bubbling inside of you, you often struggle to contain it. You love to laugh. You’re an adventurer. You’re always willing to try new foods, places, or activities (albeit cautiously at first). You know exactly what you want, and you’re not afraid to let everyone else know. You negotiate with frightening skill. You are all the proof I need that magic exists in this world. Happy happy birthday angel baby! I love you so.

Milestones and Memories: Esmé Turns 2

This is a little late in coming, a few weeks actually, but we blinked and somehow we have a two-year-old!

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We threw her a “Little Blue Truck” party because that was her absolute favorite book in the months leading up to her special day, and the difference between this years’ party and last years’ was incredible.

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For starters, last year she had a whole lot less hair, obviously, but she was also cautious about everything. She was hesitant to try the cake, she wasn’t sure how she felt about everyone singing to her, and she wasn’t crazy about having lots of people over to her house. Basically she could have cared less about having a birthday party.

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This year she woke up asking for ‘chock-oh-lot!’ because she had seen the frosting and the cake layers being made the night before, and she wanted to make sure we knew she had not forgotten. In fact, I had little fingers trying to steal my cookie-crumble ‘dirt’ from around the edges of the cake as I was finishing decorating the morning of. As people began to arrive, she was a little shy at first, but warmed up quickly, and was soon herself shrieking with delight and running laps around everyone.

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Perhaps the biggest change of all came when it was time for cake and singing. First she pointed out that we were ‘making fire,’ then when everyone began to sing she got such a huge grin on her face that split wide open into the biggest smile you have ever seen once she realized everyone was singing to her. We took a video, and it absolutely melts my mama heart to watch it every time.

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Basically it ended up being the best day ever for her.

For those of you who couldn’t be here in person to celebrate with us, here’s a little update on what she has been up to lately:

-At her 24 month checkup she measured 80% for height, 55% for weight, and 90% for head circumference.

-She has all 20 teeth now and has been to see a dentist for the first time! I was very nervous to see how this would go as she can be a little reluctant to open her mouth for brushing teeth sometimes, but she did so great. There were no cavities, and she didn’t cry or fuss one bit when the hygienist cleaned or teeth, nor when the dentist was looking at them. SO proud of my brave girl.

-She is fully communicative and speaks in 4-5 word sentences now, so there’s no more special words or phrases for things anymore. It may take her a couple tries to get it, but she copies everything we say now. This is one of the things that blows my mind on a daily basis. She wakes up talking and doesn’t stop until she is asleep. She is starting to say things without needing to be reminded, and she’s thinking ahead as well. I’ve always heard that kids are sponges, but now I totally get why people say it. She literally picks up every small nuance about us!

-She still loves to help out around the house, and is trying to take on a little bit more here and there… she likes to carry her plate/cup/silverware to the table to eat, and she also likes to take it back to the sink to wash it off when she’s done. She still loves to help out with the laundry, but folding is still overrated for her. She understands that when mama is cleaning with the ‘chembubbles’ (chemicals) she can’t help, and has also developed a new love for vacuuming. If I can just get her to take on the dusting and the ironing, I’ll be set.

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-She is absolutely OBSESSED with swimming. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. She talks about it all week long, and then as soon as we leave she starts up again with everything that she wants to do…’Go under water Mama,’ ‘Get rings Mama,’ ‘Climb up ladder Mama,’ ‘Go down slide Mama,’ and on and on. She loves her coach, and she loves all her friends in her class. My husband and I are big water people, so it has been so fun to watch her develop a love for something we both enjoy.

-She also really loves her Kindermusik class. This has been much more of a slow-to-love growth, but still fun to watch her learn and grow. Another exciting thing about this class is that Esmé has gotten really comfortable with her instructor to the point where she’ll let her hold her and do activities with her. It gives me hope that we might be able to leave her with a babysitter some day.

-She still loves her reading, although she is starting to have a preference for books that either rhyme of have some sort of a plot to them. Besides “Little Blue Truck,” a few of our favorites are “Llama Llama Red Pajama,” “The Three Bears,” “The Wonderful Things You Will Be,” “A Potty For Me,” “Goodnight Moon,” and “The Giving Tree,” which she calls the apple book.

-She has decided that she is ready to be potty trained! I say she has decided because I had heard from so many people that it really doesn’t click until they’re about 3, and I am still working through some other parenting books, so I thought I’ll just wait to buy the potty training one until she’s three. Nope. She comes out to me and says ‘Mama, have go potty. Have go pee-pee.’ Well ok then.

I went ahead and bought the book, which I have yet to open, but Esmé is continuing on with her self-taught-potty-going-method. She hasn’t gone poop in the potty yet because she realizes it too late. She’ll look at me and say ‘Poop!’ and then I’ll say ‘You want to go poop on the potty?’ and she says ‘No. Change you,’ which means she needs her diaper changed. But she goes pee before her bathtime, bedtime, and naptime. She’s so excited about going on the potty she even cheers me on… She follows me into the bathroom, watches as I go, then says ‘Yaaaay Mommy!’ while clapping her hands, ‘You pee-pee on potty! I so proud you!’ No joke.

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If you had told me a little over two years ago that this tiny little baby would become a cherubic, strong-willed, tender-hearted, fire-cracker of a soul with curls to rival Shirley Temple, and eyes that match all the colors of the sea I would have laughed until I peed my pants.

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This year I felt the same sense of dread and reluctance to accept the fact that my baby was another year older as last year, all the while feeling intense joy and pride for all my little girl has accomplished this past year. I think I feel this reluctance to let her grow-up because with each year she gains, it’s one year lost for me, and one year closer to when I’ll have to let her go for good.

Don’t get me wrong. I can not wait to see the wonderful things my daughter will do when she grows up, and the wonderful person she will be, but I don’t think I will ever be willing to part with the piece of my heart and soul she has become.

 

*Photo cred. for all Esmé’s 2nd birthday photos and swimming photo: Alma Alvarado

Milestones and Memories: 20 Months

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I always look back at the last Milestones and Memories post to see what I wrote about, not only to remind myself of what I’ve been writing about, but also to see what Esmé was doing several months back. This time I feel like there has been a huge leap in her development, though that could just be due to the fact that it’s nearly 4 months past the last one I wrote. In any case, here is what she’s been up to lately:

-At her 19 month checkup she measured 92% for height, 77% for weight, and 91% for head measurement.

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-She has 18 teeth now!! See this is what I’m talking about with huge leaps. In her last post she only had 13, so she has grown 5 teeth in less than four months. No wonder we had to start putting bibs on her again because she was such a drool monster! She is more than happy to show them to you if you ask her for a smile.

-She isn’t really signing for anything anymore as she can tell us what she wants. The one thing that she still is kind of working on, is ‘Thank you.’ She can’t quite say it, and especially when she is in a hurry to do something she just signs it hastily instead of trying.

-She is talking up a storm. She loves to copy what we’re saying, or words from songs that she recognizes, and she loves copying animal sounds when she hears them. She is stringing together a lot more words like ‘I take,’ ‘Me see,’ ‘Yes please,’ ‘Papa work,’ ‘Mama cook,’ and saying ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to various objects/people/animals when entering and leaving a room.

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-She is learning to be a good helper with all sorts of things because she loves to copy mama and papa. She puts her dirty clothes in her laundry basket; she puts her dirty diapers in her diaper bin; she pulls out/ puts away her changing mat; she loads laundry (with a little assistance) into the washing machine, helps take it out of the washing machine to put it into the dryer, and then helps take it out of the dryer once it’s done; she can’t really fold anything, but loves to take everything out of the basket for me; she loves to sweep the kitchen for papa; and most of all she LOVES to help me cook/ bake ( she is perusing my Smitten Kitchen recipe book in the photo above).

-She adores her swimming lessons. She likes her music class, and loves the bubbles at the library’s story time, but far and away swimming is her favorite. In fact we can not talk about swimming lessons out loud in front of her or she gets very upset and starts saying ‘Go poo! Go poo!’ which is how she says ‘go to the pool.’ We have to explain that it’s not swimming day, and we have a big cry about it. So we call it ‘SL,’ or spell it out. She hasn’t figured those out yet.

-She is still an avid climber, but has now added running and jumping to her list of favorite things to do. Technically her ‘jump’ is more of a skip/one-footed-hop, but she’s almost got both feet off the ground!

-She still loves her reading, and is starting to have favorite books, which is fun to see. Her favorites currently are (still) her little Highlights magazines, but she loves ‘Goodnight Moon (Nigh Moo),’ and ‘Rainbow Fish (May-mo Pish).’ She loves the part where it rhymes brush, and mush in ‘Goodnight Moon,’ and is fascinated by the pretty scales on the fish in ‘Rainbow Fish.’

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-We took her to see Santa last month and she HATED it! She started crying before I even let go of her. Oddly enough, she now claims ‘Santa fun! Santa funnn!!’ So she likes pictures of him, but is not a fan of him in person.

-She loves to be outside. She loves digging in sand and dirt, she loves kicking a ball, she loves running around with her bucket like it’s a purse, and she loves all the things that she can see outside: birds, planes (a favorite of hers), clouds, sky, trees, leaves, etc.! We have a park that’s near us where they have a train and it has quickly become a favorite place. She’s gotten a lot better at climbing on playgrounds by herself, and the swings aren’t her favorite anymore. At least not at this park…she is all about the train, or choo choo, as she would call it.

IMG_5711One of my favorite things to see, has been how much her love grows for her Papa. Even though this last picture is blurry, I had to share it because it shows how much she adores him. She lights up whenever she hears his office door open, and hears him coming down the stairs. She loves to have tea parties with him, and loves that he takes her flying (Fy Papa fy!!). Best of all, no one can get her to laugh like Papa does. As you can see in the picture, she is mid-full-body-crumple-belly-laugh and it gets me every time.

 

 

Reflections

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As a parent you get to experience two different time phenomena, often times simultaneously. One is where time seems to be moving so slowly you’d swear it was actually going backwards. The other is when it zooms past so quickly, if you blink, you’ll miss it.

So I find myself facing a new year, fully aware of how much we packed into it, but still wondering where the time went.

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There were many firsts: Esmé meeting family and friends for the first time; Esmé riding on a plane, train, bus, and boat for the first time; Esmé’s first birthday; Esmé’s first Valentine’s Day, and Easter; Esmé’s first baseball game; Esmé’s first time getting sick; Our first time seeing Europe!

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There was much travel: We got to visit 6 different states, and 6 different countries this year. We saw beaches, mountains, rivers, and lakes. There were castles, cathedrals, ancient ruins, and tiny villages tucked away in the hillsides.

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It was filled with family and friends: We got to spend some serious quality time with so many family and friends: Most of my family flew in for Esme’s first birthday; Esmé got to meet almost all of my husband’s family when we were abroad; and then when we came home, we got to see my family and friends again.

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It was also a year of learning lessons the hard way: Learning what our limits are as a family; learning my limits as a mother; learning Esmé’s limits as a growing toddler; learning that I’m stronger than I thought I was, both as an individual, and as a family; learning that even though change is hard and frustrating, you adapt quicker than you think you could; learning to be present in the moment.

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As I reflect back on everything that happened this year, I find myself overwhelmed with gratitude.  I have so very much to be grateful for… For the amazing moments, the boring ones, the happy ones, but also the moments when I wanted to pull my hair out, scream at the top of my lungs, and then curl in a ball and cry.

With so much to be thankful for this year, I find that I am a little reluctant to let it go. I find myself questioning what if next year isn’t as good as this one was?

When I really sit down and think about it though, the things that I loved most about this year were not the big things that happened to us- the number of trips we got to take, or fancy places we got to see. It was the connections I had with those near and dear to me that I loved most. It was the moments that made me laugh, or cry, or made me feel like I mattered.

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It was staying up until 1:00 in the morning with my sisters-in-law drinking wine and laughing until my face hurt.

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It was spending a quiet evening outside with my husband after putting the baby down, listening to the sounds of the night in the countryside.

It was spending a rainy day cooped up in a hotel room with my sick daughter, my body half curled around hers on the bed while she slept.

That is what I have to remind myself as I face the New Year. I have to remind myself that even though my heart aches a little to say good-bye to another year, there are a great many more memories to be made, more time with family and friends to be cherished.

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Happy New Year everyone! May you find health, happiness, and a full heart in 2016.

 

 

Now and Then

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I had quite a few requests for pictures of Esmé in her Halloween costume this year. My sister suggested I do a picture comparison of last year vs. this year. When I went back to look at last years picture, I realized how much she had grown, and knew that I had to do more than just post a picture comparison. I had to write about a little bit of now and a little bit of then.

Last year for Halloween Esmé was the cutest little pumpkin you ever saw, but we didn’t really get to enjoy the holiday. She was still taking several naps a day, so making a long drive to the pumpkin patch was not an option. No one, besides us, got to see her in her costume because she was far too young to go trick-or-treating, and she was sound asleep for the night by the time trick-or-treaters came to our door.

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This year was completely different. The week before Halloween we decided to take her to a pumpkin patch that had all these different animals and activities for kids to see. We thought it would be perfect for Esmé because she loves to walk around and explore. Lo and behold she did not feel like walking, or standing at all while we were there (we found out later that she had a sprained ankle). Any time we put her down she immediately sat down, stretched her arms up and said ‘up?’ She was not impressed by all the activities.

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She was, however, very excited about the pumpkins, as you can see from the picture above. ‘MUNGIEEEE!!!’ She shouted, (that’s how she says pumpkin by the way). She wasted no time picking out her own little pumpkin and promptly sat down on it. She’s like me when I pick out my Christmas tree…once I’ve got it I’m standing next to it until we carry it out because no one is going to take my tree.

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This year for Halloween, we dressed her up as a monkey to go trick-or-treating with our neighborhood friends. She loves to copy her Papa when he does the Tarzan call, so it seemed very appropriate.

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She and Carson (Darth Vader) were the perfect pair for trick-or-treating. He would take the candy from the bowl that was offered and then Esmé tried to give it back (as she is trying to do in the photo above). If it wasn’t for Carson’s excellent bucket-filling skills I don’t think we would have ended up with much candy. Ha!

In truth she was much more obsessed with everyone’s pumpkins, or ‘mungie’s’ as she calls them. She loved her little pumpkin bucket so much that she walked around the house with it like a purse until I packed it away for the season, (you can see it here).

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Esmé was such a happy little monkey to be climbing stairs, knocking on doors, taking candy, and giving it back with her friend. They really had the best time together, it was so cute to watch.

We did take a video of Esmé before we left for trick-or-treating if you’d like to see (here), and one of her and her partner in crime after they were done trick-or-treating (here).

In short, last year was sweet because it was our first autumn together, but this year was perfect. We had such an amazing time with friends, and an even better time experiencing so many firsts for Esmé as a family, that my heart was full of warm fuzzies by the end of the day. It was one of those days where you wish you could do it over again, just to relive all the fun happy memories.