We had a wonderful Christmas! Mac got to spend time with each set of grandparents, plus lots of other family.
The only thing better than seeing Mac's excitement at playing with his favorite relatives is seeing the joy he brings them. What a blessing our sweet elf is to all of us, especially this time of year.
Despite an ear infection, two hours in a car and three teeth working their way out, Mac managed to soak up every moment of Christmas goodness. He was spoiled rotten with gifts, attention and every last bit of food he laid his eyes on. He couldn't have asked for more!
To top it off, South Carolina saw a (sort of) white Christmas for the first time in ages. It didn't snow on Christmas day, but I'm guessing it snowed just a few moments after the calendar flipped to December 26th.
All I know is we woke up in Columbia to a white, bright Sunday morning. Beautiful! Even better? The roads stayed clear for our trip back home. Hooray!
I hope you each had a beautiful Christmas with your families, too. I'm so thankful for the reason we celebrate and for all the people we were able to celebrate with this Christmas.
We may not have a royal family, but America does have a few top-tier last names - and now two of them are merging. Model and presidential family scion Lauren Bush and David Lauren, son of Ralph Lauren, became engaged recently.
I've long admired Lauren Bush, a young philanthropist and designer in her own right, and can only imagine she'll be a gorgeous bride.
What an affair that will be. Tuxes, ball gowns, security and that guest list! Can you imagine? Politicians, fashionistas and big-haired Texans will be rubbing elbows all over the dance floor.
After these two tie the knot, do we think they'll be known as David and Lauren Lauren? They could go by Ralph Lauren's given last name, Lifshitz, or perhaps she could keep her name professionally?
Her middle name is Pierce, Barbara Bush's maiden name. Who would want to drop that anyway?
No matter if she goes by Lauren Bush-Lauren or Lauren Lifshitz, this is going to be one wedding to watch.
Seriously, though, what are the odds? I know of a Shelly Kelly and an Ashley Ashley, but there can't be too many other double-named gals out there. Bottom line: a guy's last name isn't worth turning down a second date, but it sure makes for an interesting cocktail party story down the road.
(And also, why Mac may have a few gray hairs coming in.)
My little "helper" and I spent all morning addressing and stamping Christmas cards. He assisted me in the crucial areas of scattering envelopes across the floor, waving pens in the air and "reading" addresses aloud.
In return, I took this video and scared him right off his feet.
(Please ignore our present-less tree; I haven't gotten to the wrapping portion of the program yet. Imagine what fun Mac will have with the paper and ribbons!)
Seriously, who needs help sending their cards out? Mac charges a very reasonable hourly fee...
Mac-Mac is only 14 months old, so I don't expect that we'll be delving into theology or politics anytime soon. All the same, I'm thrilled as he gets better and better at communicating his thoughts.
Up to this point, B and I at marveled at how well you can know someone without actually talking to them. You know, real back and forth conversation, the conveying of opinions. The kind of talk that's absent in a toddler's world.
Today might have been Mac's and my first cobbled together conversation, though, and I think it's a preview of what's to come as he gets older and (even) more opinionated.
Mac: Points to cell phone on table, just out of his reach. Puts hand up to his ear, says "Hey Dada!" like he's talking on a phone. Points to cell phone again, gesturing a little more passionately this time.
Me: Moving cell phone out of sight. "No, Mac. That's Mama's cell phone. We know what happens when you get your hands on it."
Mac: Does sign language for "more." Whines pitifully.
Me: No, baby. Why don't we read this book instead?
Mac: Shakes head furiously. Puts pretend cell phone/hand back up to his ear. "Hey! Hey, Dada! Hey!" Points at the pillow behind which I've not-so-secretly stowed the phone.
Me: Deep sigh. How did you get so smart??
This scene replayed itself a few times in a row until I pulled out a Mac-sized basketball that kept his attention for a few minutes.
After his cell phone obsession (momentarily) subsided, I marveled at his mix of words, charades, sign language and baby noises. What a clever way to get his point across!
I'm guessing all he understood from my half of the conversation was something like the voice of Charlie Brown's teacher: "Wah wah wah..."
I hate to see time flying by, but I love the new stage Mac enters each month. Having an actual "chat" with my little man? What a way to spend a morning.
The royal family has released two official engagement photos of Prince William and Catherine (can we please continue calling her Kate?) Middleton today.
The first is an expected pose: William and Kate look demure, happy and all grown up. They're captured before a timeless, regal background. If royals had a daily paper, this is the shot I imagine Will's grandmother would select to accompany their engagement announcement.
Thie second photograph, however, took me by surprise. What a casual shot! How loving and adorable do these two look? Don't you just want to toast them with a round of champagne?
It's not something I would have expected to see from a staid, stiff upper-lipped British institution, so perhaps the royal family is trying to become more approachable?
(Though People is comparing the two engagement photos below, I find the newest one to feel much warmer and more authentic than the C&D's. But my, how William has grown to look more like Charles and less like Diana!)
With soon-to-be-weds as precious as Will and Kate, the royal family is sure to endear itself to the British public and the world at large. (And just in time!) They look happy, in love and just as excited as every other engaged couple on Earth.
Also, can we discuss that hair again? How do I get Kate's locks?
And just because everyone loves an engagement ring, here's a shot of William's mom wearing the piece she picked from a tray of offered gems - purportedly because the 18-carat stone was the largest. Bling bling!
In other Will + Kate 4-EVA-related news, there is now a living to be made in becoming a Kate Middleton lookalike. Hmm. The other photos, with a fake Prince William at her side, are more convincing, but here's the Kate-wannabe:
I thought briefly that the royals should have announced their engagement in time for Halloween costumes to come out, but a full-time doppelganger? Not sure how she'll make much off of it, but what a compliment to the future Queen.
If you're not British, brunette and bouncy-haired, you can still fancy yourself a bit like Kate. Jigsaw has released a necklace Kate designed several years ago - just in time for Christmas.
If you can't have a prince on your arm, I suppose you can settle for a future princess's design dangling around your neck?
The first time I saw Amanda Seyfried onscreen, I couldn't get over how big her eyes were. She could probably bat those lashes and get anything she wants, they're so wide and innocent.
It seems fitting, then, that she's playing Little Red Riding Hood in an upcoming film.
When I heard that tidbit, I had visions of tiny birds carrying her cape around the forest as she hummed a maiden-like tune. Not exactly what the preview is showing... This isn't your grandma's fairytale.
Take a look and let me know what you think. Is it a thriller? A romance? A gothic mix of both?
I fight the urge each Christmas season to focus on shopping lists and searches for the perfect party dress. It's easy for me to get caught up in what I'm doing to make it "feel like Christmas" that I neglect the meaning behind the madness.
I've blogged about it before, but it's a struggle for me to tune out toy commercials and put Christmas in perspective. What am I doing to celebrate and, most importantly, why?
The saddest thing is waking up in January realizing I've missed the chance to truly enjoy the season, the time with family and the opportunity to worship and be grateful for the birth of our Savior.
What I need this time of year is a healthy dose of perspective.
Boarding our flight to LaGuardia, I was still antsy about flying with a little one. I let the others board and kept Mac in the terminal burning off some last-minute energy. Once we finally got in line, we waited with another mom and her son.
After trading babies' names and ages, we began mama banter. I promised her things do get easier, assured her good sleep would come soon and asked where she was going for Thanksgiving.
It turns out her sweet four-month-old was flying for the first time as well; they would land in LaGuardia to introduce him to his dad's parents and siblings. She was beyond excited - her baby had never met these grandparents, these aunts and uncles.
In fact, he hadn't yet met his dad, who is deployed in Afghanistan.
This woman gave birth to her son without his father. She's handled every feeding, diaper change, meltdown and "first" - alone.
I have kicked myself many times since for not hugging her, thanking her profusely and telling her how often I'd be praying for her family.
Here she was, a single mom juggling a baby, a carry on, a stroller, a diaper bag. I squatted, a toddler on my hip, to help pick up dropped baby toys and maneuver stroller handles. How could she be doing so much solo? She told me how hard it was to travel alone with an infant, and I could only imagine how hard it is to raise one with your husband overseas.
It's no wonder I couldn't speak up, as I can barely type this story without crying. I was boarding a plane to join three others who would help me read to, kiss, coo at, entertain and love on Mac throughout our trip. This mom had handled everything alone from start to finish.
I looked for her on the flight and even at baggage claim, but never saw her again. What I'd give for a moment to tell her how grateful I am for the sacrifice her husband - and, most certainly, she - is making. I have thought of and prayed for her often since.
When B works late, when Mac is having an off day, when I can't get the ornaments up or get to every event I'd like to attend, I remind myself of what matters. And of the sweet mom who would love to have her husband around, however late he might come home.
Earlier today I read this true Depression-era story about the generosity of a stranger at Christmas time and the effect his gifts had on a community.
The thought of Americans struggling so much that they had to choose between giving up their children and letting them go hungry - it's unfathomable. (And driving by the mall, the packed parking lots convince me that our current recession comes nowhere close to the impact of the Depression.)
I have moments where I wish I could snap up everything on my Christmas list and spoil our friends and families with bigger and shinier gifts. These reminders, though, put Christmas in perspective for me.
What do you do to take your focus away from picking the perfect Christmas card and remembering the perfect gift we were given?
(If you have heard me rant about how late I am in doing the former, you'll find as much irony in that sentence as I do. Oh, to have my priorities straight all the time!)
(Thanksgiving was a week or two ago, but Bradley, Mac and I had such a tremendous time I can't help but share.)
The week before Thanksgiving, Bradley was sweet enough to take me to a Dave Matthews show in Charleston! I missed his concert earlier this summer in Charlotte, so I was thrilled at a chance to catch him before his 2011 break. We spent the day strolling and eating downtown before taking in a fabulous show.
Boyd Tinsley, up close and personal!
B was a perplexed as to why we paid morenot to have a physical seat. (North Charleston has general floor access, which gave us super close spots!) Even so, he graciously stood for five-plus hours as I enjoyed every last minute of Dave-ness. I was pretty beat afterwards, though - we're definitely not as young as we used to be!
Days later our family of three, plus B's parents, flew up to Connecticut to visit his brother and sister-in-law. What a treat and, considering it was Mac's first flight, a real adventure!
We drove to Charlotte for a layover-free flight straight to LaGuardia; I was a little uneasy about our busy boy sitting still for two hours once - much less for TWO flights.
Mac got a little antsy (read: had a big, uncharacteristic meltdown that gave me palpitations) on the shuttle from the parking lot, but after that he was people-watching, reading, blowing kisses and crawling from Papa and Nana to Mom and Dad and back. What a relief to know I worried for nothing! Story of my life?
Even with thirty minutes of "hang out" time on the runway that got other fliers restless, our champ kept it together 'til Uncle Todd pulled us into his driveway. Whew!
Todd and his wife Laura hadn't seen Mac since last Thanksgiving, when he was just seven weeks old. You can imagine how different their last visit with him (cuddling a swaddled bundle) was compared to the high-fiving, kiss-blowing, stair-climbing whirling dervish their nephew has become.
Uncle Todd and Mac
The day before Thanksgiving we spent a whirlwind afternoon in New York City grabbing lunch, surveying the wares at a farmer's market and gabbing about the best places to buy the world's tackiest souvenirs. (Seriously, who's in the market for a $35 "New York City" baseball cap? Eep.)
Six adults to fawn over me? I love it here!
Our gracious hosts also took us through the beautiful town they live in. Their part of the country just screams "New England" to me - but I was glad to visit it before the snow kicked in!
Mac loved being the center of attention!
The highlight of the trip was spending time catching up with Todd and Laura, celebrating my in-laws' fortieth anniversary and savoring every last tasty bite of Laura's unreal cooking. (Todd's turkey was pretty fabulous too, to be fair!)
Their neighbors had kindly lent us a car seat, high chair and a plethora of toys, so Mac felt right at home as soon as we arrived.
The best "Smith boys" shot I could get.
Mac did beautifully on the flight to North Carolina and the drive home, too. In the days after we returned, though, it became SO apparent that he had been spoiled rotten. Six pairs of eyes and ears and arms to hug him are just no match for boring old mom.
Even baths were better in CT!
We've since settled back into our day-to-day routine, but the first "no" Mac heard after a week of "what do you want, sweet boy?" was a tough pill to swallow!
All in all, a delicious, chilly, festive Thanksgiving! We were thankful our first big trip as a family went well. (I was slightly less thankful when I stepped on the scale at my physical last week. Oh well!)
You've probably picked up on the factthatI'mobsessedwithnames. I could tell you the full name of just about anyone I've ever met - and often ask people what their middle names are, just out of curiosity. I'm entranced by monograms and captivated by the stories behind old family names.
I was the girl who dreamed of naming, not necessarily having, a baby. (It took a while before I realized the two go hand in hand. It'd be a rare mom who would allow you only to name her child.)
I think it's because, growing up, I didn't love my name. (Cue Anne of Green Gables references. I never asked to be called Cordelia, but you get the idea.) Anne is my middle name; my first name is a family name that is unusual and easily mispronounced.
The first day of classes, from kindergarten to grad school, my palms would get sweaty when the teacher got to the "S" portion of the roll. When I saw a puzzled expression, I'd call out, "I go by Anne! Just call me Anne!"
Additionally, my whole family (of origin) has unusual name quirks. Three of the four of us go by our middle names. My brother, the sole "first namer," has four names. Three are last names; all are family names. Welcome to the South, my friends.
Most everyone I knew growing up was named after someone - a beloved aunt, their mom's favorite poet, even a Dynasty character. Few parents pull their children's names from thin air.
When it came to naming our Mac, I knew early on that I wanted to incorporate family names with a lot of meaning to us. (If your last name is Smith, you know the importance of standing out a little in the first name department. Take it from "Anne Smith #8" at my salon.)
Mac is named after several members of our families, one of whom was also called "Mac Smith." It means everything that we could honor so many with one sweet little baby's name.
Reading the top name trends of 2010, though, I am a touch disheartened that Macky's first name is number three on the list. (Yes, I did what I said I'd never do and gave my son a first name he doesn't use. Don't hate me, future Mac!)
I suppose I should take it as a compliment that there are so many baby Jacksons out there, but we named him Jackson McNeal for a reason. Mac's names each have meaning and come directly from someone our families knew and loved. (The first Mac Smith skipped over Jackson, abbreviated his middle name and went by Mac too, future Macky. You're in good company!)
Though he was born in 2009, not 2010, I hate thinking that Mac's birth certificate is one of ten thousand other Jacksons!
I won't say much else about names, though I'll wax poetic for hours with friends in an adult version of the treasured seventh grade "let's name our invisible children" game.
I have lots (and lots) of "rules" and opinions about naming a child well and with tremendous thought. Given my name history, I feel I deserve such opinions!
That said, names are intensely personal and I wouldn't want to step on anyone's toes - or their top choices. Pick an old family name, find inspiration in classic literature, choose a favorite Biblical name, put lovely-sounding syllables together, do what makes you happy - but realize names last forever.
Can I please urge you, if you're going to name your child after a politician, Olympian or television figure, as the article indicates more people are doing, to choose extra wisely? Do you really want your baby to spend his life explaining why he's named Apollo Piper Chuck Bass Finn Puckerman Smith long after everyone has forgotten who most of those namesakes ever were? Okay, then.
Read the top names of 2010. How many of these babies have you bought presents for this year?