Autumn Leaves and Christmas Trees

It’s December 19th, less than a week away from Christmas. The tree has been up since Thanksgiving, yet still provokes an ooh and ahh from Penny every morning when she comes downstairs and sees it lit up in all its’ silver and gold splendor. The presents are all wrapped and resting patiently under the tree. 19 of the 24 holiday advent calendar activities have been done, including drinking cocoa while watching The Polar Express, making handmade holiday cards for loved ones, playing with fake snow, and making a fort in the living room. We have even gone to see the James Island Festival of Lights, definitely our favorite holiday activity so far due to Penny’s unbridled enthusiasm for all of the glowing lights.

All of this, and yet somehow I can’t believe it’s Christmas. The last time I checked, I was writing about spring birthdays and summer trips to the beach, and I was just wrapping my head around the impending arrival of autumn. And then suddenly our trees were turning brilliant shades of amber and our yard was full of leaves, adding to the alluring scent of burning firewood that always seemed to permeate the air. And then it was October 31st, and Penny was acting as hostess to her first toddler Halloween party, donning a not in the least bit scary ghost costume and learning to say “boo!” just in time for her sweet little friends to arrive.

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But perhaps even more shocking than the quickly changing seasons are the changes I am seeing in my little girl. I swear she is saying a new word almost every day, and says each word with such excitement that you can’t help but laugh. Who would have thought that “cheese!” and “eggs!” could bring about such joy? She communicates with us so well now, and understands even more. She loves to mimic our actions, feeding her teddy bear play food and rocking her baby doll, trying to put on clothes, (although she is convinced that pants go on her arms and underwear go around her neck), and especially loves to help us with chores around the house. She likes to spill things on the floor just so she can clean them up with a towel, and always wants to stand on a stool and help when we are preparing dinner.She can run, kick a ball around the house, throw toys for Charlie (not much of a challenge for him at this point but he indulges her all the same), and clap her hands vigorously at the end of every song we sing to her, only to ask for us to sing “more! more!” Contrasting her tendency to run around the house and get in on all the action, her concentration and focus never ceases to amaze me. The other day she spent at least 30 minutes just sitting at her table working on puzzles. It seems like only yesterday she could barely hold a puzzle piece, and now she is putting them in their places (correctly!) in record time.

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Penny’s place in the world has gotten so much bigger, and it has been so much fun experiencing all of these new and magical things through her eyes. With a little girl that is learning and growing this fast, it makes every day feel special. And there is something about the holidays that makes everything feel even more momentous. While I cannot believe that Christmas is only 6 days away, I am so eager to see the look on her face when she comes down those stairs and spots presents under the tree just for her. It was only a year ago that I was thrilled just to be able to sit Penny up on her own in front of her gifts, and now I will get to watch her running toward the tree in her jammies, making gleeful exclamations the whole way there. Not only will she be able to open her presents this year, but she will be able to play with them, and tell us thank you with that sweet smile on her face. We may even request a hug and kiss, and after a mischievous grin she will oblige, throwing an eskimo kiss in too for good measure.

The only thing that will be able to top this Christmas is having two sweet little girls in jammies sitting around our tree next year, and if the passage of time so far is any indication, it is going to be here before we know it.