Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas this year, and the holiday season in general, was a whirlwind. I don't know if it was having 3 kids or just a busy schedule or what, but this year it seemed to pass by super fast... too fast... despressingly fast (is that a word? Probably not. But you get the point.)  I don't know if it was our constant traveling or our schedule or if this is just how the holidays will be from now on... but most days I felt like I couldn't catch my breath! We were on to the next thing before I even had a chance to enjoy the moment, it seemed. I've been encouraged to read that other moms have felt the same way, so it's good to know I'm not the only one. Tis the season, I suppose.

And before I forget to mention it, most all of these pictures are from my phone, so forgive the poor quality. One of my New Years resolutions is to use my real camera more. And the ones that ARE taken with my real camera are not great. I need to just use the flash. I refuse with all my might and then my pictures end up looking red or yellow or just fuzzy.

Here are a few pictures from around the house this year...

We DID have a lot of fun over the holidays and made some wonderful Christmas memories, and the kids never seemed to realize when things were rushed or when I was frazzled, and for that I'm thankful. They talk about each activity as if it lasted forever. So enjoy this 'Top Ten' list that I've put together.
(These are not in any particular order.)

1. Our Elf
Back from the North Pole, our elf "Jingle" arrived on December 1st and stayed through Christmas Eve. He was up to his usual shenanigans - getting into mischief, leaving notes and treats on occasion, and even came down with a horrible case of the flu when a certain 2-year-old decided to break the rules and touch him one day. Mary Ella was very into the elf this year and it was fun watching how serious she was about him and creating all kinds of funny scenes around the house.

2. Christmas Lights (aka "Kiss-a-me! Kiss-a-me!")
The kids were definitely into the Christmas lights this year. Sam couldn't quite get the difference between "christmas lights" and "christmas tree" and so he called every light and tree 'kiss-a-me!' He'd point out every single set of Christmas lights, big or small, on our drives to and from everywhere we went. We took many a trip making detours through our favorite neighborhoods as well as our own just to see the lights and entertain the kids. We have never done much in our own yard as far as lights go, but since the kids loved it so much we ended up putting colored lights on the shrubs outside. I also found a Christmas dog, a boxer, at Home Depot, and couldn't resist buying it for our yard. It's been a hit with the neighbors who know and love our Lucy. It actually got stolen one night around midnight by a couple of dudes who thought it'd be awesome to steal everyone's decorations. Unfortunately they were a little loud and stupid and my neighbor was able to get their tag number. About 3 hours after they left, they came back (this time accompanied by the police) and returned our doggie.

3. Seeing Santa
We took the kids to see Santa on a Sunday night. Their reactions were exactly as I'd predicted - Mary Ella was super excited and serious and totally into it; Emma Kate was her usual happy self; Sam had a complete meltdown. It was hilarious. The picture is a keeper. Here are the girls ready to go!

Heading up the escalator; Sam was all excited at this point.

And then all hell broke loose. He even kicked off his boot and it flew across the room, almost murdering the photographer and undoubtedly maiming one of the elves.

Mary Ella was so sweet. She asked for one thing - the Cinderella vanity - and then used the rest of her time to tell Santa a few things she thought her brother and sister would like. She ended by telling him that Jingle had indeed arrived at our house and that she thought he was really silly.

Here's our official mall photo. Notice missing boot.

4. Picking out and decorating our tree
The 'big' kids went with Chad to pick out our Christmas tree. This has been a tradition ever since Mary Ella was a baby. I have to admit though, this was the first year I've been sooo tempted to get an artificial tree. The pine needles + a mobile baby + sap + having to supply our own lights = lots of extra work. But the house smelled wonderful and as far as I can tell, no pine needles were ingested by the little one.  These pictures were taken the night they brought the tree home. I'll have to come back and post more later of the actual tree 'hunt.' Those pictures are on Daddy's phone.

5. Family Night - Waffle House, Carousel and Train Rides
We decided to get out one night in the blistering cold because Mary Ella had been begging to ride the carousel at the mall; she'd heard from a friend at school that the carousel animals "magically turned into reindeer" when Santa arrived, so she was dying to see if that was, in fact, true. We met Daddy at Waffle House (maybe a new tradition?), ate breakfast for dinner, and then headed to the Galleria for carousel and train rides. Luckily we'd already finished our shopping at this point and didn't have to go into any stores and fight the crowds.

While the other two were napping, I gave Mary Ella an at-home manicure. Her color/pattern choices were purple, red and lime green, and alternating stripes and polkadots.  That's my girl.

My dolls in their Christmas dresses. Hoping they can wear these again next year.

Emma Kate's first Waffle House experience. Scattered, covered and smothered, please.

Carousel time. It was true - all reindeer!

The train was a bonus. Super fun for all 3.

6. Christmas with the Compound Crew
We had our annual 'compound crew' Christmas get together at my aunt Vicki's house. Our family is getting too big to meet at my grandparents' house, and Vicki lives at the top of Green Mountain in Huntsville, so it always feels like we're on a little getaway when we go there. Most everyone spent the night, but we drove up Saturday morning and spent the day with everyone. We ate our traditional Christmas meal of finger foods (dips galore, boiled shrimp, chicken fingers, wings, chocolate chex, and plenty of sweet tea and diet coke) and also had our traditional penny auction. We decided to only let the kids draw names for gifts this year. Sam received a medieval knights and dragons play set from cousin Jack and Mary Ella got a new Barbie doll from Gracie. Emma Kate got a musical glowing sea horse from Hudson. My grandparents are always too generous on Christmas and gave everyone a gift as well. Grandmother bought Betsy, Ashley and me a new charm for our Pandora bracelets; I got an elephant!
After opening gifts we spent the rest of the day hanging out with cousins; the men shot dart guns and played bocce ball outside, the kids played with their gifts and Jack's remote control car outside, and later Aunt Vicki and Amanda took the little kids to see Christmas lights. We had a fun day.

Chad and my little (well, not little; younger, I should say) cousin Brooks

Grandmother got a new laptop. I'm trying to convince her to start a blog.

Playing outside

Snow bunny on the porch

Auction time!

7.  Christmas with Mimi, Poppa, Lanie and Bubba
We left Huntsville late Saturday night and headed to Florence. We spent Sunday with my parents and my other grandparents.

Mary Ella and her baby horse.

Mom and Dad bought me a Silhouette! Ah! So pumped.

Emma Kate with her new shape sorter.

Chad got new boots and lots of other goodies.

Gracie and Emma Kate

Mary Ella's favorite gift, by far, was her Dream Light. Although she never mentioned it to Santa, it was, apparently, "the only thing she's ever wanted in her life."
She's been singing the infomercial theme song, and has undoubtedly confused the words, unless it really does say "honorary dream light" at the end of the song.  (??)

Watching Gracie and Uncle Buzz open the Cabbage Patch.

Chad's new fishing reel from his awesome wife.

8. Christmas with the Morgan Crew
We spent Christmas Eve with the Morgans. We opened lots of gifts from our MeMama, Grandaddy, Ace and our sweet cousins and ate Taco Soup and chicken enchilada casserole. Mary Ella and Sam each received their first PlayMobil play sets and have been playing with them nonstop. Definitely may have to add a few of these sets to our collection. They are just as fun to build and set up as they are to play with. MeMama bought us the park set as well as the animal hospital. We love them. They received a lot of other sweet gifts too and we had fun hanging out with everyone for the day.

9. Santa
Santa came on Christmas Day and brought some special surprises for the kiddos. Mary Ella received her vanity and little sister got one too. They also both got a new baby doll and some accessories. Mary Ella loved her Rapunzel wedding dress and her walkie talkies as well as her pretend hair tools. Sam received some new Toy Story cars, blocks, crayons and a new drawing pad, and some puzzles and books. Their stockings held plenty of small surprises too, including flashlights, which were a hit.

(Santa did a good job of hiding her vanity behind 2 princess gowns. It took her about 10 minutes to realize she had indeed gotten her vanity.)

Mary Ella woke up first so we had to get the other two up. Emma Kate was like, "" and Sam was just plain mad. He refused to look at the camera.

10. Our Disney Surprise!
We'd been thinking about doing a Disney trip for a while now. Our initial thoughts were that we would go next fall (October/November) when Emma Kate was walking. But then I received an e-mail from my Disney vacation planner about some winter deals for January-March and when I ran it by Chad he was on board, so we ran with it and planned a trip. (Sam goes for FREE since he is under age 3; another reason why we are going sooner than later!) I cannot wait. We'll be on the dining plan and staying in the parks (and thanks to SkyMiles we are also going to be able to fly, which is going to be huge since our kids are so little). And the best part is that we are taking my parents with us! I wanted to keep it a complete surprise, but for logistical reasons I pretty much had to tell my Mom to make sure she could get off work and would actually want to go. (And if she didn't want to go I had to be sure she'd be willing to make all of my kids' outfits for the trip - ha!) Of course she wanted to go and I knew my Dad would be thrilled as well. We were going to keep it from him until the night before the trip, but after Christmas it was just too much to keep a secret. So we decided to tell Dad and the kids all at once. Mom helped me write a short poem and we wrapped up some Mickey balloons in a big box as well as some Mickey and Minnie PJ's. You can go here to see the video of them opening the gift - Dad's reaction is hilarious - but here's the poem we wrote and a few pictures I took afterwards.

(The top note was on the outside of the box, and the bottom notes were attached to the balloons inside.)

I hope every one of you had a magical, memorable Christmas.

And I'll leave you with this quote, which I found to be so encouraging after feeling like everything was rushed and traditions were skipped and I was behind on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g...

I still have so much to be thankful for this holiday season. 
I don’t have everything checked off my Christmas list, and I haven’t been able to do all the traditions that I love right before Christmas, but I will still celebrate.
Cause Christmas is WAY more than presents, more than traditions, more than spending time with family and friends, more than a spirit of cheer, more than holiday tunes, more than any of that.

Christmas is about God’s great love for us.  So great, that He came to earth as a baby to live and die and to demonstrate His love for us.
He is our Joy during times of pain.
He is our Strength when we are weak.
He is our Hope when we think we have none.
He is our Peace in times of turmoil.
Those are the gifts I am celebrating this Christmas.

-From Traci at BeneathMyHeart-

Blessings to you for the new year!
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