Christmas break visitors…

If anyone ever wants to come visit us after Christmas – our doors are open and our weather is on point!

This year Steve’s brother and his wife came for a visit and we had the best day hanging out on the couch, catching up and playing some games outside with the kids. We never get bored of their visits – always a new topic, always more laughing. My memory is a little fuzzy on this, but I’m pretty sure Hunter and I won this game of corn hole!

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

We also snuck away for a quiet dinner and a treat. We don’t seem to ever eat Thai food unless we’re with them – we make sure to make dinner a priority when they come to town. Just a little downtown fun! Never a dull moment.

Christmas Break 2017

Just two days later my brother and his wife came down from Utah to thaw out for a bit. We spent a lot of time outside and it was just lovely. Hiking, biking, parks, tennis, outside eating – the weather fully cooperated with all of our outdoor plans.

My sister-in-law has struggled with some knee issues so it’s been a really long time since we’ve been able to play spikeball with them. She still worked us even coming off a bum knee!

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Some of the kids are getting old enough to go on some more challenging adventures. They hiked camelback which is not a walk in the park. It’s steep. There’s boulders. It’s exhausting. They rocked it!

Christmas Break 2017

We went to a family improv club that the kids absolutely loved. We sat in the first row and they had several suggestions that made it to the stage. Not only that, I made it to the stage (it was the day before my birthday – three other ladies were also there near their birthdays and landed on the stage with me). Let’s be clear – I’m sarcastic and occasionally witty – which is nothing like improv. Those people have a talent I can’t begin to describe. It is extremely hard to think on your feet and be funny time and time again. We had a great time.

Christmas Break 2017 Christmas Break 2017

We re-created Hallie’s glow birthday party for a fun New Years Eve Eve – also known as my birthday. And you know what – they highlighters were just as popular the second go around!

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Twinsie cousins who couldn’t help but continue to build towers with the glow and the dark cups.

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

We brought in the new year with sparklers, dancing and too many noisemakers!

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

Christmas Break 2017

We miss our late night game sessions, but we’re doing fine without the late, late, late night talks!

Happy wall 2017…

This is always our last “Christmas” decoration to come down. I’m still not quite ready to see these lovely faces come down off the wall. I love walking by this wall multiple times a day and catching glimpses of family and friends that we don’t see near enough. It truly is my happy wall.

Happy Wall 2017

Christmas Day 2017…

Christmas morning in all its matching pajama glory!!

I’m not sure what time the kids actually got up, but we heard them about 7:15 walking loudly upstairs (they had strict instructions not to come down until we came to get them) so jumping around was their best way of waking us up.

The only thing on Christmas morning that comes from Santa is their stocking, which they came down and opened immediately. They were entertained for a little bit until they were ready to move on to presents.

Christmas Day 2017

Our present opening is a little crazy – but not chaotic. We open gifts one at a time, usually starting with the younger ones and working our way up. (Aside from Briggs, I make sure there is the same number of gifts, although the value may greatly differ). They each grab gifts from under the tree and wait until they get the okay that it’s their turn.

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

This year after the kids had opened two presents, we let them play while we got breakfast in the oven – sausage egg casserole prepped the night before and our traditional monkey bread. By the time we made it back to the living room my parents were on Skype and the kids opened their present from them. That Skype call was interrupted by Steve’s parents calling from Africa – with the time change and unpredictable internet we were glad to get a chance to see them on the computer.

The kids were not aware of this – but the money Steve’s parents would of spent on Christmas for the family this year (and also our gift to them), was actually donated to provide scholarships for a couple kids to attend school in Ghana. Steve’s parents explained this to our kids and told a story of how they came to know these kids while serving there. They are truly an example of service and love.

Christmas Day 2017

By the time we got done with the Skype call our breakfast was just coming out of the oven so we assembled back in the kitchen to fill some bellies.

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

By the time we made it back to the presents, it was after 10:30 and there wasn’t a single complaint. In fact, Hallie mentioned that she loved we were spreading our Christmas presents out over a longer period of time. We had no where to go so we enjoyed the moments.

Christmas Day 2017

Hallie was a little jealous of Cannon’s new blanket and she looked at me and said, “Are you sure you wrapped that in the right paper.” (We wrap all the kids presents in a single wrapping paper – it’s not until Christmas morning they learn what wrapping paper is theirs!) Hunter also had a are-you-sure-you-wrapped-that-in-the-right-paper moment when he saw Bennett opening a watch which is exactly what he had asked for. He looked a little sheepish when he found a similar small box under the tree with a watch just his size!

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

Perhaps Bennett’s most favorite gift from Christmas – a wolf Beanie Boo that he was so excited about when he opened it he rolled all around the carpet squealing with delight. Who knew $5 could buy such happiness!

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

Or the excitement of a box of Mr. Sketch smelly markers. He made a new lego box to take them to school and put them on his desk!

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

Our boys are to the stage that they had very similar gifts this year. I knew getting something for one of them and not the other was  not going end well. They both got a watch, Mr. Sketch markers and these cool little robots. They were the hit Christmas day as they raced them around the house and Hunter started coding his. They really are cool and I did so much research on code-able robots – I’ve got you covered if you have any questions. If you’re wondering – these were one of the very, very few that can work with a kindle as opposed to an apple or android device.

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

I would say in no time it was over – but that wasn’t the case. This mess was created over the course of several hours and it was so much fun. No crying or pouting and I know our kids are young so the bar is low – but we nailed it!! I love that they’re all so easy to please. I’m not looking forward to the teenage years when their expectations exceed budgets!

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

Christmas Day 2017

And yes – Hallie ended up with her own super soft and snuggly blanket so she didn’t have to steal Cannons!

Christmas Day 2017

This picture kills me – first of all he got that lego set done while we were prepping for breakfast and eating breakfast. Secondly, he doesn’t typically wear his hat backwards but for some reason he looks so old when he wears it like this! Every year I give him another Lego set I wonder – is this the last year he’s going to be interested Legos. Not the case this year!

Christmas Day 2017

It was a very merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve…

It always takes me some time after Christmas to finally upload pictures and go through them. Not only did I have a blogging hiatus over Christmas, I also didn’t sit at my computer. But I’m back and I’ve got pictures to prove that Christmas indeed took  place. First off: Christmas Eve.

Our faith doesn’t typically hold church services on Christmas or Christmas eve unless that day happens to fall on a Sunday which was the case this year. We were able to listen to touching music, testifying of our Savior’s birth. My favorite musical number happened to be instrumental and involved the most beautiful cello and piano arrangement. I love music and Christmas music can’t be beat!

After church pictures: Getting kids to look at the camera and smile is always a challenge!

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas eve is interesting for us. For many years – we were on our own in Milwaukee and we were surrounded by the most amazing friends we luckily call family. When we moved back we had family to celebrate with which was great. But a part of us liked our own little family together on Christmas eve with our own traditions. So often we gather as a extended family and we don’t see our children until we’re gathering them up to head home. But we wanted to be closer with them on Christmas eve, so a few years back we started doing our own thing as our little family unit. We often look for opportunities to invite others to join us that may be lonely or not have any family around. This year was no exception although our night was divided into three distinction sections.

In the afternoon, we went to a neighbor’s house to decorate cookies. They don’t have any little kids around and they don’t have family – they’ve built relationships with our kids and it was fun to be in their house for the afternoon. The award for most cookies decorated goes to Hunter. He never left the table – most the other kids decorated a few and then just wanted to eat the cookies!

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

From there, we went to our good friends’ house for dinner. A third family who is new to our neighborhood (and they don’t have family in town) also joined. The parents were both born and raised in Taiwan (they moved here from the bay area) and their life stories are fascinating, the more I learn of them and their family the more impressed I am. The hope is that we didn’t overwhelm them on Christmas eve with our 5 kids and our friend’s 6 kids! They did join us for a hayride around the neighborhood to enjoy the luminaries that everyone lights – I think it was a first for them and I think they really enjoyed it.

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

After the hayride, we made it back to our house for our traditional Christmas eve program. We invited a couple from our congregation who don’t have any grandchildren that live close. It was special to have them in our home with us. We opened Christmas jammies, acted out the nativity and then shared thoughts on our Savior and Christmas traditions. It was just long enough to be impactful and memorable.

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Steve closed out the evening with Twas the night before Christmas – a book his father read to him every Christmas eve.

Christmas Eve 2017

The kids went to bed later than usual, but they fell asleep quickly. And then it was quiet. We didn’t have much we needed to do which was amazing. It gave me time to enjoy the moment just a little bit longer.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

 

Sleeping under the tree…

Isn’t it every kid’s dream to sleep under the tree on Christmas eve?! I’m pretty sure my kids ask every year, and not once have I caved. They wake up early enough as it is without being right next to their stockings and all the presents not to mention they would never fall asleep. Nope. Not going to happen! But they’re getting older and it won’t be long before they stop asking to sleep by the tree – so my friend offered a suggestion: Let them sleep under the tree the night before Christmas eve. Almost as exciting and as magical but way easier on us!

We offered two surprises that night. They could open their sibling gifts (the gifts they purchased for each other) and they could sleep under the tree (which we later amended and said they could fall asleep by the tree but when we went to bed we would move them each to their own beds!) They were ecstatic. I mean parents-of-the-year-material ecstatic!

They each purchased a gift for the sibling just younger than them or in Briggs’ case his oldest sibling. They weren’t much, but they were perfect and everyone was perfectly happy with their little gift; a car, a memory game, a squishy, socks and letters for a letter board.

We read some Christmas stories with a fireplace burning on our TV screen. (That’s the only fire we were having in a fireplace in Arizona!) And the kids slowly drifted off to sleep, much faster than anticipated, some even clutching their gifts from earlier in the evening. It was quiet, the fireplace was crackling and the lights were mesmerizing. No wonder the kids ask to fall asleep by the tree. It is magical – so magical even I dozed off as I was watching the kids from the couch.

Its hard to tell from the picture but he’s got his beanie boo lion tucked under his arm, his new squishy is tucked under his chin and his stuffed snake is wrapped around his hand.

It’s safe to say our trial run sleeping under the tree was a success. Perhaps next year we will be even nicer parents and let them stay there the whole night! 🙂

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