Every year is the best ever

This afternoon, while lazily enjoying all our new goodies, I asked Connor if he had a good Christmas.  He answered with a resounding yes, and then added that every year is his favorite, and every year is the best ever.  That pretty much sums it up for me, too.  I love Christmas, and every year is better than the year before.  Right now we are right in the middle of the magical years, and it is so much fun.  Yesterday was a little nuts, as it always is.  But today has been wonderful!

I have lots of pictures to share, of course.

Our tree this year.  It’s a little crooked, the star would never sit straight, and it’s a little shorter than I would like it to be.  But it’s served it’s purpose well, and I have grown to love the festivity of this little guy.

Our family, last night.  I set the camera up on a timer and took 2 photos.  This was the first one, and I couldn’t believe it!  Everyone cooperating?  It’s a Christmas miracle!

Putting the kids to bed last night was remarkably easy!  I think they were all fast asleep by 8:30.  Everyone knows that Santa can’t come to your house until everyone is asleep.  That was good enough for the kids, and they went right to bed.  Derek and I were able to catch up on the last few episodes of Homeland (are you watching Homeland?  So good!  A new favorite for sure.) and we worked as busy little elves getting everything set up.   I always have the hardest time falling asleep on Christmas eve, and last night was no exception.  I heard the kids rustling around a little before 7:00, which is pretty much what I expected.  We’ve had enough Christmases in this house and the kids are old enough to know the routine.  They can’t come out into the living room until we give them the go-ahead.  Then it’s pretty much a free-for-all to see what presents Santa brought.  Santa always leaves his presents by the fireplace in our house, while the tree is in the dining room with all our gifts to each other.  The kids tore into their stockings, squealing and exclaiming and laughing.  I love it.

I promise that Logan was thrilled with his present.  I have no idea why he was looking so sad!

Santa Claus might have a friend with older girls who no longer played with this.  It’s going to get tons of use at it’s new home!

After Santa gifts, we always move into the dining room for the rest of the presents, which we take turns opening one at a time so we can all watch and enjoy.  I was so excited about this part, specifically giving Derek his present!  Derek had no idea what I had gotten him.  I hid it in Connor’s closet and filled Connor in on the surprise.  It was a team effort to keep it a surprise.  One night a few weeks ago, Derek saw the package in Connor’s closet and asked C about it.  C calmly told him that it was something for Logan and I didn’t want to put it under the tree yet, which was the cover story we came up with together.  I should probably be concerned with how easily Connor lied to Derek, but I was so proud of him for keeping the Christmas surprise!   I’ll definitely be praying that Connor doesn’t have any repeat lying performance in the years to come.  I know he felt extra special and big knowing exactly what was inside the huge box.  So about halfway through the presents, the boys and I went back to get the gift.  We were all so excited about it!

He was so surprised!  Success!

Derek used to play the guitar all the time, and was in a band back in college.  He recently pulled out his guitar and started playing again.  He jokingly said he wanted a Taylor guitar when I bugged him about what he wanted for Christmas if he could have anything in the world.  Turns out the world is his this year.  It was so fun to surprise him with this!

Camryn was happy to pose for a picture in her sparkly pink Toms and her very first Cabbage Patch Kid.

And in her new matching baby and me outfit.

After opening the presents, the kids quickly retreated to their rooms to play.  Logan started on one of his Legos.

Connor started on his K’Nex roller coaster

And Camryn got to work rearranging her house and people.

After church, we came home and spent some time playing with their new outside toys.  Connor got a new scooter.

Logan got a new bike that he can make spin out and do 360s.  It looks like tons of fun!

And Camryn got a big girl bike.  It floors me that she is big enough for a bike like this.  Wasn’t she just born?!

It was a wonderful day.

I don’t know if this ever happens in your house, but sometimes Christmas traditions are really built up in my head as a wonderful, magical thing and in reality, it’s just not so fabulous.  For us, decorating the Christmas tree is one of those things.  In my mind, we happily decorate the tree while listening to Christmas music with a fire warmly crackling in the background.  After decorating the tree, we all cuddle and drink hot chocolate, soaking in the magic of the season the the love of our family.

That is so not how it goes.

Decorating the Christmas tree is fun for about 30 seconds.  Then someone is fighting, someone is crying, someone is bored, an ornament is broken, and it all goes downhill from there.  So this year, I just decorated the tree all by myself (with the Christmas music playing, of course) while everyone was off at school.  I think the kids were actually more excited about coming home that day to a tree filled with their handmade ornaments than the would have been to participate.  I’m letting the Christmas tree decorating fantasy go, at least for a little while.

Baking Christmas cookies is another one of those things that’s a little more magical in my head than in reality. I grew up decorating Christmas cookies each and every year, and it’s one of my favorite childhood Christmas traditions.  I think I’ve attempted it a few times with my own kids, but it never ends well.  I decided this year I wanted to try again, mostly because Camryn has shown a great interest in all things having to do with the kitchen.  She loves to “help” which is pretty opposite of how my boys have been in the past.

The cookie adventure was a two day process.  Day one: make the dough.  Logan was happily playing at a friend’s house, and Connor was happily playing with his rubix cube (which is a topic that deserves a post of it’s own.)  Making the dough was a project just for the girls.

It was a very serious undertaking.

Camryn helped pour in all the ingredients.

And she kept a careful eye on the mixing progress.

She also took on the ever important job of taste-tester.  (I helped with that part, too.  I love the dough more than I love the cookies.)

We wrapped the dough, and popped it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Enter Logan.

Camyrn was taking a nap, and Connor was happily playing a video game.  But Logan wanted to help cut out the cookies and bake them.

He took his job pretty seriously.

Once Cami was up from her nap, it was time for the best part: decorating.

I love how they both stick their tongues out when concentrating.  I have so many pictures of me as a kid doing the same thing.

Their first decorated cookies.

I think what I’m probably forgetting as a kid is the fact that I could just decorate for a few minutes and then if I got bored, no big deal.  But when you’re the mom, you have to finish the project.  That means that I was sitting at the table icing cookies long after the kids ran off.  And then there was the major clean up operation.

But all in all, it was just about as great as I remember.

Merriment all around

It’s a bit of a rite of passage to participate in a preschool Christmas program. Camryn’s new preschool does a big program on the big stage complete with fancy Christmas outfits. It was so cute! I was happy that Camryn happily agreed to wear her Christmas dress, tights, and even little black mary janes instead of her standard purple converse or pink crocs. She looked adorable!

When she walked on the big stage, she looked a little shy and a little unsure of herself.  She finally found her little spot, but I could tell she was still a little unsure about this whole performing thing.

She spent part of the time singing and participating, part of the time watching the kids around her sing, and only once did I see her hike up her dress to pull up her tights.

But my favorite moment of the whole show was this little guy who did a killer air guitar to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.  It was seriously the greatest!  I wanted to take this spunky little guy home with me, but of course I didn’t since that would be totally creepy not to mention illegal.  But he really made the show, along with a little girl that held the final note a solid 4 beats after everyone else, and another little girl that asked her parents from the stage if “THEY LIKED MY SONG?!”

Bottom line?  I love preschoolers.  I love my preschooler.  And I loved the 2011 Christmas program.

12 Years

12 years ago, I was 19.  Almost 20.  Not that it makes any sort of difference, really.  I was young, and even though I’m only 31 now (which I tell myself is still young), 19 is actually, really, truly young.  But I sure thought I was a grown up, felt like a grown up, and I was about to make a very grown up decision.  12 years ago, I walked down the aisle into the arms of this man, a man I was madly in love with, a man who loved me back, who loved God, who worked hard, who made me feel so safe, and who promised to love and cherish me for all of our days.

12 years ago, I never could have known what the future looked like.

I never could have known the number of tears that would fall that first year of our life together.  I never could have guessed how many nights he would hold me tight as I cried, drowning in homesickness, wishing more than anything that I could be with the man I love and be with my friends at college. But I could not have both, not they way I wished.  I had made my decision, my grown up decision to get married.

I never regretted my decision.  Never.  I knew even then that this man was something special.

12 years ago, I never could have known how much he would make me laugh.  I knew he was funny, and I knew I loved his sense of humor, but living together, walking through life together, raising our children together has made me appreciate his humor even more.

I never could have known how much would frustrate me at times.  I had no idea just how smart he was, or how information just sits in that brain of his, waiting for the perfect moment to rise to the surface which pretty much means that he’s never wrong.

12 years ago, I couldn’t have predicted how much my heart would explode as I watched him cradle our first son, our second son, and our first daughter.  I knew he was a patient man (oh, do I need a patient man by side.)   But to watch that patience translate into fatherhood is nothing short of amazing.

12 years ago, I made the best decision.  I chose him then, and I choose him still today.

I love you, Derek.

Oh Christmas Tree, version 4.0

For the 4th year in a row, we headed out to the farm to cut down our Christmas tree. This is one of my very favorite traditions that we started back in 2008. Some things were more fun this year (like the fact that our kids are older and remember and love this tradition as much as I do), and some things were not quite as fun (like a cold front blowing in and us being completely under dressed.) Ah, the memories.

When we left out house, it was about 70 degrees. The kids were in shots and t-shirts, and in hindsight, that really is a little crazy since we were going in the afternoon, and it was pretty cloudy and rainy. I knew a cold front was headed our way, but I thought we had a few days left before it arrived. I was wrong. When we arrived at the farm, it was 53 outside! We were 30 minutes away from the nearest wal-mart. Dewberry Farm has a little gift shop, so I ran in there, fully prepared for all of us to sport some Dewberry Farm sweatshirts (oh, how I prayed they sold something like that!) The sweetest employee had an even better idea. They have a huge pile of lost and found jackets, and it only took a little digging to find one for each of the kids. Luckily Derek had thought to bring his jacket, so he and I took turns with that one.

Of course, while the kids were running around and playing, it really wasn’t too bad for them. They love to play on all the things at Dewberry Farm! Unfortunately, it had rained that morning, and there was more rain in the forecast so all of the extra fun stuff (ziplines, huge slide, bikes, and huge bouncy pillow things) were all closed. The disappointment really didn’t last long, thankfully. One of my children sometimes has a hard time adapting if things don’t go the way he was expecting..no naming names, of course.

These big spinning and swinging balls are always a huge hit.

And so is are the rope swings, which Camryn was able to play on for the first time.  She is such a big girl!

There is the big playground,

the big black tubes,

This puzzle/maze thing,

And of course just flat out running like crazy.

Finally we convinced the kids to stop playing long enough to take the ride out to the fields to pick our tree.  It was a chilly ride for Connor.

And a very serious time for Camryn (her seriousness was calling for me to turn it to black and white.)  Last year she was pretty terrified on the wagon ride.  This year she sat like such a big girl.  Yet another example of how much she is growing up!

Once we got to the field, Logan discovered this little tiny tree on the ground, and they let him take it home.  It totally made his day.  In fact, that little tree is now in a mason jar of water and decorated with a few ornaments.  It has a special note under it that reads “Dear Santa Claus, put Logan’s presents undr the litl tree.”  So cute.  I love how you can tell exactly where he stopped asking me how to spell the words.  I love first grade phonetic spelling.

The kids were fine with the cold temperature when they were running around and playing like crazy.  But out in the open field, it was cold!  One of my children (not naming any names, of course) doesn’t ever, ever suffer quietly.  We quickly settled on a tree that is definitely not the prettiest or the biggest that we’ve ever had.  But it works.  (can you see how many of the trees are brown behind us?  The poor trees did not fare so well with the crazy drought we’ve had.  We pretty much chose this tree because it was green, even if it is only 6 ft. tall.  And, as we discovered once we got it home and into our stand, pretty darn lopsided.)

Derek had lots of little helpers cutting it down this year.

We took a little walk back to the front of the farm, stopping for a few pictures along the way.  The picture of sullen Connor in the second picture makes me laugh.

And now it feels like Christmas.  I love the family picture we take every year.

Thanksgiving, Part 2

I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since Thanksgiving!  It has gone by so fast.  Just a few more things to post about Thanksgiving…I’m really going to try and do better with blogging.  I miss it!  And I feel like I am forgetting so many things because they aren’t written down anywhere.

Thanksgiving morning, Logan, Connor, Derek and I woke up bright and early and headed to Ft. Worth a Turkey Trot.  Logan did the 1k and I loved watching him cross the finish line with D.

Soon after Logan’s race, Connor and I headed to the start of the 5k race where we met up with Cindi and Madison.  This was Connor’s first 5k and the farthest he has ever run at once.  He did great, finishing 4th in his age group with a time of 32:12!  I finished just a bit after him at 33:24, which I was pretty happy with considering I cannot remember the last time I ran 3 miles.  I’ve been pretty good about working out (well, minus the last 2-3 weeks…things got crazy with the business and working out is always the first to go.  Well, maybe it’s the second to go behind cooking.)  My point: while that’s not really fast, I was happy that I ran the entire time and even though I haven’t been running with my workouts I seem to be in okay shape.  I won’t talk about how sore I was the next day.  Or the fact that my mom has a two story house and those stairs were the death of me and everyone could hear me and my grunts with each and every step.  Sometimes it’s crazy to me that at one point I had actually conditioned my body to run 26 miles!

All in all, it was a really fun, crowded, and crazy experience.  There were tons of people there!  I was very thankful that Connor had Madison to run with, and that we had set up a specific meeting place for Connor to find Derek.  I snapped this picture near the beginning of the race.  I could not believe how many people were there!  When Cindi asked us if we wanted to do a Turkey Trot, I had no idea it was such a huge event.

We were happy to all find each other at the end.

Like I mentioned before, we spent the rest of Thanksgiving day at Derek’s grandparent’s house with his parents, his aunt, uncle, and cousin.  It was such a relaxing day, just at it should be!

This year, Patrick and Noel were in Texas for Thanksgiving, and it was so great to hang out with them.  One morning (and my memory is getting so bad that I can’t even remember which morning this was), Noel suggested that she and Cami play the quiet game.  Camryn was dead serious about it!  It was the funniest thing ever!  She sat quietly for so long.  I’m telling you, she’s good.  She would hands down win against Connor and Logan. I had to take some pictures of their game.

And finally, Cami broke down and said something.

The kids also got to spend some time with some of their cousins.  That’s always so much fun.  I am so thankful for these guys, and I’m so glad that we get to see them every time we go to Arlington!

Oh, you noticed the giant band-aid on Connor’s head?  Yeah, that’s a fun story.  Derek and I had to run out on an errand (oh my word!  My memory is SO BAD.  I cannot even remember why we weren’t at my parent’s house!  Had we taken Logan to the park?  Yes, I think that’s what it was.)  Anyway, we came home and found my mom butterfly-ing Connor’s head closed.  He walked smack into a wall.  Just stood up, turned around, and BAM.  Right into the corner.  After texting James a picture (love having a doctor in the family!), he thought we should go have it glued together.  We spent an hour at the urgent care and left with what I now refer to as the worlds most expensive tube of neosporin.  The doctor looked at it and said it didn’t need any stitches or anything (actually, I think he called it a “scratch”.)  It’s healing up fine, but I still disagree with the doctor’s decision!  It continued to bleed off and on for several more days before finally closing up enough to stop oozing.  Connor’s pretty excited about his little battle wound.  It looks sort of like a Harry Potter scar.

One night (Saturday?  I think it was Saturday.), we even got to go out!  There were 10 of us in all, and it was so much fun.  We ate a yummy dinner (although I probably would have enjoyed the dinner more if I hadn’t stuffed my face with my second In ‘n Out burger of the week just a few hours prior.)  The real highlight of the night was going back to Staci’s house after and staying up late playing Loaded Questions.  Now THAT is a fun game, especially with the right crowd.  I learned things I never even knew I needed to know about these guys.  I have not laughed that hard in so long.  It was full on tears, risk-of-wetting pants kind of laughter.  It was good for my soul.

(picture borrowed from Staci’s blog.)

We ended up leaving after lunch on Sunday.  I just couldn’t resist my mom’s flank steak plus a little more time with Patrick and Noel and one more game of Nertz with Cindi.  Even though we got home late, it was well worth it.  What a fabulous week.