Wednesday, December 9

It's Beginning to Look alot like Christmas....

And that makes me so happy! I love driving around and seeing everyone's houses decorated, and I especially love how excited my kids get if we are ever out at night. The gaudier the displays, the better as far as they're concerned. We're making hot chocolate daily and listening to quite a few Christmas tunes, too.... who cares if it's 70 degrees outside.... we're gonna get in the spirit anyway!

I thought I'd share a few photos of our house decorated..... I'm still planning to add some real greenery along with the fake stuff but somehow I haven't gotten around to it yet. It always looks so much prettier with a few magnolia leaves and holly branches thrown in. The Christmas tree, on the other hand, is quite real and just about to do me in..... 5-6 hours of stringing lights! I'm more ready than ever to cash in those evergreen branches for a beautiful plastic replica! I've always sworn I never would, but I guess you should never say never.

Here's the tree.... I had to move a bunch of furniture to make room for it, but I like it so much better in the den than when we used to have it on the front of the house in Jonathan's office.
Most of the gifts are ready, but of course, that makes the "PLLLLEEEEEEEASE can I open just ONE?????" from Jacob a wee bit annoying..... not to mention the puppy seems to like to eat frilly ribbons and bows.... ALOT.

Here's a shot of the dining room

The den mantle

The kitchen chandelier

The dining room mirror

Another display..... I love my angel

More dining room.....

And the girls opening another days' advent calendar surprise

And our favorite tradition..... decorating the gingerbread houses. This year I went a little crazy and decided to do 2 houses, a train and a village of little houses, too. Yikes! It was 2 FULL days of work, but I love coming into the kitchen and seeing it every day. It reminds me of all the great gingerbread houses my grandmother made when I was little.

Here's Maddie after her shower adding a few touches to her house.

And Ta-dahhhh!
The finished gingerbread village. Macy's designated each one as the school house, the playhouse for all the kids, the library, the church, the dentist's office, grandma's house, etc. I really love Jacob's train..... we've never done that one before, although I felt a little queasy smelling the black licorice train track. Oh, how I loathe licorice.

Here are Maddie's schoolhouse and Macy's playhouse for the kids.... they actually did quite alot of it themselves. But I have to admit.... I just can't give up full control. I wish I could let them do whatever they want but I'm just not there yet.... Mama's too much of a perfectionist I guess.

Here's a shot looking down the road through the little village

Jacob did alot more eating the candy than he did decorating with it.....
But, really.... should I expect anything more from a 4 year old?

And here's a close up of Jacob's gingerbread train..... Isn't it cute? Choo! Choo!

And this is what you find after a day's hard work making Christmas goodies,
yes.... Jacob asleep in Madison's toybox in her closet!
I couldn't find him anywhere and Madison went to help me.
She passed by her room and heard snoring.....
when she followed the sound, this is what she found.
How precious is that??

We're off to the mountains of North Carolina for a 4 day weekend..... can't wait!
I'll send some pictures.

Monday, December 7

An Advent Calendar

When I was a child, Christmas was truly my very favorite time of year. I loved everything about it.... especially how it seemed to make my family come together. My parents divorced when I was 10, but there were many, many years of turmoil between them before they split up (and many years after they split up, too!). Somehow though, the holidays always had a way of bringing them together and encouraging a temporary cease-fire. And therefore, I guess it brings back lots of great memories for me.

My mom was creative, and we had lots of traditions like making gingerbread houses and sewing special ornaments. I loved the music and the anticipation of opening all those gifts under the tree, and I especially loved the story my sister would tell me every year of waking up one night and hearing something on top of the house, and when she looked out, she saw Rudolph's nose shining in the black of night. I sooooooo believed her! I can remember waking up at 5:00am much to my parents' dismay..... back then it was so special to receive any kind of gift, and I could hardly wait to tear open the first package.

Ever since I've had my own children, I've tried to make the holidays a special time of year for them, too. This year I worked really hard in November to come up with lots of fun projects for them. And I created a little project of my own, too..... well, maybe not so little. It's an advent calendar for the kids to count down the days until Christmas. When I was a child, we would visit my mom's aunt every year for Thanksgiving, and there was a Christmas store in her town. I would buy an advent calendar there each year, and it was such a treat to open those little doors to find a new prize each day.

For years now I've wanted to make my own children an advent calendar to pass down and use each Christmas. So this year I got serious about it and came up with an idea to make a large countdown to display in the house. I scoured the stores for neat things I could cover with felt and hide prizes inside. Then I strung them all up on ribbons and attached a number to each of them. It was definitely ALOT more work than I anticipated, but now that I'm almost done, it was well worth the 100 hours or so it took to make. Here's a picture of the final result (well, except for day 21 which I still haven't gotten around to making!). If you click on the photos, you can see the a larger image.
Here it is hanging in the den. The kids wake up each morning and can't wait to find their prizes. Sometimes it's just a piece of candy.... sometimes it's a small prize....
and sometimes it's a piece of candy with a note about an activity we'll do that day.
It's been fun, and of course the kids are loving it.

Here are Maddie and Macy on the first morning about to open their prizes

There are stockings and ornaments, gingerbread men and houses, drums,
books, gifts and more all with prizes hidden inside.

Here are some close-up shots. I loved making all the gingerbread houses.... especially the church. The roof lifts up on one side to open the house up so the kids can find their prizes.

It was a huge project, but you could make it a little easier if you wanted to make one. I've seen small stockings at the Dollar Store or small gift boxes that you could string up, put a number on, and fill with treats. I even saw some cute knitted mitten ornaments that would be great to string up -- the possibilities are endless so have fun making one of your own -- your kids will LOVE IT!

Sunday, May 17

The Wonderful World of Disney

Disney is a little like childbirth....

It sounds so magical.... you can't wait for the day to finally come.... then it does and you can't believe how much pain is involved..... and when it's all over, just like in childbirth, you soon forget all the bad and cherish only the really good parts....

I love Disney. Love it. We couldn't have asked for a better week with the weather, and BEST OF ALL.... Jacob was amazing!! He rode everything. I mean EVERYTHING!! Thank goodness he's just over the 40" height requirement for almost every big ride, so he was a trooper and rode right along side all of us. That made the week so much more fun.... no waiting with Jacob while the parents do the ride trade-off.

And except for a few fights with one another, the girls did really well, too. They've grown up alot since we were there 1 1/2 years ago. Madison, normally my scaredy-cat, rode just about everything, too. We couldn't have packed in any more fun..... full days at all the parks, then dinner and more fun at Downtown Disney at night. The Lego Imagination Center and Disney Quest, a 5 story arcade with all the latest technology, were the kids' favorites. And they loved the water parks, too.

I took over 350 pictures, so I posted quite a few.... enjoy our trip with us if you will.....

The kids' posing in a great white shark jaw at Typhoon Lagoon

Jacob taking a rafting ride by himself at Typhoon Lagoon

Madison snorkeling with sharks, stingrays and lots of fish at Typhoon Lagoon

Jonathan and Macy snorkeling in the shark tank, too

Maddie and me at Animal Kingdom by the Tree of Life

Macy & Maddie stopping to pose with the gorilla carving at Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom Parade

Daddy & Jacob watching the parade

Jacob & Macy snacking as usual...

Taking the safari ride at Animal Kingdom

Playing the bongos....

Strolling through the park

The kids riding Aladdin at Magic Kingdom

Jacob's been waiting 1 1/2 years to ride this one again!
It's the race cars at Magic Kingdom -- he loves to drive ALL BY HIMSELF

Madison & Macy take a break from walking for a while

The kids in front of the castle at dusk....
Jacob was not in the mood for a photo opp

Daddy & Maddie on the race cars

Outside of Buzz Lightyear.... Jacob wears that ride out!

The family castle shot

Loving the 3-D amazing Pirates of the Caribbean arcade game at Disney Quest

Another family shot at Epcot

Eating, eating and eating again!!!

Yikes!! More sharks!

Jacob keeping everyone laughing on the bus....

Maddie in front of Epcot with all the beautiful topiaries

Trolling through Epcot

The kids in Italy with their new puppets....

More topiaries at Epcot.... they were amazing!

Jacob's "Lego Land" as he kept calling it.... yes, that's a lego robot!

And more huge lego displays

And every kind of Lego piece you could imagine!

More Lego robots

And one of our favorites, lunch with Tigger,
Pooh, Eeyore & Piglet at the Crystal Palace

Me & Madison pigging out with Piglet

Macy sliding at our hotel pool

Jonathan and the kids playing in the pool at our hotel

Pooh laughing about how much he and Daddy look alike...

Outside of Lego Land making their own lego masterpieces

You've gotta go to this place at Downtown Disney!!

And the coolest of all, our dinner at the new T-Rex Cafe. We were lucky enough to be seated in the ice cave.... an absolutely unbelieveable replica of a prehistoric ice cave with dinosaur fossils and lots of sound and lighting effects.

The ice cave where we ate

Every few minutes the cave would change colors like this...

Maddie & Macy drinking their bone drinks at T-Rex

More T-Rex Cafe... the animatronics were mind boggling

One of many dinosaurs in the restaurant, and they moved and roared loudly too!

The Ocean Room at T-Rex Cafe

More rides at Disney Quest

Macy racing the motorcycles

Macy & Daddy at Crystal Palace

Posing with Tigger

Macy couldn't wait to take a picture with her favorite characters, Chip & Dale

The kids with their new tattoos at Hollywood Studios

And Jacob's other favorite, the stunt show at Hollywood Studios

It was rare to get a picture of Jacob smiling.... he was too busy having fun to stop for the camera

Jacob pretending he's saving the universe at Hollywood Studios

And another favorite, dinner at Chef Mickey's with all the characters

Finally, a shot with Mickey

And another smiling shot of Jacob with Minnie

Jonathan and I had such a great time spending a whole week together with the kids. He was very sweet to give up his birthday trip to take us to Disney. Love ya, babe!