T Rex Family

T Rex Family

Thursday, January 2, 2014

December Activities - Part VI - Miss M's visit...

In a previous posting of the December Activities series, I mentioned the gifts Hubby gave me for Christmas. I had two things on my wish list - fly my childhood friend up for a visit and to go see The Hobbit. (Baby was my everything gift for 2013 but he insisted on getting me something despite my protests.)

It has been nearly 10 years since my friend, Miss M (I've always addressed her with a Miss before her name), has been up to visit me here. Once we met up in Delaware when I was traveling on business but that was 8 years ago and 5 children ago. At that time she had two little boys aged 2 and 3 and I was without children. Now she has 4 children and I have 3. We met in junior high, attended high school and even a bit of college together. We have much in common both having a background in piano, although, she is a full blow music teacher now. I went a different direction into health care. Still, we both have a love of piano music. She was also a string bass player in high school and college. 

Actually for Christmas I gave her two matching necklaces - one with a treble clef and one with a bass clef. She was to choose which one she wanted and return the other to me. In the end she chose the bass clef but I know it was a tough decision for her. I wanted some special friend jewelry for her gift but could not decide which to choose. I will proudly wear the treble clef necklace and always think of her while I do so.

We have had lots of adventures through the years - too many to document here. We both used to be world class cookie bakers. I actually cannot believe I did not take a photo of our 12 dozen cookie baking extravaganza during her visit. We did not intend to bake so many. Let's just say we're out of practice and had to make that many if we did not want to start over.

It was such a great gift to have her fly in Christmas day. We started her her visit with a big feast of turkey, roast beef, and tamales. (She loves Mexican food.) That night we stayed up until 2 am talking into the wee hours of the morning.

The following day while I took the kids to the library I dropped her off at the salon - she has never had her hair done at a salon. She was very excited to have the experience.

The next day she hung out with the kids (they LOVED her - I never had a doubt) and they played a lot including some of the games they received for Christmas as well as making sushi out of clay. I took her by my office so she could see where I work and we did some regular things like shop for groceries. I must say it was nice having the extra help - like having a second me around. She's used to a house full of kids so she was very helpful and understanding of the chaos. In fact, she offered to watch the kids while Skip and I went to see The Hobbit! It was wonderful knowing our kids were in such great hands. She brought an air popper for popcorn and they had a good time popping corn and watching Despicable Me 2. Later that night the kids fell asleep and we stayed up watching Mickey Blue Eyes - she had never seen it and it's one of my personal favorite comedies - just appeals to my sense of humor. The Hobbit was fun but I enjoyed the home movie better.

The Saturday she was here we had a girls' day out including pedicures, lunch at Cheese Cake Factory, and shopping. We left the boys behind and my sister and mom joined us. Great fun. We found some nice clothes both casual and work 

Sunday was a quiet day with plenty more chatter before she took off the next day. We also baked cookies that day and strung beads with the kids.

Having lots of experience with her own babies, she was our baby whisperer while visiting. She often took the evening fussy time so I could get chores done or just have a break. It was great. Baby loved her and I know Miss M enjoyed the baby snuggles.

Such a great trip - it took no time at all (literally) to reconnect. We've stayed in touch all these years and still exchange birthday and Christmas packages every year. I am grateful for her friendship and that we have stayed in touch despite distance, life changes, and lots of kids. Thanks to my Hubby for setting it all up and thank you Miss M for making the trip and sharing the holidays with us. It was truly the best Christmas ever with the kids being such a great age and having my dear friend for a visit.

This concludes the December Activities Series. Thanks for another year of sharing our adventures with us. We wish you all the best in the new year with much happiness and success to come this 2014.

December Activities - Part V - Winter Garden-a-Glow...

 It was simply the perfect night to visit the Winter Garden-a-Glow.

There was freshly fallen snow which makes the evening a bit brighter and the lights more spectacular. It was cold but we dressed for it. 

The designs are always a bit different so every year there is something new to see. There are still our traditional favorites to visit - model trains, reindeer, bell, and snacks (sugar cookies and hot cider). 

It was a busy night and we had quite the hike from our van but we survived and actually had a pretty great time. When we arrived home the kids saw their snowman surprise ending a great evening.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

December Activities - Part IV - Christmas...

We had a lot to accomplish on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Eve was filled with visiting family - first my family in the morning (remember the gingerbread house decorating?) followed by Hubby's family. Now, Hubby just started a new job in October so he has no vacation time yet so he took a long lunch to stop by his parents and celebrate with the rest of us. The visits were nice.

We made it home in time to eat dinner and make gingerbread cookies. I tried to take a short cut and use candy molds instead of cutting out the people. It did not go so good - I made them too thick. The ones I shaped and dropped onto the sheet worked out. The kids insisted on making "Captain Cookie" and the other gingerbread pirates. It's from a book we have - in case you are wondering about the reference. Of course, we watched "A Charlie Brown Christmas" while the cookies cooled and before we decorated them. Alas, Hubby was on call and ended up having to go into work for an hour. He did manage to make it home in time to tuck in the kids. They went right to sleep and were very excited for Santa's visit. Hubby and I were pretty exhausted from all the preparation not just for gifts but also for my friend's visit - she was arriving on Christmas day.

Christmas morning the stockings were full and the tree was surrounded. (Oh we did all sleep in until 8:30 - what a treat!) T received some great things from Santa including the Ninja Turtle set and turtles he asked Santa for, plus a special surprise of some minions in a game. He also received the "non-Lego" action figures he requested to go with his awesome castle. He has been having quite a lot of battles of recent, as you can imagine. A non-Santa gift and a most favorite toy was the Yoda pillow. He has not been able to sleep without it.

Sister was excited by all the Barbies - lots and lots of Barbie clothes and Barbies - as well as a Ken doll. Santa did good but not as good as Aunt Shelley and Uncle Rich with the Barbie RV - let's just say that thing has seen a lot of action of late, too. It's such a cool gift I keep playing with it! Some amazing clothes that Santa's elves must have worked hard on, too. My mom made an amazing cradle set for Sister - you can see from the photo she loved it. 

Even Baby Sister had a visit from Santa.

I insisted to my sister that she not get the kids toys as they already had way too much (she was a bit disappointed by this). Instead I mentioned the clothes they needed, but instead of buying one thing off the list, they bought everything on the list so the kids are well stocked in clothes - especially the baby. She has so many amazing outfits. It's been like playing dress up with her. Even T has some rockin' clothes. Sister received some charming silver sparkly boots. So cute I had to get a pair for me, too! (in black - with the gift card Hubby gave me).

Hubby gave me some amazing gifts - more on one of those in the next posting. But my favorite is my "everything gift" from 2013 - our baby daughter. I've told him when I have a baby, that year no gifts are needed. Well, he never listens so I still had some packages wrapped under the tree (including a yellow umbrella - if you watch "How I Met Your Mother" you'll understand as he calls me his yellow umbrella girl) and another that arrived on Christmas but the baby is still my favorite. She contently slept in her cradle while we unwrapped packages. Even my staff at work spoiled me with lovely things. Mostly, though, the cards and kind words they wrote were warming to my heart. It makes me excited to be back to work next week.

No photos of Hubby's stuff - lots of eclectic aviation books and a few movie items. I did get him a gift card to a local running store for new running shoes. Sister thought we were getting him a mug and pen as that's what I wrapped the card in. Funny girl. She has not figured out gift cards yet.

T has been working on his gift at school for many months. The teacher and her staff have done a great job hiding their work and we were blown away when we opened it. The photo is of the outside packaging. We cried as we opened his gift - a calendar with each month being an art project utilizing his hands. It was quite amazing and something we will cherish forever. Plus, the look of pride on his face as he gifted it to us was also amazing. 

As I said, we are overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and family members. Our dear son reminded us that the wise men brought gifts to Jesus because they loved him and wanted to honor him and that's why we give gifts on Christmas. We are touched that so many would bestow on us their gifts as a token of love and honor. Thank you all.

T's stuff...

Sister's stuff...

Baby Sister's stuff...(love that stocking Nan gave her - only year we can use it as it says "Baby's First Christmas")

My stuff...

 T's special gift wrapped up in his own packaging...

December Activities - Part IIi - Frosty Surprises...

 For the past several years, actually since our son was just a little guy barely able to speak, he has asked for a giant blow up snowman for the yard. Then Sister came along and she joined the bandwagon of wanting a blow up something for the yard. They will insist every Halloween and Christmas we go by a certain house in the city (well out of our way) so we can see all the blow up things.

This year we are revamping all our lights and decor for the holidays. Most of our lights are old and dimming. We opted to upgrade. I hit the Wal-Mart clearance sale and got everything 30% off. Of course, I did have to stand in line for 2 hours and my groceries had to be re-rung after the initial bill was $950. Yes, I was pretty certain I had not spent that much and the only way to get it correct was to re-ring everything. It was about $800 less after all that - groceries and lights (more my budget). I must say, though, the lady at Wal-Mart was wonderful. I am used to suboptimal help there and she went above and beyond to help and was very patient and calm amidst all the holiday shopping craziness. So, Frosty nearly cost us $950 but it all worked out.

We arranged the surprise for the kids. While they and I were at birthday party, their dad stayed home and put up Frosty as well as some lights along the back fence. Our yard is on a rim so the folks in the valley can see our lights which is why we focus more on the back instead of the front. Oh, and we did not actually get our lights up until about a 5 days before Christmas, but we enjoyed them oh so much this year, especially the giant blow up snowman. (Have I mentioned how tough three kids is?)

So, after the birthday party, a quick trip to Chic-fil-a, and an outing to the Winter Garden-A-Glow (more on that later, too) we arrived home. Actually, the kids fell asleep on the long drive home. It had just freshly snowed so the roads were slick. It was one of the main reasons we wanted to go to the winter garden - so beautiful after a fresh snow. It's just dealing with the roads. Our van with its all wheel drive handled well, though. 

I stopped on the way home and woke the kids so they could see the surprise when we arrived home. As we pulled around the corner onto our street, the kids immediately spotted the 12 foot tall snowman. Then their dad jumped out from behind it and waved at them. The kids were elated and both had huge grins on their face. T just whispered to himself, "Thanks, Dad". Sister repeatedly exclaimed, "Oh, my goodness". It was a wonderful moment. If the roads were not so bad and I was not driving I would have tried to take a video. It was a great surprise and one I think they will remember always.

I must say, too, I've very much enjoyed the giant blow up snowman in the front yard. I cannot help but smile when I see him standing or should I say towering over the front yard.

December Activities - Part II - Gingerbread House

Just a brief snippet  - we managed to get the gingerbread house done right in time. On Christmas Eve I took over our Wonka kit to my sister's place and her son helped the kids. My sister and I did have to use the hot glue gun to get the main parts of the house to hold together as the frosting was so runny the candy barely stayed on. I think Sister eat more candy than she used for decorating. And what was Wonka thinking putting tiny Nerds candies in for use in decorating- they get everywhere. In the end it came together. Not as nice as some in years past but the kids mostly did it themselves and had a great time with their cousin Dede.