Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Santa Visit and The Great Day of Parties

We did a lot of partying this Christmas season! First up, we went to my office to visit with Santa. My firm puts this on every year, and the same (very authentic) Santa is there each year. I wasn't sure if Holland would cooperate, and Mason was mostly there for the cookies, but we got the group together and off we went.

Waiting on the stairs to see Santa
Holland diligently wrote her letter to Santa, asking for an Elsa toy and a horse! That's a toy horse, by the way.
The lobby always has this awesome poinsettia tree display. We keep trying to get a good picture in front of it, but the lighting kind of stinks. This is the best we could do!
Daniel was ready with his request: he wanted a snowboard, and he made his wishes clear!

Holland, on the other hand, was not too thrilled to talk to Santa. She had her letter ready, and Santa read it, but Holland did NOT want to make eye contact with the man in the red suit.

Just don't look at me, Santa!
We got a quick family picture, although I don't think it's entirely in focus. I sure do love this Santa!
This year I am the room mom in both the boys' classes, and then I had volunteered to help with Holland's Christmas party, too. That's a lot of parties, and as luck would have it, they all fell on the same day! Yikes! That was a crazy day.

I collected donations from families in Daniel's class, as well as handmade cards, and then put together these gift card trees for his two awesome teachers. The parents were quite generous, which was really great. Those teachers are out of this world fantastic, and they deserve to be recognized for it.

I thought they turned out cute!
 Daniel's party was first: we made marshmallow shooters and then shot them:

My partner in crime, Lien, was in charge of snack. There are so many allergies in Daniel's class that the snack had to be super plain. We did popcorn and water, but they decorated their bags and bottles. Lien has such great ideas!

 Lien also managed the game, which involved drawing a snow man without looking. Ha!

Daniel and his very best friend, Ben. These two have been in class together for two years now. I love that they are friends! They are great for each other.
Quick selfie with my boy.
Next, it was on to Holland's preschool class. She had made this awesome handprint tree for us, which I loved:

 The kids played a snowball toss game:

They decorated sugar cookies (I made those!) with icing and sprinkles and even more sprinkles:

This is Holland and her best friend at school, Anderson. They play together all the time and I hear a lot about Anderson. They are two peas in a pod.

Anderson and Holland - good buds
Quick pic with my girl, before heading off to party #3.
Finally, I was off to Mason's party. In his class, I am a co-room mom.  The teachers had really wanted to decorate graham cracker houses, so that's what we did. I had put together a sign-up sheet using an online site, and parents volunteered to bring in icing, crackers, and toppings. We also had hot chocolate and snacks for the kids.

It turned out to be a little more difficult than we'd imagined! Houses were collapsing everywhere. Half the icing didn't show up, so we had to make do with what we had. I went around the room, trying to help keep walls up, etc. It was rather crazy and sugar-fueled. Those poor teachers! I was worried about leaving them with kids so hopped up. Oh well - it was their idea!!!

Mason's hose actually came together pretty well.
He was one of the VERY few who managed to build his house to completion, fully decorated. As you can imagine, all that candy was heavy and that house did not make it home. It collapsed shortly after this was taken. But I did manage to capture it, in all its glory! Nicely done, Mason!
Aaaand one last snap, with my biggest boy.
Silly shot!
This is what it looks like after you've been to three school holiday parties in one day. Man, did I ever need some ibuprofen.
Believe it or not, I wasn't done yet. I still had to go to my own office party, held as usual at Dave and Buster's, and coincidentally on this very same day! I somehow managed to drag myself there and eat a few appetizers, before I politely excused myself. What a day!

I love that my job is flexible so that I can be present for these moments in my kids' lives. It's why I'm not working full time/partner track. I don't want to miss these crazy, fun, chaotic days.

Christmas Recap Time

We spent Christmas Eve morning at Brandon's parents, enjoying a yummy brunch and hot chocolate bar.  We opened gifts and even had a little photo session with the kids/grandparents.  Then, we ran home to get our food ready for dinner at the Wallises' that evening.
This might be one of the better group shots we've ever pulled off!
Everyone likes a silly shot.
We don't know what was happening here, but this picture cracks us up! Daniel's face is too funny.
We have always thought Holland looks like LaNeal as a girl, so we took the opportunity to capture the moment for comparison. Isn't the likeness uncanny?
As always, the dinner was lovely and we had a wonderful time with friends and family. I think I brought a veggie tray and an apple pie? Hmm. I shouldn't wait 4 months to write my recaps!  We got home late, but the kids opened their Christmas Eve PJs and then headed - excitedly - to bed.

I didn't have to wrap too many gifts that night, which was a relief. I did sew buttons on Mason's new church blazer, which I'd gotten for a deal because it was missing front buttons!  I also put together the blueberry french toast casserole for Christmas morning, which is one of my favorite traditions. It is just so delicious!  It was really late by the time I got to bed. One of my favorite things is sitting in the family room when all the gifts are under the tree and enjoying the lights and the moment.  Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year. I love the anticipation of the next day, and the feeling of having surprises in store for my family.

The next morning, the kids were up early (of course!).  I love that they can get their stockings down and explore the contents - it keeps them busy while mom and dad sleep! We couldn't stay in bed too long, though, so soon we were up and getting the day going. I popped the breakfast casserole in the oven, and we got down to business. I'll let the pictures speak for me, here:

Ready to open!
Santa enjoyed his treat. We always put out peanut butter cup cookies, and Santa really seems to like them. ;)
Holland really wanted a toy horse, and she got one.
Mason was pretty pleased with his box full of Mixels.
Even Pippa enjoyed her gifts - catnip, treats, and this "crinkly bag." For whatever reason, cats love those.
Action shot of Holland opening her American Girl doll, Caroline.
Caroline is a historical doll, but she happens to look JUST like Holland! Blond curls, blue eyes. So, two birds with one stone!
Mason was quite the gentleman in his new blue blazer.
Finally! A snow board for Daniel. Now we just needed snow!
The kids were thrilled with their gifts. Holland received an American Girl doll (Caroline) with a horse, as well as some other small things.  Daniel received a snowboard, which was his big ticket item, and Mason received a much-coveted collection of Lego Mixels.  Both the boys received new tae kwon do bags, to hold their sparring equipment.  All three kids got the doodling devices called "Boogie Boards," which were a huge hit.  They were pretty happy with their haul and spent the morning happily playing. I love Christmas morning!

I had bought these foam building kits at Thanksgiving, and had been trying to recruit the kids to make them with me. Holland and I built the pink candy house, and Daniel tried the skating rink, but quickly gave up. I'm not ashamed to say that I spent some of Christmas morning making the other two foam houses! It was actually quite cathartic.

2/3 of these were built exclusively by me.
Brandon gave me a heart rate monitor, to use while exercising. I was so excited to use it! I can happily report, four months later, that I use it every single time I go to the gym (so, 4-5 times/week). I love getting all the data from my workouts and knowing how hard I worked. It keeps me focused and helps me set goals for my workouts. Truly, one of the best gifts he's ever given me! Good job, babe.

That afternoon, we went to my parents' house for dinner and more gift-opening. My dad always puts together a nice dinner. This year was especially important, since mom had just been through her heart surgery and we were so grateful to have her with us and feeling better. We have so much to be thankful for.

Action shot of the photogs!

Before Christmas, we had tried in vain to get a good family picture for our Christmas cards.  Brandon did, however, take some great shots of the kids! Here are some of my favorites:

This girl is bursting with personality!
My sweet babies.
Pippa looks THRILLED here, and I love this one of Mason.
Santa baby!
Santa baby, take two!
And here's one of us, which I thought turned out nicely. 

Christmas was wonderful, I have to say.