Monday, January 16, 2017

Christmas 2016 (part 2)

With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, Chris and I decided it was important to us to spend actual Christmas Day worshiping our God at our home church. It was our year to spend December 25th with Chris's side of the family, so spending Christmas Day at home meant we would spend Christmas Eve with them instead. We try to always spend one night at their house around Christmastime, so after baking cookies the morning of the 23rd, we headed out to the N Homestead for the evening and night. 

We first stopped at Chris's grandma's house to visit for a few hours. We arrived there just before 4:00pm, had a nice visit while the kids played, then went over the hill to Chris's parents' house. We got to Meme and Papa's house around dinner time, and after our meal we let the kids play and watch Christmas movies while we visited. I didn't take any photos during this time. We just enjoyed ourselves :-). 

The Bigs ended up staying up waaaaay past their bedtime, and Chris and I stayed up visiting with his parents until after midnight. When we finally got to bed, the little girls were restless and woke up several times in the night. Needless to say, we didn't get much sleep at all that night!

The next morning (Saturday, December 24th), we got up, had a cooked breakfast, and got ready for the day. Once everyone was ready for the day, Chris went down to Grandma's house to help her come to Meme and Papa's house for the day. Once Grandma and Chris got there, we opened gifts!

Meme (and I) really wanted a pic of Brooke and Brecklyn in front of the tree. This was the best we could do with two excited, active, almost two year olds! 

Gift opening at Meme and Papa's house is generally about 20 minutes of chaotic fun! It's pretty much a free-for-all, and the kids love it!

Grandma, Chris, and Brecklyn 


Bren with Brecklyn in the background . . . the hats are a gift Papa gets for everyone each year.


Bren and Brianna

Brooke (so serious just like when she opened gifts at our house)


Christmas chaos



Papa always just sits back and watches everything play out. 


Meme and Brianna

Brooke and Brecklyn immediately began playing with their new toys. Meme got them the doll highchair, and Grandma got them a cleaning kit. 

Brooke is putting her stocking cap on the bear while Brecklyn cleans!

Reading their new books with Meme

Grandma and Brianna

Meme really wanted a picture of the family that was there (Chris's sister and her family weren't able to be there at the same time we were), so I told her we could try to take one with the timer on my camera. I didn't have my tripod with me, but I stacked up a few boxes onto a gliding footstool, posed everyone, set a ten second timer, and got into position. Just before the picture was about to snap, my entire rigged up "tripod" began to tip over in slow motion. The picture took just as Papa caught my camera in his hand, lol! Chris helped me build up something a little more secure, and we tried again. 

I was thrilled when I looked at my camera and saw this photo:

Then, I asked Grandma to join us, and we took another photo. I couldn't believe it was also so good!

After we opened gifts, Meme told Papa that he and Chris were in charge of making lunch. In the meantime, the rest of us sat down to do a craft I had brought with me. 

Brooke and Brecklyn colored while I taught everyone how to do a little snow hat Christmas ornament. 

The finished products came out so cute! 

Here is an upclose photo of our little craft:

The cooks made fried chicken, fried fish, baked potatoes, and corn on the cob for lunch. They worked hard in the kitchen!

We let the kids play for just a little while longer after lunch, then we loaded up the car and headed for home at about 4:00pm. It's only a 45 minute drive from their house to ours, but all four of our kids were asleep in the car within 10 minutes of starting for home. I cracked up when I looked back at Brianna and saw her like this:

When we got home, Brooke and Brecklyn were both tired and cranky. They just wanted to be held, so I sat and held them while Chris unloaded the car. I loved the snuggle time with my tired babies.

I would love to say that we ended Christmas Eve on a peaceful note, tucking everyone quietly into bed early before we got a good night's rest ourselves. That was certainly our plan. However, at about 6:00pm, I realized I didn't have any flour which I needed to make a dessert to take to my sister's house for lunch the next day. All of the stores were closed, so I called my sister and asked if I could come by to get flour. She only lives about 20 minutes away, so I took Brianna and Brenson with me and headed to her house. We picked up the flour, visited for just a few minutes, then headed for home. Brianna seemed fine the entire time. However, as we got about 10 minutes down the road, she said she didn't feel good. I asked her if she thought she was going to throw up, and she said she didn't know. I immediately started looking for a place to pull over. By the time I got pulled over in a safe place, she was throwing up in the van. She also threw up on the side of the road quite a bit. I got her loaded back into the puke covered van, and called Chris as we headed home to let him know why it was taking us so long. As I'm talking to him on the phone, Brecklyn throws up in her bed! Both girls (Brianna and Brecklyn) had already had baths and were in their pjs for the night, but we had to give them each a second bath, get everyone settled down and in bed, wash their clothes, strip Brecklyn's bed and wash her sheets, and clean all the puke out of the van before we could even think about going to bed. Not exactly how we wanted our night to play out!!! After throwing up, both Brianna and Brecklyn seemed fine, so we're not sure what the problem was. Chris and I didn't end up going to bed until almost midnight, which was too bad since we were exhausted from not getting much sleep the night before. Unfortunately, this began a no-sleep trend that would continue for four or five more days. 

Even with the crazy end to our day, we were still thankful for the time with Papa, Meme, and Grandma. The puke-fest that followed just adds to the memories!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Christmas 2016 (part 1)

As I'm sure I've mentioned before, Christmas for us is always celebrated in several phases. We spend time with Chris's side of the family, time with my side of the family, and time with just our "little" family unit. There is always a lot of planning on my part that has to take place before Christmas to make sure that everyone gets their time, and this generally means that our family unit will spend our day together opening gifts, enjoying a meal, and doing other Christmas traditions or activities several days before December 25th. Thankfully, Chris always has some vacation time he can take from work around Christmas, so this year we had our day on Thursday, December 22nd. 

When the kids got up that morning, I had grouped all of their gifts into piles for them. I know many families do things differently, but we wrap all of the kids' gifts. We're also really open and honest about Santa. They know he's just for fun and fictional, AND, they know not to mention those things to other kids who may believe he's real!

We also don't let them just dive right into gift opening as soon as they wake up. We have breakfast, brush our teeth, brush our hair, make our beds, etc before it's gift opening time. This is fun in many ways because it really allows anticipation to build. The kids are always PUMPED to start the opening process!

Brooke, Brecklyn, Brianna, Brenson

I say "gift opening process" because we like to take it slow and kind of drag it out. We always begin with stockings. 



Brecklyn and Brooke

Brecklyn and Brooke

(Santa always brings the kids new toothbrushes in their stockings. He's very concerned about dental hygiene, ha!)

After we open stockings, I have the kids give Daddy the presents they got for him. Sometimes, he'll have them give their gifts to me first, but we always start with letting them give. 

Brecklyn giving to a very excited Daddy :-)

Brecklyn loves to give kisses most of all!

Bren giving to Daddy

Bren giving to Momma

Bren LOVES to give me gifts. He's always so eager for me to open things he's picked out for me!

Brianna giving to Momma

Brooke giving to Momma

Brecklyn giving to Momma

After Chris and I have opened our gifts from the kids, we let the kids give each other gifts. I let them all spend about $5 on each of their siblings, so the gifts are small but they love to pick them out. 

Brecklyn was thrilled with the Ariel doll Brianna picked out for her. 

And, she was equally thrilled with the pink dragon Beenie Boo that Bren picked out for her!

She immediately started giving it kisses. So sweet!

Brecklyn was so expressive and excited throughout the entire time we were opening gifts. Her reactions were always BIG. Brooke, on the other hand, was super serious about everything. We couldn't decide if she was overwhelmed with it all or just all business about it, but they were both so cute to watch!

After opening their sibling gifts, we let the kids open a few of their "big" gifts from us one at a time. This is why it takes a while! However, we feel it's important for them to learn to share in their siblings' joy and watch while others open their gifts. 

Brooke and Brecklyn

Of course, the Bigs knew the drill and had a blast opening their gifts. After taking a few pictures, I finally just put the camera down and enjoyed watching my kiddos.



Brooke Ellie (so serious!)

Brooke and Brecklyn



Do you think she's excited??? Haha.


Brooke and Daddy

She got a Bible!

Brecklyn and Momma

Oh, look! She got a Bible, too!

After opening about three gifts one by one, we finally just let all the kids have at it (they each had about three gifts left). It was so much fun for us to just sit back and watch them tear into things!

As soon as we were finished opening everything. I had them all lay in the wrapping paper for our annual "in the wrapping paper" photo. 

I love this cute little crew!

The gift opening takes us several hours, so by the time we're finished with it all, it's time for Chris and I to work on lunch. The past several years, we've put stew meat in the crockpot with some seasoning early that morning. Once it's finished, we mix it into some brown gravy and serve it over mashed potatoes with corn and rolls. It's an easy meal, but something we don't have often so also special. I think we can officially say that it's our traditional "small family" Christmas lunch!

After lunch, we put the twins down for their nap and spent the afternoon playing with the Bigs. It was pretty perfect!

Brianna couldn't have been happier with her new doll, Meg. 

Once the twins got up, I insisted on trying to get a family picture. This is never an easy task! The photos aren't perfect by any means, but I love them anyhow! (Brecklyn was only happy if she was standing behind Daddy on the hearth. I don't love the positioning, but we weren't going to fight with her about it, either. Pick your battles, right?)

I am so thankful for an entire day to spend as a family at home. Opening gifts is always fun, but the true gift is being together!