Tuesday, December 18, 2018

December Fun: Meeting Santa 1 ... 2 ... 3

After our fiasco with meeting Santa last year (you can read about it here), I was determined to have a better Santa experience and photo this year. As a result of my determination, I may have gone a little overboard with the whole meeting Santa thing *ahem*. 

As a preface, in our family Santa is just for fun. Our kids don't "believe" in Santa because we've always told them that he's just a fun character. They know the gifts they receive from "Santa" on Christmas are really from us. They also know that there are kids their age who do believe in Santa and whose parents tell them very different things about Santa than what we have chosen to tell them, so we don't talk about how Santa "isn't real" in public. 

Even though my kids know he's just for fun, they still like to meet him and interact with him. I, of course, like to have Santa photos :-). Our first Santa meeting this year was in the middle of November at Dickens on the Boulevard. This Santa experience wasn't the best because there was a long line of folks waiting to see him, and we were herded in and out rather quickly. Santa didn't even ask what the kids wanted for Christmas or anything! And, while waiting in line, the kids were told they'd be given a candy cane after seeing Santa. When that didn't happen, I had some disappointed kiddos (namely the toddlers) on my hands! I also don't really love this photo . . . does Santa look strained?!? I will say though, I was happy the little girls didn't melt down upon seeing the Big Guy!

Our second Santa interaction was at Pleasant Valley Farms. This Santa was on point! He had a perfect laugh and ho-ho-ho. Each child had an opportunity to sit on his lap and talk to him. The twins both said they didn't know what they want for Christmas, even though he tried hard to get them to say something specific.

Brenson also said he wasn't sure yet what he wanted, but Brianna asked for an Elf on the Shelf. He also encouraged all the kids to write him a letter when they decided what he should bring them!

One more plus about this Santa is that he looks jolly in these pictures, AND the room was big enough for us all to gather around him without him looking like a floating head, haha. I've already framed this picture and hung it on our tree!

Our third Santa meeting was at school. This is where the ordeal with Santa happened last year, but I decided to give it another chance. The set up was just so cute I couldn't resist! Santa was at the school on a Tuesday, so we headed up there to see him after Bren's guitar lesson. He was a pretty good Santa . . . he certainly looked the part, and he spoke to each of the kids about what they want for Christmas. All of their answers were the same as before, except that Bren said he wanted Magformers (spoiler alert: He'll be happy!). However, I don't love this photo because you can barely see Santa. On the other hand, it makes me laugh that Santa is buried behind all my kids!

I had asked the girls before our first Santa meeting if they remembered meeting Santa last year. They  both said yes and talked about how they cried because he was "creepy". I asked them what made him creepy, and Brecklyn immediately said, "Hims eye brows were brown and hims beard had brown.  That's not how Santa is." Hahaha! She's not wrong! I think it helped this year that the Santas looked a lot more legit! Crying Santa photos are super adorable to me, but it was nice this year to see Santa without the drama :-).

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Holly Jolly Home

Who else out there loves to decorate and make their house all festive during different times of the year? I am definitely one of those people and always have been! Even in college, I would put up a few fun seasonal decorations in my dorm room because it made me happy. My biggest seasons I decorate for are Autumn (I typically put this stuff out in September and take it down when I put Christmas stuff up) and Christmas, although I have decorations that I change out during other times of the year, too. (Side note: I just realized I never posted a home tour like I intended to when we moved into this house two years ago. I'll work on that after the first of the year!)

Over the years, I've collected a lot of Christmas decor. I did lose an entire bin of stuff when we moved (and by "lose" I mean the bin fell out of the truck and everything in it broke into pieces), but I still have plenty. Some of it is meaningful and some of it are just things I picked up at the store, but I love how it all comes together when I put it out! Without any further jabber, here is a tour of some of our Christmas decor!

My gallery wall in the living room gets changed out with festive pieces!

In our main living areas, I change out every shelf or surface with Christmas decor!

This is part of the wreath that I made for our front door.

One of my very favorite pieces . . . I brought this back from Ukraine when I was 20 years old. He's beautiful! Sitting next to him is a polar bear ornament that was a gift from my late Grandma.

My mom made the snowman quilted wall hanging.

I also redecorate our entire fireplace area 💓!

I purchased this Let It Snow sign last year from a local antique store. It's not an antique, but it is hand crafted by a local artist. The tree you can see in the pic is a felt tree with velcro ornaments. The twins love decorating and redecorating it!

I even change out all the decor above my kitchen cabinets. This is where I put our Santa pictures we have taken each year. The candy cane in the pic below was made by my Gramsie (my late great grandmother) out of plastic canvas.

The decorations I have with the photos are things I've had for years, and many of them were gifts. In the photo below, there is a white Santa sitting next to the framed photo. He belonged to my Granny, and I received him when she moved out of her house and downsized.

In the last few years, I've also started redecorating our main bathroom during Christmastime.

This countdown snowman was a gift from a friend about 15 years ago. The kids love playing with the numbers, and consequently he never has an accurate count :-).

In each of the kids' bedrooms, we put up a small tree and just a few other little decor items. Their trees each have some special ornaments on them, in addition to some mini ornaments we just picked up at the store. 

Most of Bren's decorations are new this year. He didn't have much, so I bought a few pieces (the sleigh, sign, and Santa) to put on his shelf.

Brianna's tree is the only one with colored lights.

I also bought her a few new things this year.

But the pieces in the photo below we've had since she was a baby!

Brecklyn and Brooke's tree was a hand-me-down from our cousin. It's perfect for them!

These little guys were a gift from their Meme.

Their other little decorations bring a perfect amount of sparkle to their room. 

Upstairs, we put up a smallish tree with all of our Hallmark ornaments on it. This window faces the front of the house, so you can see this tree lit up in the window when you drive by our house at night. 

We started earlier than we normally do with decorating the house this year. The tree upstairs we actually put up on my birthday, and most of the other decorations went up the day before Thanksgiving. Chris even put our outside lights and decorations out that day! Our plan was to put our big tree up on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but the children graciously shared the stomach bug with both Chris and me so there was no way the tree was going up that day. Instead, we put it up the following Friday (November 30). I love having my Christmas decor out . . . it's so cozy and inviting . . . but I don't like to have it out for too long. I'm not super strict about waiting until after Thanksgiving, but I also don't want Christmas stuff out in October!

Daddy always takes the job of getting on the ladder to decorate the top of the tree.

The little girls were SO fun this year . . . they couldn't help enough!

Brooke, Brecklyn


My whole crew of decorators!

Brenson really wanted to help Daddy put ornaments up high!

Daddy helping Brecklyn hang her ornament.

Daddy helping Brooke

Brianna didn't want to be left out, so she asked Daddy to pick her up, too!

About half-way through our tree decorating, we fixed hot chocolate to drink. See? I was there, too!

Momma and Brooke

I'm not sure if the twins were more excited about decorating the tree or drinking hot chocolate. They were living their best life this night, haha!

In interest of keeping it real, I feel like I need to add that the pictures aren't telling the whole story about this night. I think we made a mistake when we decided to do this activity on a Friday night after dinner. We didn't even get started until after 7:00pm, and everyone was tired from a long week. The kids were pretty cranky throughout the process, and honestly the adults weren't much better. In my head, I wanted everything to be magical with Christmas music softly playing and lots of smiles and laughter, but that's not how things were. There was bickering and broken ornaments and children who weren't listening and whining and spilled hot chocolate. BUT, there was also laughter and love and singing and excitement. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that real life is rarely like what you see in movies or on TV. Real life is often messy and imperfect, but we need to embrace it anyway. 

I know my children may remember some of the messiness and imperfections about our life, but I also know that they'll remember our time spent together. That's something I would never trade, even for perfection 💓.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

It's Time For Some December Fun!

Welcome, December! Who can believe it's already the last month of the year?!? 

We decided we would kick off this month with a little Christmas outing since we already have the house all decorated and ready for festive fun. Back at the end of October, we visited Pleasant Valley Farms about an hour from our house. We had such a great time (and I love the pics I took that evening) that we decided to visit again. This time, of course, it was all set up for Christmas instead of as a pumpkin patch. 

Brenson, Brooke, Brianna, Brecklyn

Back before visiting Pleasant Valley in October, we had heard all about the activities available that made it a fun pumpkin patch. We actually didn't know they also offered Christmas activities until the owner mentioned it to us during our pumpkin patch visit. We had no idea what to expect, except that Santa would be there.

Brecklyn and Brooke were so excited to check everything out. I loved how they were walking hand-in-hand!

We began our visit at the little gift shop. Although the weather was just a touch chilly, there was a fire blazing in the wood stove and free hot cocoa and apple cider. Everything felt so cozy! There was even a cat in the gift shop sitting all snug by the fire that Brooke and Brecklyn thought they needed to pet. The cat was patient with them until Brooke touched its paw, then she got scratched :-(. In typical Brooke fashion, she didn't fuss or cry and actually made excuses for the cat. She kept telling us that it scratched her "by accident" and it was NOT a mean cat, haha!

Brianna, Brenson, Brooke, Brecklyn

They still had the same train set up for the kids to play on, but this time it was all decorated for winter.

And, just like with the pumpkin patch, there were lots of photo opportunities!

Daddy and Bren . . . so handsome 💙

Bri and Momma 💜

Brooke and Momma . . . no, she didn't want to pause to take a photo with me!

Momma and Brecklyn 💗

Pretty quickly after we arrived, we went to find Santa. He was located in a cute little house, and there was no wait at all to see him. The little girls have never been a fan of Santa, but this year was better! As you can see, they actually sat on his lap!

When Santa asked what the kids wanted for Christmas, Brianna was the only one who had an answer. She said she wanted an Elf on the Shelf (sorry kid, not happening!). The other kids all told Santa they didn't know what they wanted for Christmas. Hmmmm, I guess that means they'll be fine with no presents this year *grin*.

When we "met" Santa a few weeks ago at Dickens on the Boulevard (here), Santa looked legit, but he didn't really act like Santa. We were shuffled in and out very quickly, and he didn't even ho-ho-ho. This Santa, however, was pretty impressive. He had the ho-ho-ho down AND he looked legit, too. He was even sitting in a sleigh!

After our visit with Santa, we decided to take advantage of the free wagon ride through the Christmas tree farm.

We didn't realize it before visiting, but the Christmas Tree Farm is the main attraction of Pleasant Valley during the Christmas season. There were quite a few families out there cutting down their Christmas tree. We had no plans to cut or purchase a tree, so we snapped a few pics instead.

Brooke, Brecklyn


Brenson (I'm not sure what's going on with this boy's hair, but those eyes are gorgeous!)



I look like a ghost in the photo below, but I wanted a pic of us without the kiddos 💓.

We let the children run around and play for a bit, but we exhausted the activities available pretty quickly. We were probably out there about an hour and a half before we left to do some shopping (which was CRAZY because it was late afternoon on a Saturday in December) and grab dinner at Hideaway Pizza.  We had a good time - and it was definitely beautiful - but I'm not sure we'll add visiting Pleasant Valley to our list of Christmas traditions. Unless, that is, we decide to start getting a real tree!