Friday, December 28, 2012

December at a Glance

I had every intention of blogging MORE during December since we actually did fun things worth sharing but the busyness of the season got the best of me so here are a few snap shots of some of the things we did. 

The day we got home from the Polar Express, we got our Christmas Tree. 
 It helped soften the blow of having to leave for Claire.  Our children are still completely helpless when it comes to decorating a tree.  There is no understanding of ornament weight versus tree branch strength.

Claire and I made a gingerbread house the cheater way - out of the Wilton Pre-baked, pre-cut gingerbread kit.   I got it last year for $2.50 when it was 75% off. 

It came with candy and everything so it was cheaper and MUCH less frustrating than making one from scratch. 

 I hate gingerbread anyway so I was glad to not have to deal with it and Claire got to do the fun part.

We had 3 different fundraisers to attend to help raise money for the Mexico mission trip next week,  the first one was at the one and only Scooptacular,  
the next week there was one at Jersey Mike's and just before Christmas was the "bash".

Mid December Josh went to Oklahoma for a couple of days to drive home with one of his former youth so I went to my mom's where the girls enjoyed the fall leaves (finally)

 And had leaf wars with Uncle Buddy.
 Uncle Buddy took them for walks around the neighborhood at night to look at Christmas lights.
 A couple of days before Christmas we finally had our chance to see Santa.  We weren't going to even try putting Joy on his lap but when she saw sister with Santa she wanted to go too.  We were shocked.  She is getting more sociable in her old age.

Earlier this month my Grandpa passed away due to lung cancer.  His lovely wife, Grandma Sheila, came out to spend Christmas with us.  Claire didn't remember her since she was 1 year old last time we were together but Claire instantly became her best friend. 

As usual Christmas Eve was spent at our house with my family. 

We had our Mexican tamale feast, Josh preached at our church's candlelight service and then we came back to our house to open gifts.
 Cousins!   T.J. Is a little concerned when Claire is holding him.

 In his spare time, Uncle Buddy crochets hat for people.  He made one for Claire and one for Joy.  Very cute.
Santa came and brought the girls each there own puppy that I don't have to clean up after and doesn't mind getting forgotten in the corner for days at a time.  They are quite popular right now.

 We spent Christmas morning at home with just our family and then went to Josh's parents' house for the rest of the day.  We ate, opened gifts.... the favorite was this pretend camping set.  It kept them busy all day holding plastic food over the fabric flickering flame.
That night we had a real fire to roast smores and just hung out.  It was a fun relaxing time.
Photo: McKenzie home Christmas evening camp fireā€¦ roasting marshmallow's to make S'mores.

The day after, Josh had to work and get ready for his upcoming Mexico trip so we went back to my mom's house to spend the day with Sheila before she went back home to Nevada.
By the time we got home that night the girls were exhausted and in dire need of a good night's sleep and a day at home with nothing to do. 

Claire is pretty sad that Christmas is over (and so am I) but now onto the New Year and the exciting changes that will hopefully take place for our family in 2013.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Claire's Christmas Performance

This year we were very excited for Claire to be in her first Christmas performance!  My mom and her former homeschooling friends are all now grandmas so they get together every so often and do fun activities with their grandchildren.  Two of the ladies wanted to put on a Christmas play/musical to tell the story of Christmas. Wow what a job!  The ages ranged from 2 to about 10.  There were only a handful practices but each child worked on their part at home so it all came together in the end.   The grandmas were responsible for their grandchild's costume.  There were stars, sheep, angels, shepherds, wise men, Elizabeth, Isaiah and of course Mary and Joseph. 

 Claire was a star.  My mom came up with her very cute and creative costume.  Claire loved it.
We were shocked when we were told that Claire got a solo part.  I was very afraid that when she got up there she would say she was "too shy" and not go through with it.  We practiced and practiced and I put the fear of humiliation into her if she didn't do her part.   I was so nervous while she was waiting for her time to sing but she did it and it went well. (Especially since they had never had a chance to practice with the microphone!)

Everyone came to see Claire, Nana (who was wrangling kids on stage), Poppy, Buddy, Didi and Shel and TJ, Grandma, Grandpa. Corey, Matea, Shelbe and my friend Sara all came just to see her 20 second solo.

Steve and Michelle brought Claire flowers which was very sweet and special.

We are so proud of our little star!  We look forward to doing it again next year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Polar Express

We just got back from our trip up to Williams to ride the Polar Express! What a great time it was!

We have wanted to do the trip for a couple of years now but we strategically waited til this year so that Claire would be old enough and Joy would be older and easier to deal with but would still be free.  When I made the reservations I looked for reviews about it and found that many people (including one from my work) thought it was so cheesy and not worth it, while others thought it was the best thing ever.  So, we went with open minds. I prepared Claire for the fact that it would probably not be anything like the movie (ie homeless guys on top of the train, snow, people doing black flips while hot chocolate was being served, a roller coaster ride, etc)

We drove up to Williams the morning of our train ride and checked into our hotel.  (which is exciting enough when you are 4) Claire and Joy both loved the tiny shampoo bottles and Joy kept herself busy stacking complimentary items and moving them from one place to another.  We got all set for the night and it was then that we realized the camera battery was not in the camera.  BUMMER.  Luckily Josh brought his ipad and we bought a disposable so there are still pictures- just not as many and not good ones.  The girls quickly tired of the hotel room and waiting for it to be time to go on the train.
Finally it was time.  We were on the 5:30 ride.   The girls got in their jammies with many layers and we headed to the train station which was about 1/4 mile from the hotel. (we did not buy the train tickets/hotel bundle.  We got separate hotel reservations at the Holiday Inn and saved $150).  We got our official tickets, looked around the pricey gift shops and then went out to let the girls play in the miniature town area.
We stopped to get some pictures along the way and then went to get in line to board the train.  Claire was SO excited.  She was just eating it up.

The train was much larger than I had envisioned.  There were 13 cars and each car held at least 30 people.   Each car had its own hot chocolate servers who were the guides/servers/entertainers for the trip.

The train is starting to move!
We left right on time. (I was surprised).  I like the time of day that we went because it wasn't too cold before we left since the sun was still out but on the way back all the Christmas lights were on in the town.  On the way up to the North Pole the servers served hot chocolate and a cookie,
then the Polar Express book was read over the sound system and they walked up and down the aisle holding the book open so the kids could see the pictures.  Claire couldn't care less about that though, her face was pressed against the window the entire time.

At one point the conductor came in with a hole punch and punched Claire's ticket.

That was the only time she was a little disappointed the whole night, because he only did two punches and she expected him to punch a whole word in her ticket like on the movie.  After about 35 minutes we reached the North Pole!  Now, I guess if you are going to be critical of the experience then you could be critical about the North Pole.  It was a big tree lit up, and 2 or 3 little houses or shops with lights on them.   Santa and an elf were sitting in a sleigh with the fake reindeer but the reindeer aren't terrible fake, just a little.  It could have been worse.  Anyway,  I think they could put a little more effort into making the north pole look more impressive.  It didn't matter much though because as soon as we got there, Santa got on board the train and then the real excitement began. We were the first car (or last depending on which way you are going) so Santa came through ours first, we took a few seconds with each child and handed them a silver bell like the one on the movie.  Claire was freaking out when he got on the train.  She was standing on her seat looking over everyone's heads shouting "I can't see him!  I can't see him!" and then a shriek when she finally did.  When he handed her her bell she gasped, looked at Josh and said "Can I keep this forever Dadda?"  The train at that point began to go backward back down the same track it came up on.  The servers then turned on some music and everyone sang Christmas songs all the way back to the station.  (All the kids ringing their bells non-stop - including Joy).

It was so much fun and I don't see why anyone would not like it.  I think they must expect way too much and their kids must be either too young or too old.

After the train ride, we went out to dinner at some Mexican/Irish, "Panchos Magillacudy's" it was called, which was a mistake,  we thought it would better that fast food but it wasn't.  We then went back to our hotel and got ready for bed.  We have never stayed in a hotel with the 4 of us and basically, when Joy goes to sleep, everyone goes to sleep.  Joy was super tired and crabby so she had to go to bed at 9 o'clock.  So we all got in bed, turned out the lights and then laid perfectly quiet, praying that she would stop screaming and go to sleep, which she did very quickly.   At 3:30am she woke up crying and scared to be in a weird place so I picked her up and immediately felt something was not right with her jammies and then smelled the reason why.  She had a massive, explosion poop so I laid her on our bed and started to change her but soon found that this was a two man job mostly because I hadn't even undressed her yet and there was poop all over my hands, her jammies and soon to be our bed if I didn't wake Josh up quickly.  So then we were all awake and we had to turn on some light because the mess was so massive and widespread.  It smelled very similar to the Mexican food we had just eaten.  After that ordeal Joy was an angel and went back to bed easily. 

In the morning we lounged, checked out, ate and walked around town a little to use up some energy and then headed home.  Claire was so excited because there was "snow" on our car and she could see her breath!  Even Joy noticed her breath and we could see her huffing and puffing and then looking at the air in wonder.

The Polar Express was definitely worth it and we plan to go again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Claire is so ready for Christmas.  The day after Thanksgiving, we pulled out all of our Christmas decorations. (even though we don't have anywhere to put most of them - another reason I can't wait to move!)   Claire is confused about Christmas day vs. Christmas time.  She thought that it was Christmas Day since we got out our decorations and she is now allowed to watch Christmas shows.  I tried to explain that it is Christmas time and there are still (at the time) 32 days til Christmas.  She is always confused about her days.  She gets night time and nap time mixed up and thinks that a new day starts every time she wakes up regardless of whether it was nap time or night time.

To help her visualize how many days til Christmas I made her a little tear off calendar exactly like the ones my mom would make with me and my brothers growing up.  When we first made it, it was 28 days long and just barely fit on the wall. When Claire first saw it completed, she cried and said "Oh no! That's a lot of days!"  To help break up the monotony and give her short term days to look forward to, I stuck in 2 special days we have coming up.  The train to signify our trip to the Grand Canyon to ride on the Polar Express, and the star for the Christmas musical she is in.  She gets to dress up like a star and has a solo!  We are so proud!

 The Christmas Countdown has begun!  I forgot how terribly long the wait seems when you are little.