Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas in a Nutshell

I think this has been our most enjoyable Christmas yet as a family.  Claire is old enough to really enjoy it and makes doing the little extra things you do for the season worth while.  Joy is just plain fun and a sweetheart. Paige, well, we put up with her -  but I'm not pregnant so that is good.  I have been able to drink several cups of coffee every morning which is needed.

We got out our Christmas stuff the day after Thanksgiving.  Joy loved her Nativity set and spent hours playing with it.  She acted out various scenarios.

She also liked to pretend she was Mary.

I was very busy all of the time and sometimes forgot to put her down for naps but she took care of that herself.
(she did make it to the potty first)

The girls appeased Paige by dancing in front of her to the ever playing Christmas music on itunes and by showing her the singing snowmen that we have.
My favorite is when all 5 of them sing at the same time.

Uncle Buddy took the girls on their annual walk around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights.

Josh is now officially in charge of making sugar cookies with them because I hate doing it so much I just won't.  Same goes for gingerbread houses.  You put all this time and work into it, (yes, you, the adult while the kids are off crying or "washing their hands" or going potty or falling off stools and getting black eyes.) and the finished product looks like rubbish.  Josh likes to do it anyway....

On Christmas Eve we went to my parents' church for service.  It was weird to miss our church's candlelight service but with conflicting schedules it could only work out that way.

After the service, everyone came to our house where we feasted on tamales and opened gifts.  (as is our family tradition.)

Cousins at the kids' table.

Opening gifts and other various entertainment.

The next morning, Santa did not disappoint with Claire's Easy Bake Oven and Joy's Klip Klop Stable.

 Paige enjoying her gifts from the previous night.

Later on Christmas, we went to Josh's parents' to spend the rest of the day with them.  We had a great time and the girls (especially Claire) were ecstatic to open the bikes that Grandma and Grandpa had given them.

I also received a super awesome gift but I'll share it in a later post.

We feel so blessed this Christmas season!
(This would be a good place to put a picture of the 3 girls all dressed up in their Christmas dresses, but did I think to take a picture of that?  No.  No I did not.)

Friday, December 27, 2013

North Pole Experience

December always starts out calm and slow but all of a sudden, the Christmas rush creeps up on me and we have no time for ANYTHING.   This year was particularly tricky for me since I have a screaming baby, everything is tainted when you have a screaming baby.

Also, before I move on with this post I should catch up anyone who doesn't know, that Joy fell off her step stool while "helping" me make dinner and smacked her face on the tile floor resulting in a magnificent black eye.  It was the darkest black eye I have ever seen. By the time these pictures were taken, it was clearing up - but still not good.

Alright, last week we had 24 hours of family time in Flagstaff to go to the North Pole Experience.   Last year we did the Polar Express and it was great but lacking in many areas.  I had heard of the NPX a while ago and had been debating and looking into it but could find little info of what actually happens during it, no photos, no descriptions.  We ultimately decided to go with NPX beause it is closer, in Flagstaff and my parents have a house 10 minutes outside of Flagstaff so we wouldn't have to get a hotel.  (which was out of the question with Paige).

Our drive up was filled with two excited girls and 1 screaming girl.  We were lucky that only 45 minutes of the trip were filled with ear splitting screams.

It was a little scary driving, the fog was so dense.

We got to my parents house and it started to snow lightly.  We were so excited!  It had snowed quite a bit the night before so Josh had to dig out a place for us to park. 

We had just enough time to play in the snow for a little bit and unpack, then it was off to the Little America Hotel, where the NPX started.

The outside of the Little America Hotel is super cheesy, seriously people, change the sign, but inside the lobby was beautiful,  it was packed with people so I didn't want to take a picture of everybody but here are the girls waiting for our turn to line up for our trolley.

We gave an elf sitting at the NPX desk our tickets and he gave us colored wrist bands to indicate which trolley we were on.  The whole schedule ran smoothly and the trolleys left exactly on time, they definitely had a good system going.

We got lined up for our trolley and in line a really pretty girl elf came and talked to every family, asked the kids' names, if they've been good, etc.  Then our group of about 50 people got on the trolley, (which was a bus painted red and green.  It was way nicer inside then the Polar Express was though)

We were accompanied by a "Trolley Elf", Bernard, who was there to keep spirits high during the 15 minute drive to the North Pole.  We sang songs and he talked about how the elves are all really really old (he was 227) and that he invented Lincoln Logs.   Then we traveled through "The Portal" to get us to the North Pole really fast, cause you know, Flagstaff is really far from the North Pole.  So we all closed our eyes and said some silly chant and to pleeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaasssseeee get us through the portal.  The bus was equipped with some red and green flashing lights that Bernard turned on during this part.  It was cheesy.

We got to the North Pole which was a camp with a bunch of wood buildings  I couldn't see the name of it on the signs, that was the part I was supposed to have my eyes closed.  The buildings had red and gold signs on them that said things like "Wood Toys" and "Eletronic Toys" on them to indicated what kind of toys were being made in each building.  The biggest building is where the whole NPX took place.

 The front door was a very magical looking carved door, the kids knocked on the door and 2 very annoying toy soldiers (high school girls dressed up) let us in.   They said their 10 minutes of talking/acting and showed us the compass at the very top of the North Pole.  It was spinning around and around.   That room had a toy train on on a track suspended from he ceiling which kept the kids attention. 

From there, we all filed into the toy making room.  
The kids took a seat at a bench and an elf came and showed them what to do.   It turns out the "making toys" means dressing a teddy bear

and testing out a nerfy air rocket thing.

The main thing that I noticed and did not like is that all of the rooms we were in were very dark.   I don't know if this was on purpose or not but it was not how I would have imagined the North Pole when I was a kid.

We then moved on to the even darker wrapping room.   The walls were all covered in wrapped presents, the kids were in awe.

 2 Elves talked to us in there and it was very boring to me.  Thankfully Santa and Mrs Claus were up in the loft area and they talked a little too, then an elf and Mrs. Claus threw toys down the shoots and the kids had to make sure they landed in the crates below. 

After that we went to another room to get some snowman soup. (hot chocolate) and a cookie.  We sang our 3rd round of rudolph the red nose reindeer and the elves in that room asked the kids questions while they ate.

 Then we had to go the Elf University which was a cute old fashioned school house room but I honestly don't know what the elves were saying, it was just silly stuff that was over the kids heads.  Paige was fussing so I tried to discreetly nurse her in the back.

We then went to the Mail Room where the kids wrote a list for Santa.  This and Elf University were just stalling rooms while other groups that were ahead of us got through the Santa parts of the Experience. 

I really liked how they did the next few parts here.  They let each family individually into a room with Mrs. Claus.
They could talk to her and take a picture.

 Then we went family at a time to Santa's Sleigh room.

 It was an impressive sleigh.

Then the moment we had all been waiting for..... we got to go privately in with Santa and the girls told him what they wanted for Christmas.  Joy was not too shy and sat on his lap.  Then an elf took a picture of our family with Santa and some of the girls with him. (which they gave us on a disk drive for free)

 I took a couple too - just in case.  But the family one turned out pretty well considering.

We then got up on the bus, sang Rudolph again and Bernard came by and asked all the kids how they liked the North Pole.

 All in all it was a lot of fun.  It was impressive to me how perky and excited the elves all were when you considered that they had done their acting/talking part about 30 times that day.  Most of the elves were upper high school/college kids and did an excellent job.  (except the toy soldiers - I didn't like them at all)  The main thing that could use improvement was the lighting and I could do without the Elf University and list writing.  I also think it would have been nice if the toy they made was actually something they "made" and could take home with them.  At $42 per person I don't think that is an unreasonable expectation.

The girls were exhausted when we got back to the house.  We watched Christmas shows and went to bed.

The next day it was snowing lightly again and Claire was so excited to get out in the snow.
 Joy - not so much.  She enjoyed eating the snow and spending time inside with me.

Warming her buns by the fire.

Snow angels with her legs.

Paige seemed to like being cold.....


 Thankfully Josh isn't paralyized by the cold like I am so he was out there with Claire most of the day.

They built a nice snowman.

It was such a fun trip!  The girls absolutely loved it.  It was good to get away - even it was only for a day.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Our Christmas Elves

I am so excited about our new holiday tradition.

Everyone has heard of Elf on the Shelf right?  I think it is a super cute idea but honestly the elf is just too creepy for me

and I didn't want to emphasize Santa more than we already do.  A friend of mine on facebook shared this blog and I LOVED the idea. So, to draw attention back to Jesus and loving others, but still keep the childhood magic in Christmas, we decided to copy the idea and adopt these 3 little elves into our family each Christmas.
It was already past December 1st when I saw the idea but we were getting our Christmas tree that night so I thought that might be a fun way to start.  Claire could wake up the next morning and discover the 3 little elves under the tree. That way she would wonder if maybe they were hiding in the tree when we bought it and start a new tradition that every year when we get our tree, the elves come.

I found our "elves" at Target.  They are just ornaments and originally had on tiny skis and ski poles.  I took them off though and sewed down their wild scarves that were sticking in weird directions.

The first day they were under the tree with a note:

Claire was so excited but still confused,  I knew it would take a few days for her to fully understand that they "come to life" at night and she can find them in a new place each morning with little treats each day.  She named them Star, Noel and Nick and made sure they were under the tree at bedtime.

The second day she found them like this:
 With a note that read: We found this ornament you forgot to hang on your tree! Remember that Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas.  P.S.  We loved watching you help your mom cook yesterday.  Can you think of a way to help someone today?

Wait!  Now she knows that they see her throughout the day!  She came to me later in the morning and whispered "I want to make the elves a note for them to have under the tree"  She then whispered what it was to say so I could write it out and she could copy it.  It said "I love you elves, I love you and I want to give you this candy cane, Merry Christmas."  With a picture colored on it of course.

Yesterday the elves were found around a table they had built out of toys, eating their candy cane and with a box of tic tacs for Claire to share with her sister Joy.

This morning Claire was so surprised to be the first one up and find that the elves had made cinnamon rolls for us!

I have lots of ideas for these little elves.  They are making our Christmas extra special.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Queen

Paige is the queen of our household and she rules with an iron fist.  

When The Queen is happy, 

so are her subjects. 
But, when The Queen is mad, she spreads her tyranny throughout her kingdom and there is no peace. 
The servants try their best to appease her; singing, dancing, playing motor boat, but The Queen has a mind of her own and her whims change like the wind.   Often the acts of entertainment go unnoticed or are shunned.

Sometimes, The Queen must nap.  Ruling a kingdom and terrorizing the people is hard work!   The people rejoice when The Queen naps.  When she awakens she is usually content (provided her royal maid has fed her promptly)

but without warning her good disposition turns to fury and wrath!  
Alas, Dear Queen, Have mercy on us!