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December 29, 2012

Christmas Fun!

Christmas morning, we had the girls' two new block sets waiting for them in the den. 


We played for a bit, but they were really anxious to open their stockings.  Before we dug into stockings, though, I asked if they wanted to give Sasha her gift.  They were so excited to "help" her unwrap her present!


And our sweet Sasha did not disappoint.  (No doubt wooed by the catnip,) she dove right in and gave the girls quite a show!


Then came the much-anticipated stockings...

LOVE the HUGE smile on A's face!

Nothing better than a stocking longer than your arm!
As is our tradition, the girls got new ornaments...this year, stars, engraved with their names, and "Blossoming into Amazing Little Girls".


The girls also got fuzzy socks, and they could hardly keep their hands off of them!


Before we broke for breakfast, I told the girls that what Mommy really wanted for Christmas was a picture of my two sweet baby girls, smiling.  They sorta-kinda tried.  :)


For breakfast I made a fruit tart (using an adorable pan that I just couldn't resist buying at Target a few weeks ago).  It looks small in this picture, but it's about 10" from top to bottom.  Along with some scrambled eggs, it made a great breakfast.


After we ate, we played some more with our blocks, and the girls were anxious to try out their new skinny markers from their stockings.



We enjoyed a mid-morning snack before heading back to the tree.  The girls were excited to give me their present, a new digital picture frame!


And here they are, helping Daddy open his new books and calendar.


Then it was finally time for the girls to open their gifts.  In addition to a couple of new books, they each got a dress-up costume.


After A opened her gift, she moved over to help her sister tear into hers.  

My favorite picture from Christmas!
Here are the girls in their new duds...


After a big lunch of Cajun shrimp and grits and a blissful family nap, we spent the afternoon playing.

Amid all the new toys, I love that Abby and Lily (the girls' babies) needed haircuts...HA!

Love this picture of A, yielding an ax...and her baby.

It stinks being "on call" on the holidays...
Grandma June came over late Christmas afternoon to share a snack and see the girls' new goodies.  We ate an "appetizer" supper, and called it a day!

It was another wonderful holiday...the girls were full of excitement and anticipation, but we still managed to do everything in good time, spread out, and enjoy all the little moments.

One funny note...the girls stayed in their pajamas through lunch, as they did last Christmas.  They thought it was pretty special to take a nap in their jammies.  After nap, I tried to get them dressed.  They really wanted to show Grandma June their new polar bear pajamas, though, so I relented and let them.  They didn't want to change into clean pj's for bed, even...so for the first time ever, we slept in the same pajamas two days in a row.  Ick!  If we can limit that to one day a year, though, I think we'll all survive.

December 28, 2012

December 23rd and 24th

We got home from Alabama on December 22.  I focused my efforts on unpacking and doing laundry that evening, but I jumped back to Christmas preps first thing on Sunday morning.

I was thankful that the girls were content to play so well on Sunday morning, and that Daddy helped keep them on task, as this mama was B-U-S-Y in the kitchen.  I made all our neighbor goodies (an array of pumpkin gingerbread, peanut brittle, peppermint Chex mix, and white chocolate cranberry blondies).

I had everything wrapped and ready to go by Sunday afternoon.  The girls were thrilled to don their reindeer antlers for the delivery route.  We didn't plan it this way exactly, but B sang "Jingle Bells" to most of our neighbors, while A danced around, jingling the bells on her headband.


On Christmas Eve, Mommy caught up on grocery shopping, and we largely had another low-key day at home.  Here are the girls in their new Christmas tees from Uncle Tommy and Aunt Janet.


After our candy cane scavenger hunt, we scrubbed up nice and clean on Christmas Eve afternoon, and we came downstairs just in time to catch the postman bringing one last gift to the door.  I let the girls open them right away, and they were so excited!


After my little elves went to bed, Mommy kicked into overdrive.  I wrapped the last few presents and positioned them under the tree.

(Yes, the middle of the tree is dark.  It was probably Christmas Eve when I realized 1/2 a strand of lights were out!)

I created two elaborate structures from the girls' new magnetic blocks.

(This is one.)
 And I had fun playing with their new Trio blocks as I built a doggy and a garage.


Then I headed to bed.  The girls slept soundly (not quite old enough for the anticipation of Christmas morning to interrupt their sleep [thank goodness!])...but me, on the other hand?  I could hardly wait for 6:30 to arrive!

December 27, 2012

Sweet Home Alabama

We made our annual pre-Christmas visit to Sweet Home Alabama last week.

We had a low-key afternoon at Dad's house on Thursday, highlighted by homemade hamburgers on the charcoal grill.  YUM!!!

We left bright and early on Friday morning and headed south to meet my BFF and her sweet baby girl for a mid-morning snack at the most amazing German bakery.  (We met there this time last year, and we've all been thinking about it since!)

Miss A is about 15 months younger than A&B, but the last couple of times we've been together, the girlies have played so well.  Miss A is something special...she's so incredibly engaging and spirited, and our girls think she's just amazing.

Playing with Wiki Sticks before our food got there...the girls all had a blast making animals and letters.

I asked all the girls to pile up their hands...LOVE!!!

A group shot before we left...4 of 5 looking towards the camera ain't bad!

Miss A looks like she's asking for help outside of the sandwich hug she was getting from the girls...I promise no children were harmed during the taking of this picture!

From the bakery we headed north to GG's house.  We had a fantastic holiday meal with all the trimmings (as if we needed to eat any more!), and then we shared some presents and lots of hugs.

One of my favorite pictures!  When the girls get a little unsure of a situation, they often reach for each other.  :)  :)

With Great Uncle Tommy and Aunt Janet

Goodbye kisses for GG

After a well-deserved nap in the car for three of the four of us (excluding me!), we returned to Dad's house.

Granddaddy got the girls trucks, and those were a big hit with all three of them!

Piggy banks!  The girls weren't quite sure of the concept, though...I think A wanted to ride hers!

Saturday morning snuggles with Granddaddy and Emme.  (Note that A has two baby dolls...those live in Emme's toy cabinet, but the girls take such good care of them when they're there.)

Our last stop was Grandma Linda's house.  The girls were met with fun playthings, and we had a wonderfully relaxed lunch before heading back home.


All in all, it was a great trip.  We got to see most of our friends and family, and best of all, the girls enjoyed it all. 

We were last in Alabama over Labor Day, and Hubby and I kept remarking how much the girls have changed, just since then.  They ate well, and slept well (!!!), and played really well, too.  It hasn't been that long ago that I felt like I had to keep my hands on them every single second, especially in non-baby-proofed environments.  This visit, though, was relatively relaxing for everyone!

On a housekeeping note, this trip was the first that I basically traveled with only clothes and toiletries.  I had a banana in my purse (in case we had to stop somewhere along the way), and a few kiwi that wouldn't have lasted until we got back home, but otherwise I didn't take any preparations.  I didn't take special cups, or utensils, and of course there were no strollers, high chairs, or pack-n-plays.  (And thank goodness for that...there's no way we could have fit the gifts in the car with anything else!)

Dare I say things are getting easier???  KNOCK ON WOOD.  ;)

December 26, 2012

Advent Wrap-up and Candy Cane Hunt and {CRAFT}

We had so much fun with our Advent countdown!!!  Even though most of the activities were things we would have done anyway, the girls had an absolute blast being surprised every morning to learn what was in store for the day.

We...

  • Decorated the tree
  • Made Chex mix
  • Made an ornament
  • Decorated cookies with our friends M&C
  • Made a Christmas tree craft
  • Took a walk through the neighborhood to see the lights
  • Bought a present for Sasha
  • Went shopping for the food pantry
  • Watched the lighting of the Rockefeller Tree
  • Made cards for our friends
  • Went to Miss Meridith's house for Christmas stories with Santa
  • Made a donation to the Salvation Army (complete with a goody bag for the bell-ringer)
  • Made homemade hot chocolate
  • Hosted Grandma June for a Christmas snack (and then we surprised Daddy at work with the leftovers)
  • Ate out for breakfast
  • Made cards for the girls' teachers
  • Had a Christmas party at school
  • Went to see the Houchens House decorated with 34 trees
  • Wrapped presents
  • Went to Alabama to celebrate with Granddaddy and Emme
  • Went to Birmingham to see our friends and family
  • Went to Grandma Linda's house
  • Took gifts to our neighbors

(A couple of days I felt like I wimped out...like the Christmas party at school...but the girls didn't miss a beat.  I tried not to "overdo" too much.  I rationalized there was no sense in me forcing another activity when they'd be full from parties or traveling.)

The culmination of our countdown, on Christmas Eve, was a candy cane hunt.

I originally got the idea from Deanna, and then I saw how Johanna had organized a scavenger hunt for her girls' preschool class.  I combined the two, and my A&B thought it was The Best Thing Ever!

When they woke up from their nap, I gave them each a gift bag and a clue. 



Look in the chair where Sasha enjoys the sun…
Collect your candy canes and start the fun!

They raced downstairs to the dining room to the chair where Sasha likes to look out the window.  Waiting for them were two candy canes, and another clue.

Look for the ornament that is new…
You’ll find more candy canes and another clue!

Two more candy canes were hanging on the tree, and then...

Continue this game with lots of wishes…
By looking where you keep your dishes!

Two more candy canes were tucked into their play kitchen, and then...

Have some fun and then cut loose…
Go to the place where there are books of Seuss!

Two more candy canes sat atop their Dr. Seuss books, and then...

Head upstairs, this game is drawing near…
Look for the book about the little twin deer!

Two more candy canes were on the bookcase upstairs, and then...

And down once more, but not too fast…
Go to the table to do a craft!


Waiting on them were the makings for this candy cane reindeer.


The girls were giggling every step of the way, their excitement at the thrill of the chase palpable.  It was a wonderful end to our Christmas countdown, and a great Christmas Eve activity.

The Christmas just before the girls turned two was so much fun...the next year, even more so...and this year was an absolute BLAST.  We are so thankful for this time with our sweet baby girls!

December 25, 2012

December 20, 2012

Still Here, Just Busy!

I have so many fun stories I want to record...but I just haven't had the time to sit down much lately!

There's lots of this...
(my almost-world famous peanut brittle)
 ...and this...

(brown paper packages tied up with string [and decorated with washi tape!])

...but thankfully there are lots of smiles from these two elves...

(modeling new hats!)
...to keep me in check.

Having a blast this holiday with my two baby girls!!!  :)  :)

December 17, 2012

Feeling Blessed

The past week has been a busy one.  We've been buzzing around, enjoying all manner of holiday cheer.  In the meantime (largely on second shift), I have been crafting and baking and doing holiday cards.

I'm feeling a little tired, yes...a bit harried here and there...but largely, I'm feeling very, very blessed.

Sitting down to write my holiday cards...addressing them, writing each family member's name, and at least a short greeting for the coming year...it forces me to stop and think about all the wonderful people in our lives.

Some of our cards go to people we see often...our neighbors, our in-town friends.  Some cards go to our family.  But many cards are addressed to folks I may not have seen in a long time.  It's really been striking to me to realize the breadth of our address book.

Printed on the inside of our card is a sentiment along the lines of, "We are so thankful to have such wonderful family and friends with whom to share our joy."

Certainly I mean that, and I am so blessed to truly feel that...almost palpably...this season.

In addition to that feeling, the girls are at such a fantastic age to really enjoy all the festivities of the holiday.  Just over the past three days, it's been so very special to share those festivities with friends.

We spent Saturday morning at Miss M's house...hearing stories, eating cookies, and playing. 

Here are my A and B, playing air hockey with sweet Baby A.  There is 2 1/2 years between then, but give them a few years, and it's fine by me if they all become BFFs.

On Sunday, we went to M&C's house to decorate Christmas cookies.   

Twin boys marrying twin girls...it could happen, right?  [In 30 years, that is!]
And this morning "Grandma" June joined us for a fancy-schmancy morning snack downtown, and then we headed to tour a historic home boasting 34 Christmas trees from around the world.

I don't think B really knows how to pose like that...I caught her rattling the hand rails, actually...but how cute are those three gals???

Amid what can be a bit of craziness this holiday season...we're having so much fun...and feeling very blessed.

December 16, 2012

Christmas Wonderment

I have not encouraged the legend of Santa Claus at our house.  I have told the girls that he's a character in a story...one of the symbols of giving at Christmas...but we don't pretend that "he sees you when you're sleeping / he knows when you're awake", or that he comes to our house to leave gifts. 

Still, a friend of ours was hosting a Christmas get-together yesterday, including a REAL-live Santa Claus, and I decided to take the girls.

I told them what to expect, that there would be a person dressed like Santa, who would read us stories.  Baby B was cordial enough, but Baby A kept her distance.  She didn't fuss, but she didn't want very close to the jolly old elf.

This mama, on the other hand, was pretty taken with this gentleman.  What a joyful soul he was!  He eluded kindness and warmth, and he was so good with all the children.

We may not "believe" in Santa Claus, but the fun morning we had...stories, cookies, hot chocolate, and lots of laughter...is one that will live in wonderment in my mind for a long time.


December 15, 2012

Take a Walk to See the Lights



One of our Advent activities this week was to take a walk to see the lights in the neighborhood.  We ate supper a little bit early, bundled up, and made a pretty big loop to check out all the decorations.  The girls had fun oohing and ahhing at sparkling shrubbery, Christmas trees in windows, and deer grazing in lawns.

Equally as enthralling to them, though, were our shadows as we walked under streetlights, and the moon and stars in the sky above.

I was reminded how seldom the girls are outside after dark.

During the summer, it gets dark long after the girls go to bed.  During the late fall and winter, when it gets dark much earlier, it’s usually cooler and we spend our outside time in the mornings and afternoons.

We love to eat out on the weekends, but it’s most often a Saturday lunch.  And on the rare occasions when we eat out for dinner, we load and unload in the garage.

“Mommy!  Is that a star???”

“Mommy, I love the stars!  I want to pull one down!  Can I???”

It’s something I definitely take for granted…obviously being out at night as an adult, and having grown up “in the country”, having an unadulterated view of the night sky at my disposal.

And then there were our shadows, ever changing as we walked under streetlights.

“Look!  Our shadow is behind us!”

“Here it comes…it’s beside us!”

“Wow…look how tall my shadow is, Mommy!  I’m growing!”

And the girls erupted in fits of giggles every time I shrieked “OUCH!” when one of them stepped on my shadow.

Of course we see our shadows in the summer sunshine, but what a fun lesson in physics it was to talk about the angle of the light and how shadows are created.

It was a fun night for all of us, and a downright magical one for me.  Not only did I get to enjoy my babies’ wonderment at the pretty decorations…not only did I relish the four of us, bundled up tight and walking hand in hand…but I was reminded of the beauty of discovery.

Oh, and it's okay to bend the rules every once in a while...an earlier supper and a later bedtime were well worth the experience.

A merry Christmas to me, indeed.

December 14, 2012

Easy-Peasy Christmas Ornament

A few days ago, I decided that our Christmas tree was far too polished to belong to two almost-four-year olds.

Well, as "polished" as a tree can look with silver ornaments uncomfortably grouped in small clusters, many hanging on the bottom branches so that our cat Sasha might rub against them and ring the bells, much to the girls' delight...that is.

The girls brought home their first handmade ornament from preschool last week to kick things off.

And I decided our Advent activity on Wednesday would be "Make a Christmas Ornament".

I bought a couple of bags of jingle bells, a mix of small and medium, in silver and gold.  I gave the girls each a pipe cleaner, and let them maneuver the bells onto it.

I'll pause here and say this process wasn't without its challenges.  I had no trouble pulling the bells on the pipe cleaner, but the girls tended to pull too hard, bending the pipe cleaner, so that they couldn't pull the bells on straight (if that makes sense).

Ultimately I'd say the girls did about 75% of the work, but I had to stay very hands-on with them, mostly straightening the pipe cleaners every bell or two.

[For future reference, might this have been easier with thinner wire?  Or maybe some kind or cord?]

I don't know how many bells we used in total, but it was quite a few.  When we had enough bells to make a decent loop, I twisted the pipe cleaner ends together, trimmed the ends, and tied a ribbon on.

The girls were so proud of their creation!  And I think it looks great on the tree!



Here's a different view to show scale.

We still have 10 days or so to add a few more hand-made touches.  Stay tuned!

Hope you and yours are enjoying the holiday season as much as we are.  My almost-four-year olds are so much fun!!!

I'm linking up with Charlene at Adventures-in-Mommy-Land for "Hey, Mom!  Look What I Did!"  There are so many great craft ideas on her blog!

December 11, 2012

I'm Over Here...

I'm guest posting today at MaMe Musings.  My sweet friend Melissa is hosting her holiday series called "Unwrapping Our Gifts", and I am very thankful to be a part of it again this year.  

It often feels uncomfortable to step out and say, "These are my gifts." I think it is a great reminder, though -- particularly during this often-hectic season -- to step back and remember that we all have so much to offer...much of which can't be wrapped with a sparkly bow.

I'm very thankful for the opportunity to share a project I've been involved in over the past couple of years, one that has become a great passion.

And I'm also very thankful for the prompt to step back and remember how quickly we've gone from this...


...to this...


We are so thankful for our sweetest baby girls! 

Wishing you and yours many blessings this holiday season!