Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas 2011

We only had a few final preparations before Christmas could come.

Tess was inspired by images of the season to create a colorful present for her Nana and Papa.

Morley became increasingly naughty as Christmas drew closer.

Drew gave us his own Christmas present.

Ryan and Tess made paper-plate snowpeople.  Ryan's snowman featured a pointy, orange puffball nose, a coal-colored marshmallow smile, and intricately woven pipecleaner scarf.  Tess' snowgirl donned a crown, earrings, and a puffball necklace.

Tess and I made peanut butter reindeer cookies for Santa.

We had a delicious Christmas Eve dinner with Nana, Papa and Davita.

Buche de Noel for dessert.

Our family acted out the nativity for the Christmas Eve program.  Ryan was the donkey, Tess was Mary, Drew played the shepherd and wiseman.  I was the director and narrator.  Drew was delighted with his head covering and gave an entertaining performance.

Tess was excited to go to bed Christmas Eve.  Santa came BIG TIME!

Not one, but two purple teddy bears.  Nothing short of a Christmas miracle!

In case you're wishing you were here Christmas morning, here's video of the whole big reveal.  

All the toys were a big hit!

So fun watching them play together!

We were getting ready for church when Drew vomited his breakfast everywhere.  He's had a miserable cough and I think he gagged during a bad coughing fit.  Ry stayed home with the kids and I went to church alone so I could give my Christmas talk and perform with the choir.  

After church (and a long Drew nap), we headed to the Higginbothams for brunch and lots more presents.  I petered out on the photo taking, but we had a wonderful time together and even got to Skype a little with the Morleys and Murdocks.

Such a fun Christmas and we're enjoying lots of time together.  

Merry Christmas 2011!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Another Update

Want to read about caramel apples?  I added journaling to my Christmas Traditions post!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Post Update

If you're looking for an update, I added journaling and video to Tess' birthday post.  Check it out! (And feel free to leave another comment!)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is coming right on its merry way!  We've had a warm December and I'm not sure we're going to get any of Tess' favorite weather:  "SNOW!"  Not much we can do about that, but we've been doing what we can to create some Christmas cheer.

When we greeted Santa in Occoquan, I scoped out Christmas card photo spots and later took the kids back for a photo shoot.  It's practically impossible to catch both kids smiling at the camera at the same time.  I need to remember that the first photos always turn out the best, so I should shoot my favorite spots first.  The kids get sick of it pretty quick, even though I brought along lots of marshmallow bribes.

Another favorite Christmas activity is snuggling.  OK, so we're year-round snugglers.  But we're getting excited for Ry to have lots of time off for lots more snuggling.

It's funny to me how much Tess loves playing with our nativity set.  This scene is titled, "The Adoration of the Magi, Ponies, Trains and Little People."

We spent a day making our annual "Gingy House" with Nana.  Tess' involvement this year was more of a supervisory role. She'd leave to play with her toys and occasionally come back with opinionated decorating critiques.

I got a crazy idea to try making homemade candied caramel apples as giveaway gifts this year. The recipe that tempted me is fairly involved, and I had nightmarish visions of burned caramel and 12 sticky mixing bowls all over the kitchen with caramel sliding off of apples everywhere.  I called both Maureen and Meredith, wanting them to talk me out of the idea, but they weren't home.  Then I called Wendy and she said I should do it!  Evil mother-in-law!  Turns out it wasn't so bad, the caramel set up and was DELICIOUS!  

It wasn't until we were all finished with the project that I remembered how much my dad used to like caramel apples, and I'm sure subconscious childhood memories played a part in my wanting to try these.  I remember with fondness making caramel apples with the family as a kid (we used the flattened caramel sheets that you wrap around the apples) and my dad relishing them.   I remember how happy I was because he was so happy!  Funny how this memory first came back when I was sticking the pointed wooden dowels in the apples--almost a deja vu feeling!

Tess and Ryan helped with the toppings and decorating.  Mini M&M's (Tessie's favorite), mini chocolate chips and toffee pieces worked well as toppings (though toffee seems to be the favorite).  You have to work kind of fast before the caramel sets up, so it was good to have extra hands.  

A couple notes to self:  

  • cooking the caramel takes the full 12 minutes, so be patient; 
  • granny smith apples taste the best with the caramel; 
  • average-sized apples are plenty big once you get all the toppings on them;
  • wash the apples with a little soap to remove wax; 
  • Pam spray works well to keep them from sticking to the foil; and 
  • work a little faster next time!)

They turned out really yummy and our friends really enjoyed them.  I think we have a new gift-giving Christmas tradition!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tessie Turns 4

Is it just me, or has this been a long year?  In any event, Tess has been waiting to turn 4 for a long time now!

We started things off with a birthday celebration at Nana and Papa's house.  Tess and Nana conspired against me by putting 4 candles on the cake.  I told Tess I had a really great idea to put only 3 candles on this year and then she wouldn't grow up and get any bigger.  Then every year we could use just 3 candles and she would stay my little girl.  Needless to say, Tess wasn't happy with this idea, but she got tired of arguing with me about it.  She would say, "You'll just see when I get my birthday cake," as if some cosmic forces of right and wrong in the universe would somehow balance things out and put 4 candles on her cake.  And they did.

She made fast work of the cake because she was so excited about presents!  She got such wonderful gifts!  Way fun dress up stuff and Polly pockets from Nana and Papa; a bathtub "waterpark" set from Dipsy & Papa; an interactive chipmunk toy that she named "Pet"; and a Baby Alive doll that she's only been wanting for 6 months now.

Birthday party #2 came a couple days later: a rainbow-themed party with her 3 bestest friends, Danielle James, Cade Austin and Lindsay Watson.  

I "rainbowed" the house up and scattered chocolate "gold" coins on the walk and lawn.  It was fun to watch the surprised kids spot the coins when they came to the front door!

We asked the guests to wear "colorful" clothes.  Lindsay wore a colorful striped sweater, Danielle wore rainbow ribbons in her hair, and Cade basically wore every color in his closet he could find.  I think we was wearing 3 shirts.  His mom said he took "colorful" to mean that he was supposed to wear the most unmatching outfit possible, and that at one point he was wearing a bandana on his head.

I was surprised how much they enjoyed making (and eating) rainbow fruit pops.  And adding marshmallows at the end for "clouds."  I love how silly these kids get when they're together.  They really enjoy each other.

After rainbow pops, it was time to hunt for "gold" at the end of the rainbow.  And one hunt wasn't enough!  After the kids collected all the coins, a "rainbow elf" stole all their gold when they weren't paying attention and scattered the coins all over the lawn again.  At first they all blamed Drew for taking the coins until they saw the lawn and they couldn't believe their eyes!  Danielle spent the rest of the party checking to make sure her coins were still in her bag.

We also did a simple rainbow craft, because kids love glue.  Apparently, Lindsay had never heard of a "pom-pom" and she thought that was the funniest word she'd ever heard.  Lindsay has a totally infectious laugh, so the kids kept making her laugh by saying "pom-pom" over and over again.  (FYI--it was during the craft that the sneaky rainbow elf struck!)

Finally time for cake!  The kids had big eyes when they saw all the candy and marshmallows.  Tess watched closely to make sure I didn't use the #3 candle from last year. I know in a few years, I will think I'm silly for thinking she looks so grown up.  But she looks so grown up.  (Even though I made her sit in Drew's high chair!)

I let them each pick a different color for their milk.  
And it turns out that cake and Skittles are a pretty tasty combination!

I love these little faces.  

They really are the cutest, sweetest friends ever!  They were so genuinely happy  for Tess and so excited to give her their presents.

I loved the adorable cards the kids had worked on for Tess.  She had the biggest smiles when she opened each one.

They finished off with some fun playtime.  It amazes me how well they play together.  They initiated this Candyland game all on their own--how nice of them to keep with the rainbow theme.  :)

So it's official--Tess is 4!  
My only consolation is that I've discovered that 4-year olds give really good hugs!