Alternate title: Christmas 2016!
I did not get my real camera out a single time during December and so the whole Christmas shebang was documented with my phone. And there were so many events that it's hard to separate this into two separate posts: one for Christmas and one for phone pics. So a double whammy it is! (I feel like I should not it has taken me months to get this written...probably because it has 110 pictures in it.)
Our family always starts the month of December with a big celebration for the four family birthdays: Beth, Wyatt, Matt, and Anna. This year, the party was held at Mom and Dad's one Sunday after church.
We also start the month with new matching Christmas pj's for the fam!
During the first week of the month, we attended our town's Christmas parade. Our church youth group sells chili and homemade cinnamon rolls beforehand and then the parade comes right in front of the church, so it's perfect to grab dinner and then head outside and watch.
Parade watching is more fun when done with your best buddies! They were supposed to ride on a float for their school but didn't since it was so, so cold that night. You know you're at a parade in Arkansas when the biggest "floats" are the lit up tractors. My personal favorite of the night was the cement truck - it looked so pretty covered in lights! :) And Santa ditched the sleigh and rode in on the firetruck instead. Our kids loved it.
We have a super fun tradition of getting together with some of our best friends to exchange gifts. I hate that I didn't take many pictures. Allison outdid herself with dinner and a dessert that was pie, cake, and cobbler all in one! I love getting to see these kids play together.
Katie Wynn's Christmas party at preschool was a pajama party. I didn't get to attend but had pictures texted to me. Looks like they had fun in their pj's!
That same day at school they had practice for their Christmas program. I am so grateful to my sweet teacher friend that caught Katie Wynn and Levi holding hands and was quick enough to snap pictures! Later that night, I got her to admit to it with this conversation:
Me: Well what do y'all do when you practice for the program? Do you sing?
Me: Do you dance?
Me: Oh. Do you hold hands?
KW: No. (pause) Well, except for me and Levi. We hold hands because we're gonna get married.
She's probably a little young to be thinking about marriage, but I do approve of her choice in Levi. He's such a good little kid and they always have fun together. And Matt and I both love hanging out with his family. I'm so glad that they're buddies!
They got dressed up on the night of their performance. Each class sang two Christmas carols and while Katie Wynn was shy during the first one, she actually sang on the second one! I expected her to cry and not even walk up on "stage" so I'd say we've come a long way!
Trying to get a picture of the foursome after the program was pretty much a joke. The girls especially were not very thrilled to be taking pictures instead of running around the gym and eating cookies.
We ran into Santa a few times throughout the month. Our first visit with him, at church, went pretty much like every other year. They were all smiles and feeling brave beforehand but lost it when he entered the room.
Katie Wynn wasn't much braver when Santa came to her school.
But our last encounter with the big guy in red was a little bit better. We put on our pj's and went over to our friends' house and Santa stopped by for a special visit! He was truly the best Santa ever. The other kids jumped right up into his lap and talked his ear off. Katie Wynn wasn't having any of that and even when it was time for a group picture, she stood as far away as she could get.
But, like I said, this Santa was the best. He was so patient and just talked to me and Katie Wynn after the other kids ran off. There were lots of wheels turning in her little head and she was really thinking about maybe liking him.
Where was Thomas during all of this? Well, he freaked out so bad when Santa arrived that Matt had to carry him out onto the back porch. You can see him in the picture below peeking in the window. He enjoys Santa best from a distance. :)
It took a little coaxing but we were able to get both kids close enough to him for a picture without screams or tears!
And by the time he was ready to leave, they were both able to give him a five! So much progress. Such a good Santa.
With Santa gone, the kids settled in to watch a few minutes of a Christmas movie. The four big kids squeezed in to the chair so they could all sit together.
Meanwhile, on the full-sized couch...
Poor Thomas is the odd man out when we hang out with this group of friends. The other three big kids all have baby siblings that were born in 2016. So Thomas is bigger than the babies but smaller than the big kids. He tries to hang with them a lot though.
Later that night, after dinner, the kids got to decorate their own cookies for dessert. So fun! So messy!
And they washed those cookies down with a big glass of cold milk...and straws that had chocolate in them! Mmmmmm.
Katie Wynn got to spend one of her Christmas break days with Mimi and Bren. Mimi let them decorate a gingerbread house. I don't have any action shots but from what I hear, every surface of the kitchen and both girls was covered in icing and sprinkles! But their house sure turned out cute.
Katie Wynn helped me make a big batch of salt dough to use for ornaments. She was a great helper with the mixing and both kids helped cut out the shapes with cookie cutters.
After baking them, we waited til the next day when Anna and Wyatt were over to paint them all.
I wish I'd taken a good picture of all of them painted and with their ribbon. Some of them turned out really cute! (Mostly Anna's...)
I cut out heart shaped ornaments and then used Katie Wynn's and Thomas's thumbs to make heart shapes (before we baked the dough). I love the little red hearts up against the natural color of the dough, and if you look closely you can see that I put their initials on them so I'd know whose was who. We made a set for our tree, one for Lala and Poppa, and one for Mimi and Poppy. I gave them all a clear coat out of Mod Podge and then red and white baker's twine was the perfect finishing touch once they dried. These types of ornaments are always my favorite ones to hang on the tree.
On Christmas Eve morning, we woke up early and went down to the church for our Hope for the Holidays event. This year we adopted a family with three teenagers that we shopped for. We had already wrapped our gifts and so at the church, we added boxes of food and personal items before delivering them to our adopted family. This is one of my favorite things we do during the holiday season, and I'm glad all four of our kids participate in it.
It's always a little hard to come home to a house full of Christmas decorations and a tree loaded with presents underneath after such a humbling event. But, Christmas Eve morning is our time with Anna and Wyatt so we popped cinnamon rolls in the oven and passed out presents. We still do just four gifts for the big kids: some they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.
Anna and Wyatt are both really good sports about letting the littles help.
And, since Katie Wynn and Thomas don't really understand why they don't get to open all of their gifts at the same time, we made sure to have one out for each of them to open too.
They both opened up a dog carrier with a puppy dog and all the tools needed to be a vet.
After we said goodbye to Anna and Wyatt, we had some serious work to do: make cupcakes!
I don't like to toot my own horn too often, but I thought these cupcakes with strings of Christmas lights turned out so cute! And they were SO easy to do and tasted SO yummy. (The lights are mini M&Ms.) I wish I'd gotten a better picture of them.
Ok, so we took naps, got cleaned up, and then went back to church for the Christmas Eve service. Another one of my favorite parts of the holiday, partly because of the candlelit singing of Silent Night at the end of the service. This is the sweetest family picture...except for my brother Nick standing in where Matt should be! I'm pretty sure Nick was on cloud 9 at this moment because it might've been the first time ever that Katie Wynn willingly let him hold her.
Happy to report that no hair was caught on fire during this year's service.
After church, Matt cooked up a delicious beef tenderloin using a salt dough crust. It's always so exciting to see him cut open the crust (it's similar to a cast!) and reveal the meat. It smells heavenly and tastes even better!
We aren't allowed to open presents without taking pictures in front of the tree first.
This year Jett read the Christmas story for us and KW couldn't help but climb up beside him while he read.
After all the gifts had been opened, I revealed my surprise for everyone - mouth expanders! Lot of drooling going on in this pic.
I checked on the kids before calling it a night, and I just about melted into a puddle when I saw them cuddling like this. So sweet!
I did not do a good job of taking Christmas morning pictures, but I do remember that even with all the toys laying out, the highlight was the fruit in the stockings. Isn't that always the case?
It was fun to see our friends on Christmas morning! We had a short, casual service since the holiday fell on a Sunday this year.
Between church and family gatherings, we had a pretty jam-packed day. By the time we finally made it back home, it was late, but we just couldn't send the kids to bed without getting to test out their new rides that Santa had brought. So we backed our cars out of the garage and let them take the new Mini Cooper and Thomas the Train for a spin.
The fun didn't stop there! We also had to try out the super cool straws that Santa stuffed in their stockings.
And they had to sit in their new camp chairs too!
It was nice having the day after Christmas off from work for once. We spent the day lounging in our pj's and trying out ALL of the new toys. We also packed our bags because later that week, we went to Indiana for our final Christmas celebration. We rented a van for a more comfortable trip since all six of us were riding together. On the way, we also stopped at a DMV so that Anna could get her license! Hard to believe she's old enough to drive on her own now.
When we arrived at Lala and Poppa's, the kids wasted no time asking if they could open presents. Wyatt helped the littles pass them all out.
After all the gifts had been unwrapped, Katie Wynn and Thomas had to close their eyes for their last presents. They were the cutest little suitcases ever! Of course I didn't get a picture of them receiving them, but there's lots of pics coming soon in another post from when we used them on vacation.
We spent the rest of our visit there playing games like Memory and Jenga and using Katie Wynn's new art set.
We also got to spend a day with Matt's sister, Jill, and her two boys Nathan and Henry. Here are Lala and Poppa's six grandchildren, sitting out in the snow flurries that were coming down!
We ended December and 2016 with a long drive home on New Year's Eve. It was a good trip, a good Christmas, and a good year! (And with that, we switched to snow-themed clothes. :) )