Christmas Eve 2022…

There is always so much pent-up excitement on Christmas eve – its a wonder that any of the kids ever fall asleep.

The last couple years it has rained on Christmas eve and put a damper on our neighborhood luminaries. So when we saw a clear forecast earlier in the week, we were looking forward to our Christmas eve tradition once again. Almost 200 homes all display white paper bags with candles lining their sidewalk.

We lit our candles before heading over to our friends home for dinner and chimes. We’ve hosted our friends the last two years as they have been remodeling and they were happy to host once again.

I’m happy to report, the older the kids get, the better our chimes sound. There were a few years that were pretty rough! I don’t want to brag, but we sound pretty good and the kids love it.

After, we drove through the neighborhood to take in the lights and luminaries and made a stop at the Christmas light show (aka the Christmas house in the neighborhood). Definitely one of our warmer and drier Christmas eves.

We ended up back at home and the kids wanted to give their sibling gifts. They drew names and Hallie took them all to the store to purchase their gifts. I have to admit – this is one of their favorite things about Christmas and I want nothing to do with it! I spend enough time managing and purchasing all the gifts, I’m grateful they manage this on their own. And because I don’t know what they get each other, it’s a fun surprise for me as they’re opening them. So many smiles, so many hugs, so much gratitude.

It’s the perfect appetizer to Christmas morning.

Steve read a book to the kids and after they plated some cookies and carrots, they were off to try and go to bed. 😉

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

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Gingerbread…

I was nervous about having the kids home from school for a full week before Christmas – the energy is already a little high and I wasn’t sure how to keep them occupied. But it’s actually working out awesome and we saved some of our traditional activities for this week which is keeping everyone entertained.

Luckily, we have an amazingly ambitious mother in our neighborhood and I’m forever grateful for her energy. For the last couple years, she’s hosted a gingerbread making party and it is no small task. This year she had 50 neighbor kids in her front yard covered in frosting. Not to mention she went to all the work to hot glue all 50 houses so the kids had secure foundations to decorate. This is probably one of my kids very favorite Christmas activities – and if you could see the mess left behind it’s no wonder it’s most mom’s nightmare. Thank heavens for nice weather so this can be an outdoor party.

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Bass Pro Santa…

We made our annual visit to Bass Pro Shop to see Santa. As our kids get older, the oldest ones are still such good sports and make sure the experience is just as fun for their younger siblings as it was for them as a kid. They help keep the magic alive.

Briggs and Cannon made sure to get their letters to Santa in the mailbox. Cannon wrote the first part of the letter and Briggs’ followed it up with his own request. Both are tender and I love Briggs’ spelling of karaoke machine. 🙂

We finished our Bass Pro experience with a nice friendly game of hide and seek in which we spent a good long while searching for Hallie and Hunter who landed the perfect hiding spot.

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19 years…

By today’s standards, we were young when chose each other and yet its a decision I’m grateful we made each and every day. I told Steve not too long ago that although we’ve built a beautiful life together, it’s nothing like I thought it would be. And it continues to change and morph before our eyes. And just when we think we’re confident in where we’re at, life unexpectedly changes again.

I have no clue what our next 10 years is going to look like but the one thing I’m confident in is we’ll weather it together. (And we’ll likely have less children at home!)

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Mountain bike camping…

Hunter has a church leader who goes above and beyond and he plans the best monthly high adventure activities for their age group. Because of Hunter’s involvement with sports on the weekends, he doesn’t always get to participate. Last weekend he was able to join on the mountain biking campout and he had the best time.

Steve decided to join for the 5 mile mountain biking portion and then had plans to come home before the camping portion (I don’t blame him!) So his pack was significantly smaller and lighter than Hunters. In fact, as I watched them bike away from the house, I was worried Hunter was going to fall over with the pack on his back.

Shortly after they left, I was surprised to see Steve walk back in the door. I wasn’t expecting him for another couple hours. Unfortunately, just as they were setting out on their journey one of the boys got a flat tire. They tried to repair it but were unsuccessful. So Steve sent his bike on with the boy (along with his tin foil dinner that he had meticulously prepared) and he walked the flat tire bike back to the car and drove home.

Hunter came home the next morning and reported he was way too warm while sleeping and had plenty of food (which means who could have packed less). And he did in fact have a few small crashes – but it was more of a “tip-over” if we’re using his words. They did a couple runs in the dark with headlamps after setting up camp and that was one of his highlights of the weekend.

I love that he has such an adventurous leader willing to create so many awesome memories.

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Neighborhood Christmas party…

We had our neighborhood Christmas party last weekend. We do a lot of things as a neighborhood, but there are two events every year, the Christmas party and the block party, where everyone in the neighborhood shows up and it’s so fun for one night to see everyone come together. We eat. We listen to musical performances. We watch the nativity acted out (we missed out this year because the person who typically does the nativity was sick!). We take a hay ride around the neighborhood.

One event we look forward to each year is the candle lighting ceremony that one of our neighbor leads. And once we’ve all participated in helping light our neighbor’s candle we sing silent night together. It’s beautiful and has such unifying effect on a group of people with such differing beliefs. It always makes me a little emotional watching the otherwise dark field fill with light and seeing so many faces behind the candles that I’ve grown to love so deeply. We are so grateful for our neighbors and we love this special night where we can celebrate together.

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Christmas cheer…

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Elf

Hallie and her friends love going to the backyard concerts of a local band from their high school. Last weekend the concert had an ugly sweater theme and these girls were rocking it. Hallie is not one to enjoy dressing up – but she has persistent friends and I love they push her out of her comfort zone just a little bit. And they even bring her an ugly sweater so she doesn’t have an excuse and she doesn’t miss out on the fun. 🙂

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Impromptu concert…

Hallie and I (and really the whole family for that matter) have fallen in love with the voice of lesser known Benson Boone (although as of lately he’s gained popularity on tik tok and I’m starting to hear him more and more). He’s been on repeat at our house for sometime now and I’m just now starting to hear others that know about him, take a listen if you haven’t already! When I found out he was coming to a small dive bar in Phoenix we tried to get tickets. But oddly enough, the 500 tickets sold out pretty quickly. I signed up on the waitlist and didn’t think much of it.

As the day of the concert drew closer, I started looking at resell options and they were so expensive. (The original ticket price was only $16) I had given up hope. Hallie texted me from school the morning of the concert asking how expensive the tickets were. She did a great sales pitch and offered to pay half the ticket – how generous is that?!

By some miracle – I was scouring every resell site and found a ticket at half the price of every other site I came across. That set the wheels in motion. I rearranged carpool and dropped a note off on Hallie’s car to surprise her. We set out on an adventure shortly after. It wasn’t until we were driving over and Hallie was sharing about some people she knew were also coming that I realized the demographics of this concert. This was going to be a teenage girl’s dream concert and I was going to feel extremely old.

Neither of us were prepared for just how small this venue was but it made the whole experience so amazing. A line wrapped around the building waiting for the doors to open and we found two girls from our neighborhood we knew to look for.

I let Hallie dictate where we experienced the concert. She chose front and center, standing just three or four people from the stage and I couldn’t have been more happy with our placement. When they started handing out ear plugs, I noticed our proximity to the massive speaker just to the left of us and I gladly took a pair – this was a smart decision! I think it protected less from the speaker and more from the screaming girls surrounding me.

Hallie and I stood side-by-side and sang every word to every song with Benson at the mic right in front of us. It was unreal just how close we were.

Just before his final song, he announced he would be outside after the concert and he would stay until he met everyone interested in sticking around. Immediately, Hallie turned to me and said, “We are meeting him.” It wasn’t a question whether or not we should wait in yet another line, it was a statement. And meet him we did. We have a picture and video to prove that Hallie hugged him and we drove away out of the parking lot with smiles on our faces and Benson Boone blasting on the radio.

It was truly a magical night and I can’t believe we almost let the opportunity pass us by. I told Hallie, one day Benson is going to fill a stadium and you can say you saw him in a dive bar in the beginning.

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Confidence of a 6th grader…

Cannon recently told us something about Bennett we were unaware of. Evidently, every morning, when he gets on the bus, with energy in his voice he declares, “Bennett on the bus!” and then does high fives to everyone as he goes to his seat. I thought there may be some exaggeration to the story so I asked Briggs – he confirmed the story and added that the kids cheer Bennett on as he walks to his seat. Later, without any leading, we asked Bennett what he does every morning he gets on the bus and sure enough, he admitted to same story Cannon and Briggs told.

The next morning, we watched him get on the bus and sure enough, we heard his declaration and then watched him passing out high fives. We just giggled.

He has so much personality and I Iove his confidence.

This story should not come as a surprise, because years ago, his preschool teacher shared a similar account. He used to walk into preschool announcing that he had arrived and people would clap. One day I dropped him off just a few minutes early and there were only two other kids there and he was very disappointed he didn’t get the same reception he normal receives. 🙂

Evidently, I was unaware of how much he likes to make an entrance!

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Shove a sucker in it…

I can’t count how many high school games I’ve corralled and bribed my kids at, but it’s a significant amount!

And even as the kids have gotten older, they still require a bribe at some level. I went to three high school games tonight: A jv soccer game, as well as a jv and varsity basketball game. All the boys went to the soccer game. Hallie and Briggs came to the first basketball game with me. And then Hunter joined Briggs and Hallie at the last basketball game after his practice (while Cannon and Bennett were at their soccer practice.)

I sat next to a young mom during the second game with her three young kids and I couldn’t help but remember back to our early days of attending games for nieces and nephews. She had a six-year-old girl, a four-year-old boy and a one-year-old boy – basically this picture of my three young kids the exact same ages as her kids:

Now my youngest is as old as my oldest was in the picture above. Briggs was the only one that was with me throughout the entire evening and he handled it like a champ. Even now, all these years later, I still put a sucker in his pocket as we’re walking out the door to go to a game. Unfortunately he lost his sucker some where between game one and two which resulted in buying candy at the third game. He was such a trooper, I was happy to buy him a $2 bag of airheads as a reward!

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