Christmas break…

We have had my brother come visit us after Christmas for the last several years. We love having them and we have a routine of all the things we know we can fit it into the week between Christmas and New Years. For one reason or another, they weren’t able to join us this year. So we decided to make a last minute, quick trip to California – during what was quite possibly the coldest and rainiest week of the year! Several times the week before, we were tempted to cancel all together because the forecast was so gloomy. But in the end we went and we made the best out of a very rainy situation.

The best decision we made was inviting some friends to join – they have an RV and were happy to join in our rainy fun. We were very strategic about our activities. We tracked the weather so closely and as soon as there was a rain-free window – we were outside, bundled up! We spent a morning riding bikes along the pier. We could have done this for hours, but our window was short and we didn’t want to end up drenched. We started out with Briggs on his little bike and before we even left the parking lot, we switched him to a tandem which was such a smart move on our part – his little legs would’ve had a hard time keeping up.

One evening *before dinner* we went to Balboa Island to grab a frozen banana/treat. As you can imagine, nobody was overly hungry for dinner. And maybe it’s just me, but I don’t get how people rave over the frozen banana! They’re hard to eat and they hurt my teeth – but the kids didn’t seem to mind. Dip anything in sprinkles and they’re a fan.

We had access to a small enclosed dinghy boat which kept us entertained and warm for hours. Even when it was rainy outside, we could take it out and put around the bay. One evening we took the boat out and enjoyed all the Christmas lights on the houses bordering the bay – it was fun to spot the houses that had received awards for their display. A few of the displays were pretty fancy. We learned that they have a boat parade before Christmas where everyone decorates their boats and several were still decorated and cruising around the bay.

The kids wanted to play in the ocean and no matter how many times we told them just how cold the water was, they were convinced they were going to go skim board and play in the waves. It was a brief excursion to the beach (when Briggs managed to get fully wet) but we did manage to roast some hot dogs and make smores and we would’ve stayed longer but we ran out of wood and we were too cold without a fire.

The kids rode the small but fast ferris wheel at Balboa fun zone. We must have caught the only two hours it was open for the day due to rain – because we didn’t see it running much the whole time we were there.

And when the rain totally shut us down – there were always puzzles. And Jack’s Surf Shop. And games. And movies. And tacos.

We packed in a surprising amount of fun for just how miserable the weather was. Literally two days after we left it was beautiful and sunny once again. I guess we’ll have to head back another time and hopefully not pack everyone’s comfy!

Happy wall 2021…

I don’t cry when I take the tree down, but I hate losing our happy wall of friends’ and family cards.

I’ve seen a couple of fun ideas floating around the internet of what to do with these cards once they come off the wall. I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll end up doing with them, but for right now they’re still on the fridge. They are always my last Christmas decoration to come down.

I like when friends come over and they ask about some of the cards. I get to do a little rundown of what makes that family so special, how we know them and why they’re on our fridge. And sometimes there’s a connection we didn’t even know existed.

I’m forever grateful for the many families that have crossed our paths and made it such a delightful road to travel.

Christmas Card 2021…

Christmas cards might be one of my favorite Christmas traditions – sending them and receiving them. Some years, we have a plan in advance – other times, we are fighting against time to get it printed before Christmas. This year, we were lucky to get them done!

Let me give you a little background info on how this card came to be – because I’m often asked how we come up with these. I had hoped to use our Halloween costumes on our card (if you’ve been around for some time, you’ll remember we’ve done this many times) but there were some in the family that weren’t loving the idea of being in spandex and masks for our card this year. I was busy with the Turkey Trot and didn’t leave much time for any creative process. Steve sat down with me one evening as we brainstormed what represented our family this year. And he came up with the phrase. With the phrase/theme of the card nailed down, I immediately knew I could make it fun and base it around candy. I spent the next morning running around town picking up candy/treats.

We had already created a spinning card a few years back when we wrapped our kids in lights so I knew I had a template that the printer was familiar with – so we decided a spinning card was the winner. That evening, in a matter of one hour, I ransacked the kids closets to find clothing in the colors of the rainbow and I shot each kid individually and Hallie shot my photos. (Believe it or not, I picked the colors of the card before I went through their closets and by some small miracle, we had clothing that matched every color – except one, in which we photoshopped it to match, and even when I’ve had people guess which one was photoshopped, they don’t guess correctly!) Steve was gone for the evening so we caught him the next morning before he flew out for a work trip and by that evening the card was done and ready to send to print. So within 72 hours we had gone from no ideas, to a completed card. It rarely works like that – but the stars aligned for us this year.

It was fun to see the finished card hanging in the homes of friends and family and to see who was being featured! Of course, I had a few children (I won’t name any names) who liked to rotate the image to them in every house they visited.

Christmas 2021…

Every year I don’t think Christmas can top the year before – and every year I’m shocked it does! It just keeps getting better as our family has grown. I watched in awe Christmas morning at just how content and happy I was in that moment, knowing very well these moments don’t last. Hands down, my favorite day of the year.

Cannon received his 8-year-old baptism journal that I’ve made for each kid. He was so surprised because when he asked about it the week prior I said I would try and get it made for him after Christmas.

A packers shirt for our packers fan…

And Suns shirts all around!

Every Christmas there seems to be an unforgettable moment – this year was no exception.

Side note: When opening presents, the kids choose gifts from under the tree, and we don’t dictate what order they open them.

Bennett watched his sister open a gift that he wanted so badly – concert tickets. And yet he held it together pretty well and seemed genuinely happy for her. A while later he watched Hunter open the same gift. In an effort to not spoil Bennett’s surprise, we said it was just the two of them going. He was visibly devastated. Part of me wanted to tell him immediately that he was going too – but part of me wanted him to sit with that emotion. I pulled him over to me and reminded him that I work so hard to make sure everyone is happy on Christmas and I have a pretty good track record – he just needed to trust that I would find the gifts just right for him, although that may be different from his siblings. We had a little moment and it was a beautiful. Meanwhile, Hunter went searching under the tree feeling all the presents and realized there was another gift under the tree with what felt like a paper taped to the package under the wrapping. And as everyone grabbed their next round present, Hunter nonchalantly handed him the package. (I love that Hunter was so concerned for him that he wanted him to be happy too.)

This was his face when he opened it.

He was more than a little surprised and then quite emotional about it.

He immediately came over to me and gave me a hug and we had another tender moment. I underestimated just how excited he would be for that gift – but given he knows the album better than his siblings, I should have known. He had a 1 in 3 chance of opening that gift first and it didn’t work out that way – and I think it worked out just right.

It was such a good reminder that it is sometimes so hard to be happy for people, even when you know you should be. It’s something we all have to be aware of and work at in one form or another. That idea was something I couldn’t shake the rest of the day – that moment replayed in my head.

I couldn’t help but put myself in Bennett’s shoes and remember times where I’ve been seriously disappointed with something in my life. Sure, I should have been happy for people when I could see it was working out for them. But instead I sat in my frustration and/or pity. It’s not a fun place to be.

I can’t help but think of the parallel to our Father in Heaven in this situation. I know he reassures us the same way I was trying to reassure Bennett in his despair. “Can’t you see that I know you so well – but you’re going to have to trust that I know what’s best for you and I’m looking out for your best interest, regardless of the outcome.”

I think Bennett learned a lot of in this moment and I think I learned even more. Not to mention all the kids that witnessed it and the pain they felt for Bennett when he was so disappointed. And I love that Hunter sprung to action so quickly trying to solve the problem and make him feel better. It was my Christmas moment of the day for sure.

We had a beautiful, lazy, family-focused day – smiles all around!

The surprising looks of Christmas…

Kids are fun on Christmas morning because they are genuinely excited and they are not afraid to show it! As I scrolled through the pictures I took, I saw a common theme – the open mouth look of surprise. Each of the kids had their moment of surprise for their own gifts – and then equally surprised for their siblings’ gifts. (They don’t know any of their siblings’ gifts prior to watching them open, so it’s a surprise for every one.)

Even on the most basic of gifts – when Briggs opened a Pop-it – you would have thought by Cannon’s face that he got a TV for his room! It’s really one of my favorite things about Christmas morning, there is so much genuine happiness and excitement and on top of it all – gratitude. Cannon is our hugger and after each gift, he was coming over to give us bear hugs telling us thank you. (He’s also one of the most animated as everyone else is opening gifts.) Bennett is animated as well, but is also very vocal – loudly proclaiming that something is awesome!!

I’m fully aware that this excitement will probably fade. They won’t always give the open mouth surprised face – or perhaps even care what their siblings received. But they did this year and I wanted to capture it!