Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Part Three

We drove to Orlando Saturday morning. The kids were excited and woke up early so we left while it was still dark and enjoyed seeing the Christmas lights in our neighborhood again. Our drive went so well and it was so nice out that we were even able to go swimming the first day we got to Orlando.

 Sunday morning we went to Downtown Disney. There is a lot of construction going on so lots of stores were closed but we had 4 very excited people when we found this...
 the Lego store and princesses. The kids each picked out a lego set with their Christmas money from Grandmollie. After dragging them away from the store :), we enjoyed the pretty shopping area
 and especially the water fountains where we had several wet kids!
 Lots of nice photo ops!
 And even a train ride.
 After good napping, we were ready for the pool!
 and hot tub!
 Monday we spent hanging out at the condo, last minute shopping, game playing, and swimming. The Hubbards all came over for dinner. Mom brought yummy Country Captain and dairy free, gluten free chocolate cake for dinner and then we enjoyed visiting with family. We had a good time playing two Christmas carol games we learned in Baltimore. Christmas song picture game similar to this and another where we teamed up to think of as many Christmas carols as we could. Curt and Michelle and their partners came in 1 and 2 even before they named all the Put it on the Sleigh songs.

 Tuesday morning we headed to Sea World. We had a wonderful day there. We first saw the North Pole Express. We didn't have much time before the Shamu show and I'm so glad we didn't rush. Instead we took our time to see the Beluga whales were pretty and then went to Shamu land. There was almost no one there. The kids got to walk right up to Shamu Express (kid roller coaster) and several other rides. There was no doubt when the Shamu show ended as tons of people suddenly interrupted our private play area :)
 C enjoyed the train ride with Nana and Papa.
 C and T wanted to sit in the splash zone. The rest of us sat a little higher up in the no splash zone. The show was super- even had sweet baby whale kisses!
 On our way to BBQ lunch, we were glad to see several land animals up close including this snake KG got to pet and lots of beautiful birds.
 The kids loved the shark exhibit. Baby C couldn't stop looking at the "Fish up top" and "Big Fish"
 We all enjoyed our BBQ lunch and then got to watch the dolphins have their lunch! That was like a show by itself. They did lots of tricks before we saw the actual dolphin show.

 Baby C was the only one who fell asleep but all of us were worn out at the end of the day.
 Sea World was beautifully decorated that just walking around was fun. I'm so glad we went and that we stayed to see Sea World lit up at night.
 The only thing we really wanted to do but missed was the O Wondrous Night Show. The kids were in line for the snow globe picture when we heard the announcement that the show was already full- over 30 minutes before it was scheduled to start.
 Wednesday we recovered from Sea World with fun at the pool and can you guess? more swimming!
 We sang Christmas carols and recited the Christmas story for Christmas Eve for our "Florida Christmas"
 Christmas morning the kids woke up early. I was thankful for Adventures in Odyssey to keep them happily occupied for a bit. A thankful for Facetime so we could open stockings and Christmas presents with James. Here are our two ballerinas. We opened stockings and then Happy Birthday to Jesus before having coffee cake. Then lots of fun present opening. We were so blessed by all the wonderful presents. And then enjoyed yummy brunch- sausage breakfast casserole and overnight French toast.
 After more playtime, we headed to Tampa to see the Hubbards again. After a short visit, we enjoyed a delicious dinner and tons of dessert.
 Then bundled up outside for "A Christmas Story."
 C made her rounds to lots of laps.
 Friday morning we drove to see Nutcracker Ice. We got there a little early and decided to look around. I'm so glad we did. It was amazing- huge, pretty, a river runs through it, alligators, turtles, fish, ...
Then we made it to see Ice! It was really neat - Ice carvers brought in from China carved over two million pounds of ice into scenes from the Nutcracker. Amazing detail. Beautiful! It was also very cold! So thankful for the parkas they loan everyone for the 9 degree room. I should have brought hats and gloves but we didn't get frostbite :) I guess we did go a little Overboard for Christmas.

Kids loved the slides and we went at the perfect time- not many people there! When we left, there was a long line to get in. Another great day!
We ended our Florida Christmas with hamburgers and music by the pool. And of course more swimming! We really wished James had been with us but we had a good trip. We enjoyed wonderful food, good company, great weather, super presents. A Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Part Two

I wrote a post about how we're having a simpler Christmas this year but that doesn't mean it's not beautiful or not fun. 

I really like our stockings hung by the corner cabinet with care. (That's Jesus stocking on the end.)

Love our new Christmas clothes. And we had a super church picnic last week where we were able to bless an older couple with cookies but more than that with smiles from cute little girls.

"I found Baby Jesus"

At our homeschool party, K and KG really liked making cards and goodie bags for the nursing home residents.

We all enjoyed eating the yummy food!

Loved this fruit basket from our sweet neighbors. We took them cookies and sang We Wish you a Merry Christmas, and they brought us this beautiful basket! 

Dollar Tree shopping for Operation Christmas Child and for family are definitely high up on kids' favorite Christmas traditions.

Not Christmasy but lots of fun- C found tadpoles out behind our house. We have three in a fishbowl in the house and the kids have caught lots "catch and release." 

We were so glad Grandma, Pops Leon, and Uncle Brian could come down today. 
 Grandma brought down lunch which was nice. After church we could have this fun outside instead of cooking :)

We all enjoyed the wonderful presents. 

Grandma's birthday blanket

Uncle B with two girls who love the new blankets he made.

Christmas Part One

This has been such a busy Christmas season. Lots of doctors appointments, it seems to have arrived quickly with the late Thanksgiving, a cold that seemed to linger after Thanksgiving, ... My grand plans for Christmas have not all happened. But I think that's ok. Instead of all the crafts, baking, doing, we've had a lot of quieter time (well as quiet as it gets around here :) Instead of baking tons, we baked some. Instead of getting carried away with the good idea fairy for advent, we've read the New Testament each morning with James, we're memorizing Luke 2, and reading Jesse Tree each night.

We did Operation Christmas Child- which the kids look forward to each year- and we adopted a child for our church's Winter Wonderland. The kids really enjoyed helping pick out presents for the little boy. Instead of being in a Christmas play, we watched another church's Christmas program. Instead of going to see a big lights display, we've enjoyed our neighbor's Christmas lights. Instead of decorating a tree, we hung the kids' ornaments on a string in the living room.  Instead of elaborate crafts (not that we ever do elaborate, the kids have really enjoyed making presents for each other, friends, and family on their own. And that's really where we are right now. And all of it is ok- I think God wants to meet us where we are. I read a super blog about the shepherds and how God announced His most wonderful gift not to the fine people in the temple but to the tired, poor shepherds. He doesn't want a production, our fanciest, our pinterest worthy, but our hearts. 

One of my favorite memories of this Christmas will be Baby (I mean Big Girl) C's "I found baby Jesus" over and over as she looks at Bibles or Christmas books.

Southern States 2014

We had a great trip down south this year. The kids pointed out that it was nice to start our drive to Florida "almost half way there" since it's 8 hours from NC instead of 14 from MD. So glad that I have pictures to help remember because it all seems like such a long time ago- even though it was only a few months. I really like having fun things planned especially while James is away- both to look forward to and to enjoy. This trip was definitely both. We drove down to Fl for a few days.

The hot tub sure is fuller these days!

Big Girl C enjoying a bottle with Papa

Everyone enjoying the Hawaii pool- we had a great time swimming!

Celebrating Papa and K's birthdays

More Blue Star museum fun: Mission San Luis 

So excited to have a dog come swim with us- as long as he would stand still!
Mom drove with us again from FL to Mollie's in Mississippi.
We always love going to the Dentzel Carousel

C's first big girl ride

Seeing the turduckens is always fun- that's not their real name but they are the scary ducks- except the babies who are really cute.

A trip to MS wouldn't be complete without a snow cone or two. 

And of course hugs with Grandmollie

Grandmollie took us out to lunch at Checkerboards after church. Do you think C liked it?

After a nice visit in MS, Mom rode with us to Dallas, TX. We listened to lots of Anne of Green Gables along the way. And were glad that we were able to see Karen, Todd, and their girls.
Karen picked a really nice park and the kids had a great time

They did stop playing long enough for pics and some cake. We were really glad the kids could meet their cousins. 
We also enjoyed the hotel with dinner and breakfast included. After a day on the road, it's nice to just walk down the hall for dinner.
And to wake up and have TX waffles!

The morning that Mom flew home we went to a museum Karen suggested right beside DFW.
The kids enjoyed the aircraft info 

but were most excited about the lego display!
We dropped Mom off at the airport and drove to Janelle's. I didn't take a lot of pictures but we enjoyed several days of
lots of kids playing games, 

good food

outdoor time kids playing and enjoying the fun farm

still time for book reading

and geocaching. 
Rob scored super big points by watching 9 kids so Janelle and I could go out to lunch just us! I even got a haircut. A super visit!

We spent the night at a Drury Inn in AL (thanks hotel points :) and then got to spend a few hours visiting the Greshams at Fort Rucker. And back to Madison before heading home.
I didn't know there were lots of geocaches around Madison. I think we did 10 in two  days 

Including one by the cotton gin. 
We had a wonderful trip. It was great to see friends and family across the southeast! And made it that much closer to James coming home!