Saturday, January 10, 2015

Christmas Time, A Travelogue Post

With Thanksgiving's festivities behind us, we gladly broke out our Christmas decorations and sported lots of red and green throughout the month of December. 

Our neighborhood is awesome, and Santa comes for a visit every year.  A short line, free photo with Santa, and candy canes, cookies, and hot cocoa afterwards make it the perfect way to visit with the jolly old man. Although, what is with Santa's belt buckle this year?  I kind of want to have a heart-to-heart with his stylist.

Everett hated the entire ordeal.  Kaden carefully concealed his hands inside his shirt sleeves the entire time.  I do not have high hopes of ever coming away from a visit with Santa Claus with decent photos.    

We kept the magic of Christmas going by rushing home after our visit with Santa and watching the boys decorate the tree in their matching holiday jammies.  

Kaden helped me with a lot of the holiday baking this year.  His favorite part was definitely crushing the candy canes for one cookie project.

Second best was the necessary taste testing.

"Good to the last drop," seems to forever be Kaden's motto when he's granted bowl licking privileges.

Everett ran lots of Christmas errands with me while Kaden was at school.  He fell asleep during a lot of them.  

Sometimes he stayed asleep, even after being dragged inside for a diaper change.

Kaden's school took a field trip to a local nursing home to share some Christmas spirit with the residents there.  They sang Christmas songs and passed out some decorations they made to brighten up their rooms.  It was precious.

I love these pictures of Kaden, Mark, and Mia after the singing.

And this one with their friend, Chris:

Kaden had a Christmas celebration at his preschool before the start of his holiday vacation.  My friend Janet was a dear and watched Everett for me, so I could actually enjoy it with him.

Grinch face.

Kade managed to create a be-sprinkled brownie tree of which Buddy the elf would have been proud.

One afternoon, we made some special cards and treats to secretly deliver to some folks in the community we greatly appreciate.

And, like the young ninjas in training that they are, Kaden and his friend Parker did an amazing job with the secret drop off.

The boys and I candy cane bombed a parking lot one night and had an absolute blast!  It was so fun leaving a minty treat on each car's windshield, and even more fun when Kaden got to offer some to people in person.  He loved it!  I think I want to make this a holiday tradition for sure.

With my birthday being a week before Christmas, I always feel so guilty making people squeeze in festivities for me.  My sweet friends Janet and Jamie took me out for a fantastic evening on my birthday this year.  It meant so much to me.  We ate a terrific dinner, grabbed a gourmet dessert, and saw a movie.  I was so grateful to these two for giving up an evening during the busiest time of the year for me.  I definitely felt loved and special on my birthday.  Love them!

Chad surprised me this year with a new stove and microwave for my birthday/Christmas present.  I was VERY surprised, and LOVED having it to use for all of the holiday baking during the month of December.  It was the BEST gift and extra heart warming, because he sacrificed his Christmas gift budget to buy me this. It kind of reminded me of some modern, less tragic version of "The Gift of the Magi."  Except I kept all my hair, and he didn't sell his vintage pocket watch. And in our case, the sacrifice was totally one-sided.  So maybe it just reminded me of the sentiment of the story, and not the plot.  Regardless, brownie points for him, indeed.  I married a very thoughtful man, who loves me a ridiculously whole lot.

We headed to Kinston five days before Christmas to enjoy time with all of the family visiting for the holidays. Kaden and Everett soaked up lots of time with their fun cousins, Mackenzie, Tanner, and baby Caroline.

They brought their dog, Bella, with them.  I LOVE this note Mackenzie posted on the laundry room door.  It translates thus:  "The dog room.  If you are allergic to dog, don't go in the room."  Hilarious.

Jingle Bell flew to Kinston from Raleigh, and Golly Golly managed to also follow the Rankins from Colorado. We found out elves are more entertaining when conspiring as a pair.

We took the kids to the library one day and they checked out 48 books.  48.  The limit was 50.  We barely made the cut off.

The kids loved curling up on the sofa with some popcorn for a movie every now and then.  

We always try to go out to eat as Reese siblings and spouses when everyone is in town.  Joy and Bruce are nice and stay home with the kids after we put them to bed.  This time, we hit up Chef and the Farmer, our favorite Kinston restaurant (and really, my favorite restaurant).  Are you watching A Chef's Life on PBS?  Why not?  Go watch it!    The food was spectacular, as always, and the company was just as fantastic.

We had the perfect table reserved in the wine shop--all alone to laugh until we cried.  I love these folks so much and love spending time with them!

Santa Claus found all trillion of us crowded under one roof on Christmas Eve, which made for a very fun Christmas morning.  

Everett was mostly interested in the food items in his stocking.  He could have cared less about most of the actual presents.  He just kept eating the entire time everyone else was opening.  By the end, I was opening his gifts.

Santa brought an assortment of costumes this year for dress up time.  Hulk became his favorite superhero on Christmas Eve.  Luckily, Santa anticipated such a development.

One of the only things Kaden actually asked Santa for this year was a castle like Gigi has, except for boys.  (She has a dollhouse castle at her house that all the grand kids love playing with.)  Santa pulled through and delivered one spectacular boy castle!  It has been the center of a lot of imaginative play ever since.  

Chad's Dad always does a treasure hunt as the last Christmas gift on Christmas morning.  The kids ran from clue to clue and collected money for their piggy banks at each stop.  They loved it.  

Then the grown up kids went on a treasure hunt, too.  I think we may have liked it even more.

We've decided we really want the chance to do Christmas morning at our house next year, and we are looking forward to starting some of our own Christmas morning traditions as a family.  It was fun to have one more big Christmas morning with all the Reese clan.  I'm sure we'll do Christmas morning again together at some point, but this year was especially fun, since the children are all at such fun ages.

We made salt dough ornaments with the kids one night.  They turned their hand prints into Santa Clauses, and they turned out super cute.  I can't wait to hang ours on the tree next year.

Santa brought the kids giant glow sticks in their stockings.  They wasted no time putting them to good use.  They became the lighting for their rendition of the kid song of the year.  They gave every willing adult a private performance of the number in Gigi's bathroom.

For Bruce's gift this year, we hired a babysitter and did a session together in the Raleigh temple a couple days after Christmas.  This was the first time the whole family had been together in the temple, and it was a special day for sure.

Of course the best photo of the original Reese siblings with their parents didn't turn out because the flash didn't go off, leaving their faces covered in shadows.  Still sweet, though:

After the temple, we jetted home, paid the babysitters, picked up the kids and headed to Guasaca for a Venezuelan lunch.  Then we hit up Pullen Park.  It was seriously the most beautiful December day, especially considering how many straight days of rain we'd endured before hand.  The kids had been so cooped up, making the chance to bask in the sunshine even more fun.

The kids rode the carousel and train and explored the playground for a few hours.  It was just a lovely day spent together.

We had a great holiday season spent with so many people we love.  It was a very merry Christmas indeed!
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