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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Post-Christmas 2017

In the life of a family with two full-time working parents and kids in full-time daycare, the concept of "breaks" (spring break, summer break, winter break, etc.) doesn't really apply. To me and Brian, this doesn't mean much because most working adults don't get those types of breaks from their jobs anyway; but for our kids, it means that with the exception of vacations, they really never get any extended time "off."

So this year, like the past couple of years, we made an effort to take off the week between Christmas and New Year's and keep the twins at home as well. Although it's a tiny bit painful to know we still have to pay for the full week of daycare tuition even though they aren't there, it has been well worth it!

We have managed to get in a few outings during our time off, but mostly we have been hanging around the house playing and, most importantly, relaxing. Colby and Clara have loved it because unlike a normal weekend, they aren't being rushed off to accompany us on errands, go to social functions, etc. As I often mention, I am one of those people that struggles to just enjoy free time and prefers to fill it with productivity, so having a few days with no agenda has been helpful for all of us!

A few of the highlights from our time at home have been sleeping in (all 4 of us for a change), lighting fires in the fireplace, enjoying new Christmas toys, and for me and Brian, catching up on Dateline after the twins go to sleep (it's a thrilling life we lead).

A few highlights from when we weren't hanging around the house:

Breakfast at La Madeleine (aka: killing time while the housekeeper was at the house)- the twins were extra excited about sitting next to the fireplace!

Bowling with the Olivers (before Avery fell victim to the flu)

We were all a little surprised when Colby ended up getting the highest score of our whole family!

Donuts at a new (to us) donut place in town and a trip to the children's museum

Colby was for real obsessed with this phone booth exhibit; Clara was not actually trapped, though her pitiful expression would suggest otherwise

Dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, complete with costumes; Colby is a major homebody and as usual, he wanted to stay home for dinner. He agreed to go only if he could wear a costume, so of course Clara followed suit. 

It hasn't been the most eventful way to end 2017, but it has certainly been the most restorative, and for that, I am thankful. 2018, we're ready for you!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas 2017

I know you're all relieved that I didn't keep you waiting long for this much-anticipated Christmas recap. You're welcome.

We road tripped up to Dallas last Saturday (side note: 8 am is too early to have to listen to Captain Underpants... the twins disagree with me on that). We spent that day helping prepare for Christmas Eve (including helping Franny make cookies), running amuck with the cousins, looking at Christmas lights, and welcoming Uncle Andrew into town.

On Christmas Eve, Mom, Allison, and I started the day with our traditional mall walking before everyone ate out for lunch. We intended to go to the family service at church afterward, but only ended up making a brief visit to the live nativity (petting zoo) area outside before deciding it was too cold and heading home.

Colby's highlight was feeding the camels whereas Clara's was getting hot chocolate and a cookie; clearly they both embraced the true meaning of Christmas. Also, fun fact: this is the same church where Colby and Clara were baptized, my siblings and I were all baptized, my parents were married, and even my grandparents were married!

Christmas Eve also held a few photo shoots with only minimal protesting from Colby. Thankfully there were a lot of cookies on hand to use for bribes.

The best photo opp was my family's recreation of our 1988 Christmas pic- impressive, right? We also posed for a "normal" picture afterward. I'm sad that the 6 of us don't get to be together more often!

My parents hosted dinner for our extended family that night. The twins, as always, were in Heaven with all the cousins around! They also made s'mores with daddy and once they were nice and sugared up, we got them in their (matching) jammies and attempted to get them to sit still for Pop Pop's reading of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas

Much to everyone's delight, Santa got the memo that we were in Dallas and made a stop at Franny and Pop Pop's that night to deliver their presents. Colby was most excited about his new Devastator Transformer and Clara was nominally excited about her new Lite Brite (another nod to the '80s!). 

We also got to open lots of great presents from Franny and Pop Pop and were yet again reminded of just how loved and spoiled we all are!

The rest of Christmas day was spent playing with presents, visiting my grandmother (who was at home sick with the flu, sadly), and eating meals with my family. It was actually not unlike most of the Christmases of my childhood, really, except that I had a lot more responsibilities :)

We packed up the next morning to head back to Sugar Land and were sad to see yet another fun-filled Christmas come to an end. This time of year is always very overwhelming to me (particularly now as a mom), but somehow when it wraps up, I'm still always sad to see it end.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Pre-Christmas 2017

OMG 17 days have passed since I last posted and with the 8 million things that have occurred in December, that is basically like a lifetime. Let's do a speed round catch-up, shall we? I'll do it in pre-Christmas, Christmas, and post-Christmas installments so as not to overwhelm myself you with pictures and mind-numbing recaps.

(1) Two weeks ago, the twins had their LAST EVER daycare Christmas program! I'm not as sentimental about this as many other pre-K moms because admittedly the Christmas "program" at the twins' school has never been much to write home about. All that to say, we still enjoyed watching them sing Christmas carols with their friends (read: sort of mouth the words and hide).

(2) The next day, we hit up the local farmers market, where we purchased zero produce and opted instead for hot chocolate, Christmas cookies, and a miniature pie. This was in keeping with our all carb/sugar dietary plan for the month of December. To really hammer that plan home, we made gingerbread cookies afterwards (bottom left). The bottom right pic of Brian and Colby playing with Transformers has no significance other than that Clara jacked my phone when I wasn't looking and took this picture on her own- I was glad she captured our boys doing what they love to do together the most!

(3) That night, we went on a Christmas double date with the Olivers to have dinner, dessert, and look at fancy Christmas lights. It also happened to be the 14th anniversary of Brian's and my first date, so that was pretty special.

(4) The next morning, we celebrated Christmas with Brian's family and had a belated birthday celebration for my SIL, Shannon. There were seriously more gifts bestowed upon the twins (and us) than I could count, which was awesome, but also put them (and if we're being honest, me) into a bit of sensory overload and resulted in a lot of undesirable behavior for the rest of the day. 'Tis the season!

Nonetheless, we were grateful, as always, for Brian's family's endless generosity and for time to celebrate together.

(5) That afternoon, we did some more early Christmas celebrating with my grandmother (and my dad, who came into town). There was an abundance of Mexican food and more presents for the twins, so it was a successful gathering.

We followed it up by going on a hayride with our small group to look at Christmas lights, which was more fun than I expected. However, as you can imagine, by the end of this particular day, we were all totally exhausted.

(6) Later that week, the twins had a Christmas party at school (I wasn't able to attend since it was during work, but a sweet mom friend sent me this pic of my two little nuts), and then Clara's dance class had a little party that night as well.

So much celebrating, and it was only December 21st at that point! I took the next day off of work to pack and prepare for our trip to Dallas, which I'll recap in the next post. Sorry to leave you all on the edge of their seats, but that's just the way it goes!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Must do all the Christmas things

Hold on because I have another weekend o' Christmas activities recap coming at you! I'm going to (try to) be brief, I promise.

Activity #1: SNOW DAY
Yes, you read that right, it snowed in Houston, Texas. Clara has been praying for God to make it snow for a while, so apparently we need to ask her to pray for things more often. Despite her obsession about it happening, Colby was actually way more into the snow than Clara was. Unsurprisingly, his favorite activity was throwing snowballs!

Brian was the creator of this impressive snowman, for the record!

Activity #2: Favorite Things Party
We've done this the last couple of years with the girls from our small group and it's always a hit. [Go here for a basic description of what a "favorite things" party entails.]
I actually brought 2 items as my "favorite thing" - this soap and this lotion. I went home with nail polish, bath salts, a jewelry cleaner pen, hair "spin pins", and mason jar salt and pepper shakers. Also, the requested attire was "comfortable and festive," so obviously I went with this beautiful over-sized Christmas sweatshirt that Brian purchased at a thrift store 10+ years ago.

Activity #3: Decorating a "public" Christmas tree
I posted about this on Instagram, but there's a tree near the walking trail near our house that we have spent the last couple of years saying we needed to decorate at Christmas time, so on Saturday we did just that.
Clara sported the "Rudolph" bun pictured in the top right for the occasion

Hopefully it will brighten people's days when they walk by it (... or dogs' days when they pee on it).

Activity #4: Decorating gingerbread houses/looking at Christmas lights with the Olivers 
(I'm not sure why I keep titling these with caps... sorry if it sounds like I'm yelling at you).

Admittedly gingerbread house-decorating went better than light-seeing because the kids were being... well... annoying, but we still good to see a lot of pretty lights, so I'll call it a win.

Activity #5: Father/daughter - mother/son outings 
Brian and Clara continued their annual tradition of going to see "The Nutcracker" on Sunday (joined by Wade and Avery this year). Clara was once again thrilled to (a) get snacks at the theater and (b) see "the new Clara" (as she calls her) dance!

Bottom right pic is of Clara and Avery matching at church before Clara changed into her Nutcracker-themed dress (courtesy of Mimi) for the big show!

Meanwhile, Allison, Davis, Colby, and I went out for dessert, video games, and a trip to the playground. Once we got home, I was getting things done around the house while Colby played, and when I asked if he wanted to come play in the room where I was, he said, "No thanks, sometimes I just like to be by myself." That little boy!

Activity #6: Neighborhood walk to see lights 
After dinner on Sunday, we went on a stroll to see the lights in our little subdivision. Clara was cold/tired/scared most of the time (she was convinced that moving images projected on some of the houses were actually ghosts), but as you can see from this picture, Colby was happy as a clam.

Coming up: the twins' Christmas program at school, celebrating Christmas with Brian's family, a hayride, and more... I need an intervention.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Santa Visit 2017

So we decided that instead of shelling out an inordinate amount of cash to visit Santa at the mall this year, we would pay him a visit at the Christmas Train in Alvin while we were there instead. As I mentioned, the twins were not on their best behavior during that adventure. And the few minutes we had to wait in line proved long enough for Colby to develop an intense disinterest in (a) having to sit and smile for a picture and (b) see Santa. Also, although the photographer was sweet and had a great set-up, the framing of the picture wasn't quite what we expected:

It looks to me like they were photographing Clara with Santa and then just accidentally included Colby off to the side.

So with that, the very next morning, we headed to the mall to - yep - shell out an inordinate amount of cash to visit Santa at the mall. The only way we could get the twins (primarily Colby) to agree to sit for pictures again was by allowing them to wear pajamas ("button shirts" are Colby's arch nemesis so this comfortable alternative was much more acceptable to him), but thankfully they had the perfect ones to wear for the occasion!

Refreshing to see two smiles!

Obviously neither one of them lives up to either of these attributes 100% of the time, but admittedly this assignment was the most accurate based on recent behavioral patterns :)

When it was time to actually sit with Santa, they were shy but cooperative, and Clara even gave him a picture she drew for him. The photographer only took one picture and seemed satisfied- this was the result:

Crummy cropping job (this isn't even the original cropping), and Santa looked a little lazy to me, but we got two (forced) smiles, so there's that!

Here's a recap of our Santa visits over the years (2013-2017)... 2014 (2nd from the left) is my favorite!

See ya next year, Santa!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I promised we would be hitting the ground running with holiday activities this past weekend, and indeed we did. We made plans to visit the Christmas Train in Alvin on Friday with the Olivers. When Friday afternoon rolled around and Brian picked up the twins from school, it was clear that they had not been having a good day and that they were not in a pleasant mood. But the tickets had been purchased and we thought surely they would turn their attitudes around with a fun Christmas outing, right? (Spoiler alert: WRONG)

We started the evening off with a fancy dinner at Dairy Queen, where I was so concerned about my son's reckless ketchup consumption combined with the white shirt he was wearing that I had him eat his dinner topless. Mother of the Year Award Nomination Committee - are you reading?

Once we made it to the train grounds, we paid Santa a visit (separate post scheduled for that bomb of a visit), checked out the miniature train exhibit, rode on the train through the lights, took a snack break, and wrote letters to mail to Santa.

At this point, we informed the children that we wouldn't be staying for storytime with Mrs. Claus because it would last for 30 minutes and with it already being past their bedtime, we were 100% certain it wouldn't go well. As you might imagine, this decision was completely unacceptable to them, and after a lot of really special behavior, we decided to cut our losses and head home. The icing on the cake was when we got in the car and they told us that they didn't have any fun and that we were rude. Precious blessings, 4-year-olds are. 

They both passed out shortly thereafter - note to self: don't make plans that last past bedtime on Friday nights after the twins have been at daycare all week and are tired and irritable. Also note to self: stop having expectations.

On Saturday afternoon, Clara's dance class had their performance at the Christmas festival in downtown Richmond. They danced to "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and it was pretty darn cute. She also had a sweet little cheering section, including Colby that spent the duration of her performance yelling her name and trying to get her attention!!

She for real posed like this on her own, popped out knee, hand on hip, and all!

This is when Colby spotted me taking pictures from the other side of the outdoor stage

I rounded out the weekend's fun by co-hosting a cookie exchange with my two sweet friends for the 8th year in a row! This is one of my favorite Christmas traditions each year and although it might single-handedly give me adult onset diabetes one day, it is totally worth it!