A New Christmas Tradition

Monday, December 10, 2018

Brian and I have slowly been building on Christmas traditions for our little family. So far our traditions have included Advent activities every year (although this year I'm way behind), a birthday celebration for Jesus on Christmas morning (complete with cinnamon rolls and candles), the same Eggs Benedict and mimosa breakfast, stockings stuffed with individually wrapped gifts, and new Christmas jammies. 

We've chosen to follow the "want, need, wear, read" pattern to gifts and then choose one more traditional, "old-school" gift to be left out and unwrapped under the tree. This is our gift from Santa, even though we have yet to actually ever reference him in our home! (Biding our time on that one).

This year, at the recommendation of Brian we decided to add in a new tradition! Yesterday, we loaded up on the ingredients for brownies and four types of cookies (confession: the pile included boxed brownies and two types of break and bake cookies) and we spent the entire afternoon baking! There were messes and Christmas music and kids licking (and then washing) their hands 1 billion times, and all of the chaos and goodness you would expect of a Christmas Baking Day with two preschoolers.

This was also a really excellent opportunity to talk about giving. It's a hard, hard lesson for a three and five year old to comprehend when we intend to give the cookies we're baking away to someone else. Yes, there were tears - but I think it ended up well! 

Today, we loaded up the kids' gator (which worked out super well) and knocked on the doors to seven surrounding houses! Three of the four neighbors we talked to we were meeting for the VERY FIRST TIME. These are people who live 35 yards from us! 

Brian had coached Beckett on how to introduce himself with a handshake, ask questions, and wish the neighbors a Merry Christmas. He did a FANTASTIC job. Brian and I both thoroughly enjoyed watching him work (he's definitely his father's child). 

 For those who know me, you know that neither baking or knocking on people's doors and making small talk are in my wheelhouse of talents. Both give me anxiety (and spoiler alert: Charlie is a chip off the ole block). However, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Charlie and both I enjoyed this project and I'm sincerely looking forward to getting to know our neighbors better! This is definitely a tradition we'll aim to keep for many years to come!

Beckett is FIVE!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Beckett is FIVE. Five YEARS old. It's insane. I feel like it happened over night, but at the same time feel like it suits him SO. WELL. Brian and I are both just ENAMORED by this child and unbelievably grateful that we get to raise him. The weight of that blessing is not lost on me (as I type with tears in my eyes).  So, this week, we celebrated this awesome kid.

Beckett continues to be mostly chill (although he did try his hand at pushing boundaries and throwing tantrums this year), very kind, and incredibly smart. This year he played both spring and fall soccer and took Ninja Warrior courses. He's not a natural athlete by any means, but he's learning to respect his coaches & be a team player and is having a ton of fun in the process! 

He loves cars, transformers, reading, math, building, problem-solving, wrestling with dad, playing with his sister & cousins, and any type of screen! He's super proud of himself as he becomes more independent - getting himself ready in the morning, reading books on his own, helping around the house, etc. He can even cook scrambled eggs {mostly} on his own!

Beckett hasn't had a "big" party since his First Birthday so for five years it was time to do it up right! When it came time to plan this party, he knew immediately that he wanted a Transformers party, and I knew immediately that I didn't want it in my house. So a gymnastics + Nerf War party was born!

Hosting it at a gymnastics gym was basically the best decision I've ever made. All I did was provide some cupcakes and Nerf darts, and VOILA. Epic. Party. We invited family, friends, and the kiddos from soccer and our homeschool community class. We ended up with thirty-one kids celebrating with us - which is more kids than I realized we knew! It was SO MUCH FUN to have the gym to ourselves. The coaches led them through all of the equipment and let them play for over an hour. The entire time,  Mom & Dad got to just hang out, watch the kids have a blast, and take a few pictures - it doesn't get much better than that!

After the organized equipment play, came the part that I'm pretty sure every single one of the 31 kids showed up for: NERF. WAR. Yes, it's as awesome as it sounds. I was a little bit jealous that I wasn't out there with them!

The coaches set up boundaries and barriers, split the kids into two teams, and then the kids just went Nerf Berzerk! I was actually pretty surprised at how well the kids all handled gun malfunctions, getting shot in the face, and the rest of the general chaos. I was concerned that the coaches only allowed for fifteen minutes for this part, but the obviously knew what they were doing - it was definitely enough. 

Once the kids were good and worn out (who am I kidding?), it was time for cake! To be honest, listening to our huge, awesome community sing Happy Birthday to my five year old was significantly more emotional than I care to admit, but it's just true. I am so grateful for all of the people who cared enough to show up and celebrate this kid!

One special thing we did with this party, that I'm so hoping we remember to do in the future, is encourage our guests to skip the gifts. Beckett has SO MANY TOYS and anything else he could possibly need, so we took this opportunity to let him practice giving instead of receiving. We talked to him in advance, and he agreed it would be super-cool to give all of his guests a gift instead of opening presents at his party. Each family received a gift bag with a few of Beckett's favorite things: a [robot-themed] book or two, plus enough hot wheels and play dough for each kiddo in the family. He got to hand the gift bags out as his guests left, and thank each of them for coming. It was INCREDIBLY HEART-WARMING to watch him be such a big kid!

After the party, the whole family crew headed back home for dinner and PRESENTS! With such a big family, Beckett still had MORE THAN ENOUGH gifts to open once we got home. The major themes of this years gifts were legos & building, coding, and transformers!

Even better than having a ton of friends at his party, was having a ton of FAMILY at his party. Brittany, DJ, Eli, Avaya, Devin, Katie, Jack, Will, the Hill Grandparents, the Uhll Grandparents, Grandma Beth (Brittany's mom), and Grandma Irene (Katie's Mom) were ALL IN ATTENDANCE. This is why we moved. We are so indescribably grateful for this amazing village.

Fall Family Challenge

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fall is my absolute favorite (until Christmas rolls around, but more on that later). The season rolls around every year like clockwork, but every. single. year. I cannot even handle how magical and fabulous it is. And I commit to making the absolute most of every moment of its goodness. 
This year I’ve vowed to get the whole family on board the fall-obsessed bandwagon, so I’ve challenged the family to marking off every item on our Fall Bucket List. We’ll record our adventures here! 

August 15 | Apple Dessert + Leaf Project

I know. August is early. But this crew was hecka excited about fall in the air so we jumped on in with  a Fall Themed play date. These cheesy fun, chaotic days are my FAVORITE. We had a combination of just letting the kids play and having organized crafty times, including a leaf craft and apple decorating + eating!

September 29  |  Baking Pumpkin Pie

Beckett thought it would be cute to buy a pumpkin and make a pie from scratch. I don’t have the energy or patience for that, so we went the good ole three ingredients and a pre-made crust method. It didn’t disappoint.

September 30  |  Pie for Breakfast 

Last night’s pie wasn’t ready until too close to bedtime, so the logical choice is to wait and have pie for breakfast, right?! I very rarely allow sugary breakfasts so I thought this would be a fun, magical treat (apologies to the church nursery staff). Beckett was thoroughly entertained. Charlie refused to eat hers and requested a banana instead. Weirdo.

October 3  |  Buy Pumpkins

Yes, I know getting pumpkins from the patch is cute and all, but Walmart is cheaper! Tonight, we took a trip to grab a fun variety of cuteness for our front porch! Don't worry, we'll hit up the patch, too!

Oct 4  |  Pumpkin Pancakes

I’m a big ole fan of grocery pickup, but this week it totally failed us and skipped our chicken, bell peppers, and salad. I didn’t even notice until I went in the fridge tonight to start our chicken fajita salads. I TRIED to be healthy, y’all... but instead we checked Pumpkin Pancakes off the Fall Bucket List. I've never had Pumpkin Pancakes before, and honestly was only trying them because it made for a cute Bucket List item... but Oh My Fall-ness they were sooooo good. There will be an encore performance.

October 9 & 16 | Nature Walk

Two weeks in a row, we went for a nature walk with our co-op. It's a perfect time of year to study leaves! It's also pretty crazy the difference in clothing we saw in that week! The kids enjoyed looking at the leaves, and Beckett is particularly enthralled with the bright colors. 

October 20 | Family Flannel Day + Pumpkin Fest + Pumpkin Carving

An old family friend (the Brooks) hosts Pumpkin Fest every year, and this is the first year we've made the drive home to attend! She had fun games, a bounce house, candy, a piƱata, a TON of food, and pumpkin carving! We're hoping to make this an annual tradition! Mom, Curt, and DJ + Crew jumped in on our Family Flannel Day, which made it that much more epic. 

October 21 | Rake Leaves

Today we visited Grandma & Grandpa Montgomery. Aunt Sally was there helping with some chores, and she was SO gracious to patiently allow the kiddos to "help" her with the task of raking leaves. They grabbed rakes (and brooms) and went to work! 

October 21 | Visit a Pumpkin Patch + Take a Hayride

We BARELY made it to the pumpkin patch this year. Between our crazy schedules and the weather not cooperating, I thought it wasn't going to happen. We managed to squeeze in an hour at Krolls, which is a pumpkin patch near Nana & Papa's and quickly becoming an annual thing! It was cold, but fed animals, played in pumpkins, took a hay ride, and enjoyed perfectly sweet family time!!

October 31 | Trick-or-Treat

Oh Hey, Vacay!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Brian and I live pretty crazy lives. We've had a lot going on the last several years, and it's been absolutely exhausting (much more for him than for me). Fortunately for us, one very stable part of our lives is our marriage. We truly are best friends and just really love being together. When we got married, we promised we'd always travel together - without the kiddos - for a chance to have something that is JUST ours, and a chance to spend quality time keeping our relationship our top priority.

As we write this, we're on our way back from our ten-day Princess Cruise to the Panama Canal (I know, right?). We promised ourselves we would document the trip as we went, but we were too busy living in the moment to bother with writing about it. So here we are, jotting down a few of the highlights.

Friday  |  Embarkation Day

We started the trip off strong - being dropped at the WRONG terminal and having to drag our luggage about a mile (although it felt like more) through the lovely Florida heat. Welcome to vacation!

We made it though, and it was totally worth the walk. We spent Tuesday getting settled into our new digs, hanging out with the family, and trying to navigate this ginormous ship. (Spoiler alert: Mom & I left the ship ten days later, still not knowing our way around - grateful for our navigation expert husbands!).

Wednesday  |  Sea Day

Wednesday was the perfect official start to a vacation. We were at sea all day, so we spent time playing trivia (my personal favorite cruise activity), hanging out with Chris (our favorite bartender), and making the most of our balcony. This was our first formal evening of the cruise, so we got all gussied up and ate some fancy foods! 

Thursday  |   Jamaica

Our first stop was Falmouth, Jamaica. We didn't book any excursions for this one, so we just hopped off the boat and walked around the local port & town. It was one bazillion degrees and there wasn't much to see in the area, so we didn't spend a ton of time, but we did get to visit a local market and check out some neat foods, grab a Red Stripe beer, and buy a souvenir or two.

We spent the rest of the day making the most of the on-board activities. We dominated in an egg-drop competition where our little team was given 6 minutes to construct a device that would protect our raw egg from cracking during a two-story drop. We were the only team to prevail! GO TEAM YOLK-LO! 

Friday  |  Sea Day

Brian isn't a huge Sea Day fan, but I LOVE.THEM.SO.MUCH. The highlight of this one was the wine tasting we attended - most specifically the Norman's Love chocolate that was served with the reds. I'm officially obsessed.  We also got into the evening game show, Yes/No, where you're asked a series of questions for three minutes but are not allowed to respond with any version of yes or no. I'm proud to say I made in the whole 3 minutes and earned myself a bottle of champagne! (Wahoo!) Brian and Curt also tried... (we'll leave it at that).

Saturday  |  Columbia

One of our Bucket List items is to visit every continent on the globe. Today, we got to step foot on South America for the first time ever! We definitely want to go back (because can you really cross it off after 6 hours?!) but we thoroughly enjoyed our taste of Cartagena, Columbia.

We visited their Old City, which was absolutely gorgeous. We spent the day walking around, taking in the beautiful buildings and balconies, and having a drink or two. I'm a sucker for street vendors and the limeade they were selling on every corner did NOT disappoint. 

Brian loved Cartagena so much, it's officially on our list of places to visit again. This is saying a lot, considering we have a general "no visiting the same place twice" rule. There's just so much more to see, and our tiny taste of the culture was just not enough.

We spent the evening whoopin it up on the boat! I won a t-shirt (which I was probably a little too proud of) for playing a silly matching game, and then we wandered around until we found the very front of the boat. Silly shenanigans from here on out. These moments are what vacations are made of.

Sunday  |  Panama

It's time for the main event! We pulled into the brand new Agua Clara locks of the Panama Canal early Saturday morning. Our ship passed through the locks on the Atlantic side, which was absolutely incredible to experience and learn about. Once through, we headed off on an excursion to the old locks. We got to drive through the rainforests, learn about the history and impact of the Panama Canal, and then pass through the original (Mira Flores) locks, this time in a smaller boat and on the Pacific side.

A ginormous car-carrying ship and tiny catamaran passed through the locks with us, which made the experience even more interesting. We experienced the boat being lifted through, and got to touch the inside wall of the Panama Canal (which apparently guarantees we'll be married for life).

Monday  |  Costa Rica

Monday was another LONG day! We got off the boat early and headed for a very long and VERY bumpy ride through Limon and to the rainforest. We learned about cacau (what chocolate is made of), saw sloths (my personal favorite part of the day), and zip-lined through the BEAUTIFUL rain forests of Costa Rica with my aunt Deb and uncle Dave! 

We LOVED Costa Rica. We dream of living in various places around the world and this one could definitely make the cut of places we could stay for a year or more.


Tuesday  |  Sea Day

After a few long and exhausting days, even Brian was ready for a sea day on Tuesday! In addition to a couple of rounds of trivia (officially my favorite ship-time activity), we also partook in a paper airplane contest. We were not as victorious as we were with the egg drop, but it still made for a good laugh. 

Wednesday  |  Cayman Islands

I was nervous that Grand Cayman would be a disappointment compared to the other places we'd visited, but I was so wrong. The island & waters were gorgeous. We took a short drive through town, tasted a couple of local goodies, visited Hell (yes, really), and took the most epic (i.e "all you can drink") rum tour ever. We are officially BIG fans of Seven Fathoms Rum. Do yourself a favor and go look it up.

When we got back, we headed to the spa (because it isn't a true vacation until you hit the spa) and spent 75 minutes soaking up hot stones and deep tissue massages. We finished off the evening with a movie under the stars. 

Let's recap: all you can drink rum, 75 minute hot stone massages, and movie under the stars in the middle of the caribbean. It was a good, good day.

Thursday  |  Sea Day

Our last day on the ship was perfect. We did a lot of relaxing, catching up on sun we didn't get in the rainforest, and talking about how much weight we'd gained in ten days. I also won a prize in a basketball shoot out! Are you impressed? (Would you still be impressed if I told you the cruise staff just felt bad?).

The highlight of the last day was FINALLY catching the sunset I'd been hoping to see. It's hard to catch on camera, but it was stunning, and the perfect ending to a perfect adventure.

Special Thanks

We'd like to give an extra special thanks to Grandma & Papaw, Carole & Larry, who kept our kids for TEN WHOLE DAYS and even kept up with their soccer, gymnastics, co-op (and crazy hair day), school work, & field trips! We are SO VERY AWARE of how blessed we are to have you guys. THANK YOU for being amazing grandparents to our kiddos!

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