Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday happenings

I cannot believe that Christmas is just a few days away!  We have been making the most of our holiday this year.  My big girls and I went to see a (very) abbreviated version of the Nutcracker.  It was probably just the right length for Laurel.  Afterwards we headed to Sweet Frogs for some sweet treats then a little Christmas shopping because Laurel was intent on picking out her teacher's present.  With a lot little guidance, we were able to get something that I think her teacher will actually enjoy! (Hint - it wasn't the large, pink, gemstone necklace!  You can thank me later, Ms. Shiflett!)

Dinner before at the mexican restaurant

Sweet Frogs

Reynaldo, our elf, has been very active this year (when he doesn't get so comfy in his spot that he chooses to stay there night after night!).  Below have been some of our favorite spots where he's shown up.

As close as an elf gettings to swinging from the chandelier!

This cracked everyone up!

Elf prison?

While Cadence has enjoyed looking at pictures or dolls of Santa, we have found out that she feels the same way about the jolly red guy as she does about clowns.  My dad has been "playing Santa" since I was a kid and Sierra and Laurel now know that he is one of "Santa's helpers".  A few weeks ago we were at my parents house and he walked in wearing his Santa hat.  Cadence has since refused to go into their house unless I'm carrying her until she sees that no one is in Santa uniform!  Regardless, like any good memory making mama, I REALLY wanted to get a picture of her with Santa.  We decided to let her watch my dad put on his Santa outfit so that she would know it was only "Papa" in those clothes.  She managed to stand next to him (in my arms) but couldn't wait for him to take that suit off!

Another holiday favorite, making cookies with Gramma!  I cannot recall a year that I haven't done this... I hope this tradition carries on through the generations!

I think Sierra and Cadence both had a mouthful

This reindeer is a relic!  My grandmother gave this to my brother and me.  She passed away when I was 12.  A few years ago I commented "Wow!  I can't believe that thing is 11 years old!".  That's when my dad reminded me that I was 33, not 23!  Dang! When we turn him on he creaks and groans and moves a lot slower than he used to, but he's still got it in him!   I'm thankful every year when we turn him and I think of my grandma.

No Christmas season is complete without a gingerbread house.  We've learned to decorate all of the sides and roof while they lie flat and then put it together once everything dries.  Our friend Lisa came over to help out!  Decorating it seperately worked out great!  I was able to maintain my OCD perfectionism on my one little slab of roof and largely ignore the rest of the house being annihilated decorated in child- like fashion.  The result:

Lisa's roof, Sierra's front, Cadence's side (with my help)

My roof and side

Our most recent event: a ride on the Minivan Express! (aka, a much tamer version of the Polar Express).  I told the girls that they were heading to bed early and needed to go brush their teeth.  They each had one of these tickets stuck on their bathroom mirror.  Pajama clad, hot chocolate and popcorn in hand, we piled into the swagger wagon to drive around and look at the Christmas lights. We admired all of the colors through trippy little glasses (they made the lights look like Santa's and snowflakes!) and sang Christmas carols.  It was exactly like I thought it would be!  Laurel didn't want to throw away their tickets so she creatively hung it on the tree... an new ornament for the year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cute kids and tractors

What do you get when you combine a new camera lens, a beautiful summer evening, and six really cute kids?  Way too many pictures!
So many pictures that it's taken me months to weed through them and decide which ones to post.  Way back in early 2010, shortly after we received our referral, I was religiously following our adoption agency's yahoo group (in hopes of an answer as to when our paperwork would arrive).  Another parent mentioned an hour and a half drive to get their fingerprints done in Virginia (our agency was nationwide).  I asked where she was driving from and lo and behold she lived in Charlottesville!  They were anxiously waiting to travel to China to adopt their son.  He is their third child, their second adopted child.  Julie and Jared, besides being awesome people in general, were a great resource to help us get through the wait to travel to China.  They traveled to get Charlie Lucas shortly after we brought Cadence home.  Due to the craziness of life and two families with six kids between us, it took us a while to finally gather everyone for dinner at our new home.  It finally happened in June.  I was very excited to use my new camera lens and Brad was very excited to have a kid actually want to ride his tractor (he has to beg the girls to ride with him!).

Laurel and Mary enjoy reclining

Can I bottle her enthusiam?

Sweet Sierra

The whole gang with the big sisters controlling helping the little ones

They love these apple trees

I'm telling you this kid should be a Gap model!

I'm sure he's just showing someone that rock!

Who knew gravel was so much fun?

Adorable Caroline

Finally the tractor rides started!

Can't wait to do it all again!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Warming up

The days are starting to get cold enough that it can be hard to warm up when you come in from outside.  While I enjoy the "hunkering down" that we tend to do in the winter, I still don't enjoy the cold!  So, in an effort to remind myself of warmer days (and to catch up on summertime pictures), here are some photos from June. 

Friends Cameron and Alex feed the chickens

Laurel sure misses her buddy Alex

Happy girl!

Is there anything else to do when you have mud puddles and cute rain boots?

I think not!

Notice the boot to the left continuing to kick water at Cadence!

"Hey guys!  Where are you going?!"

"I guess we're outy!"

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas tree time!

How often do family events actually go down the way you envision them?  We haven't had a real tree in many years and decided to cut down our own this year.  We picked the girls up from school and headed to a local tree farm with the chainsaw in the truck.  My vision:  all five of us scoping out the trees, picking the largest, most perfect one, singing Christmas carols as we drove home, then merrily decorating it while drinking hot chocolate and singing more carols.  Reality:  the tree farm was completely picked over and I think at the end of it's life. Trees were few and far between and it was so soggy and muddy from recent rain that neither Cadence nor Laurel wanted to walk in the field.  Brad, Sierra, and I finally agreed on one and as we were putting on top of the car Sierra commented that she didn't really like it which frustrated me.  She then spent the car ride home saying that it was "fine"... no carols were sung.  The typical fiasco with the lights ensued when we got home and the tree was so prickly that the kids wanted to stop putting ornaments on when we were only halfway through!

Even with all of that, though, the excitement of decorating our house for Christmas with our family of five still makes me giddy.  We are so lucky to have been blessed with three wonderful girls and times like this make the blessings feel even richer!  Eventually the girls got into silly mode while we decorated and we listened to Justin Beiber's Christmas music (although I think he just recorded his usual stuff and threw in a few "snow" and "holiday" phrases to pass it off as a Christmas CD!).  We reminisced while we pulled out all of the ornaments, telling their stories as we place them on the tree.  I got the honor of placing the star on top of the tree!  Despite the fact that it didn't happen as I had hoped it would, it happened like it was supposed to... and we did it together and we had fun!

She wore this for exactly 10 seconds!

Is there any man who isn't happy holding a chainsaw?

 I feel the "tween-ness" coming on

But eventually got a smile!

And she got silly later!

If only I could wrap them up and keep them like this forever!

Again with the silly!  Love it!

Cadence was very intentional with her tree decorating...

... and very specific!

One of my favorite pictures

Shiloh amidst the wrapping

Taking a break from tree decorating to work with Sierra on perfecting her "running man"!

The star

Later in the week I had the honor of photographing my dad playing Santa at the children's rehabilitation hospital.  I remember going around the neighborhood with him when I was a child, caroling with a group of people while he went door to door and handed out candy canes to each house.  Now that he is old older and his beard is white he grows it out after summer and wears his Santa hat everywhere he goes for the month of December.  He LOVES the joy and questions he gets from children and covets his role as Santa.  He was honored to take this part in the hospital celebration.  I only wish I could show pictures of the kids as they went to sit on his lap (privacy issues, etc).  I don't know who was smiling more - the kids or my dad!  It was a wonderful evening!
Santa with the Shriner's