Sunday, December 30, 2012

An Arizona Christmas

We had a very Merry and brown Christmas in Arizona this year.  Leaving the snow behind we flew to Phoenix on December 22 for a week of warmth and sun with Mike's family.  This was the first Christmas since I've known Mike that he and all of his sisters and parents were together for the holiday. 

We spent a lot of time in the sunshine - taking walks, sitting on the patio and going to the park.  One evening we visited a large Mormon temple in Mesa to see their huge Christmas light and nativity displays (by the crowd you would have thought we were at Disney World) .  Christmas Eve we went to Mike and Mariann's Methodist church for a beautiful service.  Miles was in awe of the children acting out the story of the birth of Jesus and Hadley snuggled in with Uncle Jim for a long evening nap.  Afterwards the kiddos went to bed and the adults had fun playing dice.  Christmas morning Miles and Hadley woke up early to find that Santa had delivered presents all the way to AZ for them.  Hadley got a bilingual cash register and Miles a digital camera.  For lunch there were 18 people celebrating around a table full of delicious food (turkey).  The rest of the day was spent opening many gifts (dolls 'babies', clothes, a purse and books for Hadley and a Jake video, trucks, AK socks and a transformer for Miles). 

The rest of our trip was spent relaxing with Bailey's and coffee in the mornings, visiting with friends, going to the Phoenix Zoo, feasting on an Alaskan King Crab dinner (Miles and Hadley are probably the only 3 and 1-year olds enjoying crab), and playing wild games of 'balls' at night.  We very much enjoyed our time with our AZ and AK relatives and hope they will all visit this summer (HINT, HINT!). 

Playing in Grandma and Grandpa's rock yard

Hadley and Miles enjoyed lots of cuddle and computer time with grandpa

Our little Christmas angel

The kids played balls and had fun with wild Auntie Annette and her Talking Tom app

All dressed up for Christmas Eve service

Loving every moment with the 'babas' (what Hadley calls her grandmas and grandpas)

After the service Miles insisted on taking a picture with the angels.

Ready to party Christmas Eve

Santa (or as Had's says "See-paw") came to AZ and found Miles and Hadley Christmas morning

So excited about his new camera - now he's just like mommy

Another hit were the homemade pillowcases which doubled as superhero capes from Grandma

Miles and his next oldest cousin, Sarah, on this side of the family

Preparing Christmas dinner


Hadley loves her uncles with facial hair!  She got a lot of snuggles with Jim

These two are little buddies but it's next to impossible to get a picture of the two of them together smiling and holding still

Mariann had a little Santa and Mrs. Claus that Hadley thought were her buddies all week

Our baby has started using the potty!  Here she went in the big potty for the first time.

Playing an Elmo game on the iPad

Cha-ching - doesn't everyone keep coins between their toes?

Miles and my friend Beth's son, Tyson, at the zoo.  Miles followed his big buddy around all day.

Me and Beth with our paci-loving girls

Reading stories with Grandma Gray

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The gift of quality time at Christmas

In the midst of a national tragedy every moment with those I love comes into even sharper focus.  Giggling with Miles, nose-to-nose, as we crack up at silly jokes and rocking Hadley to sleep, her warm, chubby cheek resting against mine are moments that I hope to never take for granted. 

We celebrated joy, love and family this weekend with an early Christmas celebration with my family.  Festivities started early Saturday morning when we gathered at my parents with my siblings and their families.  We made gingerbread houses, had a make-your-own salad bar lunch, opened presents, played with new toys, sang Christmas carols and happy birthday to Jesus, enjoyed too many appetizers for dinner and had a wild and joyful time. 
For our second annual gingerbread house extravaganza we opted to buy kits - they were a little fancy for our tastes (aka not enough candy and edible frosting for Miles and Hadley to eat!) so next year we'll return to the milk carton, graham cracker variety.

The kids' creations were festive - here my sneaky little one is stuffing gummy fruit in his mouth.

Although everyone groans when I insist on taking a group photo (yes, these are never the most flattering pictures) I appreciate the memories of family togetherness that these photos capture. 

The opening of stockings started off the gift extravaganza.

My cool, little movie star LOVED her sunglasses.

Playing with flashlights.

We sang Christmas carols while the kids played bells and helped Grandpa play the accordion.

The FAVORITE gift so far this year were doll/pet beds handmade so lovingly my great-auntie Sharon.  All of our little mamas and papas loved tucking in their furry friends.  The babies even tried to sleep on the little beds themselves!

We are truly blessed to receive so many wonderful gifts.  The kids got everything from games (Don't Break the Ice) and books (Llama Llama) to clothes, Mr. Potato Head, a baby stroller and more.

Kennedy joined us for the annual girls picture.

The guys sampled this year's holiday home brew - a spicy winter ale clone of "Bad Santa."

Another popular gift was a huge tote of dress up clothes from Grandma and Grandpa.  Miles and Corey loved rescuing sick people and throwing us all in jail as they ran around talking into their walkie-talkies.  (Yes, Miles is a butterfly policeman!)

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for hosting a festive and boisterous Christmas celebration this year.

Saturday evening ended with everyone very tired out in their Christmas jammies.
Today our celebration continued.  Our family ate breakfast together, went to mass and then to the extended Nickolay Christmas party at the KC Hall.  The Nickolays have been celebrating at this hall for probably well over 20 years.  When I was little I remember running around in the front coat room with all of the kids and now my kids love dancing, running wild and singing in the front coat room just like I used to.  The number of great-grandchildren is quickly growing and this year we celebrated with over 60 people. 
Our pretty, little Christmas girls. 

My Godmother Carol and Aunt Sue always lead the singing of Christmas carols and this year Miles and Hadley both got to be bell ringers - a job which they took very seriously.  I was very proud!

Hadley was the littlest one to start off the pinata fun.

Miles really got into it this year!

Thank you Great-Grandpa Nickolay for hosting another wonderful Christmas party.  By the end of the day my two little Christmas elves were exhausted.  Everyone was early to bed tonight. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Countdown to Christmas

Sprinkling of snow
On with winter boots
Out with the sleds
Making yummy goodies
Snowflakes in the sky
Lots and lots of snow
Plows in the road
Christmas music playing
Family traditions starting...
So excited for the first snow fall

The first thing Miles wanted to do was pull out the sleds.  We raced them up, down and all around our yard.

A little snow merits a little snowman!

Let the holiday goodie eating begin!  (Overeating in mommy's case)
These two little helpers were excellent sprinklers until...

...they discovered how yummy and sugary sprinkles taste!

A good chef always samples his cooking.

After cleaning up messy faces and sprinkles all over the floor we enjoyed white chocolate dipped pretzels.

We received more snow today.  The first thing Miles exclaimed upon waking and looking outside - "beautiful!"
We spent a relaxing morning peering out the window, watching the snow fly.

We enjoyed ourselves so much we decided to pull up chairs, eat some Cheerios
and watch all of the plows in our neighborhood.

This wonderful boy, my growing boy, had his preschool screening on Friday.  I couldn't have been more proud as he passed all of the assessments with flying colors.  The district specialists commented on what a sweet, wonderful boy Miles is.  His eyesight exceeds what is expected for his age (he must take after daddy), his hearing is perfect and he scored in the 4-4 1/2 year old range for the developmental tests.  AND he looks darn cute in a tie!

We braved the snowstorm to attend sweet Kenny Rae's baptism today.  All dressed up and ready to go!

Miles and Corey at brunch.

We started another new family holiday tradition - a pizza, movie and popcorn night!  To kick us off this year we had delicious homemade turkey burger pizza, watched Curious George's Christmas and had caramel puffcorn.  We all loved having a family picnic on the floor.  The kids were so excited they had an impromptu dance party when the movie was over.