Christmas

Sally Brown was a bit of a mischief maker last night, so we’re cleaning up Christmas early in perhaps our fastest transition from holiday to not holiday. But while the tree and the train and many of the decorations are already gone, we’re definitely still filled to the brim with holiday excitement around here.

We had a magical holiday that started with Christmas Eve at Mom and Dad’s house, where the kids pulled out new bikes that they enjoyed for hours before dinner.

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After putting out ten pounds of reindeer food in the form of glitter and carrots, we finally got the kids settled down for bed so Santa could come. Nell would not even let me read on Christmas Eve — “Mo-om, Santa won’t come if you’re awake.”  Right, of course.

But everyone finally fell asleep, and Santa paid us a visit.

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Santa brought wonderful things for everyone including clothes, toys, dolls, and trains for the kids; a new soundbar for G; SUP stuff, jewelry, and a new GoPro 5 for me; earrings galore for K; yoga and fishing items for Mom and Dad; clothes for Great Grandma Nelll; and special bones for the puppies.  Nell’s only disappointment was that Santa didn’t bring snow, so we did have to explain that Christmas =/= snow, despite what all of her favorite shows might have her believe.

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A few pictures from my Christmas SUP outing yesterday with new boots, gloves, and wetsox. Ahh, warm toes and fingers!

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Of course, we’ve got another special day today — it’s G’s birthday. Plus we’ve got a few more holiday tricks up our sleeves that we’ll be rolling out later this week.  Let the celebrating continue!!

Hello.

Ah, where to begin? It has been so long.

At the end of the summer, I put the blog on the shelf for a little while. For a lot of reasons. Some obvious reasons, like how busy we are and how time flies by before I have a chance to write about our days or my thoughts. Other more complicated reasons, like thinking about how my blogging needs to change as the kids grow older, and how or whether I should share these moments in our lives in an online space.

I still don’t have answers for a lot of my questions. I don’t want the blog to end, but I also feel like it needs to shift, as we do each year as the kids grow. I also haven’t found a miracle pocket of time to write, but the blog is important to me — it always has been — and this holiday season, I decided to kick it back into gear (perhaps a slightly different gear) so I could look back on these memories as I do all the previous ones.

As a parent, it goes without saying that the holidays become more magical as your kids grow into the magic.  This is really the first year that both kids are old enough to truly get into the spirit of the holidays, and we are having such a wonderful time with it.  It has already been a season of firsts.

First time on the Polar Express (on the B&O railroad)

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First time the kids got really engaged in the hunt to find the perfect Christmas tree (at the uncles’ farm)

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(I’d like to say the first time the kids decorated the Christmas tree all by themselves, but nope, they definitely lost interest about two ornaments in.)

Not our first trip to NYC…

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…but our first time enjoying breakfast with Santa at Rockefeller Center, which was such a wonderful treat from K. All you could eat breakfast with hot chocolate, mimosas, a chocolate fountain (we spent a lot of time there), gingerbread cookies, Santa and his elves, and even Christmas carolers!  All at a table looking out at the ice rink.

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After breakfast, we had VIP passes to skate at Rockefeller — our first time not at Bryant Park.  The rink is a little smaller, a lot more crowded, and way more hazardous as there is less skating than there is selfie-taking, but it was absolutely a bucket list experience!  Nell is a pro these days, but it was Guy’s first time on ice skates!

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This is also the first holiday season I am doing an Advent calendar of good deeds for Nell. I filled her calendar with slips of paper full of good deeds and nice things she could do for others.  For her good deeds while we were in NYC, I filled her purse with coins, which she put in Salvation Army buckets across the city as she found them. She even got to ring the bells at each stop!

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We’ve got more adventures planned for the holiday season, and I look forward to sharing them here.  (I am hoping one of those adventures is getting four elegantly-dressed people — ideally our family members, but as my holiday card deadline approaches, I am flexible in that regard — to smile at a camera at the same time in front of a festive, holiday background.  Is that too much to ask?)

 

The (Really Big) Christmas Post

It’s always hard to believe when Christmas is over — the build-up, the songs, the decorations, the baking, the cooking, the wrapping, and then Christmas itself seems to pass in a blink of an eye. But really, Christmas hasn’t ended.  The decor is still shining; the desserts are still winking with temptation; the presents are still out (and strewn about!), separated from pre-Christmas stuff, basking in their newness; and we have more days at home with our family to enjoy making new festive memories before the holiday clock turns twelve and we wake up to a new year.

We had a wonderful Christmas full of family, activities, and special moments. Because we were all sick in the weeks leading up to Christmas, we crammed an awful lot into that last week — the North Pole party, the festival of lights at the gardens, a last-minute trip to see Santa because Nell wanted to visit him, and then Christmas Eve and Christmas itself.

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From the Festival of Lights at Annmarie Gardens… mostly they roared at the dinosaur lights. And Nell went as Elsa, because why not?20151222_181135-1 download_20151222_191154 download_20151222_191201 download_20151222_191224 download_20151222_191231 download_20151222_191243

We spent Christmas Eve at Mom and Dad’s house and enjoyed an impressive pork crown roast and pecan pie among other treats.

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We also got to open a few presents early including one of Nell’s highlights — her PJ Masks Owlette costume that Mom made.  PJ Masks is too new for stores to have anything out, but Nell had been asking for Owlette for months, and Mom used a number of patterns to put it together.  Nell loves it so much that she wore it to school today (I gave her special permission to wear dress-up clothes to school today since it’s a holiday week).

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After we got home, the kids took their reindeer food from the North Pole party outside to leave for Santa’s reindeer.  Except that it was raining, muddy, and about 80 degrees (or, yanno, close), so all of the reindeer food mostly became a mushy, muddy mess, and Guy went out in his diaper and just ate his reindeer food.  So we didn’t exactly nail this tradition this year, but I am sure we’ll get it in 2016.

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And then, it was Christmas morning.

You want to try fun? Tell a 2 year old who just woke up that he can’t touch the new toys sitting out. He had a really good sense of humor about that.

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Finally getting a ride on his new plasmacar from Santa.IMG_7398 (Large) IMG_7400 (Large)IMG_7405 (Large) IMG_7406 (Large) IMG_7408 (Large)

Lollipop at 9am? Sure, why not.IMG_7409 (Large) IMG_7410 (Large)IMG_7412 (Large) IMG_7413 (Large) IMG_7416 (Large) IMG_7418 (Large) IMG_7420 (Large)

Guy discovered the joy of remote controlled cars.IMG_7428 (Large)

Look at the two kids sharing their singing Anna and Elsa dolls…IMG_7430 (Large)

Just kidding.IMG_7431 (Large) IMG_7434 (Large)

This dinosaur was perfect for practicing his ROAR.IMG_7440 (Large) IMG_7438 (Large) IMG_7443 (Large)IMG_7447 (Large)

Empty cinnamon roll pan and Starbucks cup, check.IMG_7448 (Large)IMG_7451 (Large)IMG_7457 (Large)IMG_7458 (Large)IMG_7461 (Large)IMG_7463 (Large)

Dogs got a little spoiled, too, of course.IMG_7454 (Large)

Lucy winning. IMG_7456 (Large)

Sally B winning. IMG_7464 (Large)

Mom and Dad came back later that evening for Christmas dinner, which I worked really hard on, so even though I am way past the capacity of this post, I am going to post some food pics anyway — of beef wellington (the first time I ever made this!); brussels sprouts; wilted swiss chard with honey and balsamic vinegar, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, and parmesan; and rosemary and thyme potatoes.  And, of course, Cookies.
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It was a full and happy holiday, indeed.  And really, it’s still going strong.

 

 

The North Pole

Over the weekend, we brought the North Pole to St. Leonard for Nell and Guy’s first-ever North Pole Christmas party.  It was something I had wanted to do for years, and this year I decided both kids (and their friends) were finally old enough to enjoy it.  On Sunday night, more than a dozen toddlers and their families joined us for dinner and activities — cookie decorating in Mrs. Claus’s kitchen, a reindeer food bar, wooden toy painting in Santa’s workshop, a North Pole photo station, an outdoor scavenger hunt for Santa’s lost things, and a hot cocoa bar to end the night with to-go cups so everyone could take their cocoa creations with them.

It was a wonderful night full of happy, busy kids, holiday fun, and champagne.  I was way too busy to take pictures throughout the night, so I am posting some of the photos generously shared from our friends who got some great shots through the night. I hope we can make this party an annual tradition — Nell and Guy had such a great time!

Entrance to the party!

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Reindeer food bar and cookie decorating table!IMG_8449 (Large) IMG_8450 (Large) IMG_8451 (Large)

Santa phone and mailbox to the North Pole!IMG_8452 (Large) IMG_8454 (Large) IMG_8455 (Large) IMG_8459 (Large)

Party time!IMG_8462 (Large) IMG_8463 (Large) IMG_8464 (Large) IMG_8465 (Large) IMG_8466 (Large) IMG_8470 (Large) IMG_8471 (Large)

Mom helping with the photo props and a sneak peek of the hot cocoa bar in the background!IMG_8473 (Large) IMG_8474 (Large) IMG_8475 (Large)

There was a lot of skipping cookies and going straight to icing and sprinkles…IMG_8476 (Large) IMG_8479 (Large) IMG_8481 (Large) IMG_8484 (Large) IMG_8485 (Large) IMG_8486 (Large)

Guy ran around like a maniac and had a blast with his buddies (and juice)!IMG_8488 (Large) IMG_8490 (Large) IMG_8491 (Large) IMG_8492 (Large) IMG_8493 (Large) IMG_8494 (Large) IMG_8498 (Large) IMG_8500 (Large) IMG_8501 (Large) IMG_8504 (Large)

Time for the Santa scavenger hunt! Santa called to let us know he had lost some things in the yard and around the deck.  Each kid got a flashlight and headed out to collect Santa’s items.  Definitely a party highlight for the kids!IMG_8505 (Large) IMG_8506 (Large) IMG_8507 (Large) IMG_8508 (Large) IMG_8509 (Large) IMG_8510 (Large)

Santa’s belt and reindeer bells, Check!IMG_8513 (Large)

Mrs. Claus’s slipper, Check!IMG_8515 (Large)

Meanwhile, while the other kids were outside, Guy decided to clean up the place…IMG_8516 (Large)

Mrs. Claus’s Christmas necklace, Check!IMG_8517 (Large)

A few post-party shots of the hot cocoa bar after clean-up — it was too cute not to take a few pictures of!20151221_180826 (Large) 20151221_180831 (Large)

An excited Nell before the party (and before her party dress)…download_20151220_121919 (Large)

I have a lot of other pre-holiday pictures to share — hopefully before the holiday itself.  In the meantime, we’re watching Christmas movies and listening to the absolutely torrential rain pouring down outside.  40 degrees cooler, and it might even be snow… just like in the North Pole!

 

NYC at Christmas Time!

This weekend we took our annual holiday trip to NYC to visit K and see the Christmas sights around the city.  Everything was festive and beautiful, and we crammed as much as possible into our quick weekend trip.

On Saturday, we got into the city early to catch the Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.  K got the kids twirling Rockettes and Santa Claus toys, and we enjoyed kick lines, Santa Claus, choo choo trains, and camels parading across the stage.  It was awesome.  And the light show around the walls and ceiling was really impressive.

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(What you’re not seeing in this post is all of the amazing food and drink we had across our trip. Like the restaurant we went to after Toys R Us, where we enjoyed pear and black currant champagne cocktails, and absolutely amazing brunch food.  Unfortunately, I was too excited about all the meals to remember to take pictures!)

On Sunday morning, we were up early again to get to Bryant Park and ice skate.  We discovered on our last trip that the trick is to get there when the free skate opens on Sunday morning, and the timing worked out well again.  K, Nell, and I skated for the entire morning session until they closed the rink to resurface the ice, and Nell had such a wonderful time!  She has been talking about ice skating since our trip last December, and this was definitely the highlight for her!

20151206_083115_resized 20151206_083116_resized download_20151206_130746 download_20151206_181909 download_20151206_181927 download_20151206_130806 download_20151206_130802After ice skating, we went to Lord and Taylor to see the store windows and then on to Herald Square to see Santaland.  (We did not wait two hours to see Santa, but we definitely enjoyed seeing all the beautiful decorations around the store!)  Guy and Nell adored the store windows — they were whimsical bakery-themed with cupcakes and gingerbread men and more. The kids were enamored with the show behind the glass.

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Guy loved walking around the city in general — or rather, running in his own funny little way.  Luckily most people in NY wear black, so he was easy to keep an eye on in his bright red sweater “running” along the sidewalk. (Pic next to K. He was not alone, lol.)

20151206_100439After visiting the department stores, we returned to Bryant Park just in time for the carousel opening, which we went on until at least two of us were dizzy.  One little Guybug sobbed when it was time to finally get off.  He loved it so much.

download_20151206_130817 20151206_110738(0)_resized 20151206_110003_resizedWe rounded out our holiday NYC traditions on Sunday with lunch at Bryant Park Grill under the tented Christmas patio for lobster rolls, crab and shrimp cocktail, and red wine.  The kids ate mac n cheese from the gourmet mac n cheese vendor in the Christmas market (of course there is one), which they loved.  And then we were on our way — back to K’s ,and then on the road home a few hours later.

We’ve had our share of bumps this holiday season with germs and winter ailments — in fact, G was way under the weather for the trip, and I’m down for the count since we got back — but this trip was (as it always is) such a highlight of the season and so much fun.  Each year gets better, and maybe next year the kids will understand how to use “indoor NYC” voices in places with shared walls…