Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Celebrations in Albuquerque!

We were thrilled to have the chance to spend Christmas vacation in Albuquerque with Kim's family. Grammy and Papa did a GREAT job, as always, of hosting a houseful of guests ... including four one-year-olds! :)  We did a LOT of celebrating while we were together ...

Jesus' Birthday
Of course, our Savior's birthday was the reason that we all gathered together. The abundant life, peace of forgiveness, and hope of salvation that He freely gives us is reason for daily celebration! Sarah and I (Kim) were excited to sing a duet in church on Christmas Day! A few days before, Abby helped us practice at home! :)

What a blessing it was to attend church together! It's always a treat to hear Papa preach (his grandkids seemed VERY excited that he was up front, too. Ryan kept saying "Papa!"during the service in his not-so-quiet voice). :) It was wonderful to hear Grammy on the organ on Christmas Day, too. The kids especially seemed to enjoy the candlelight Christmas Eve service ... perhaps because Grammy had given each of them his/her own battery-powered small candle to use! So fun! :)

A Special 35th
One of the (few) great things about having a birthday near the holidays is that I often get to be together with family on or near my special day! This time, they went all out! I felt so special and loved! Mom and Dad brainstormed the theme -- "Halfway to Heaven," based upon the the verse in the Bible that says, "The length of our days is seventy years-- or eighty, if we have the strength ..." (Psalm 90:10).

I know I've mentioned before just how crafty and creative my sister-in-law, Sarah, is! She's amazing at decorating and transformed my parents' house into Party Central! :) I loved the tissue paper flowers hanging from the lights ...
... and the pretty garland everywhere. Beautiful!

Ian helped Grammy make my favorite, German chocolate cake! :)

The delicious half-cake fit with the halfway theme! Way to go, Grammy & Ian! Isn't Sarah's wall hanging in the background beautiful!

After a scrumptious meal (I requested a meal I often requested while growing up ... chicken-almond stir-fry), the family serenaded me!
And then we dug into the cake!

After the kiddos went to bed, Amy and Jason planned some fun activities for us adults. They planned a word-game medley (LOVED it!). Then, Jason wrote a clever Mad-Lib for the "second half" of my life, including some hilarious predictions about what Matt and I and our boys will be doing!

They ended with a really thoughtful Wheel-of-Fortune activity where they thought of adjectives that describe me ... and then shared why they chose each word.

What an amazing family I have! Thanks for making my 35th so wonderful! I'll continue to thank God for you through the last half (or more! :)) of my life!

Christmas Gifts
While the kids napped following a delicious Christmas dinner, the adults did some Christmas gift assembly. The guys put together a Cozy Coupe Truck from Papa & Grammy for the twins.

Matt and Amy assembled a shopping cart we had bought for niece Abby.
Dad borrowed 3 Cozy Coupe cars from the church preschool so that every grandchild could have something to ride or push!

When we took the children outside, Ryan took an immediate liking to the Cozy Truck. Thankfully, the twins were willing to share.

Abby was a natural at pushing her bear in her shopping cart.
It was hilarious watching each child push a toy... and crash into each other ... and cry when they wanted what someone else was pushing ...

Ryan was very excited about these Matchbox cars that he opened from Grammy and Papa.

Papa and Grammy made a scavenger hunt so that Ian could find his present ...
... a Silverado Express remote control train. Ian was SO excited!

Grammy immediately helped him set it up.
All of the little ones had fun watching from a distance...
...when they weren't pushing their new dump trucks & bulldozer from Aunt Sarah & Uncle Andrew.

Every meal felt like a type of (chaotic) celebration! We managed to fit around an extended dining room table so that we could all be together. Thanks for the yummy meals, Papa & Grammy.

Girls' Day Out
My mom treated us girls to a wonderful time at a local tea room. We all chose a fun hat to borrow from their "hat wall" while we were there.

We were seated in a cozy, ornately decorated room

and promptly served our first type of tea.
The server did a great job explaining each of the Nutcracker-themed foods on the tray.
We ate the main course finger foods (bottom level) first, followed by the scones & spreads. We finished up with the assorted desserts on the top level. The food was delicious and very filling!

We enjoyed talking (we mommas of young children were thrilled to be able to have an uninterrupted conversation! Ha!), eating, and laughing together.

Sarah had to take some risks to get the best pictures. Ha!
After our three-course meal with three yummy teas, the server brought us hot towels to clean our hands.
What a blessing to be in a family with these three beautiful, fun, creative, thoughtful Christian ladies! I love you gals!

  Guys' Day Out
The guys planned some activities for themselves on a different day! Jason coordinated a RuPK competition that involved RUnning,

Passing a football,

and Kicking and punting a football.

Matt loved the creative targets that the three guys chose for where to throw the football. In the end, Matt emerged victorious!

The three younger guys joined Dad at Tucano's Brazilian Grill for a meal that included lots and lots of meat!

Christmas Photo Shoots
No family gathering would be complete without some group shots ...

It was so fun to CELEBRATE with you, dear family! Love you guys!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Polar Express

 We love using Advent boxes to count down the days 'til our Savior's birthday! For about half of the days, we include pieces of candy or small toys. For the other half of the days, we insert papers describing an "experience" we will do together (looking at Christmas lights, drinking hot cocoa, playing a game, etc.). Matt and I were SUPER excited about giving the boys one experience in particular ... a ride on the Polar Express!

We left Houston one December afternoon to drive the two hours to Palestine, TX. Ian was SUPER excited! Once we got there, we changed the boys into their pajamas to make the experience more authentic. :) (Almost all of the kids and quite a few adults, too, wore pajamas!)

We had some time to look around the train station before our train departed.

 Finally, the time came for us to board the train! We made sure to sit on the "North Pole side."
 Even Ryan seemed to be very interested in the train!
 The workers brought around cookies and hot cocoa for us to enjoy on our way to "the North Pole." While we enjoyed our treats, we listened to the story of The Polar Express being read aloud.

 Then, the conductor came around to punch our tickets!
 When we arrived at the brightly decorated "North Pole," we could see Santa and his elves out the window. The train stopped for a few minutes so we could enjoy the lights (though our camera didn't take any good pictures ... ha!)

On our ride home, we all sang Christmas carols, danced in the train aisles with the workers, and (best of all!) got to meet Santa Claus and some elves! Santa gave each child his very own bell!

The boys loved it (and so did we parents!). It was definitely an unforgettable experience! Since it's a little spendy, we certainly won't make it an annual tradition, but we'd love to go at least once more in a few years so that Ryan can remember it!