Christmas – BONUS

I just had to share a couple extras.

This shot was taken while the rest of us were eating breakfast. Ethan couldn’t be bothered.

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And this one was taken later in the day. He’d slept the entire way home from Animal Kingdom so I thought he’d be ready to play as soon as he got home. He thought so too because he came in and went right to his train table, but within 2 minutes he’d laid down on the floor and there he slept for over 2 hours. The girls covered him with a blanket but if you look closely you can see he’s still wearing his shoes. He was all played out. Its tough being a kid on Christmas!

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Christmas Part III – The BIG One


For months Anthony and I, I mean SANTA, has been planning a BIG surprise for our family. We decided that our kids and family would get one collective gift from the big guy this year – but it was going to be REALLY big. I was a bit giddy about it when we actually bought it about a week ago. Neither one of us could hardly wait for SANTA to arrive to give it to them. But first he (SANTA) had a little trick up his sleeve. We had been telling the kids that Santa had called us and said he was working on a BIG gift for the entire family, but that if he did that there wouldn’t be any other Santa gifts. We wanted to be certain they wouldn’t be expecting a lot of things to open and then be disappointed. But, of course, they were fine and excited about the idea. They had no idea what this BIG family gift could be, and we of course tried to keep up the suspense by telling them it was something really difficult to do and he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get it together for us. So Christmas morning came and there in the corner by the tree was a BIG box! It was the last thing we opened after all the grandparent and cousin gifts, and okay Santa had a few other things as well…all of which coordinated with the final gift.

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They were excited when they first started but…

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when they realized another wrapped package was inside the excitement began to build.

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Then there was another and…

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And another still. They were laughing and squealing the entire time.

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Ethan even stopped playing with his trains to see what all the commotion was about.

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Six boxes in all, all fit neatly inside one another…

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And the final present was tiny…but what on earth was it? They really weren’t sure.

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So Daddy let them in on a little secret…

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It was Disney ANNUAL passes! Now they can go as many times as they want in the next year!

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There was dancing and jumping and more and more squealing.

And so….

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we went, that very day, to Animal Kingdom.

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We rode the safari, the train, saw the Lion King show and walked some trails. We even met Rafiki. And when 3 o’clock came around and the crowds were building we decided to go the kids weren’t sure they wanted to leave…but we promised we’d go back on Monday because after all, thanks to the magic of SANTA we can. It was a very MICKEY Christmas and its going to be a VERY Mickey 2011. And I must say, as sweet as they are…my kids deserve it. (Okay…so Ethan could work a little on his sweetness – at least consistently, but he gets a pass because he’s only 2.)

Christmas Part II – The Girls

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Christmas morning as I posted in my last post, Ethan was the first of the kids up. We let him play for a good 20 minutes before we couldn’t stand it anymore and went to wake up the girls. We assumed they would run into the room and immediately head to their presents (especially the one BIG Santa one in the corner), but that isn’t quite how it happened.

Natalie was the first to get there and her eyes got wide as I thought they would, but what she said surprised me. I thought I’d hear a “oh my gosh! Look at that big present!” – or something along those lines, but instead she said, “Mom! You put out the present I made you and Dad! I want you to open it!”

She ran to the tree and got the gift she’d made, complete with homemade wrapping paper and was bursting with excitement for us to open it. It was a poem with her hand prints on it and a picture of her in a wreath frame. Then Bella ran out of the room and returned with a present she had made for Anthony. It was a book she’d written for him about spaceships, and she insisted we sit and read it right away. So, she read it aloud to him. Then they remembered they’d gone shopping for both Anthony and I and wanted to give those gifts. Earrings, a frame, and a Kindle cover later they remembered they’d bought gifts for each other and for their brother so those were quickly retrieved and exchanged complete with laughs, smiles, oh’s and ahs, and a thank you or two. They had then been there in front of the tree for more than 30 minutes and they had yet to even check out the gifts there for them.

It was very touching for me to see that they had forgotten about themselves and thought more of others. I think I will remember that about this Christmas for many years to come.

Christmas Part I – Ethan

(So our Christmas day has about 3 stories I want to share and if I put them all into one post it would be too much, so I am breaking our Christmas day up into 3 parts.)

I got up early on Christmas morning to shower and get make-up on before the kids got up (because we had plans to leave shortly after opening presents, this was not a vanity thing b/c since I control the pictures I’m not in them…it works nicely that way). I must have been excited because even though I had stayed up until 1am I woke up before my alarm at 5:45am. When I got up I turned on the Christmas tree lights in preparation for the kids to be up so they could SEE that Santa had indeed arrived.

Around 6:15 I was just finishing up my make-up and I started to hear some noises from the play room (where the tree and presents were). I knew exactly who it was. Ethan. He received a train table and set from Anthony’s dad and we hadn’t wrapped it. We had joked that he probably wouldn’t even wake us up, he’d just see it and want to play with it immediately. That is exactly what happened. Even when Anthony and I came out he didn’t even act as if he’d done something he wasn’t supposed to, or found something new, he just acted as if it were a toy that had always been there…and he didn’t stop playing with it for a whole 2 hours – he didn’t even want to open any other presents.

Here he is as we caught him right as we walked out:

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Come Let Us Adore Him

Tonight we were fortunate to attend a Living Nativity play. I brought my camera along and I thought I would share some pictures and maybe even a few thoughts from the evening.

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And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  (Luke 2: 1-5)

I love how Mary is looking at Joseph in this picture. Not a lot is said of Joseph and Mary’s relationship. This moment, even though it is only a depiction of the story, makes me ponder the trust Mary must have had in Joseph as her companion through these miraculous events.

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…because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

How heart breaking it must have been to have no where to go. I wonder if the Inn Keeper ever realized who he had turned away.

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And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (Luke 2: 8-10)

What must it have been like to be a shepherd that night?

What would it have been like to see angels and be witnesses to the birth of Christ.

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Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judæa in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Matt 2: 1-2)

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Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. (Luke 2: 12-14)

I love the holiday season. I love Christmas and all that comes with it – music, presents, cards, goodies, Santa…everything. But I am especially grateful for moments like these in the Christmas season that make me pause and remember the miracle of the Christmas story. The birth of my Savior. The importance of this one sacred silent night.

Tonight was a fantastic way to start off this week’s Christmas celebrations. Thank you to those who put it together.

Oh come let us adore Him – Christ, the Lord!

A Very Mickey Christmas

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Yesterday we spent the entire day – that means 15 full hours with 4 adults, 4 children, rain, clouds and even a tiny bit of sun – at Magic Kingdom in Disney World. It was kind of the kick off to our Christmas week. Nana came and brought with her Aunt Krystal and cousin Sammy for his first visit to Florida. For Christmas Nana took the kids to to Magic Kingdom for a day, we tagged along to help out and have a little fun of our own.

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We hadn’t met Woody before when we’ve been to the parks – Ethan was awe struck to meet one of his favorite movie characters. Sammy thought the characters were really cool.

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Nana brought the kids matching t-shirts so they could look cute in pictures together. Unfortunately it rained all morning so you couldn’t see them in many of the pictures but shortly after lunch the sun peaked out for a few minutes and we snapped a few pictures. (Even though we were sad about the rain it really helped out with crowds, the lines were non-existent all morning.)

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A trip to the Disney isn’t complete without meeting the big guy himself. We lucked out because the line was only 15 minutes (before when we’ve gone its been over an hour at Magic Kingdom) AND because Minnie was with Mickey. They told us she only pops in every once in a while, we were glad to catch her. She even gave Sammy a kiss! (And visiting them gave us a good opportunity for a whole group shot.)

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To end the day we had great seats right in front of Cinderella’s castle for the light parade and fireworks. Although, during the light parade fog set in and we couldn’t see the fireworks. We could see the sky light up and hear the booms – but there were no fireworks to be seen! Even the castle sort of disappeared in the fog.

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Luckily I had snapped a few pictures of Cinderella’s Castle before that happened.

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And if the kids are really lucky (and good for another 6 days) SANTA may just deliver a little more Mickey Christmas.

Why I Love the Beach


When we first moved her I had never really experienced the ocean. In fact Anthony and I had many Lake vs.. Ocean discussions in which I was adamant that LAKES were better. I grew up in the land of 10,000 lakes – so lakes were a big part of my childhood summers. But, one visit to the ocean last year in November and Anthony had won the argument. No question. It is now one of my favorite places to be, and ways to spend my time.

I especially love to take people there for the first time (in a long time OR, even better, their very first time). This Friday we took my nephew to see the ocean for the very first time. We only intended to play on the sand, not swim, but the water was too inviting, the kids were having too much fun and before we could stop them they were in to their waists, ice cold water and all.

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I love the beach because no matter how many times you see it when you get your first glimpse of it your heart can’t help but skip a beat. It always takes my breath away. The vastness of it, the sounds, the smells, the beauty. It amazes me time and time again and I’ve yet to bring someone who doesn’t experience the same emotions.

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I love the beach because of the joy in my kids faces when we are there. The laughter, the squeals…

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…the endless possibilities created by their imaginations.

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I love it because there is something about the ocean that inspires one to run and jump without care into every wave.

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It is a place of beauty, a place of wonder – in is in a word, enchanting.

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We Rock!

…around the tree that is.

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My kids love music. Put it on and they’ll be shaking their little booties all around the house.

Christmas music is a family favorite. When we turn it on, we turn it on loud. 

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Because when its loud we let go of all our inhibitions, and we really DANCE.

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This girl has moves!

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I love these three kiddos of mine, and I love the JOY they bring – always but, especially at Christmas time.

P.S. A side not on the pictures. I had a little fun with them in editing, and I used a little bit different settings that I typically do. B/c my tree is in front of the window it blocks a lot of the great light I get in that room, and so in order to get faster shutter speeds I upped my ISO to pretty high – that accounts for the grain in my pics. BUT then I choose to keep my shutter speed a little slow to get some movement in some of the pictures (see pic 1). I used a Florabella action “Glam” on them just for fun. My only regret is that I didn’t pull down my ISO in the last pic. I love it, but hate the grain. Shooting directly at the window I could have pulled it down, but I forgot. Darn it.