Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas 2013

Christmas was so fun this year. I have always loved the Christmas season, but with kids it is like a million times better. The anticipation, the excitement, and teaching them how to serve others... it's all been wonderful this year. We were able to spend a ton of time with all sides of our family, which made the celebrating perfect!

We had Derek's side of the family over on Christmas eve. We had a delicious BBQ dinner and played some holiday games to get in the spirit! Fortunately, everyone was a good sport and the kids had a really good time.

The kids dressed up Derek and Uncle Brad like Frosty the snowman! Unfortunately, the decorations are covering their enthusiastic smiles.... but I'm sure you can imagine. :)

Rudolph Training

After the kids did Rudolph training, the grandparents became Rudolph and had to carry Santas around. 

How cute at these bearded Santas??

The lady at church who is normally in charge of getting the candles ready for the Christmas Eve service was out of town this year for her daughter's wedding, so I volunteered to fill in. The kiddos did an excellent job. 

And after they were put together, they handed them out to all. They were great helpers and did such a good job of serving others. 

The Christmas Eve service was interesting. Belle managed to walk up to the front of the church before I was able to stop her. I hadn't put much thought into it being her first "big church" experience and didn't plan well. She was fidgety beyond belief, though she entertained herself by "fixing" my hair and whisper-yelling. Yes, that really is a thing. Before I had the chance to apologize to the people in the row behind us, one of them actually told me she was thankful for the opportunity to sit behind us. Her kids are grown and she simply told us to enjoy this stage because they grow so fast. I was thankful for that perspective so I can look back on that Christmas eve service with fondness and not embarrassment! 

After the service, Derek's family came back to our house. The attempt to go over the Christmas story with the nativity scene, a pop-up book, and 4 very excited children was a humorous endeavor, but I'm glad we were able to make it fun. Then came time for presents. Oh man. There aren't even words to explain the chaos that followed. Jackson was absolutely hilarious. I only wish I could have a recording of him opening presents. He screamed with excitement after opening every single gift shouting phrases like, "I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED THIS!" about things he never even knew existed. Needless to say, he was thrilled beyond belief. Belle opened her presents one tiny bit of wrapping paper at a time and she was so happy to open many Minnie Mouse items!

After all the excitement of Christmas eve, the kids went to bed very easily. Jackson promised me that he was going to wake up first to find the presents. However, Derek beat him to it, though he "slept in" until 7am this year. Christmas morning was fun. They liked their gifts and we enjoyed some yummy cinnamon rolls. 

We packed up and headed up to my parents house mid-morning. Even though we had been up for hours, when we arrive after 10am, my siblings were all still in bed. We were ten minutes away from my parents house when I realized that we didn't pack up the Christmas presents! Fortunately, Derek was able to meet up with his brother who was driving a little bit in our direction and so he didn't have to drive all the way back! The kids played with their new big gifts while we waited. Jackson is drawing presents for everyone and Belle was playing with her new dolls!

Eventually everyone got out of bed and we did another round of Christmas.

My favorite part of Christmas were the parts that I don't have pictures of-- Mom's Christmas brunch, playing games, watching movies, just hanging out with the family. My brother gifted my sister a fun train game and we played several times. On the 26th, my Mom's side of the family came over and I really enjoyed getting to visit with my family members that I only see once or twice a year. Jackson was thrilled to have some older cousins (second cousins?) to play with and as expected, we loaded up with toothpaste to help with our dwindling stock at home. Thanks Grandma! :)

It was a good break to be away form social media last week to enjoy the festivities! It's also been fun catching up with all of the Christmas posts, too! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!


Saturday, December 21, 2013


Several weeks ago Derek's brother and his family moved across the state here to Kansas City. Brad and Mary signed on their house yesterday and their new house is just two miles away. So much nicer than across the state! Their house is super nice and we've worked to get them all settled in over the past few days. I love having family close by!

The two people who are MOST excited about it are Jackson and my nephew Gabe. They are so close in age and want to play together every minute of every day, which works out conveniently because I have been watching them each day while Brad and Mary go to work. My nephews come around 10:15 and there is just the perfect amount of playtime, and then lunch, naps (or quiet time) and then more playtime before they get picked up around 3:30. The kids love it and I am thrilled that the kiddos get to spend so much time with their cousins!

When Jackson is at preschool, Belle and Gabe play really well together. When Jackson comes home, typically, the older boys play in Jackson's room and sometimes Belle is invited. There are times that Belle plays really well with Eli and they dance and tackle. Most of the time, Eli hangs out with me while the older kids play "big kid things" that they don't want the "baby to interrupt."

The lesson here: it's now about who's older... it's about who's bigger.

Friday morning though, I found all of the kids playing and laughing in the front room. They were climbing up the couch and rolling off and the bigger kids were even helping Eli. He was so glad to be a part of the in crowd. Of course, I grabbed my camera and took some pics... which is much harder than it sounds. Four kids. None of them holding still. Hopefully the pictures capture the fun they were having!

Eli was thrilled to be king of the castle! (Jackson was having fun, I promise!)

How blessed are we to have so much fun with cousins every day?!?


Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas in Kansas City

I love Christmas. I love Kansas City. And I especially love Christmas in Kansas City... and not just the song! If you're not from here, you probably have no idea that there is an actual song called Christmas in Kansas City, but it's true. I thought a post about my favorite things about Christmas in Kansas City was in order! They appear in the order that we visited this year!

There are five favorite things and so I am linking up with Five on Friday (I still have a few minutes left before it turns into Saturday!). I started this post earlier this week, but waited until we visited Union Station today and it just so happens that this post is right in line to link up with Friday Favorites and Show us Your Life Christmas Traditions!

Anyway, here's my favorite Christmas Traditions here in KC. You should come visit! :)

The plaza is one of my favorite places in Kansas City in general, but it gets extra awesome when the Christmas lights are on! Plus, it holds a special place in my heart: Derek proposed on the plaza at the Christmas Lighting ceremony. We planned our visit on a rare warm December evening and it was so enjoyable to walk around. And we enjoyed some Yogurtini while we were out!

We happened to stumble across the Bass Pro Christmas festivities last year and I knew I wanted to go back! The store wasn't set up quite as cool as last year with a carrousel, but it was still tons of fun. The kids get a pic with Santa, they have fun little crafts, and they have several toys on display, which my kids love. And of course, there are plenty of animals to check out.

I've loved the lights at Christmas in the Park from when I went with my family growing up, going with Derek pre-kids, and now I love it more now that our kids think it's awesome, too! Last night, loaded the kids in the car and ventured out to enjoy the light display. It was the shortest line I have ever seen! We were in and out in less than one hour.

Our church has a fantastic Women's Ministry and every year we have a Christmas brunch. This year, we switched it up and had in the afternoon, but as always, it's one of my favorite things to do this time of year. And I love it for the fellowship, but I love it, too because we alway focus on an outreach activity! We have a sister church in downtown KC who lost all of their library materials due to a water leak. Over the past several weeks, our church collected over 1,600 (!!!!) books to fill their shelves again! These two ladies, my dear friends, organized the whole things and we presented the "bookmas tree" to the women from the inner city church who were in attendance that day!

For the past two years, we have met up with Chacey to visit Crown Center and Union Station at Christmas. It's a super fun time to visit! Of course, we visit Kaleidoscope to make puzzles and the Hallmark Visitor's Center to see the bow making machine, which are staples to the childhood experience in this city. The tree at Union Station is enormous and there are trains and ginger bread houses on display at Crown Center. Though with Jackson and Chacey, they'd be happy to be in the city dump if it meant that they could play together. But for the sake of Elizabeth and I, we love Crown Center. :)

See, Christmas in Kansas City is so much fun. It totally deserves it's own song! You should come visit. Be sure to call me if you do!! 


Monday, December 16, 2013

DIY Dollhouse Peg Dolls

IThis summer, I picked dollhouse for Belle at the thrift store with Christmas in mind! I don't have a picture because it's at my parents until Christmas, but it really is the cutest. It's a white wooden dollhouse with pink shutters and it's actually a little taller than she is. I knew it was a great buy when I picked it up for $30!

That is, until I started looking for dollhouse accessories. I'm telling you, I searched high and low in every store and to the depths of the internet looking for options. There was no way I was going to pay $20 per "room" to fill the dollhouse, not even including family!

I had stumbled across some peg doll ideas in my search for dollhouse accessories, but I was convinced that they'd be too hard! Though when you're determined to stick it to those toy companies who have a monopoly on dollhouse accessories (ahem, Fisher Price), I guess the creative juices seem to flow. :)

I bought these peg dolls from an etsy shop and I used some acrylic paint I had on stash! I used paint brushes, toothpicks, and the flat end of a wooden skewer!

I used the wonderful step-by-step guide to painting peg dolls and I drew inspiration from several other handpainted peg dolls that I have pinned on Pinterest if you want to check them out!

Step one: I painted the faces.
Step two: Solid color outfits
Step three: Outfit details
Step four: Faces and hair

The hardest thing for me was just getting started. I was trying to plan outfits from the beginning. It's easiest to just start painting. I planned the family (Mom, dad, Grandma, Grandpa, 2 girls, one boy, and twin babies!) and then just started picking solid colors. Once the clothing basics were done, I just gathered inspiration from ones I had seen and just tried to make them cute!

The best tip: Relax! It's okay to mess up. Just paint over it. The dumb tie took me five million times. Also, the glaze makes everything look so polished!

I deleted the picture from my phone that didn't have flash, so I set the family up for another photo shoot. Surprisingly, it's much easier to capture 9 smiling faces when they are dolls and not my actually family. :) 

My favorite parts about the dolls are the details. Like a flower in this gal's hair! I love the yellow dress with the white pockets and the necklace on Grammy*! :)

*Wooden Grandma and Grandpa are in to way representations to real life grandparents, other than both of Belle's grandpas are big Chiefs fans. There was one particular grandparents who "rolled eyes" when I decided to make them have gray hair. 

As for furniture, I've put my dad to the job, which means they will no doubt be cute. :) Belle is going to love these!

Linking up with:
Homemade Ginger
Homemaker's Challenge
Just a Girl and her Blog
Home Coming

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Favorite Stocking Stuffers

While I was planning a stocking stuffer post at some point, I thought I'd go ahead and make it happen today after receiving so much feedback from yesterday's post about Christmas presents! And this way, there's still time for you to pick up things for your stockings if you see something you like!

Not all of these items are in both stockings each year, but these are my favorite. These are all easy to find items, but are {mostly} practical, affordable, and fun!

  1. Chapstick (also known as "lips"). I'm hoping the kids will keep their chapstick in their cup holders in the car so they can use it during these awful winter months!
  2. Shaving cream. Shaving cream, really? This here is the all time favorite thing for my kids to play with in the bath tub. Derek is getting annoyed with us using his stuff, so the kids are definitely getting their own.
  3. Socks.My kids aren't in need of an entire package of new socks. But I'll pick up a pair of their favorite characters pretty cheap. They are at the dollar section of Target, among other places. I picked up a pair at Michael's this week for only 50¢.
  4. Bandaids. As you are probably well aware, fun bandaids have extra healing power. My kids love having their own box.
  5. Utensils. My kids also love their own special utensils. Jackson probably won't get any this year because he equates using regular forks and spoons as a symbol of being a big kid. I like to opt for the ones with metal prongs because they'll outlast the plastic ones!
  6. Minnie Mouse necklace. Belle loves jewelry and she loves Minnie Mouse, so this will be just her thing. I picked up a necklace similar to the ones posted at Michaels the other day for  50¢
  7. Hairbrush. Belle hates having her hair brushed, so I thought that perhaps a pink brush of her own might help. Maybe not. But it was worth the $1 I invested to give it a shot. 
  8. Cups.We have several of these hard plastic party cups already, but these are such a fun thing to add in a  stocking. My kids love having all of their favorite characters on their cups. These are right around $1 at Walmart and Target.
  9. Gloves. My kids aren't the only ones who can never find a pair of gloves when it's time to leave the house? Gloves are super cheap and are just handy to have around!
  10. Silly String. We used silly string at Jackson's 4th birthday party and he has been asking for it ever since. A can is $1 at Dollar Tree, so the kids will each get one. If I'm already cleaning up wrapping paper... why not throw in some silly string, too?
We visit both sides of our family over the holidays and so the kids (and us!) will end up with plenty of toothpaste and new toothbrushes, so I don't typically pick any up! I might throw in an apple or orange to help keep them from whining about breakfast during present time!

Am I missing out on some great stocking stuffers? What are your favorites?


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Our four gift Christmas strategy

I love reading about ideas for Christmas presents from other parents. I mean, catalogs and department stores all tell you about the coolest new "it" toy, but I like to see what parents say their kids love and what they plan to buy for Christmas. So this is about what my kiddos are getting.

Three or four years ago a friend shared how they do gifts: something you want, something to need, something to wear, something to read. We did this two years ago, but we didn't last year. As soon as Jackson started praying for lots of toys for Christmas, I knew that I wanted to implement the four gift rule. He knows what to expect and it keeps his excessive wishing at bay. Plus, he will be getting other things from family, too.

Belle's Christmas gifts:

Something she wants: We've played with magnetic dress up dolls at the early child development center and she loved them!

Something she needs: Belle has never had an actual bedding set and it has worked for us. But she's outgrowing her baby blanket to keep her covered up and there are times when she wants to snuggle with it instead of having it cover her up.

Something to wear: Headphones! And Minnie Mouse ones of course. These are made for little kids and have volume control to protect her ear drums. These will work with the DVD player in our van and also with the next gift.

Something to read: Jackson got a TAG reader for Christmas last year. Belle loved it right away and she often borrows his. She will love to have her own (and one that's purple!) plus, it came with some girly books too. (Another plus, I picked this up at a consignment sale and it was 50% the last day!)


As I began to contemplate the categories, they didn't fit with what a few things I wanted to get and with things Jackson needed. I wasn't going to commit to the rhyme for the sake of doing it a certain way, so I switched it up. And bonus: It still rhymes. :)

Jackson Christmas Gifts:

Something he wants: He's asked for the whole set, so this is why it counts as one. Jackson LOVES transformers (and the Rescue Bots) if you haven't noticed and these are his favorite transformers toys. They are two steps to transform so as a parent, you'll love them, too. 

Something that glows: In case you didn't notice, Jackson is pretty into outer space right now. I'm not even sure if he is aware that glow stars for the bedroom ceiling even exist, but he will be thrilled once he opens them.

Something to read: Picking a book was tricky mainly because most published science materials oppose creationism, but this one didn't focus on the beginning of space like some of the others I browsed. I loved the photos in this one and the words will be easy enough for him to read in a year or two.

Somewhere to go: A visit to the local planetarium, of course! He can name the planets in order and he knows about the astroid belt, but only from books. I think he will seeing them in the actual sky. 

I'll get another post up sometime about their stockings!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Great Grandma Betty (x2)

Our kiddos were blessed with not only one Great Grandma Betty, but two! Unfortunately, both have passed away this year, but I am so glad the kids were able to know them-- even if it was for a short time in their lives.

This is my Grandma Betty, my dad's mom. She past away this spring. I remember at that time that I had wished I had more pictures of her and my kids. And then one day, I was cleaning out a drawer and there were a couple of pictures of Grandma Betty and Belle from my sister's high school graduation! It made my heart so happy to stumble across it! Grandma always took a ton of pictures (with a camera that used film, of course!) and she'd always send us copies! :)

Derek's Grandma (Betty) Duff passed away this year on Thanksgiving, which was a hard day to receive the news. But at the same time, it left us feeling very thankful for her many years and memories. I just love this photo. As Grandma Duff aged, her cognitive functions continued to deteriorate, but when she held a baby-- she was so different! It's like she transported back in time and her entire disposition just seemed a little happier when my kids were with her. I guess there is a part of motherhood (and grand-motherhood and great grand-motherhood) that are just permanently etched in the brain forever!

We last visited her on Halloween night. Jackson made her laugh-- what a perfect last memory!

The past several days have been filled with family time with Derek's side of the family. While it was a sad occasion to get together, we just loved getting to see and visit with everyone. I feel like I've been a broken record around here lately talking about how much I really enjoy spending time with family, but it's just so true!!

I do have pictures of both grandmas with Jackson, but my digital files are so severely disorganized that it's so difficult to go back and find old photos! I think Grandma Betty was on to something with her film camera and developing doubles. In fact, one of my new years resolutions might be to actually print more photos so they can be enjoyed outside of a computer screen!


Friday, December 6, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I love Christmastime! I love decorating, I love the music, I love traditions and Christmas lights. I just love it all. 

1. Jackson has been asking to put up the tree as soon as his birthday was over and he desperately wanted to be the one to put the star on top! :)

2. We don't have a pinterest worthy tree, but it works for us! I let the kids put up almost all of the ornaments, so they are mostly all on the bottom third of the tree. I love our ornaments because we they each represent a memory and it's fun to go through them as a family.

3. While I love all sorts of Christmas decorations, my all-time favorite is the nativity set that my mom bought me right before I got married! 

4. My second favorite is this nativity. Don't you love how the animals are inside the stable? Right now, Mary is on top with the other pieces are gathered around baby Jesus. Oh, and Mater and McQueen have joined in. 

 5. Over the past year, I collected 25 Christmas books to open leading up to Christmas. The kids have LOVED it. And, really, I do too! Ideally, I'd love for the wrapped books to hang out under the tree, but I have a handsy two-year-old that couldn't resist the temptation, so they're on a shelf. Maybe next year they can be under the tree.

This weekend starts the crazy Christmas schedules of parties, Santa visits, and trying to find time to do our favorite Christmas activities. Even if it the schedule is super crazy, it's still my favorite time of year!



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