Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Day - 2008

Christmas morning was wonderful! Olivia woke us up at about 7:30 and gave us time to really wake up and get ready before she woke McIver up. She only peeked into the living room enough to confirm that Santa had come. We had gotten home so late that we were worried McIver would be a bear to wake up. But, he proved us wrong.

The kids ran into the living room to see what Santa had brought. The sofa was covered with full stockings and a few wrapped gifts from Santa. A few highlights: Hannah Montana slippers for Olivia and SpiderMan slippers for McIver; a huge children's encyclopedia which has been a huge hit so far; the movie Shaggy Dog; a Backyardigans Leapster game and a few things for our ski trip.

Since Will and I share a stocking, he went first and found the usual - socks. Then he tossed the stocking to me for my turn to dig to the bottom. Inside I found a picture of an iPhone. Will told me that it was mine, but that the store had run out and I'd have to wait until the New Year to pick it up. I was a little disappointed, but glad to know that an iPhone was at least in my future. Then, I got up to start the gift-opening. As I neared the tree, I heard a noise that I thought was some gift under the tree for one of the kids. Then I realized that it was my phone ringing! Will had hidden it in the tree so it was there after all - I just had to find it.
I took a picture of Will with the iPhone while he took a picture of me with the regular camera.

I had been worried that the children would be disappointed this Christmas because they weren't receiving anything from us to open. We are going to Vail to meet Dawn, David and Andrew for Spring Break and that is our gift to them this year. But, grandparents, godparents, aunts and uncles and friends TOTALLY came through. The kids had a ball opening all of their gifts. Olivia was adament that we watch each other open every single gift. So we really were able to enjoy each other's reactions to the gifts that we received. It was so much fun!

Santa thought McIver needed to learn a lesson about watching Too Much TV!

After the excitement had settled and the mess had been cleared a little bit, Olivia and I went straight to the recycle center to empty our recycle bins. She was excited to have a chance to play with the iPhone and took this picture of herself.

After a very relaxing afternoon, we headed down to spend Christmas night with the Stricklins. I really can't think of a place I would rather have been. Will made his delicious crabcakes and we enjoyed a fabulous dinner of beef tenderloin and asparagus. It took a while to get the kids settled down, but once they were asleep, we played a hilarious game of Scattergories.

Christmas 2008 was special in so many ways - even though we weren't with family for Christmas, we were surrounded by dear friends who we cherish!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Daddy & Becky

I had a dream about my dad last night. I don't know where I was except that I was walking up to a softball or baseball game. Daddy, Becky and Wynn were sitting on a picnic blanket spread out on the ground. They were waiting on me and knew that I would be surprised to see them there. They were all so happy. I couldn't believe my eyes and fell into Daddy's arms giving him a great big hug as tears streamed down my face. Then I woke up. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get back to sleep.

But, I woke up happy. It was a great chance to get out the last picture I have with Daddy (celebrating Christmas at Grandma Myrtle's house just a few days before he died) and show it to Olivia and McIver. They know that I have two dads, but I'm sure it's hard for them to understand. As soon as I reminded McIver that Daddy had died, he got really quiet and just told me that he was 'so sorry.' I reminded him that Daddy is in Heaven and watching over us so that we don't need to be sad about it. What I am sad about is that Daddy never had the chance to meet Olivia and McIver.

Daddy died 11 years ago yesterday.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve was busy, busy for our family this year. We spent the morning doing last-minute prep for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. Olivia and McIver were supposed to sing with the choirs at church during the family service at 3pm. Since McIver has opted out of singing the last few times, I tried to get them there in plenty of time to avoid the craziness that comes with lots of children trying to get choir robes/costumes on in a confined space.

Here's Olivia in her choir robe/angel costume. (At this point, McIver was MIA - he had run off and I had no idea where he was. Apparently, it didn't matter how early we got there, he was NOT going to be singing.)

Once I found McIver and got him dressed, I was able to leave the kids in the choir room and make my way downstairs to the nave. Since it was raining, there was some confusion over where Greeters would welcome people. So, I joined the crowd in the Narthex of the church for a little while to welcome people to Palmer. At one point, it seemed like maybe there were too many of us, so I found Will and settled in for the service.

The Netherys (Shannon & Reagan were in Olivia's kindergarten class last year and have been coming to church and choir with us lately) joined us for the Christmas Eve service. We were fortunate to be able to sit on the same pew together. We also had other good friends, the Butlers and the Stricklins, in front of and behind us. It is very unusual to be able to sit so closely with so many dear friends - God was at work during our last Christmas in Houston!

As the choir processed in, we noticed that McIver was nowhere to be seen. Apparently, he opted out and chose to sit along the altar rail facing the steps. Here he is most-definitely NOT singing with the Cherub Choir.

Here's a shot of Olivia on the steps with other shepherds and angels.
After the service, we took a few pictures with Shannon & Reagan on the steps. McIver, again, was not interested in having his picture taken.
After a brief stop by our house, we dropped in at the Netherys for a little while. The kids were so excited to see gifts under the tree and play with their puppy, Checkers, for a little while. Blakely, Shannon & Reagan's mom, and I have become really good friends over the last year. I will miss her immensely when we move.
The Butlers invited us over to their parents' house for Christmas Eve. Scott is one of 6 children, all of whom have three children each. As you can imagine, the house was packed. Scott's parents cover the garage floor with astroturf and fill it with kid-friendly activities (nerf guns, playdough, food and drinks, movies and more) so the kids were happy. We were welcomed again with open arms and incredible hospitality. It was nice to be surrounded by family on Christmas Eve, even if they weren't our own.

Chloe Butler and Olivia

Santa, who, according to Chloe, sounds 'a lot like my Papa,' stopped by for a quick visit. McIver was happy to climb up in his lap and remind Santa that he wanted some more tools and some race tracks for his cars. Smart Santa that he was, he looked to me before agreeing to bring McIver what he wanted. (The last time we were there for Christmas Eve, McIver had just turned 3 and asked for a motorcycle. We have a video of the next morning and a sad, sad McIver because he had only received a bike from Santa.)
As is their custom, after everyone ate dinner, the gift exchange/white elephant part of the evening started. Even though we had discussed how it would all work and both kids seemed to understand, McIver ended up in tears. I was able to appease him with my gift - some sort of robot/Transformer-type creature. After we said our good-byes, we made one more stop at the Wight-Meyns' house. We caught the tail end of their Christmas Eve celebration and then headed home.

Olivia tossing our reindeer food (oatmeal and glitter) for Santa's reindeer so they could find our house in the dark and the rain.

McIver insisted that the food needed to be on the front steps because Santa would need to know where the front door is. We have a special, magical key that we hang on the door so that Santa can let himself in since we don't have a fireplace.
Believe it or not, we almost forgot the cookies and milk for Santa. Thank goodness we remembered! And, we also left a few bites of cheese for Santa Mouse. Then we all settled in for a long winter's nap, although I would have liked it to have been about 2 hours longer and twenty degrees colder!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nanoo and Pop's Visit - Monday

Pop, Olivia and McIver had their own adventure on Monday while Nanoo, Cacoo and I enjoyed some child-free shopping at the Galleria. He took them to The Mad Potter to paint some pottery, then across the street to ChicFilA for lunch. The original plan had been to come back to our house for a while to play and pick up their BuildABear animals and then go to B-A-B at the Galleria later in the afternoon to get some new clothes. Turns out they just wanted to swim some more.

Mama, Catherine and I had a great time shopping. This trip was mostly to find some 'going out' clothes for Catherine, but I ended up with a few new treats as well. We stopped for a quick lunch at Zucchini's and snapped a photo.

After a busy day of shopping, painting and swimming, we took advantage of the hotel happy hour and then went to Ruggles Cafe for dinner. The kids both loved their dinners and were ready for dessert. McIver had been spying the red velvet cake all during the meal and, much to my surprise, ended up loving it.

Cacoo and Olivia

Olivia wasn't interested in decorating a cookie, but she used the icing to dress up her ice cream.

Nanoo and Pop's Visit - Opening Gifts

Olivia and McIver had a hard time waiting to open gifts. We finally decided to feed them supper and then open gifts before the rest of us ate. There were a few gifts that really caught their eye, but were meant to be opened last.

There was much discussion and negotiating over when they would get to open these presents, but Nanoo insisted that these be saved for last.McIver's tool set was a BIG, HUGE, ENORMOUS HIT. It includes the hat, gloves, tool belt, mini hammer, philips-head screwdriver that can also be a flat-head (which McIver pointed out to Will last night!), some pencils, a tape measure and even rainbow suspenders. As soon as he opened it, McIver ran around the living room thanking everyone and giving hugs. Now, I'll just have to be on my toes to be sure he only hammers things that are appropriate for him to be hammering!

Grandma Janet sent Olivia a Barbie kitchen, complete with a new Barbie. I heard her in her room this morning introducing the new Barbie to Hannah Montana and the other Barbies. Her rug is covered with Barbie gear, furniture and the Barbie convertible.

McIver also received his very own pair of scrubs with "Dr. Merritt" on the pocket. Even though he still wants to be either a construction worker or a super-spy when he grows up, he can be dressed like his dad and both granddads. He's very proud of himself and was totally distressed when he got syrup on his scrubs this morning at breakfast.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Nanoo and Pop's Visit - Swimming in the hotel pool

As soon as the excitement wore off and the kids realized that Nanoo and Pop were here to stay for a few days, they asked about swimming in the hotel pool. The high temp today is only 39 degrees, but it's nice and warm in the pool room.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Houston the Elf - Report

Houston left another note the other night. This has been a crazy week with Christmas programs, parties, choir and other obligations so it took us a while to get to it. The note says:

Dear Olivia and McIver:
If you're willing to toil,
fill a cup half with soil.
Put into the cup one peppermint.
Cover it so you can’t smell the scent.

Shake on some sprinkles green.
Top it with snow so they can’t be seen.

Cover the pots with a blanket of snow
And tomorrow see what you did grow.
Your Elf,

Filling the cup half with soil.
And covering up the peppermint so they can't smell the scent.
Covering with sprinkles green.

Covering with plenty of snow.

And waiting to see what will grow.
Drumroll, please ..............................................
McIver was most impressed that the candy canes grew with wrappers on so they wouldn't be yucky to eat even though they took the wrapper of their peppermints to plant them. Smart kid. Olivia said that Houston probably just brought the candy canes back from Santa's workshop and stuck them in the cups.

Monkey Class Christmas Party

Last week was crazy-busy! As Room Mom for both Olivia and McIver's classes, I had a big part in planning their 'Winter' and Christmas parties. And, I was asked to sub for a sick teacher at McIver's school for three days, which was great and I was happy to do, except that big chunks of time were then used up when I had planned to get organized without children around. Anyway, the parties both turned out great. Here are a few pictures from McIver's Monkey Class Party on Thursday.

McIver sat with a table full of rowdy boys - imagine that!

Decorating yet another cookie.
Playing musical snowflakes.
Putting candy canes in each of his friends' Monkey bags. He was very thoughtful about who got which candy cane since they were all different.
Bubble cups are super fun! They are small plastic cups with a hole punched in the side and a straw poked through. A paper towel is attached to the top with a rubberband and then dipped in dishwashing liquid. When the kids blow, bubbles pop up through the paper towel.

And, they grow, and they grow...

They're Here! They're Here!

I did it! I kept the secret that Nanoo, Cacoo and Pop were coming for a Christmas visit. They left Macon after Catherine's last exam on Friday and drive halfway (somewhere near Biloxi - no casino visit, though). I was glad that Olivia had a birthday party to keep her (and me) busy all morning. We got home from the party and only had to wait about 15 minutes before they drove up.

The kids were in the backyard getting ready to rake leaves with Will when I heard a knock at the door. Olivia ran and peeked through the mail slot, then slammed it shut and ran to tell McIver who was here, instead of opening the door to let them in - it felt like a scene from a movie! McIver was already rounding the side of the house so big hugs were given all around.

This picture makes me smile - Olivia just couldn't believe that they were really here!

Big, big hugs for Pop.

McIver was his usual, talkative self. He kept running up to hug Pop and then dragged him all over the house to show him every single new thing that has been acquired since Pop's last visit.

They brought a car-load of goodies from under their tree at home. Now we can barely walk between our tree and the chair. The kids don't know it, but we're planning to open gifts tonight.
We visited for a while at our house and then loaded up the kids and their bathing suits to head to the hotel. It took no time for them to take advantage of the indoor pool. They swam hard for about 45 minutes, then took extra long showers.
We enjoyed the happy hour at the hotel and then went to Bucca di Beppo for dinner. I wish I had pictures, but I think I left my camera in Olivia's bag in the hotel room. Anyway, it's a great, kid-friendly Italian restaurant. We all shared a delicious dinner and then drove around RiverOaks looking at the beautiful Christmas lights.
After a bit of negotiating, it was determined that Olivia and McIver would sleep at the hotel with Nanoo and Pop and Cacoo would come home with us. Haven't heard from them this morning, Cacoo's still asleep so it's hard to say who got the better deal (other than me and Will, of course!). The kids were looking forward to more swimming and the order-whatever-you-want breakfast at the hotel this morning.

Houston the Elf - Report

This was not Houston's first time to hide in the Christmas tree. But, this spot was a little less obvious. He was tucked way into the tree but at the kids' eye level. McIver found him in no time.

Houston found my favorite nativity set. Maybe there's been a bit too much talk about presents and not enough talk about WHY we celebrate Christmas. This is in our front entryway and took the kids a little longer to find.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Celebration of Light

The 1st, 3rd and 5th grade students at Olivia's school performed in a "Celebration of Light" last night. The 1st grade sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star in English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese. They did a great job. Olivia is the 6th child from the right in the picture. I wish I had a better shot, but this is all I could get. When you have a 5 year old with you, it's best to sit in the back of the auditorium. Aside from climbing in and out and up and around on the folded up lunch tables, McIver behaved well and enjoyed the program. He commented on two different occasions that he would marry all the girls in the pretty dresses. He particularly liked the 3rd grade girls dancing in their Chinese costumes.

Houston the Elf - Report

It's time for another report on Houston the Elf's antics. Olivia and McIver are still eager to get up in the morning to see if they can find him.

It took a while to find him hiding in the flowers.
McIver spotted him flying on the fan as soon as he walked into the living room.

The morning after our Cookie Decorating Party, Houston left the following note:

Dear Olivia and McIver –

Your Cookie Decorating Party was so much fun. Santa LOVES cookies and wanted me to remind you to leave some for him on Christmas Eve. The North Pole was really, really, really cold last night so I had to find somewhere warm to hide today.

Your Elf,


After looking in the dryer, under the covers, and in the microwave, we found Houston in the oven.
McIver still looks like a sleepy-head.

Houston spent two days on this perch in McIver's room. We don't know if he flew to the North Pole to report to Santa or not. We wondered if maybe he felt like he needed to keep a closer eye on McIver before submitting his report.