Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Year's Eve Happiness + First Snow day of 2017

Happy New Year! 
We started the year off right, with dear friends and GREAT food. 
(And of course, my too-brown-for-pictures walls.)
Lots of outside play, but no snow, unfortunately.
Still, games, spa treatments from the ladies above, breakfasts to die for, desserts!!!, octopus and rabbit in one weekend, mashed potatoes that lasted for days after, sigh. Wonderful stuff, all of it.

Then, just a week after they all went home, the snow decided to show. It started on a Friday evening and we were pretty sure we would have sledding weather when we woke up; instead, we woke up to a dusting--JUST enough to even call it snow. So we threw on our garden boots (Z and A) (Soren got to wear some amazing snow boots left over from Z in Idaho that KEEP FITTING year to year--miracle of the snow boots) and played in our yard instead. 
The snow was heavy and cumbersome, so the kids got out shovels and rakes to help. I prefer the camera!
There were also lots of snowballs thrown, from the very start. 
Look at this poor branch in our driveway. It got a little too much of that happy, heavy white stuff. 
 Annie got invited over to a friend's house, so Z walked her over there while Pops, Soren, and I enjoyed more winter activities at home.

 For some reason, He knew this was a thing and plopped right down in the snow at one point:
 He also enjoyed getting pulled through the semi-snow, thank you Pops! (Look at all those funny little grasses poking up! Semi-snow indeed!)
 What did Soren do to show his thanks for the sleigh ride? Beaned Brandon multiple times with snowballs, no less! I would have stopped him but it was so funny how they kept sticking.
Walking in a winter wonderland... 
 Next, around back for more fun. 
Wall climbing is a little tricky, for both boys big and small (especially with mom's slippery GREEN garden boots, good sporting, Z).
 Then Soren spotted me and snowball attack 2.0 was ON. Little stinker.
Finally, a way to get mom and her pesky camera to retreat! I ran for the hills aka hot chocolate in the warm house. 
Happy snow day, everyone! 

Christmas 2016

I'm already writing Christmas 2017 in my title! Not so fast!
Christmas 2016 was spent at home, with our loves. Christmas Eve morning was GORGEOUS outside, so we did what you'd expect us to do on a special occasion--we did yard work! But only after we'd listened to the Nine Lessons and Carols program with the Choir of King's College in Cambridge and prepared pineapples to be taken around to friends later that day (Brandon oil painted for his graduating phDs). Thank you NPR!
After yard work and pineapples, we came home and got out our good china. Second time we used it, first time for the glasses. Kids looked at it like it was all from another planet! What did we eat that night, let's see, can't remember. But we were together and it was lovely.
After all went to bed, Santa arrived (family gifts below under the tree, Santa gifts to the right by the chairs). That nice Santa, he knows we're kinda minimalists when it comes to all things from-him. Well, when it comes to all things, actually.
 Christmas morning was happy as expected! Kids had presents organized and stacked by the time we got up around 8am.
 Present opening was especially fun with this little one, who got magnets from one grandparent set and ninja gear from the other--what more could a 4 year old want?
 Stuffies (including Duke who went missing after our Utah trip last summer!), Tsums Tsums, and magnets, oh my!
Zane's favorite part of the morning: sausage and egg biscuits. Soren was thrilled because I managed to make him a T-Rex biscuit (molded accidentally with leftover biscuit dough strewn around cut-out muffins--Christmas miracle if I've ever known it)
This Christmas was extra special because we also got to head to church and participate in our ward's Christmas program. Zane played "O Come O Come Emmanuel" on the bells to start us off and Annie's primary class sang, "When Joseph Went to Bethlehem." Being in charge of the whole dang thing, I was just relieved everyone showed up who was on the program AND the meeting only lasted 56 minutes total. Two more Christmas miracles! 
We came home to sunshine and naps (parents) and bow-and-arrows (Z) and lots of happy playing together (A+S). 
Low key schedule and warm weather, happy hearts and sleepy eyes. And most important of all, Jesus. So thankful to be able to celebrate his birth with others through scripture and song on Christmas Day this year.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Seasons' change

These are more from last fall. Oh how I'd love to have those yellow gingko trees leaves back! But not if it would mean going back before all the holiday chaos. I couldn't do all that again, thank you very much! 
I love how nature has the power to stop you in your tracks. This day was a multiple stop-and-"gasp!" day. Autumn was undeniable: "I am AUTUMN! HEAR ME ROAR!" 
January's roar: not quite as charming. There are 2-hour school delays in January though (two of them this week, even though all traces of snow had vanished the day prior). If I can't have yellow leaves, at least I can have a few more moments of shuteye in the mornings.
Spring, you anywhere close?

Zoo Day in November

Right before Thanksgiving, the kids and I found ourselves with a free Monday off when we really should have been a school (thank you Pickens County Schools) so we actually went and did something out of the ordinary.
I know, crazy, right?
First we went to Costco. We sampled and purchased and pizza-ed and churro-ed and my sweet Zane said, "You know mom, even if we didn't make it to the zoo, we could call this a great outing!" He gets me. But no, we drove 10 more minutes into Greenville proper and found a nearly empty zoo parking lot (my favorite kind). We paid our money, got our adventure maps, and were OFF.
Guess what, we had a GREAT time!
This little zoo was just the right size for about and hour's worth of exploring, housed just enough exotic animals (see the leopard above? cheetah? I'm hopeless.) to feel like we'd stepped into a different world, and I found myself feeling relaxed and happy throughout our afternoon visit there. Perhaps I should have climbed up onto the bear myself, eh?
 The weather was really nice (and all the leaves hadn't fallen, a perk I'm missing now that it's mid-January) and near the end of our visit, we found ourselves in this little play garden with a pull-wagon for the little and a xylophone for my budding percussionist. (Jon, this is also the moment I learned Tina was going to get you a KITTY after all these years! It just felt right to be among the animals in that moment!) 

I'm so thankful to call these monkeys (oh we loved the monkeys) mine. Great day at the zoo!

Captured Moments during Stones' Visit

This really is how December felt to me. Bright, exciting, but oh so blurry! This year, lucky for all of us, my parents came for a good chunk of our holiday festivities.First up was a swim meet and the Nutcracker, all within 24 hours of arriving! I don't have pictures of the swim meet, but let's remember that Zane got two state cuts that day! I think. Remember the blur? Still happening. Here are a few snippets with our Nutcracker girl. First, backstage and downstairs in her dressing room. This group of girls got to have their own space this year, with real movie star lights to boot! Annie love love loved this detail. Here she is in her party scene costume (complete with ginormous bow):
And later, here are some "Mother Ginger" girls (some a little more serious than others about taking pictures!). These costumes were exquisite (and itchy!).
Here she is (with that elusive mom of hers!) in her small flower costume, her final number being the famous "Waltz of the Flowers." I honestly felt like I was taking a picture with a famous ballerina in this picture--such grace and beauty, I'm so proud to call her mine! Love you Annie, congratulations on a job well done and a BEAUTIFUL performance.
(One more from the stage before dress rehearsal):
***
We introduced my parents to the world of Tsum Tsums and in turn, they got my kiddos their very first in-real-life-and-not-just-on-mom's-phone stuffies! (Yes, aunt Ashley, a bit of a doubling up with a few of them, but no worries, now two people can have Dory and Nemo! Double celebrations Christmas morning thanks to sweet cousins!)

I just liked the excuse to take pictures of all these people I love. Even in my brown-on-beige-on-brown living room!
Sorry mom, couldn't resist sharing your impression of the whale calling for "DOOOOOOORRRRYYY!"
Love those Tsums Tsums!
One of Annie's friends gave her a dozen roses for Nutcracker and those beautiful flowers lasted the rest of the visit! All through the meals and the games and the puzzles and the treats, they shown their holiday cheer and really added a perfect touch to an already special time together. I love these folks of mine.
Final morning picture! (Look, my Z is getting taller. And enjoy Annie's leopard socks, please.)