Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Getting ready for Santa - Baking and Celebrating

Like almost everyone else, the kids and I had school right up until the Friday before Christmas. That last week of school was jam-packed with fun activities. I was able to help out the 4th grade team while Jake and his classmates got to visit each of the 4th grade teachers for a special craft. Jake strung the beads to make me this necklace (the clear beads) as an early Christmas gift:


In the evening, the kids and I put together Snowman Soup kits (hot chocolate packets with mini candy cane, marshmallows and hershey kisses) to give to classmates before leaving on winter break:


Jadyn and I dressed festively for that last day of school and not realizing it, was photobombed by Jelfie who had taken over ALL of our stockings:


In my classroom, we did a Polar Express theme. The kids made reindeer hats and I got to read them the book (my all time favorite!). After lunch we made a Polar Express gingerbread train and watched the movie before passing out goodie bags and sending them home with all their holiday crafts. I hope that my students, so dear to my heart, cherish the day as much as I did:


And of course what holiday would be complete without baking! Lots and lots of baking!


Decorating the sugar cookies:



A sample of all our (okay mostly Joe's) hard work:


 Another tradition in our house is to let the kids open one present on Christmas Eve Eve, always a new board game, so we can spend quality time as a family. This year after being introduced to the full version over the summer with Grandma Kelly and George, we got Apples to Apples Jr. It was a big hit. I personally love hearing Joe try to argue why his word is the best. It really is a fun game and it really builds the kids' vocabulary and critical thinking skills (but shh! don't tell them it's educational):


And with all of that, we were as ready as ever to celebrate Christmas!

Bass Pro Shop's Winter Wonderland

In all honesty, this was a tradition we were going to skip out on this year, simply because it gets SO crowded. And it probably didn't help that when we changed our mind and decided to go, it was the Saturday before Christmas. However, it all worked out in the end and I think the whole family would agree that it was worth the effort.

Bass Pro Shops may just be a store but if there was any store to explore while waiting for our time with Santa, I can't imagine a better one because Bass Pro has so many fun things to look at.

The kids enjoyed posing and goofing off on this ATV:



They also have this laser shooting arcade, archery, a remote control train, race cars and monster trucks. Before we knew it, our time had come:


Here we are getting in line for Santa:


And so of course, I had already shared the final product. I don't know if this will be the last year of Santa photos for the kids. I hope not but just in case, I hold these memories dear to my heart:

santa photo 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lights! Lights! Lights!

I love going out at night during the holidays and looking at all the houses that are decked out in Christmas lights and several of the activities that have become yearly traditions involve lights as well.

We love visiting Candy Cane Lane, a neighborhood close to Palm Springs where almost every house on the block is just bursting with colors. Then a short distance away is a single house that does a light show accompanied to music. It is super cool.


We also made our yearly trip to the Wild Lights event at the Living Desert. This is the second year in a row we have gone with the Miller family and Cruz and Tara. Here are Jadyn and Michael checking out the train display:


 And going through the tunnel of lights, which flashes with music:


They rode the special carousel:


And we got to take a family photo with Santa:


We finished off the night drinking hot cocoa by the fire. And this is what Dominic and Jake do pretty much the entire time they are together. It is mostly cute and so neat to witness their special bond, although I would be lying if I didn't admit that after awhile, it can get quite annoying. They just giggle and giggle and giggle:


This year we also attended our town's Festival of Lights parade. Jadyn participated in the parade by riding on the float for her dance studio. It was quite a modest small town parade but still enjoyable and Jadyn had a blast shaking her poms and waving at the crowd. Here she is with fellow cheerleader and friend Cecelia:


I love all the lights during the holidays!

Friday, December 27, 2013


You know when you get an idea and then you build it up in your mind as being so special and magical that there is no way it can live up to your unrealistic expectations?

Well for a couple of years now I have had such an idea. The McCallum theater down in Palm Desert holds a special performance of the Nutcracker once a year during the holidays performed by the Moscow Classic Ballet. I wanted to take Jadyn and make it a special mother/daughter outing. And this is the year I finally made it happen.

Jadyn got to wear her holiday dress and she was really excited to wear her first pair of dress shoes with heels (small chunky heels but heels nonetheless). I curled her hair and gave her a special necklace to wear. She even packed herself a little purse with chapstick, hand sanitizer and candy canes (instead of breath mints). As her mom, I may be biased but she was seriously the cutest thing ever!


While I wasn't nearly as dressed up as Jadyn, I did in fact make sure that my ensemble complimented hers:


Of course, one can not head to the theater on an empty stomach so our first stop was dinner. I love, love, love the fact that one of my favorite restaurants is also Jadyn's - she even likes the same dish as me - Mizithra ala Homer with brown butter. Yum-O!


After dinner, we headed over to the theater and that is where it started to sink in for Jadyn. She saw that everyone else was equally as dressed up as she was. She has been to a few live theater performances but never at such a large venue. She was in absolute awe.


I will always remember her tentative looks as we walked through the foyer and how she hung on to me tight as she navigated the stairs to the balcony in her heels. As for the performance itself, it really was spectacular. In all honesty, there were a few times when Jadyn asked how much longer the show was. After all it was getting to be close to bedtime on a school night. But other than that, the entire night from beginning to end pretty much lived up to my expectations. I am eager to take both the kids to more live theater (although probably not the ballet)in the future. I have very fond memories of my Grandmother taking me to a local dinner theater and then as I got older attending Broadway caliber performances in L.A with my mom, friends and yes, even Joe and I when we were dating.

Suffice to say this mother/daughter outing was definitely a special one and I will cherish the memory of it always.

Holiday Spirit

In addition to having Jelfie with us from December 1st through Christmas, the kids also countdown with an Advent calendar. Inside each numbered door is a note with an activity for the day to help us prepare for and celebrate the holiday. Some examples may include having hot cocoa or Smores for dessert, wrapping gifts, making cards, holiday crafts, good deeds and/or special outings. When possible, the Advent calendar corresponds to Jelfie's antics for the day but not always.

One day we left for school early and went to Starbucks for breakfast. We also paid for whatever the car behind us ordered in an attempt to start a pay it forward. I love the idea of doing a kind deed for a stranger.


Another day we gathered up some canned and boxed food items and participated in Jake's Cub Scout food drive to help those in need. We also celebrated the holidays with his pack complete with food, crafts and a gingerbread Polar Express. Jake and the other scouts were also recognized for the achievements they have done thus far. I love our Scout family!:



One day I took the kids shopping for gifts for dad and we finished the trip off by visiting the newly reopened yogurt shop. Oh boy, how we have missed having frozen yogurt available in town:


 There were also a few special outings that had nothing to do with the holiday but were super fun nonetheless. I was able to chaperon Jake's 4th grade field trip to the Palm Springs Air Museum where Jake impressed the docents with his natural ability on the flight simulator:



And Joe and I had an impromptu weekday date night when both kids went to the school-wide AR party for having met their Accelerated Reading goal for the trimester (they got to watch a movie and have pizza, popcorn and cupcakes):


However, with all the hustle and bustle of this time of year, some of our favorite nights were when we were able to snuggle up on the couch and watch holiday movies and TV specials. There was a lot of this:


And I can't think of a better way to get into the holiday spirit.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Adventures with our scout elf Jelfie

After Jelfie's arrival the kids would wake up each morning excited to find out what Jelfie had done and/or where he was hiding. Some of the highlights from our time with Jelfie include...

He decorated the kitchen cabinets with bows and then hid with the liquor:


Got stuck in the dryer trying to keep warm:


Got caught having a late night snack attack in our pantry:


Hanging out in our tree with a little scavenger hunt for the kids:


By far a favorite of the season, good ole fashion fun with the army men:


By the end of the first week, Jelfie was already exhausted!:


He got in another snowball fight using marshmallows and brought a bucket of "snowballs" for the family to enjoy an indoor fight of our own. Best gift ever! We have had so much fun with these:


Watching Despicable Me 2 with the minions:


After watching the movie Elf, Jelfie took a cue from Buddy taking the kids left over pizza and adding maple syrup and candy:


Cup pyramid in our bathroom:


He drew Rudolph noses with red marker on the kids while they slept:




Hung out with one of our Nutcrackers:


Made his own light parade:


Toilet papered the kids trees and bedrooms:


And was granted special permission from Santa to have his magic lifted for a few moments so the kids could hug him good-bye:


We have so much fun with Jelfie, it is hard to see him go. However, we know he is at the North Pole resting up and planning for next year.