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Saturday, January 9, 2016

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I probably use this title for my blog post for the end of November and all of December just about every year, but I can't help it. ! I think the Christmas season is our family’s favorite month. We have so many special activities and fun traditions to look forward to and there is just something magical about all the twinkling lights and festive displays. As Riley said the other night, “Christmas is all about 2 things-lights and Jesus.” But before I jump right into Christmas, let me back up and be thankful for the end of November and our Thanksgiving as a family. We did a Fisher Family Only Trip to Bob Evans on actual Thanksgiving day and had a traditional meal with all the fixings prepared (and cleaned up) by the awesome staff there. And to top it off, a generous couple sitting behind us (who had been watching us most of the meal and smiling at our kiddos) picked up our tab!! They said we looked like "excellent parents" and they wanted to "adopt our family today because they were away from their own." As Chris said, what a humbling, beautiful gesture!! The rest of the day was filled with parade watching (while playing a Bingo game to spot specific floats), dress-up (with costumes and props created by the kids at their schools), games (like Pin the Gobble on the Turkey), and football watching. For me, it also included some Black Friday ( it's turned into Black Thursday) shopping and hanging out with my siblings and parents too.

We sure do have so much to be thankful for! Family, definitely tops my list! And so does faith, friends, and access to so much delicious food!

The Saturday after Thanksgiving we went to Penland to fetch us a tree. This was by far the warmest day (close to 70 degrees) that we've ever gone to cut down a Christmas tree and I think both of the boys broke a sweat trying to cut down the twisted trunk.

This year was truly magical because Maggie really got into the Christmas spirit and was excited about so many of our family outings and activities. She got a little confused though regarding her timeline though and kept telling us, "This is my first Christmas EVER!" Here are a few more cute sayings from our precious kiddos:
·         I love the Christmas traditions that we’ve kept going throughout the years. One new one that we started last year is doing some acts of kindness throughout the advent season. So in addition to our little Fisher Family Advent Calendar that tells a little activity we’ll be doing that day (anything from creating a handprint/footprint gift for grandparents to making gingerbread men), we did an Acts of Kindness Countdown Chain. The chain links had simple acts of kindness that we could do in a day (such as leaving money in toy or gumball vending machines, donating toys, giving a compliment, doing a chore for a family member, and writing a thank you note to a soldier and librarian). I like the idea of this season being about giving back and not just about what they’re getting.

·         Some other fun traditions are making an ornament (last year it was peppermint candy ones, and this year it was cinnamon applesauce ones) and going to Krispy Kreme for their holiday-inspired doughnuts. Maggie has really latched onto this outing and kept repeating the entire time of our visit (and many hours and days later), “I just love this place!” She kept telling everybody she saw (Uncle Marc, Grandmama, etc.) that they needed to go to Krispy Kreme with her and get a Santa Belly or a Snowman donut! 
  • Of course, we can't forget our other top two annual traditions of going to Christmasville and McAdenville. The kids LOVE playing at Santa's Workshop (building Legos, making reindeer food, signing the Naughty or Nice book, and taking photos with people like the Grinch), having lunch together as a family (last year it was at the Five and Dine and this year it was at Jimmy John's), riding the trackless train, checking out the ice sculpture, seeing the Rock Hill Rockettes and the finale fireworks show on Sunday night at 5:30 pm (the earliest fireworks display ever, which works out better for our family and bedtime anyway). And this year at Christmasville, Riley got to try rock climbing and the kids got to ride on a carousel. The lights at McAdenville are always peaceful and beautiful and we love packing some hot chocolate and rolling down our windows to check out the houses as we drive slowly by.  

  • We took the kids to see Santa Claus at Glencarin Gardens again this year (see pic below) where they listened to him read the story of Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and receive a free candy cane, cookie, and hot chocolate. A few weeks later, Maggie saw a different Santa Claus and made the comparison, "Mom, he's kinda burly." Where does she get this stuff??? 

·         Maggie learned some neat songs for her preschool program. One of which talks about the donkey who clip-clopped to Bethlehem. In relating the song to me though, Maggie decided the town was to be called Bethle”her” I guess she wanted to put a feminine spin on it!
·         Three of the Kindergarten classes got together and put on an amazing Christmas program as well. They sang a few familiar Christmas carols, did some fingerplays, and even learned a song in Spanish and one in Chinese. Then the parents and siblings were invited back to the classroom for refreshments and later the kids turned the place into a dance party. I love this school and the amazing teachers that we’ve been blessed with this year!

·         Riley’s imaginative games have recently taken on a Christmas theme as well. The other day he was playing “Christmas Tree Spy Ranger” and it featured hydraulics, capacity and material weapons. Not sure he knows what those words mean, but he thinks they are fun to say!
·         Maggie gets a little confused sometimes and likes to call the animals that guide Santa’s sleigh rein”beer” instead of reindeer.
·         We took the kids to two parades this year. The first was the Rock Hill Christmas parade that is in the evening and all the floats are lit up with lights. Maggie especially was fascinated by it. She kept telling us over and over that this was her “favorite parade ever” and she “just loved it.”

Riley enjoyed it, but he will tell you that the Lowry’s parade tops his list of best parades. This country farm town showcased LOTS of tractors, horses, and good ol’ boys and girls. And quite a few of the folks tossed out candy. The family beside us (who have been regular attenders for years) told us about the idea of using an umbrella turned upside down to catch the goodies. Riley kept making the remark that we sure are “rich in candy!!”

·         Riley has been so excited about Christmas this year. He was putting into words his feelings the other night by explaining to Chris that when it’s Christmas day “people just can’t stand it. Nobody can stand it.” He was trying to say how they just can’t wait for the day to come, and he’s one of those people who “just can’t stand it.”
·         Maggie saw a car with “reindeer feathers” on it the other day while we were outside playing. Then she turned to me and asked, “We’re playing baseball. Do you want to enjoy us, Mom? You can be the catcher or the swacker.” How could I resist that invitation to enjoy them (I’m pretty sure she meant “join”)! While Chris was pitching the ball to Riley, he missed one of them and made the excuse, “Dad, I was getting situated. I wasn’t ready.”
·         Riley took a turn praying recently at dinner and said he had the perfect Christmas prayer: “Dear God, Thank you for the world so sweet. I hope the nice people will be on the nice list. Help everyone have Christmas spirit. I wish you will have a Merry Christmas God. Amen” That does sound like a pretty perfect prayer to me!

·         Another time at dinner in the past week or so, Chris said to Riley that there was no better time than to be five at Christmas. And Riley leaned over and put a hand on Chris’ shoulder and consoled him by saying, “Dad, you’ll get there some day.”
·         Our Zippy the Elf made his annual appearance on November 30th and brought the kids some Christmas pjs, DVDs, and some Polar Express bells. Maggie really enjoyed helping find him each morning and would go and get Chris or I and make us close our eyes as she led us to wherever Zipster had landed during the night. Then she would tell us to open our eyes and see what shenanigans he had been up to. On the one where TP'ed our tree she made the remark, “He rolled out our toilet paper too much and wrapped it around the tree and popped out. That what he did!”  Here are a few pictures of some of the things that he did. 

·         Maggie may have been hanging around her brother a little too much lately or watching too many episodes of Doc McStuffins because the other week she commented, “I may not be an action hero, but I can fix you up. I’m Doc!”

·         Riley said the cutest thing recently too. He told us, “I’m not hungry. That’s just my tummy growling for joy!”
·         Maggie’s song lyrics (which are usually spot on for the most part) do have little glitches from time to time. For example, take this one: “Mary had a little lamb it’s lease is light as snow.”

·         I’m glad that we’ve instilled some dental hygiene habits into our youngest child. And I guess we’ve also been pushing proper behavior at the dinner table too. Maggie got very concerned the other day because she had forgotten to brush her teeth and declared, “Now they will have bad manners!!”
·         The night before Christmas Riley told Chris that they needed to “hit it pretty early” to bed so that they would be ready for Santa. 

 We had such a great time celebrating Christmas this year. We did our family time of opening gifts and stockings, and a traditional candy cane pastry breakfast (courtesy of my mom) and then we did something new this year by fixing a lunch ourselves. I got some expert advice from Tim, Chris' brother, and was able to make a halfway decent prime rib, hashbrown casserole, and "cook the green out of 'em" green beans like Grandma Condra used to make. Then in the afternoon, my parents and Kelly and Joel came over for coffee and dessert. This year Mom let me make one of her famous coconut layered cakes (I tried my hand at the chocolate one). So we sampled that, opened a few more gifts, and played a round or two of a new game called Anomia (which is kind of like a more complex version of "Categories"). Here are some pictures from our day:

 The kids made and wrapped a few gifts for Chris and I this year. Maggie gave us some gift wrap tissue paper covered in stickers and Riley wrapped up an angel craft that he had made the previous year at his preschool. Loved the thought though!! SO sweet!

 Chris surprised me with some new clothes and certificate for an hour long massage!! Woo hoo!

 All the festivities wore our sweet girl out and she took a rare nap before Round 2 began with Grandmama and Papa arrived with Aunt Kelly and Uncle Joel. 

The very next morning, we headed out to Indiana. The usual 11 hour trip ended up only taking us 9 1/2 hours, so that was a pleasant surprise. The kids did great watching some DVDs, reading books, playing with their Leapsters and taking only 2 potty breaks. We were actually the first of the relatives to arrive at Nan and Pap's house. We enjoyed some delicious Pizza King for supper and then the cousins had a grand time playing and catching up with each other. They tried camping out together in a tent that Pappy set up for them. It was somewhat successful. :) The grown-ups got to enjoy our usual beer exchange and sample hops from all over. The next day we opened gifts together and then cleaned up a little to make room for a lunch celebration that included Grandpa, Charla, Chelsea and her boyfriend Evan, Penny, Zach, and Emily. And what a huge spread we had-meatballs, chicken salad croissants, ham or turkey and cheese rolls, chili, sloppy joes, vegetables, delicious dips like cheese and sausage, and of course Aunt Penny didn't disappoint with her enormous assortment of homemade candies and cookies. We had a lot of fun eating, playing Left, Right, Center with our 3 dollar bills, relearning (for me) how to play Euchre, doing our White Elephant exchange, and hanging out catching up with each other. Here are a few snapshots from our time together:

 Aunt Jenni made all the kids happy by bringing each child a toy laser gun complete with lights and only-slightly obnoxious shooting sounds! :)

 On the road's not quite as much fun going home, but these troopers did a great job.

Just a mere 4 days later, we were back in the car and headed home. This time the trip took us closer to 11 hours because of the traffic. We made it home around 8 pm and then turned around the next day and I took the kids to my parents to spend the next 3 nights there with my family. Edward, Amanda, Tripp, and Liam had flown in from Seattle; Kelly had moved out of her place in Winston-Salem and was in the process of sorting and packing up her stuff to move in with them after driving across the country with a friend to Seattle; and Joel and RJ had driven in from Orlando and brought their precious pup, Olive. We had an awesome time together cheering on the Clemson Tigers to the National Championship, watching Star Wars, playing Minecraft, filling our bellies to our hearts’ content, and playing games like Coup, Suishi Go, and a game I can’t remember the name of but you lay down cards to make a track and try not to crash into the edge or other people. We exchanged gifts with the person who's name we had drawn this year and Mom and Dad got some more VHS tapes converted to DVDs from all of us kids. Kelly got a big surprise from Joel about going to a dance exhibition and then also being able to take two dance classes from a workshop. My not-so-secret Santa, Kelly, got me a beautiful outfit that made me feel like I'm catching up with some of the fashion trends. I had fun with Tripp, Liam, Riley, and Maggie by playing some Minute To Win It games as we counted down to the New Year. But the highlight of our time together was our first annual Lip Sync Battle. We had both solo and duet performances. Kelly and I ended up picking the same song as Mom and Dad (“You’re the One that I Want” by Grease) and not knowing it because our song reveal was a secret until New Year’s Eve night. Edward and Amanda’s duet of “Love Is An Open Door” from Frozen brought down the house at the end of the night. Joel’s rendition of “All the Single Ladies” by Beyonce was hilarious! And Kelly’s “stank face” as Edward called it during her performance of James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” made quite the impression on everyone. Edward channeled his inner country gal and sang out Shania Twain’s “Any Man of Mine” and Amanda entertained us thoroughly by transforming into Will Smith and doing his “Getting Jiggy With It” rap song. I tried to perform Pharell Williams song “Happy”, but I tried to match up the choreography to the YouTube video and unfortunately I was off by a few seconds so it didn’t come off as smoothly as I had hoped. Oh well, there’s always next year!! What fun! I love that family is open to trying new things and being a little silly. What a memory!! Enjoy some of the pics from this family adventure:

 Dad got his annual gift of slippers from our family!
 Edward and Amanda got a prank gift of a framed caricature of myself and Sara from a trip we took to Europe after college, but their real gift was a Groupon certificate for a date night to a seafood restaurant in Seattle, Especially since they can now take advantage of having Kelly as a built-in babysitter!

Ahh...holidays!!! Love that they bring us together as a family and that we get to enjoy the gift of each other's presence even more than the presents we exchange! 

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