After spending Christmas morning at our house with my wonderful in-laws and grandpa in law, we went to PA this weekend to celebrate with my parents and my brother's family.  I just had to share some more candid gems because they just warmed my heart and I feel my hubby did a great job of capturing the love and fun of our day together. 

We all had lunch together on Sunday and afterwards the youngest two of our crews took naps while everyone else enjoyed a relaxing afternoon of play.  We all went into my brother's old bed room which my two oldest have now deemed "their room" because that is where they always sleep at Grandma and Papa's and the kids had fun building forts and playing around. 

IMG_1783The kids had a blast hiding in their "fort" made out of an old exercise mat.  They'd go in and then pop open the door and flash a smile.  One of my favorite moments was when my son was playing with my oldest niece.  She started whispering to him but it wasn't easy to understand what exactly she was saying...the conversation we overhead on the outside of their fort went something likes this.

Niece:  bhiwlekg bui;dlk (in a cute sing song voice)

Son:  What's that cousin, I don't understand what you are saying?

Niece:  bajsdlgkjas bnjgas gabsk

Son:  "OH"  bahfsd ;laksdg bfjads

giggles  (followed by laughter from their parents as we overhead them)


After the youngest two woke from their naps, we exchanged presents.


I love these shots... everyone in on the action, looking at gifts, sucking their fingers... good times.



My parents got our kids each their very own sleeping bag and Scott and I got a new tent (because we have kinda outgrown our previous tent)  The kids were very eager to try out the new gear, so Scott sent the tent up in "the kids"room where we all got to go in and play and the kids got to camp out on the floor for two nights.  I gotta tell you it made me very eager to go camping... can't wait till summer!!


I LOVE this shot of my daughter with my brother.  I can't quite put into words the feeling I get watching my little brother interact with my kids but it touches my heart to see the love they have for each other. 


My son was so excited to bring his light saber so he could fight with his Uncle Jordan... he was grinning from ear to ear as they "fought" on the back deck...aka.. Planet Hoth.



I am truly thankful for the time spent with family over this past Christmas season. 

  While these were beautiful sights to behold,




She stole the show for me.

IMG_1126   IMG_1127

And while we did enjoy taking in the lights,


and some holiday cheer,


IMG_1125 (2)


Everyone's favorite part was the journey home.  <-- Last Mondays Post


Visit 5 Minutes for Mom for more Wordless Wednesdays.  

Christmas provides you with many which capture the moment, in real life.  Nothing like posing in front of the tree to bring out the true personality of your child. 

Yes... this is def what I meant when I said , "Smile in front of the camera so Mom can have a picture of you in your nice church clothes." 


I love this pic... I am entitling it Christmas bliss... I love that it is not posed.. you can see all three kids enjoying their gifts... wrapping paper on the floor and a happy Daddy interacting with this kids.  True gem this photo is...


This one is called "Self Control" as you can tell the kids are all eager to dig into Nana's Christmas tree cinnamon rolls.

when can we eat it

Why is it so hard to get a good shot of the family??

family photo candid

And if that isn't hard enough we say, "ok kids now we're going to take another with Nana and Pop..." (Pop so graciously wears his grandson's engineer hat for his little granddaughter and still they don't sit still and smile).

cracks me up

OK because you've been sitting so good, let's try for another photo opp with Great Grandpa...


Yea... we def pushed our luck on that one.

Un-posed cuteness...I just want to eat her up!


Mom, are you blogging already?


Toddlers, they dive into life's goodness face first... I love it!

diggin in

I call this one her Angelina Jolie pose...doesn't she look like one tough chick?  She's got the baby up on her shoulder and the light saber hanging from her chest... she can take on the world!

angelina jolie

Sometimes the less than perfect candid's truly are my favorite and I know years later when I'm looking back on Christmas pics these treasures will be among my favorite. 

If ya wanna see how other bloggers spent their Christmas, check out 5 Minutes for Mom.

15717AC-3177 (blog)  2 days before Christmas, Scott was talking with our son and he mentioned how he asked Santa for a remote control Lighting Mcqueen car. 

OK here's a slight problem because we hadn't gotten him a remote control one.   I had just gotten him a little matchbox size mcqueen car for his stocking (because Santa does the stockings at our house). 

So, I went out to Target on Christmas Eve to try to find a remote control Lighting Mcqueen car, with no such luck.  

I still wasn't too worried about it until that evening at church a friend told us how our son had told him that he had asked Santa for a remote control Lightning Mcqueen car. 

YIKES... now it has come up quite a few times.... ya know a few days notice and I could have ordered it on amazon. 

tossing the reindeer food in the yard After leaving out milk and cookies for Santa (as well as Christmas cards which they made for him) and sprinkling reindeer food on the back lawn,  we read through Luke 2 and put the kids to sleep. 

I really started to feel bad about the remote control car.  Scott said we should have told him it wouldn't fit in his stocking, that would have helped prepare him.

YES!  Why didn't I think of that?!?!

So, I went back to the kids room and had a little chat with my son.  (Yes, I went in and disturbed my almost sleeping son on Christmas Eve...)

Son:  almost asleep, sitting up in bed (Mom?)

Me:  Yea, I was thinking...ya know how you asked Santa for a remote control Lighting McQueen car?

Son:  Yea

Me:  Well, I was thinking, that might be pretty big and I am not sure if it would fit in your stocking.

Son:  Oh, well what about a little Lightning Mcqueen car, since I lost mine?

Me:  Yes, that is a great idea, I bet he could do that...I'll leave him a note for you

Son:  Leave a hundred notes.

Son:Bbut what if he doesn't have one with him?

Me:  Maybe he carries around extras incase

I went back to the living room so relieved.  My husband looked at my quizzically and asked if I felt better.  I said, "Yes, I was really worried it would be his weenie whistle."  (ever seen the movie The Santa Claus??)

everything ready for SantaWe don't stress Santa that much at our house, he isn't what Christmas is about, but we do let them play the Santa game.

I would be totally fine if he figures out the truth about Santa.  He's a bright one and I don't think it'll be too long before he figures it out.  We talk often about pretend verses real. 

BUT, I didn't want him to find out because he woke up Christmas morning disappointed.  That would just be sad.

Christmas morning when he checked his stocking and found a little Lighting Mcqueen car his response was, "YES!" 

And I gave a huge sigh of relief.  :-)

Last night the kids helped me decorate a birthday cake for Jesus and after singing Him Happy Birthday, followed by a few favorite Christmas carols, we enjoyed cake and ice cream. 

Happy Birthday Jesus

Apparently, it is an unwritten rule in our house that when you eat Jesus' birthday cake, you don't need to use silverware. 

enjoying Jesus' birthday cakeforget the spoon, just lickseriously, forks are overrated in this house

christmas day 08 collage copy

IMG_1284 After dressing the children in their finest, and forcing them to pose for pictures in front of the tree, we went to church this evening for the Christmas Eve services.

When one of our pastors got up to read Scripture, he said he would be reading from John 1.  My son leaned over to me and said, "Mom, I thought the story was in Luke 2."  This was probably one of my favorite quotes from the evening.

We took our son to the candle light service, while the girls were in the nursery.  This was the first time our son had ever attended a candle light service.

Watching the candle light service through the eyes of a four year old boy was quite amusing.  We had the following whispered  conversations during the church service.

Son: "When are we going to light the candles?"

Me:  At the end.

Son: Do they say abracadabra?

Me:  No, you'll see

a few minutes later

Son: So will the whole church be lit up on fire?

Me: not exactly....

Thankfully, we made it through Silent Night, without setting the church ablaze.


Here are some of my favorite pics from our pre church photo session.

IMG_1330 IMG_1307

Isn't it amazing how something so simple can trigger a memory so deep?  You hear a song from your past and suddenly you can feel all those emotions and feelings you felt so long's like it just propels you back in time.

Yea... Faith Hill does that to me.

When Scott and I were dating in college, I spent one memorable Thanksgiving at his family's home.  That evening we were sitting around the dining room table playing Rummikub when I remembered that the Faith Hill TV special was on that evening, and I commented on that fact.  His mom then turned the TV on in the kitchen so we could listen to it while playing the game.  I saw that her husband Tim McGraw was on stage with her and commented something to the effect of, "Oh, this is the song she sings with her husband Tim McGraw, I love this song."

I thought they were singing the song, "It's Your Love."  (don't roll your eyes..I know it's a sappy love song, what can I say, I was young, in love, a complete sap... and about to be humiliated....)

As we sat there playing Rummikub I quickly realized, they weren't singing the song I thought they were.   I tried to avert my impending humiliation and say something to the effect of, "Oh, ya know we don't really need to watch this... uh...let's turn it off and just chat..."  But my future mother in law was so sweet and said something to the effect of, "Oh no, we can watch it, no problem."

I promise the room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.  Suddenly no one was talking and all eyes and ears were on the TV to watch the concert that Crystal, Scott's girlfriend, wanted to watch. 

Yes, let's listen to this song, that she likes so much. 

Here is where I start turning all sorts of shades of red because they aren't singing "It's Your Love", they are singing their other duet, "LET'S MAKE LOVE" and there I am sitting around the table with my boyfriend, his mom, his dad, and his grandparents listening to the lyrics,

"Let's make love
All night long
Until our strength is gone
Hold on tight
Just let go
I want to feel you in my soul
Until the sun comes up
Let's make love"

I am definitely tomato red at this point and am quickly trying to make this very awkward moment just go away...saying something about how they have this other duet they sing which I thought this was, and oops I was wrong... and let's just turn it off... and his dear sweet grandma who is hard of hearing, says, "Turn it up, I can't hear it"  'What are they saying" and it just kept getting louder and louder....

A few years later when Scott and I were picking songs for our reception, my dad so "kindly" suggested, we dance to that Faith Hill song I loved so much.

Yea...I don't think so....

We decided to take a spontaneous trip to DC this Saturday.  And by spontaneous, I really mean spontaneous.  When we left the house we were deciding between a trip to Hersheypark or the local train garden and drive through light display.  Basically, we were looking for a fun evening out enjoying some holiday cheer.  As we were driving, we got the idea of going into DC to see the National Christmas Tree.  And to top it off, we thought we'd take the metro in so the kids could "ride a train underground."

After our ride in, we grabbed dinner at the food court in the post office pavilion, but unfortunately at 6:00 on a Saturday, it was pretty much closed, so we paid way to much for what was basically microwaved hot dogs (though the kids ate every bite) and walked about 3 blocks to the White House. 

Things were off to a great start... fun ride on the metro, kids favorite food for dinner, walk in the city in freezing cold the time we got to the tree, the kids were too cold to really care.  Their response was, "Why doesn't it have candy canes?"  We took several pics of the tree, the white house and the cold kiddos, took a look at the model train display, which they truly loved, and headed back to the metro. 

The walk back to the metro was about twice as long.   You might think I am exaggerating and it just felt that long b/c our dear baby was screaming at the top of her longs the whole way and we were holding her, while pushing the big kids in the double stroller, in the freezing cold. 

But that wasn't the reason.

Somehow, we got onto the wrong street and we kept walking, and walking and walking before we realized that we hadn't come this way, and oh wait this isn't Pennsylvania Ave.   We asked directions from a nice man who steered us to the nearest metro, which we happily boarded.

The ride home was pure bliss.  My youngest sat on my lap playing with my necklace and my hair, while the older two sat with their Daddy and eagerly stared out the window.

As we walked to our van at our metro stop, we asked everyone what their favorite part was.  

The answer?

The Metro Ride

Funny thing is, I couldn't agree more.  So even though we took 192 pictures of our evening into the Nation's Capital to see the White House and the National Christmas tree, I leave you with this one picture, which pretty much sums up our favorite part of the evening.


As we were getting ready to go to the tree lighting ceremony downtown my son asked, "Mom, can I tell Santa that he is not what Christmas is all about?"

I love that as we anticipate Christmas, my kids know that we are preparing to celebrate Jesus' birth.  Yes, they know we are going to have presents under the tree, and they even sat on Santa's lap at Scott's work party, but when I asked my son what he likes best about Christmas, he answered, "celebrating Jesus' birthday."  This warms my heart, because the lights, the tree, the songs, the cookies, the presents, the pageants...all of them are meaningless traditions without Christ. 



But it's about much more than just the Christ child being born in the stable.  Because without the cross that too would be meaningless.  If you'll bear with me, I have yet another video clip to share.  I'll put the lyrics below so you can read them as well.  This song was on the Go Fish Christmas CD I bought for my kids this year and it's become one of my new favorites.  With 5 days left till Christmas, as we scurry around to finish shopping, cleaning, cards, baking and fitting in all of the traditions, let us not forget to take time to reflect on what it is really all about.



It's not just about the manger
Where the baby lay
It's not all about the angels
Who sang for him that day
It's not just about the shepherds
Or the bright and shining star
It's not all about the wisemen
Who travelled from afar
It's about the cross
It's about my sin
It's about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again
It's about the stone
That was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday
It's about the cross
It's about the cross
Verse 2:
It's not just about the presents
Underneath the tree
It's not all about the feeling
That the season brings to me
It's not just about coming home
To be with those you love
It's not all about the beauty
In the snow I'm dreaming of
Repeat Chorus
The beginning of the story is wonderful and great
But it's the ending that can save you and that's why we celebrate
It's about the cross
It's about my sin
It's about how Jesus came to be born once
So that we could be born again
It's about God's love
Nailed to a tree
It's about every drop of blood that flowed from Him when it should have been me
It's about the stone
That was rolled away
So that you and I could have real life someday
So that you and I could have real life someday
It's about the cross
It's about the cross

When I was little if you wanted to make my mom mad, all you had to do was ask her who was visiting when she was cleaning house.  Oh how I remember the look she'd get on her face when I would say that....seems my turn has come...


After decorating our cookies yesterday, I realized it was time to deep clean my kitchen.  Once I scrubbed down the icing covered counter, it only made me realize how scummy the other counters looked.  This lead to me doing a deep clean of all my counter tops.  I'm talking take everything off of the counter, move it and wipe down the whole thing.  Yea...that level of cleanliness rarely happens.  Because when it does, it seems like I suddenly become a little OCD. Things that never bothered me before suddenly stick out as I clean one area which then leads to another and before you know it, I'm scrubbing the inside of the door of my dishwasher...

So this morning my OCD cleaning fest was still going strong and I found myself scrubbing the stove top.  My kids were watching with fascination.

And then my son said, "Mom, it's kinda like people are when Aunt Karen and Uncle Jim came...are you going to clean the carpets today too?"

I'll just go ahead and admit that I am a big bloggy dork, because since Megan first mentioned her Sharing Christmas carnival, I have been eagerly looking forward to it.  Yes, I even wrote it in on my calendar.  The idea is to share your home at Christmas.. kinda like an Open House... only you get to go in your PJ's and you don't have to struggle to find small talk (yea, can't tell I am an introvert, can you)?

So, welcome to my home...

I feel kinda weird about showing pictures of the front of my house.  So, I'll just show you our new blow up nativity which sits in front of our house.  We also have our house and door outlined in white lights with icicle lights on the top of the house.


When you step inside the door, you see "Frosty" by our coat rack.


This is the table in our entry way. 


As much as I hate clutter on my entry table, most of the time, though,  it looks like this (just keeping it real)!


Our living room is the heart of our home. 

When you get to the top of the stairs, the first thing you see is our tree.


My favorite Christmas decoration is our Bethlehem village.  It sits on top of our entertainment center.  I love how realistic it is.  I feel like Bethlehem could have looked just like this.  There is a lot of activity going on in this village, much like I think Bethlehem was the night our Savior was born. 


Sitting a little higher than the other buildings in the village, is the stable.  I feel like it sets it apart more this way. 


Scott has two big "rules" when it comes to displaying a nativity.  He really doesn't like the baby Jesus to be in the manger until Christmas.  (He wins with the Bethlehem village).  He also wants the three wise men separate from the stable because the wise men didn't arrive when Jesus was a baby in the stable. 

So, we typically set the wise men on the far corner of the display. 

We have two other nativity sets which we set out on our end tables in our living room.  These are kid friendly.  I want the kids to be able to reenact the story of our Lord's birth.  I love watching them tell the story over and over as they play with the figures. 


My father-in-law made the other kid friendly set.  He and Scott made one for their family when Scott was younger and he made one for us our first Christmas.  All the pieces fit together in the nativity, like a puzzle when you put it away. (This is our 8th Christmas and I have yet to figure out how to put it together correctly...I have always stunk at puzzles)!


My sister in law made me this wreath which I hang on the wall above the Little People nativity.


Our stockings are hung in our window with care (when you don't have a fire place, you gotta be creative)!


The two older kids have a tree in their room.  It was actually the tree I used to have in my room when I was younger.  I had thought about throwing it way because it is looking kinda pathetic, but offered it to the kids first.  They had a blast decorating their tree.  The hung a string of Mardi Gras beads that Scott has brought home from a business trip last year, and they also asked me to string them a strand of popcorn/cranberry garland.  They added various stuffed animal ornaments, an American flag, a few Pooh ornaments which were on my tree when I was a baby, and they each got to pick one ornament from Michael's this week since they were all 60% off. 


Don't miss the pipe cleaner star on top... it's my favorite.

My youngest actually has a tiny tree in her room as well, that one of my student's mom had made for me as a gift when I was teaching.  I forgot to take a picture of it before I put her to bed though, and I didn't want to risk waking her for the picture.


This flashing Christmas tree was made by Scott in high school.  It was on display at his home, then his dorm, and now our kitchen window.  It makes me smile when I enter the room.  My oldest daughter always asks me to turn it on as soon as she wakes up.  Looking out that same side of our house, you can see our reindeer friends grazing out on our back deck. The kids love watching them out our sliding glass window.


My mom made this decoration many years ago and they used to hang in my home as a child.  A few years ago she mentioned that she was getting rid of them and I strongly objected.  She thought they were looking ratty looking, but I was attached to them and asked if I could have them instead.  Makes me wonder what decoration my kids will latch on to.  They hang on the bare wall above our dining room table.


Our advent calendar hangs on the wall in our dining room.  It used to have little gold foil numbers on each pocket, but one by one they started falling off.  I've been working for two years at trying to find a replacement for them.  Each night we read from Luke 2.  On December 1, we read Luke 2:1... today we will read Luke 2:1-18... once we finish the portion of Luke 2 that tells of Christ's birth, we add the portion of Matthew 2 that gives the account of the Magi.  The kids take turns putting a character up in the scene each day.  It works out best when we have fallen behind and there is more than one character that needs to be put up. 



So, that's what the circus looks like at Christmas...after the kids are in bed and I have had time to clean house. 

Grab a cookie and some hot cocoa, and stop by Megan's carnival today and have a visit inside others homes at Christmas.  You can feel free to link up your own blog, if you want to share your Christmas with us.  We'd love to see it!