Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas; Round 2

Friday, while Donna worked I scurried around, getting all our laundry done & packing for a few days of visiting our parents in Central FL. Two of my sisters & their families were already at my parents & planning to leave Saturday afternoon, so I wanted to have everything packed & loaded so we could just get up & go Saturday morning to get there in time for a 10 am brunch.

Saturday morning we woke up early, quickly got dressed, got the boys in the van & the dogs & then couldn't find the cat... Donna searched & searched... Apparently Miss Murphee wasn't feeling a trip to grandma & grandpas house :( I finally switched with Donna (she hung out in the van with the boys while I searched) I went though each room closing doors behinds me so she couldn't switch up hiding places. I finally found her under the couch, I didn't think she could fit under there anymore? I reached under for her but she moved further away, I finally had to turn both parts of the couch on their backs so she couldn't keep running from one to the other & I was able to corner her in the hall. We were 45 minutes late leaving at this point not to mention it was raining & traffic was heavier than normal :(

I text my bonus mom letting her know we were on our way but late & not to wait for us. Our drive was uneventful but we were an hour late & my bonus sister & her family had to leave just before we arrived so we missed them. 

The boys were excited to see grandma & grandpa & their aunt Autumn, uncle Steven & cousins Chandler & Nadia. The boys all played & we visited & ate a bit before opening Christmas gifts.

Little Miss Nadia loves her Aunt Da! Caden & Garren showered her with kisses & she finally took a cat nap.

Autumn & our dad, Chandler & the bedding set we got him, Caden & Kellan with MomMom opening their new small appliances from Aunt O & Uncle Steven, and Grandma & Grandpa.

Chandler opening a gift for his baby sister, a Cabbage Patch
Doll from us & the boys opening lots of gifts including a
Thomas train track from Aunt Meg & Uncle Aaron & a bowling set from
Grandma & Grandpa.

A Violet pet for Nadia, chandler opening some slippers from Grandma & Grandpa & Caden admiring the new Thomas track.

Garren playing with his new mixer, Uncle Steven, Me & Nadia, all the boys & Autumn holding up a cute dress that Nadia got.

Chandler opening a wooden train track for Grandma & Grandpa.
Donna in shock over the boys getting a guitar/keyboard, lol...
A little selfie fun for Nadia & I & showing off her
baby rolls with Aunt Da.

The kids loved everything and I love my new king size crock pot! My sister & her family had to head home that afternoon & we headed to Donnas parents for a little more Christmas fun. The boys were spoiled more with toy golf bags, teddy bears, more trains, books, puzzles & Christmas cash :)

We stayed with Donna's parents for a few days. It was the first time we had since the boys have been out of cribs. Donna's mom always gives up her room for us but we still had to come up with a makeshift bed for the boys. A couple years ago I bought a Pea Pod for my nephew who had a hard time sleeping in a pack n play so I though why not a jumbo size pea pod, a small 2 person tent? So that is what we used. We could have used an air mattress but we wanted something that at least partially blocked the view of everything in Grandmas room they could get into. The tent with a memory foam pad in the bottom & all their blankets from home worked perfect.

It rained for most of our time there but we did sneak in some time outside. We good the boys tricycles hoping they would be able to ride then on Grandma & Grandpa's long driveway. Garren was the only one interested though, Caden & Kellan just wanted to play in the sand (big shocker there!) & be chased around the yard. Garren did master pedaling though with the help of a slight slope in the driveway & he had a great time riding!

We forgot their helmets at home

Monday Donna had to go into the office (the closest one to us which happened to be her old station) for a few minutes so the boys & I rode with her. When she finished what she needed to do we went looking for a fast food place with an indoor playground for the boys. It was muddy outside from the rain. We found one & stopped. A lady with 4 kids came in right behind us, when they were all playing I noticed 2 of her girls looked to be the same age, then a third one came down the slide & I thought they could be triplets. When their mother came back I asked & sure enough, they were & it was their second birthday. The last time we were down & went to a playground, there was another set of triplets. How funny is that?!?

This morning we loaded up & headed back to my parents to spend New Years with them before heading home.
I hope you all are having a wonderful New Year too!!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Best Christmas Yet!

I have been more excited for Christmas this year than I can ever remember being! The boys are so much more aware of everything Christmas related this year, from Santa Claus to the Christmas tree. They woke up on Christmas Eve morning saying Merry Christmas & are still saying "Ho Ho Ho" & asking to watch "Thamas Santa" (a thomas the train christmas video.) We shopped early this year & have had gifts hidden our closet for months, which had been killing both of us not to go ahead & give them to the boys. I knew that the things we had bought & the other gifts they were getting they were going to LOVE. We focused a lot on their interests of course & their interest in pretend play but also on developmental needs, especially for Caden & Kellan's speech & expressive behavior.

We did things a little different this year. Some things will always be the same, like Donna working late into Christmas Eve & sometimes even for a couple of hours on Christmas Day (Christmas day is only on really busy years like this this one) this is just the norm for FedEx families. Last year we headed to our parents in FL as soon as she got off work & spent Christmas with them. This year we decided we would be home Christmas morning/day & the boys would get to enjoy their goodies from Santa & some much needed family time with mom mom who they desperately missed by the time Christmas Day rolled around.

Donna got home from work about 10:30 Christmas Eve. I had already prepped all the food for Christmas brunch & she had already wrapped all the gifts that needed wrapping. Once the boys went to bed I did a little rearranging of their playroom to make space for the new stuff & i brought their gifts out from hiding. I knew Donna really wanted to partake in putting together toys on Christmas Eve so I held off on that until she got home. Once she arrived we went right to work assembling a play kitchen from my parents & a train table & tool bench from us. Come 2am I was saying nasty things to my parents in my head, lol... That kitchen took FOUR HOURS to put together! It should out last our grandchildren though. I set up a little display so the boys would see everything as soon as they walked out & we finally made it to bed at 3am.

The boys woke at their usual 7am and were so excited to see what Santa had brought them! They didn't know what to touch or play with first. They drove their trains, washed their hands in their new kitchen & even hammered & drilled at their new tool bench, sometimes with a hand on 2 of them at the same time.


Caden, Garren, Kellan 

Kellan & Garren 

Caden... Bake cookies or play with Thomas???

Garren washing his hands, lol

Caden, Garren, Kellan

Kellan & Caden

Caden & Garren,
Caden had a nice long chat with Santa on that phone.
Caden, Garren, Kellan 



My mom & bonus dad joined us for Christmas arriving about an hour after the boys woke up. The boys were still very busy with their new stuff & couldn't be slowed down for unwrapping other gifts. We just enjoyed watching them play & started cooking brunch. 

Garren & grandma

Garren opened most of the presents, even his brothers :)

We did eventually open more gifts with or without the boys interest. Once they saw more new stuff like tool boxes with tools, Thomas puzzles, Nabi Jrs & art desks they were excited all over again. The best show of excitement was when Garren noticed the box of gifts my parents brought in & spotted a red robot inside. He exclaimed "WOW!!! Look at that!" As he picked it up.

Caden & Kellan, the robots from Poppy are a big hit!

I had never made or hosted a Christmas brunch before (only dinner) so my menu was a bit experimental. 

The menu
Spiral cut smoked ham
Egg nog coffee cake muffins
Christmas casserole
Baked oatmeal
Broccoli & cauliflower casserole
Cheesy spinach crescent rolls
Pumpkin pie

Everything came out good but I will tweak a couple of the recipes when I make them in the future. 
(Muffins needed more egg nog/liquid & Christmas casserole needed to be thicker so more potatoes & probably eggs. I cut the oatmeal recipe in half to begin with) Overall everyone enjoyed everything with the exception of the boys, with all the new goodies they could not be bothered with food, Caden literally ate nothing until dinner, Garren & Kellan only had a muffin or two.

My parents stayed until around 2 & they headed home to getting ready to leave for a week TN with my aunt, uncle & cousins (I'm so jealous!) we put the boys down for their nap & relaxed the rest of the day.

Our plans for the rest of the week & New Years have changed back & forth a couple times now, as it happens when you're married to a FedEx manager. They were so busy this year with deliveries that the director asked the managers to work the 2 days following the holiday to insure everything gets caught up. We are leaving Saturday morning though to celebrate with the rest of our parents & 2 of my sisters & their families. I always look forward to the kids all spending time together!

I hope your all had a wonderful Christmas too! What were some of your favorite highlights of the day?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Long Lost Cousins

Lol... Well not really lost, it had just been a reeeally long time since we had seen each other.

Terry & I

Last week my cousin & his wife headed to Orlando for a little fun with Mickey Mouse. When they had their fill of the Magic Kingdom they headed to my parents place just outside Orlando. Little did my cousin know, his wife had asked my dad if there was any way my sister &/or I could make it to town to visit also. Well my sister already had Christmas plans with her in-laws but I was going to be home alone with the boys while FedEx dominated Donna's days leading up to Christmas. So we made plans to meet halfway, it just so happens that St Augustine is the halfway mark between my parents & us :)

So Saturday morning as soon as the boys woke up I handed them a cup a milk & a waffle & got everyone dressed & ready to head out the door at 8am (the boys wake up at 7, a lot to accomplish in just an hour, lol) I stopped for gas & we were on the highway...

Driving I-95 is pretty easy but it was the Saturday before Christmas & there were definitely more people heading into FL than were heading out. I got just across the state line & hit a traffic jam :( it's a big highway with plenty of lanes so I was sure we'd be off & running again in now time...
Well, we traveled 6 miles in the next 2 hours before we finally got past a tractor trailer that had spilled pallets of produce all over the highway but we finally made it to St Augustine just in time for lunch at one of my favorite places ever, The Columbia Restaurant. 

We had a great visit over lunch, it was the first time I had met Wanda, my cousins wife but she's one of those people that you feel like you've always known. Caden was being really really shy. He's had a little bit of a hard time lately with new people, he couldn't even sit at the table facing anyone (strangers in the restaurant) so I held him on my lap & he hid his face in my arm until I couldn't hang onto him anymore. He did manage to eat a little chicken with his head down under the table, lol...

Once we finished lunch & headed outside we found ourselves at a nice fountain. The boys were in heaven! It was a beautiful 83 degrees out so they splashed & played in the water (without getting in the fountain) & everyone was their happy, outgoing selves again. The boys got completely soaked & did a good job getting everyone else wet too. 

Grandma, Terry, Wanda, Kellan, Caden & Garren 

Wanda getting soaked by Caden

After we finished at there we walked over to the historic fort, wandered along the wall overlooking the water & found some nice grass to play in. The boys loved spending time with grandma & grandpa & they also LOVED playing with Wanda & Terry.

Kellan, Caden, Garren & Grandma

The boys would run up & back down the hill,
pouncing on Wanda & Grandma in between

I enjoyed seeing Terry & meeting Wanda, I love catching up with family & staying connected & of course showing off our beautiful boys :)

P.S. it took me less than an hour & a half to get home ;)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cinnamon Salt Dough

The first time I made salt dough was the boys first Christmas. Donnas parents came up to Winston-Salem to spend Christmas with us & my mother in law & I made salt dough ornaments with cookie cutters & made handprint Santa faces with the boys little bitty hands.

What survived from our first try

The ornaments were far from perfect! When I baked the salt dough it puffed up, maybe I rolled it too thin??? When we painted our ornaments with the recommended acrylic paint, the paint cracked. I have no idea what happened there?! We went with anyways because it was more about the memories & time together than perfect salt dough ornaments. Unfortunately a lot of them were broken during our move (we had not so wonderful movers) :( including the Santa face handprints. I was able to glue them back together but am waiting until we get to FL & asking my mother in law to reprint the faces since she did them the first time :)

So back to cinnamon salt dough... I wanted to make salt dough again this year & attempt to get more hand prints from the boys before their hands are too big to make ornaments with. I saw on Pinterest some people were making "apple cinnamon dough." I took a look at that recipe & didn't have enough apple sauce or cinnamon (2 CUPS) on hand. That's really a lot of cinnamon huh? So I explored other fragrant dough options & ran across a ladies blog who had simply added a tablespoon of cinnamon to the standard salt dough recipe. A tablespoon I could handle, so I went with that plan. (Sorry, I do not remember the blog title to give credit)

Here is what you need:
  • A flat surface
  • A mixing bowl
  • A cookie sheet
  • A rolling pin
  • An oven ;)
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 tbsp of cinnamon (this of course is completely optional, if you don't want brown cinnamon smelling dough then leave it out)
  • 1/2 cup water - you will need more but start with 1/2 cup & only add a few drops at a time until the consistency is right.

Here is what you do:
  • Put the flour, salt, cinnamon & water in a bowl & mix it with your hands.
  • Add a few drops of water as needed until the dough is play dough consistency.
  • Sprinkle some flour on your work surface & roll out the dough, this time I rolled mine out to just less than a half inch think.
  • Cut our your shapes using cookie cutters or free hand or however you like to get your shapes.
  • Use anything with a small tip to wiggle a little hole into your ornament & then bake them on a cookie sheet for 2 hours at 200 degrees & enjoy the aroma! They may or may not be completely hard by this time, you can leave them in longer or you can let them air dry the rest of the way. Mine are actually still slightly pliable in the very center but I don't want them to crack so I took them out of the oven, they'll harden all the way eventually :)

For handprints, I roll out the dough right on my cookie sheet, have one of the boys press his hand in it & then I freehand cut a mitten shape around the handprint, then I did the then next hand & then the 3rd hand. After each handprint was made & I cut out around each one I peeled away the excess dough & baked the handprints right on the cookie sheet without having to move them or messing up the print :)

Little blob hands into real hands :)

You can paint your ornaments or add embellishments or just leave them natural.
We did a little of each. I painted faces & buttons on our gingerbread men & left the rest of them natural.  I painted the mitten around the handprint but left the handprint natural and I let the boys paint the rest.

Garren, Caden, Kellan

This years batch turned out much better & I didn't have any of the issues I had the first time. I love the smell of cinnamon & these little beauties smell so good, the pups keep stealing them off the tree to try & eat. Speaking of on the tree... The boys had traded in their trucks & underwear & had been hanging these ornaments up, taking them down & rearranging as they see necessary.

Look closely, they are all on the bottom left side of the tree :)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Santa Hopping

Last night (posting this laye so last monday) was likely the last day Donna would get home at a decent hour until after Christmas so we made the most of it!

Santa had a visit scheduled at the clubhouse here, so we started out paying him another visit here first. There was a bit of a crowd when we walked in, not a line or anything but several spectators. Even though you would think all the stares the boys have gotten in public places would have desensitized them from it, it hasn't. Caden & Kellan are very bashful & Garren even gets uncomfortable in an unfamiliar places. Once someone offered up candy canes all was well though! The boys talked to Santa a little but where very interested in the train going around the Christmas tree. We hung out for a few minutes letting the boys play a bit & then we headed out to find Santa visiting in his next location...

We pulled up to what was suppose to be a "Winter Wonderland" but it was just a half empty tree lot with a beardless Santa. We didn't even get out of the car & headed off to Santa stop #3...

One of Donna's employees owns a restaurant on the island, he told Donna that Santa would be there tonight so that was our next stop. we actually went in & had dinner before visiting Santa one last time. The boy could see him from where we sat & said his name & chanted "ho ho ho, merry Christmas" while we ate. Once we were done the boys were ready to see him up close! The last visit was probably the best of all. The boys loved the elf helping santa out, his reindeer & all the gifts under his Christmas tree. They were even kind of partial to Santa himself.

Kellan & Garren in Santas lap, Caden checking out the reindeer
Garren going in for a BIG hug!
Maybe 3 Santas in one night was a bit much, but the boys seemed to have a good time & we were thoroughly entertained watching them greet Santa each time. It was a fun night & should hold us over for the next week while Donna is swamped at work.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Lights & Cookie Baking

Saturday night after Donna got home from work we bundled the boys up & headed out to find some Christmas lights. We missed the tree lighting on Jekyll Island but thought since they had one in the historic area that they would have nice lights to see... They barely had any Christmas decorations at all :( They did have a tree & one house had a giant wreath. The Island Club had some lights but I was pretty disappointed overall that the whole historic area wasn't dine up for Christmas.

Anyways we drove around the island & did find a fun Christmas light display & a spectacular lighted oak tree.

Only in Coastal GA would you find sea turtles
in the Christmas light display

We had fun riding around listening to the boys say "Christmas lights" & "Christmas tree, where the Christmas tree go?!" Garren asks everywhere we go to see see the Christmas trees, we circle through target several times before we check out these days, lol...

Sunday we went out to my mom & bonus dads to bake cookies. When we still lived in FL we had a cookie baking weekend every Christmas & had our parents & friends & neighbors over to make yummy Christmas treats. We haven't done it in a few years so it was nice to do it even with just us & my parents. The boys are very into coloring & painting these days so I was really excited to see how they liked decorating Christmas cookies.

Everyone getting ready to help & Caden helping out at the mixer

Kellan eating molasses out of the jar & Garren & Kellan eating cookie dough as I'm trying to roll it out

Kellan getting ready to taste the flour
& Caden & Garren decorating cookies

Garren, Kellan & Caden

Caden helping roll & Garren on quality control

The boys loved every part of making cookies! They loved tasting every single ingredient, right down to the flour. They helped mix, roll & cut cookie dough & they were not shy about eating the cookie dough or the cooked cookies as they came out of the oven. I forget how tall they have gotten & even though we put the cookies on a tall cooling rack towards the back of the counter they could still reach up & grab them. No use in trying to limit the number of cookies eaten on baking day! I have absolutely no idea just how many any of them they ate but I will say they did not eat lunch or dinner Sunday, lol... Kellan wasn't really interested in decorating the cookies but Garren & Caden did a great job decorating the cookies & each other! The boys also had a great time visiting & playing with "grandma & poppy!"


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