Friday, December 30, 2011

Not Exactly a Winter Wonderland...

...but we've been having a delightful time despite that.

A little bit of a picture parade of how we've been keeping ourselves busy amidst the onslaught of rain pouring down.

Some bbq'ing steak inside the garage....(John did an excellent job, it was delicious!)

I'm not sure why I caught Traig looking like he'd just sucked a lemon, but Nati and Brayden are partners in crime in the midst of playing their new "Disney Universe" on PS3

Sydney looks like she's clutching the blanket as if it were her stuffed cozy!

Poor Baxter - the indignity of it! But, he's so obedient to keep that treat on his nose until Michael says, "OK" - it's so impressive!

A little Daddy/Daugther snuggling - taking place on the morning of Mikayla's 10th birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEETHEART! Can't believe you are a decade old...

The breakfast of choice for Mikayla's birthday breakfast was Dutch Babies and Orange's her cousins appreciating her choice of beverage.

Mikayla asked to open her presents before we took off to go bowling-

Mikayla was delighted by the manicure/pedicure sets bestowed on her by Travis and Stephie. In fact, she sweetly asked if I would indulge her in a pedicure later in the evening. It wasn't up to "Bello" standards, but her toenails do look pretty great!

Speaking of Bello, a Blueberry Candle from there that she smelled and loved when we were last there together.

And, finally, "Kanani" the American Girl doll she has been asking for all year. This will probably be the last AG doll she'll ask we're savoring her current appreciation of Kanani.

The location may have changed (Lava Lanes this year), but the tradition remains to go bowling on Mikayla's birthday. Between our trip with Heather, Kaela, Kenjon, and Michael - and then Courtney and Ryan, and now - our kids are getting quite a bit of practice at bowling. In fact Mikayla was delighted at throwing a strike without the use of bumpers. =)

We were eager to have the kids keep their hands clean when they had the pizza and snacks amidst their bowling turns. (Kind of icky to consider the germ-potential within each of those shared bowling balls) That is why Mikayla is feeding John the Skittles.

The boys played in one lane while we played in the other. In the second game, John started having fun with some spin throws that Travis taught him - it was a hoot watching him "go for it" with such powerful throws.

A simultaneous throw with Michael in one lane and Nati in the other.

When we returned the kids convened in our bedroom to participate in some "Kids Just Dance 2" =)

After some play in the hot tub, hence the wet hair, Mikayla blew her candles out of her specially requested "Pizza Kuchen". It's actually "Peach Kuchen" - kind of a cobbler of sorts, but the name that she used when she was little has always stuck with us.

Finally, a picture taken today. Yes, look at that, it is SNOW! It started out as rain this morning (which really takes a toll on the morning hot tub reading) - but is now completely white and still coming down. YIPPEEE!!!!!! We'll take whatever we can get!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We've Arrived

We're here. In balmy 41 degree, rainy Sunriver. It's a good thing I'd set my expectations accordingly, as it ain't pretty here - and the next two days (at least) promise to be even warmer and wetter. As evidenced by the pics at the bottom of the post - this morning did bring some snowfall. I woke up at 5am to see the white stuff coming down, and even in our blissful hot-tub-reading time, our hair was dotted with snowflakes. So, I guess you could say, no matter what happens from here, we didn't get completely skunked weather-wise (but, I'm still holding out a little bit of optimism for some potential snow on Friday or Saturday....)

All is not lost, of course, as it's the time to simply vacation and relax that we most anticipate. Good company, lots of food, and for us ladies, great reading material (for the guys, football and "Auction Hunters" or "Storage Wars" seems to be the choice for the day). Last night, we had another round of Christmas exchanges, largely with the Whites doing the giving to the kids, but with a few "just for fun" presents thrown in.

Because of a Kohl's Black Friday deal we just couldn't ignore, all the kids got flashlights. Those come in handy in a big house like this, and of course during overnight camps at Harlow and other out-in-the-future summer activities.

I'm not going to go into detail about this present - it's found in Solutions Magazine if you are really curious. Let's just say that John did not find the humor in his gift that the rest of us did.

In honor of his constant pleading to get us out snow-shoeing (and no, I don't think this year will be the golden year either) - a special ornament.

Ellie and the "Spy Gear" she had put on her list for Santa.

This was the game Traig most wanted to get. He's been a very happy camper since opening it.

And did I mention that Sunriver is the place we go to to relax? Yes, that's definitely happening!

That elusive snow...

A hearty breakfast of Diet Coke and chocolate mini-doughnuts. We didn't want to waste any of our first morning of reading/tubbing to make a big breakfast.

The kids - unfazed for now by the lack of snow - happily at play this afternoon.

I think because of Christmas Eve/Day being so exemplary this year, I find myself kind of lacking in the usual "we're here" bliss. I think there's a little grieving of the loss of my favorite time of year and obviously the whole mountain-top emotional high can only last so long. But, there's sure no reason for anything but joy around here -

Sunday, December 25, 2011


..."and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse"
That's sure what it felt like this morning at 5am, as this picture was taken by John. As a Christian, I hesitate to use the word "magical" without it being misinterpreted, so please don't read in to my meaning here. For our family, this day is truly magical in its moments of anticipation, hopefulness, and general spirit of thankfulness. It is the great pinnacle of over 8 weeks of preparation - and while I know many would disagree....I think we (our family) would all be fine to add at least another month of all of this festivity - the lights, the constant music on Pandora, the constant holiday movies on Hallmark, and certainly for the kids - the Countdown Calendar of new surprises each day. While I may end up in the hospital from over-exertion if another four weeks were thrown into the mix, I'm quite sure I'd still consider it worth it. I LOVE this time of year, which is all the more reason I'm ever-so-thankful that years ago we opted to take our week in Sunriver AFTER Christmas - to extend it - vs. the week prior which led to an even greater let-down when the evening of the 25th fell upon us.

So, with all that being said - and with 38 previous Christmases under my belt, I'm going to go out on a ledge and say that this Christmas day has proven to be my favorite so far. It was as close to perfect as we could ask for.

In what could only be considered a Christmas Eve Miracle, BOTH of our kids were totally asleep by 7:30 last night. Can you believe that???? Mikayla is one story, but Brayden - unbelievable! That led to us heading to bed too, and let's just say that when this mama gets her full amount of sleep needed, it leads to a happy girl the next day. It was an 8pm bedtime for me, so by the time 5:30 rolled around, I was ITCHING to get up and get going - and have the opportunity to basque in the Christmas morning "magic" with John before the kids would all too soon be awake. (I'm talking "G" rating time spent together....don't read into that either!)

Some stocking stuffers set out on the couch....we aren't exactly "by the book" in stuffing things actually into our stocking....

It only took about a half hour of us being awake before the kids joined us. On Christmas Eve nights, we have a tradition of having everyone sleep in our room so that they can come out together and see what's been left by "Santa" together. (I think I already wrote a blog post establishing that we no longer have to worry about keeping that secret....and oh what fun it was to have that off the table and instead have the appreciation be aimed at family members instead of Kris Kringle....)

So, at the point this was taken - we were just messing with the kids. I think you can actually see our reflections, me with my point & click taking video, and John with the big camera.

Finally, the kiddos were let loose....

Mikayla, going for the "Home Alone" expression of awe.... =)

Having the "elves" distribute the presents...

My goodness, we are so loving the sibling harmony today - this was a joint high-five for picking out good gifts for each other.

From Brayden, specially chosen stuffed animals... (Mikayla got Brayden a "Chuckle Buddy" - might have to take video of this guy....words don't do him justice).

A non-posed shot of me looking at Sydney. I really, really love her - even when she won't sit still and feels the need to prowl through all the presents to find a place to bury her new bone.

I found these at about 5am on Black Friday. They are little stuffed animal pals meant to hold i-pods or cell phones. I thought they were adorable - apparently the kids agreed.

A jewelry box for Mikayla along with a monogrammed necklace.

A KINDLE! No way did I see that one coming....(as in hypothetically purchasing it for myself and Michele two months ago....)

It's wonderful that our family keeps the "Madden" franchise popular by buying the new release each year for our son...

For John, a homemade "caddy" for spare change and keys molded and painted by Mikayla (along with a new camera remote)

Mikayla's "piece de resistance" present - a new camera. She's been asking for this for a long time...

The I-pod was Brayden's big present - but these came in a very close second!

John's favorite gift was a new wedding ring. When we picked his out nearly 16 years ago, we went with gold - but that isn't John's style at all these days. Neither one of us are especially attached to the sentimentality of our rings, so it was a no-brainer when he suggested and picked out this one for a potential Christmas present.

Alright, I'm not going to make the direct comparison myself - but when Brayden flicks his hair to one side like you see any similarities to a certain celebrity? =)

Because of our early start, the pace in which we were able to mosey through breakfast and packing up for Mom and Dad's was downright leisurely. Carmel rolls, a traditional "What memory are you most thankful for in 2011 and what do you believe God would like to see you work on in 2012?" family question exchange, and stop off at Dutch Bros for my Mom's Christmas latte were among the things that took place before getting out to Mom and Dad's at around 11.

I think I've hinted at this in previous posts, but 2011 has been the year of technology acquisition for Dad. His Kindle, his Facebook account, his Droid - those have all been one thing, but now, his addiction to "Angry Birds"?! One word...awesome! I LOVE it...and honestly, I'm just holding my breath for him to be introduced to PS2's "Sly Cooper". He's going to love it, he just doesn't quite know it yet.
Traig loves it too....he's trying to beat Grandpa's high score.

Meanwhile, this is where you'd find John - teaching Mikayla how to sew on her "second favorite" present. So the time we sat down for dinner, they'd completed a pillow together. =)

Ellie was spending some of her free time drawing.

And this is where you'll always find us moms the kitchen.

A Christmas theme for the dining room table.

Because he was put on ham-carving duty, John didn't have time to set up the camera for a timer-shot to include us all. So, just pretend he's there, sitting next to me on the left side. =)

We intentionally plan for present opening to happen AFTER dinner (aka late lunch) so that we can all get cozy again and there's no rush to accommodate a meal. It is a KILLER for the kids who have slightly less patience and self-control than us adults.

Finally, we all got our act together and let the kids loose to distribute presents. While they were busy doing that, Dad pulled Michele and I over to communicate how he had inadvertently switched the cards he had written for us both - but that it didn't really matter as he is so proud of each of us and our families and all the sentiments apply to both. It was VERY we love our Daddy!

When I saw this oversized bag at Target, I couldn't resist getting it for Michael, even though I had nothing that size to put it in. So, I decided to instead give it to him pre-opening, so that he'd have a place to put all of his presents in. I think this picture makes it clear why the bag was so ideal for him!

It may have tanked in the box office, but it was still a favorite movie to Brayden and I!

Just wait....very soon I might be writing a post about having all of my neck/headache issues miraculously resolved because of this pillow from Mom. I have high hopes!

Another special present from Mom and Dad. They are bracelets that say "I love you more". I couldn't help myself after opening it to tell Michele that mine said, "I love you most"....the competition between twins never takes a holiday!

Mom, opening some boots (which she not-so-long ago bought for herself....oops!)....she says she likes these enough to want them too, though.

A SNUGGIE for ELLIE!! Woo hoo!

Nati's version is a little more sophisticated.

In true twin fashion, Michele bought me some pj pants that I had previously purchased....(proving how similar our taste truly is) - but the coordinating yellow sweatshirt was a huge hit!

A chocolate covered fruit tray for Dad....John was very jealous and made it clear that could definitely be added to his list for Christmas 2012.

Does this look familiar? =)
Baxter was so must have been his sweet gift to us on Christmas day.

Finally, a couple of pics of Mom and Dad with opposing focal points of Mackie. These were taken shortly before we left, while we were all watching Michael get sucked in to "Angry Birds". "Just one more level!" =) Christmas is always a let-down - but this is one of those amazing years where I feel like it went so successfully, that I'm content to let it go, at least with the knowledge that it's kind of continuing as we set forth to Sunriver tomorrow. I'm sure this will be addressed with much frequency in the upcoming posts, but the weather forecast does NOT look promising.....rain vs. snow. NOT GOOD. But, we will keep our optimism high that the reality will look whiter than forecast. In the meantime, I'm savoring the glory of today - all being celebrated because of the greatest gift given to us all over 2000 years ago.