Saturday, February 11, 2012

WAY behind... Christmas Day 2011

Whoa!!!  I am so WAY behind it isn't even funny but for documentation sake, here's how our Christmas 2011 went.  We knew the boys would be coming out of their room at 7:30 that morning so we got up early, got everything ready (camera and video camera) and we were ready for the fun.  The big boys came out first and since we had put the gate up to keep them from coming out too early they came into our room.  We read the Christmas story in their Bible and talked to Jesus in prayer, thanking Him for coming to the earth so long ago as a little baby.  During the Christmas season we really work on focusing on the fact that Jesus came as a baby, lived on the earth without sin so that He could die on the cross and pay for our sins.  What a sweet time we had with them that morning!!  We also had a special video on the computer that we wanted Jacob to see so the boys watched that together.  It was a video of Santa telling Jacob how proud he was that he stopped sucking his thumb.  Quick story behind that... when he was at the dentist last August the dentist told him that he really needed to stop sucking his thumb and that if he did stop that she would write a special letter to Santa letting him know how big he was.  Well, I'm not sure if that helped him stop or if he was just ready and grown up enough to stop (I'd like to think it was the latter) but he stopped so we wanted to make sure he knew that everyone, including Santa, was proud of him! 
 We got the baby up and changed so that all three boys could come out together.  The first thing they saw was the train that Charles had set up the night before.  They loved seeing the train go round and round under the tree and around all their gifts!!
The first thing we always do on Christmas morning is open stockings.  The boys dug right in... of course, Luke needed a little bit of help! :)
Usually we would go have breakfast after stockings are done but because Christmas fell on a Sunday this year we went ahead and let the boys unwrap all of their presents before breakfast and before getting ready for church.  They all had so much fun opening their presents... by this time we had contained Luke in his high chair.  He hadn't really caught on to the opening part, he just wanted to get into E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G!!!!!  So, he was just as content sitting in his high chair and opening/playing with his new things and it made it much easier on the rest of us!!
The boys absolutely loved opening their special bags from Nana & Pop-Pop!!  They felt so special to have their names on their bags with their own special things inside.
I have to say that one of my favorite things this year was the gift that my parents made for us.  They have started making things each year for the four of us (Matt & Sarah, Becky & Jason, me & Charles, Danny & Ashley) and this year they made us something that I wish I could keep out year round!!  I just love the letters they made for us and I will look so forward to putting them out every year!!
After breakfast we quickly got ready for church and headed out the door.  I was expecting our morning to be much more hectic than it actually was so that was a nice surprise.  Once church was over we headed home for a small lunch and much needed naps.  Once naps were over we headed over to the Smoak's for our Christmas with them.  They were able to bring Granddaddy over for the afternoon so it was special for the boys to be able to spend some time with him.  We had a nice dinner and then enjoyed one more round of presents.  Thank you, Mom, for having us all over and making time with family on Christmas so special!!
Finally, before leaving to come home the boys were dying to hold the baby chicks that we had gotten Charles' mom for Christmas.  Charles and his brother worked really hard the few weeks leading up to Christmas and built her a chicken coop so we went ahead and got the chicks a few days before Christmas.  She was SO surprised.  Those chicks have been her babies and they have grown so much!!  Next time I am over there I will have to get a picture of the coop as well as an updated picture of the chicks!!
Sorry the quality is not that great... they were taken with my phone :)

Christmas this year was so fun and so special.  I cannot be happier with the family God has given me and I feel so privileged when I spend such special times with all of them.  Christmas 2012 is going to be even more exciting and fun and I can't wait!! :)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Christmas Eve 2011

Christmastime this year was amazing.  The big boys understand and grasp more and more with each year and Luke was at such a fun age this Christmas.  We wondered how he would do with all of the decorations but he surprised us and left it all alone.  I was afraid it would be a constant battle... other people were only decorating the top half of their tree but I thought while decorating, "He'll just have to learn."  We didn't change anything, nor have we with any of our toddlers, and he did so great!!  He was in awe the first time he saw the tree... getting super close so he could see everything but not touching anything.  Our biggest tradition that we do from year to year is our Jesse Tree.  The boys memorized the stories the first time we went through it a few years ago and since then they learn more and more details of each story.  It simply amazes us to hear both of the big boys going through each ornament and being able to tell each story with such detail.  It is something we all look forward to and thanks to Nana it is what keeps our focus on the big picture, on the entire story, from beginning to end of what our loving Father had planned all along.  From creation, to the flood, to the ram being the sacrifice for Isaac, to David being anointed king, to baby Jesus coming to earth so that one day he would pay the ultimate price so that we wouldn't have to.  I can't think of a better way to spend the first 25 days of December then this, a way to really teach the boys about the prophecies and have them connect the dots of all the stories and really realize just how much He was thinking about us when He put everything in to motion so many years ago!

Another tradition that is very important to us is our Christmas Eve tradition.  Christmas Eve is fun and we want the boys to have lots of excitement but we never want that excitement to overshadow what we are really celebrating.  So, Christmas Eve isn't about getting excited about Santa coming, it's about going to church to worship our Lord and Savior, it's about being thankful for God sending his Son to the earth as a baby so that one day He could die for our sins. It's about family.  This year we had Charles' parents and his brother, Brian, and his family join us for our Christmas Eve Candlelight service at Shandon and then we all came back to our house for our traditional Italian dinner.  Dinner cooked while we were at church and we came home to a house smelling so good and food ready to eat.  The cousins enjoyed sitting at the kids table while the adults (plus Luke) sat at the big table.  After dinner we sang Happy Birthday to Jesus and the kids each enjoyed a cupcake.  Then Jacob went through and told everyone about the meaning of the ornaments on the Jesse Tree.
The kids enjoyed exchanging gifts and then we attempted at a cousins picture.  Epic fail... at least they are all in the picture, right?? :)
Once everyone left to go home it was our time as a family to finish up our Christmas Eve traditions.  We always do our "Santa" stuff first and then finish the night by reading the story of that first Christmas.  The boys opened their Christmas pajamas, got changed, put cookies and Egg Nog out for Santa, put out our reindeer food and hung our key on the door. 
Once that was all done we snuggled together and read the story of that first Christmas.  We enjoyed our time to snuggle, talk and answer questions for the boys.  Then we said bedtime prayers and the boys went to bed.  Because they are so good at night now, I think we waited all of five minutes before setting up the train and putting out all the gifts.  We didn't have to worry about the cookies because in the span of about 30 seconds while we were in the back putting the boys in bed Sam took care of that.  I came out to her gobbling up the last crumb :) 
This year we didn't have any big items that needed to be put together and that was really nice.  The boys got a few things to sit in while they read or play games and Luke got a new swing for his play set.  Our work was done and we were able to relax the rest of the night!!  Christmas Eve was such a great day for us as a family. We were so thankful for Charles' side of the family joining us this year and it made Christmas Eve 2011 that much more special!! :)

Chase's 5th Birthday Fun

I cannot believe that we are over half way through January and I am just now getting around to blogging about the fun we had for Chase's birthday and Christmas.  I can't believe how busy, I mean slack, I have been.  Don't get me wrong, life with three boys is always busy.  There's always something that needs to be done, someone who needs me or tummies that are hungry.  I'm thankful for the things that keep us busy but sometimes a little down time, enough time to get some blogging done, is nice.  I threw dinner in the crock pot this morning so this afternoon all I thought about was resting a little and blogging a lot! :)  ... Now, time to get caught up!!

Chase's birthday was so much fun this year.  I decided that this year, and probably for most birthdays from here on out, we would do something fun with family.  This year for Chase's 5th birthday we decided to give Chuck E Cheese a try. 
It was SO much fun and so perfect for what we were doing.  I booked the party first thing in the morning so we all arrived around 10:00.  There was no one there.  It was our party and one other small party so we practically had the place to ourselves.  The workers were there waiting for us and we had one worker who did everything for us. 
We had some of our most favorite people there to play and celebrate Chase's birthday.  My parents came from Hilton Head, Aunt Anna and Uncle Jake came from Florence and of course we had our Columbia family there too.  Chase was so excited to see everyone and just couldn't wait for the fun to begin!!  We started out playing a few games.  We had a TON of tokens.  Booking a party the first time slot automatically gave us 100 extra tokens and then the tokens that came with the party package.  We were set for lots and lots of games.  I think the adults enjoyed it just as much as the kids did! :)  My dad and Charles really got into a few games and to say they are both competitive is an understatement!!  It was a lot of fun!!
After a little while of game playing they were ready to bring the pizza out for the kids.  They ate a little pizza and then Chuck E Cheese himself joined the party and it was so great.  Chase's reaction to seeing Chuck E was priceless... it makes me so anxious to take him to Disney World one day.  We all enjoyed the show where they made Chase the center of attention and then enjoyed cake and ice cream.
Presents were last and then time to use up the rest of the tokens.  Chase loved his time at Chuck E Cheese and can't wait to go back one day.

On his actual birthday we planned to have two of his little school buddies over that evening for pizza and a movie.  We woke up and made Chase a special birthday breakfast.  He got to open one more present from Mom and Dad and it was Cars 2, the movie he and his buddies were looking forward to watching that night.
Chase had some special one on one time that afternoon with Daddy.  They went out to lunch and did a few special things together.  His little friends from school showed up just before dinnertime that night and the weather was nice enough for them to play outside.  They had a blast running around and playing together.  It was a nice filler while we were waiting on the pizza!
Then they came in, all washed their hands and got to the table just in time for cousin Emma and the pizza to show up!!  They all enjoyed their dinner as well as singing Happy Birthday and eating cupcakes.  Chase opened the presents his friends brought him and he couldn't have been more thrilled with what each of them picked out for him. 
Once the presents were opened we settled down, turned the movie on and popped some popcorn.  Chase, Brandon and Mazzy didn't seem to move for the entire movie.  They were all so into it.  Jacob and Emma on the other hand enjoyed playing during the movie.  When the movie was over I took Chase and his buddies home.  It was the perfect little celebration and I see many more of these types of birthday "parties" in our future! :)

Chase has changed so much the last few months and he has really seemed to grow up a lot.  For all those mommies out there who are about to pull their hair out because of the three and four year old behavior, HANG IN THERE!!!  It does get better!  I know we'll still have our challenging times with Chase and we'll still go in and out of phases that I will pray go away quickly, they change, mature and grow up so much around their fifth birthday.  He is such a smart, considerate, kind, and loving boy and I can't wait to see what this year holds for him.  Kindergarten for one and only the Lord knows what else! :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chase is 5!!!

Five... when I stop and think about it, I cannot for the life of me figure out how five whole years have passed since we had our first son.  Five seems so grown up to me... two and three still seem like toddlers to me, four is preschool but five... five is a big kid!  I can't believe I have a big kid. 

Five years ago I had finally had my baby and I was loving every second of looking at his sweet face and snuggling him.  I had dreams about being a mommy since I was a little girl and I finally was a mom.  I loved him so much immediately and what a great baby he was.  I love looking at the pictures from that morning when my parents, Charles' parents and his sister got to see Chase for the first time.  I love my mother-in-law's expression... you can see the love in her eyes and can almost feel her excitement simply by just looking at the picture.  I loved every minute of him being a newborn and enjoyed every stage he has gone through since... minus the behavior stages that he (and every child) go through!
He really was an easy baby.  Once we got over how much pain he put me in every time I fed him, he was a pro at eating, a pro at sleeping and was just so content.  He started sleeping through the night for us very early, which I was very appreciative of.  Just getting a full night's sleep, without interruption, made me feel so human again!
The next pictures from his first to his second birthday are really interesting to me.  Chase was only six months old when we found out we were expecting again and what a shock.  I cried when the test turned positive almost immediately... I cried, not because I was sad I was having another baby, I cried because I was sad at how quickly Chase would have to grow up.  I was a little sad about the fact that he wouldn't be my baby for as long as I would have liked.. but He had bigger plans and now I wouldn't change them for anything!!  At the time, I felt like Chase was so grown up when Jacob was born.  I knew I basically had two babies but it didn't feel that way.  Looking at pictures though I'm shocked at how young Chase really was when Jacob was born.  I can't get over that I had two that close in age but it never really felt overwhelming at all... and I attribute all of that to the Lord.  He knew what He was doing and He didn't give us more than we could handle!
The next few years Chase loved his role as big brother.  He took care of Jacob, he taught him how to play with their toys and they were best friends.  It wasn't until Luke was born though that I saw just how much he loves to nurture and care for little ones.  I saw so much of myself in Chase when Luke came along... he loved his baby so much and you could see it in his eyes and see it in the way he touched Luke so gently. 
Chase is so grown up now... he is so responsible and really seems to want to listen and do right.  We have our moments, just like everyone, but I have seen so much change in him in just the last two months.  He is so caring and loving, sensitive, smart and eager to learn, loves going to church and Cubbies and is learning more and more with each year about God's word and how much He loves him.  He has such a sweet personality and I love seeing him grow more and more each day!
This day of celebrating our oldest has been so special.  We celebrated with family at Chuck E Cheese on Saturday (post coming next) so today was really relaxed.  I made him a special breakfast, Charles took him out to lunch just the two of them and then we had two of his best buddies and his cousin, Emma, over for a small birthday get together.  He has been looking forward to this for weeks!!  And what fun they have had... they played outside, ate pizza, cupcakes & ice cream, watched Cars 2 and had some popcorn.  Thankful for such great little buddies for him.  I will post about his birthday soon! 


Mommy and Daddy love you more than we could ever express.  You will understand it one day when you are a daddy and what an amazing daddy you will make... you have a great example to follow!  Keep being your sweet self, continue to ask Jesus to help you be the example that you need to be. We have been so proud of you this year as you've started preschool and done so amazing.  You're learning so much and we know that next year, when you start kindergarten, you are going to do so great.  Thank you for being such an amazing big brother to Jacob and to Luke.  What a blessing you are to us and we can't imagine what our lives would be like without you.  We love you so much!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Going to See Santa

Tonight we took off for a fun family evening at Sandhills and what an amazing night we had.  Despite Luke not napping today at all, the big boys being very tired after a full week, we all hung in there and really enjoyed our night.  We started out by going to visit Santa.  We just haven't had a chance to go before today so we figured we'd take advantage of the nice weather and get out.  Walking in to see Santa I was thinking that Luke was not going to be a fan... he is not a fan these days of strangers.  He is very funny about people he doesn't know getting in his personal space.  Boy was I wrong!!  He walked around the room while the big boys were waiting in line and he was waving to Santa's helper as well as Santa.  Most of the time they weren't paying him any attention but he was still waving for all he was worth.  Once the big boys got up to the front of the line Luke walked up there and watched as each of them climbed up on his lap and talked to him.  Once it was Luke's turn he was completely fine sitting with a strange man in a red suit and a long white beard.  He stared at him for a few minutes and then started waving and giving Santa high fives.  When it was time to be done Luke didn't want to get down... he was quite comfortable on the old man's lap. :)
Once we were done visiting Santa we went and ate dinner and then the boys enjoyed some ice cream from Marble Slab.  They all, all four of them, enjoyed their after dinner treat! :)
And just for the fun of it, I put the boys in their Christmas Sunday outfits last week for church.  I figured since I went with the brown and red scheme that these outfits will get a lot of use.  I love it when we're all ready for church early and have enough time to snap a few pictures!
I can't believe that Christmas is just a short 9 (almost 8 now) days away.  I have a lot to do before that day and I am hoping to get a lot done this week with Charles home from work.

Thanksgiving 2011

The day before the kids got out for Thanksgiving Chase's school had a Thanksgiving feast that I went to help out with.  The kids were so cute dressed up like Indians and they all enjoyed their feast.  Chase was so proud to have me at his school.

This year for Thanksgiving we went down to Hilton Head to enjoy a few relaxing days with my family.  I was really looking forward to the break... our weeks and weekends have been so full of things that it was so nice to think about a few days of sitting around, not having to go anywhere and no running back and forth to school.  I know I said this a few months ago, but school really changes our daily routine.... and he's only in preschool.  I can't imagine what next year will be like when I will be dropping one off for kindergarten and one off for preschool.  I am kind of looking forward to when the two oldest are in the same school and on the same schedule.  I know I will feel this way even more this time next year!!  But at the same time, I definitely don't want to rush the next year and a half because it's a little sad to think about both of the big boys being in full day school.  Anyways, the idea of a break was much needed and anticipated!!
We left for Hilton Head on Tuesday after school.  We took our time getting down there, stopping half way for dinner.  We set up our portable dvd players... we put one facing the back where both of the big boys could see it and the other turned around so Luke could also watch.  They did so great on the drive down and thankfully the traffic was not as bad as I was thinking it was going to be.  We spent the next three days enjoying time with my parents, grandparents and my brother and his family.  I worked out a little, worked a little taking my sister-in-law's maternity pictures and spent a lot of time in the kitchen.  The time in the kitchen with my grandma, mom and sister-in-law was so much fun and I wouldn't trade that time for anything!!  The boys also had such a great time together.  This was really the first time that Eli played with my boys... he and Jacob were inseparable... I think those two are going to be best buddies every time we get together!
On Friday we ventured out to the outlets but only to go in one store for a few things I needed.  It was crowded and I wouldn't have wanted to spend any more time out there than we did.  I'm looking forward to going back when I'm down in January and spending a little more time browsing! :)

I was so thankful that my grandparents decided to come up.  They stayed home last year and it just wasn't the same without them.  I was having a really hard time thinking of being without them for a second year in a row and I was so happy when they called to tell me they had decided to come up.  Our time with them is always so special and I am so thankful for the health that the Lord has given them and allowed them to be this involved in my kid's lives.  They were always so involved in our lives growing up and now both sets of parents are really involved in our kid's lives.  I love seeing how much our kids look forward to being around GG & Goomba, Nana & Pop-Pop and Ginga & Jupe.  Moments captured like the ones below just melt my heart!!
 It was a great break but on Saturday it was time to get home.  We wanted to beat the traffic so we got up Saturday morning, had breakfast and drove home.  It was nice to have Saturday to get unpacked, get ready for church and get back in the swing of things before the new week started.

My Boys at the Farm

Wow am I behind!!  Here's to hoping to get caught up on the blog today so we can get to all of the Santa/birthday/Christmas fun! :)

Last month we took the boys out to the old Muller Farm in Blythewood.  I needed to go out to scope it out for a session I was doing the next day and it seemed like the perfect time to get some pictures of my boys.  Being a photographer, you'd think I would have TONS and TONS of pictures of my own kids but sadly enough that is not the case.  I'm so busy these days taking pictures for everyone else that sometimes I forget to get pictures of my own boys.  The farm was such a great location for their pictures and they listened so well.  I was amazed at how great the pictures turned out of them.  All three are growing up so much and way too fast!!!