merry, merry! a christmas recap 2013

I have a ton to catch you up on from our Christmas festivities. I’m going to start back at the Sunday before Christmas. BK was in a little play at church and she played the part of Mary while the choir sang and the Christmas story was read. She was pretty concerned about baby Jesus and she kept picking him up and putting him back down, rocking the cradle and fixing his blanket. I think she’s going to be a great big sister.


Sunday night we had Christmas with my dad’s side of the family. We’re so blessed by a large extended family, so we have to start early to fit all the Christmas parties into the busy time of year. BK is also blessed to have a large number of great-grandparents (both set of my grandparents, plus both of Allen’s grandmothers). She’s the only little one running around right now, so of course she gets all of the attention. And believe me, she loves every minute of the attention.


On Monday night, we had dinner with Debbie and Phillip and exchanged gifts. We’ve been having some type of Christmas gathering with them for as long as I can remember and it’s always a special time. Plus, we had steaks and baked potatoes, a quick break from the traditional Christmas food and this pregnant lady was so very happy.


On Christmas Eve morning, we tidied up the house before heading to Allen’s grandmother’s house around lunch to have Christmas with his dad’s side of the family. If you’re keeping up that’s the fourth stop between Sunday and Tuesday and we still have one more place to go.

Christmas Eve night has always been reserved for Christmas with my mom’s side of the family. Once again, Braylen is the only little one running around and she takes home enough gifts and gets enough attention to last all year.


We did manage to snap a quick family picture on Christmas Eve. I really wanted to get one at some point during the day because I had already called wearing my pajamas all day on Christmas.


Once we came back home the real fun began. BK and I baked cookies for Santa.


We put out a few (okay, maybe she dumped out the whole bag) of carrots and special reindeer food.


We said our good-bye’s to Lucy the Elf and BK tried her hardest to sneak a bite of Santa’s cookies.


My parents and my brother stayed the night with us to be with us on Christmas morning. Christmas Eve is so magical with a little one. As soon as she was in bed, the living room transformed into a toy workshop, Allen and my brother put together toys and added batteries while my mom and I prepped breakfast casseroles for the next morning.


This was by far the best Christmas morning ever. She was excited about every single thing and kept saying things like, “wow, just what I always wanted,” and “oh my goodness, can you believe this?” I laughed until I had tears in my eyes at how excited and grateful she was over her new things.




Around 9:00, the rest of the family joined us for breakfast and later on Allen’s parents stopped by too. We had the best time and I loved not having to leave our house at all on Christmas day.


My grandparents came too, and apparently it coincided with their mid-day nap.


We left the mess in the living room all day long. Braylen played with toys all day long, it was such a special day.


our christmas card, 2013

My Christmas cards will finally be sent out today. Bright and early this morning. I addressed a stack of Christmas cards last night in record time and breathed a sigh of relief as I finished the last one and made it to bed at a normal time.

I absolutely love checking my mail this time of year, each day I’m greeted with fun and festive cards from sweet family and friends and I love seeing what everyone chooses for their card.


This year I went a different route with our Christmas cards. Instead of the standard picture and message of holiday cheer, I offered up a glimpse of our year. Just a few highlights to fill everyone in on the busy and exciting year we have had so far.


I also went with a completely different color scheme and I love how pretty and fun the colors turned out. I was a little nervous about going with something other than traditional, but I am so pleased with the final product. I used our beach pictures from this past summer since we had fall pictures taken a little later in the year this time. The pictures were taken by CB Photo and Design, our personal favorites.


Those beach pictures are some of my very favorites and I was happy to get to use them again. I don’t ever get tired of looking at the ones of BK on the beach, I obviously had to include that one on the back.


The cards are from, for the past few years we have used EC and I am always pleased with the quality of their work.

Click on the links below to see our cards from the past:


50 stocking stuffers for toddlers

It’s the second week in December and I’ve officially deemed it Christmas crunch time around here. I want the presents purchased and wrapped before the week of Christmas and I want to enjoy the days leading up to the most wonderful day of the year. Stocking stuffers seem to be an afterthought for me, I buy all the big things and then I’m left scratching my head and wondering what I’ll put into the stockings hanging from the mantle.

But, stockings are so much fun! This year I decided to be a little more intentional in the stocking stuffer department and on my hunt, I found some cute ideas. I thought I’d pass them along to you, in case you’re looking for fresh ideas this Christmas.


Toddler Stocking Stuffers
First ten are pictured above.
  1. Battat Rainmaker
  2. Tickle Monster Mitts
  3. Play-Doh Holiday Pack Candy Cane with 10 Mini Cans
  4. Melissa & Doug Make-A-Face Sticker Pad
  5. Finger Puppets Set
  6. Playskool Washable Jumbo Markers
  7. Lego Mini-Figures
  8. Doodle Pro Travel
  9. Haba Play Food
  10. Piggy Paint Toe Tally Gift Set
  11. Bubbles
  12. Spinbrush For Kids Battery Powered Toothbrush
  13. Christmas Themed Cups
  14. Princess Crown
  15. Magic Wand
  16. Safari TOOB
  17. Water Flutes
  18. Matchbox Cars
  19. Sidewalk Chalk
  20. Bath Toys
  21. Hair Bows
  22. Hair Brush
  23. Xylophone
  24. Maracas
  25. Classic Tin Kaleidoscope
  26. Disney Movies
  27. Socks
  28. Stickers
  29. Notepad (perfect for stickers)
  30. Coloring Book
  31. Mattel Sing-A-Ma-Jigs Duets
  32. Character Underwear
  33. Tea Set
  34. Character Stuffed Animals
  35. Mini Lego Duplo Set
  36. Hat
  37. Gloves
  38. Bubble Bath
  39. Bath Crayons
  40. Melissa & Doug Animals Mini-Puzzle Pack
  41. Traveling Flash Cards
  42. Finger Paint Set
  43. Large Bouncey Balls
  44. Spin and Learn Color Flashlight
  45. Slide And Talk Smart Phone
  46. Weebles
  47. Leg Warmers/Tights
  48. Webkinz
  49. Silly Putty
  50. Little People Sets

As always, make sure that there are no small parts, and that things are age appropriate for your child.

What have I missed? Do you have a great stocking stuffer idea? Leave it in the comments, I would love to hear!



Christmas 2012

Writing a Christmas post seems so daunting to me. I sat down several times today, each time I failed to type a single word. There is something about the magic that surrounds Christmas, the fact that it only comes once a year, that we are celebrating something so sacred, that makes it unlike anything else we experience. I want so badly to do it justice, I want to look back in 10 years and read the words I have written, look at the accompanying pictures and trigger memories that have been tucked away. I want to remember vividly the image of Braylen waking up on Christmas morning, the first year she really got it. Her unruly curls, her sleepy eyes, her polka dot pajamas, I don’t want to leave out a single detail.

We spent part of Christmas Eve with Allen’s family and for dinner, we spent time with my family. Both times, Braylen stole the show, or made it a show, rather. She sang loudly, her version of her favorite Christmas songs. Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is one. She sang Jingle Bells and got stuck on a never ending loop, each time. And the Hippopotamus song was the crowd-pleaser, by far.

I stopped her just long enough to get an obligatory family photo.

Her excitement level was at an all-time high as she opened her gifts.

And I even managed to squeeze in a picture with my favorite girl.

We talked about Santa on the way back home from Nanny’s house. How we would leave out milk and cookies, and leave out reindeer food for the hungry reindeer. When we got home we quickly changed into Christmas pajamas and left Santa some cookies and milk. Of course, BK tried to sample one before she went upstairs to bed.

We talked about the story of Jesus’ birth, the real Christmas story, and quickly spread the reindeer food in our front yard. Snuggled up, in front of the fireplace we read ‘Twas The Night Before Chrsitmas and she was clear about one thing, Santa does not need to be on our roof.  She said goodbye to her elf, Lucy, even though she was a little sad that Santa would be taking her back to the North Pole.

She has been sure about one thing this Christmas, a pink Barbie jeep. It is the one and only thing she asked for and she started asking for it around Thanksgiving. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, she never wavered. She never changed her mind and made sure to let Lucy know each day about the Barbie jeep.

This was the first Christmas we didn’t either stay with my parents, or head straight to their house when we woke up. So my parents came over and stayed with us. I was adamant about not wanting Braylen to be rushed on Christmas morning, I didn’t want to spend the day on the road, traveling from place to place. But I still felt a little sad about not spending the morning with my parents. I was so excited when they decided to stay the night with us. My dad and Allen cooked breakfast on Christmas morning for everyone. And family stopped by throughout the morning.

Christmas morning brought tons of questions and funny comments from her inquiring mind, Did Santa take my Lucy? I guess he just used his magic powers to come down the chimney. Why didn’t those reindeer eat all that food? And she thought it was too funny that Santa ate all of the cookies and drank the milk.

Later that day, we had one last place to visit, my other grandparents (my dad’s family). Braylen was without a nap, but she did really good, considering all of the excitement.

And the best picture we could snag of our family on Christmas day.

This Christmas will be one to remember. Allen spoiled me with so many things I’ve had on my “wish list” all year. But most importantly, I felt incredibly thankful and blessed to spend it with my family. To cherish each and every precious moment. To see Braylen’s sweet heart in action and to watch her light up the room with her infectious laugh. Our girl is growing up and I couldn’t be more proud of the person she is shaping into.

pre-Christmas festivities

Our Christmas festivities started way back at the beginning of December. But with Christmas falling on a Tuesday, the weekend before was packed full of fun with our friends and family. I can’t tell you how much love and Christmas spirit filled that short span, it was enough to make my heart full before the 25th even arrived.

On Friday, we had dinner with Allen’s family. Braylen was looking forward to this all week long. She kept asking, How much more days ’til I see Bailey and Lawson? She adores her cousins and I love how happy she is to be able to spend time with them. I grabbed my camera on the way out and failed to include my memory card. I try to maintain this cool and calm, organized and put-together image, but it’s slowly fading. I’ve deeming 2013 my year of refocus. Actually, it was a nice change to be camera-free. I’m sure Cindy took some excellent photos that I plan on snagging from her later. I did take this picture on my phone of Braylen playing with her new tea set.

On Saturday, we went to Allen’s grandmother’s house to spend some time with her as a family. Allen’s grandfather passed away in May so it was important for us to be with her as much as possible during this tough season. Last year, I never thought that we would spend this Christmas without him, it clearly showed us how fragile life truly is. He always cherished Christmas and the excitement that it brought the grandchildren, I know he would have enjoyed this evening together.

Mawmaw cooked a yummy meal (including Allen’s favorite, dressing). Braylen kept us entertained with her medley of Christmas songs and her stellar dance moves. Then, everyone moved on to coloring, including a couple of “big kids.’

After leaving Mawmaw’s house, we headed straight to Mt. Fuji to meet up with Brooke and Josh for Reese’s birthday dinner. I think Braylen can eat more in one setting at a hibachi restaurant than she does in an entire week at home. Apparently I need to convert the cooktop in the kitchen to a hibachi grill and cook her rice for dinner.

We had a great time catching up with Josh and Brooke and Braylen was ecstatic that Reese shared her birthday desert. Sweet friends.

After church on Sunday, we had lunch with Debbie and Philip (and my parents, of course) and exchanged gifts. I need to document my sweet toddler because I might want to pull this memory out during her pre-teen years. One of her gifts was pajamas and she smiled so big as she pulled them from the box and exclaimed, “Pajamas! Just what I wanted!” Each and every time she opened a gift she was full of excitement and joy. She was thankful and gracious and I couldn’t be more proud of her sweet little heart. I hope she never loses that joy and excitement over the holidays, I hope she is always just as happy to spend time with family, gifts or not.

We wrapped up our weekend with pajamas and a movie with our neighbors. We really hit the jackpot with our neighbors when we moved into our new house this year. When we first met them back in May, we were thrilled to find out they had a three-year-old son, Brayden. Braylen quickly made a new friend and now they get together at least weekly to play.

Here’s the best picture I could manage before leaving our house. Braylen was way too excited to pose for a picture or I would have snagged a good picture of her adorable Christmas pajamas.

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