The Adventure Starts Here: December 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

Year of Dates 2017

Christmas 2013, I gave Chris "A Year of Dates".  We had so much fun going on monthly dates in 2014, even though we kind of dropped the ball once October came.  It came at the perfect time to remind us to go on dates more after having Noah.  In 2015, I just assumed we would continue the trend of going on dates, and for the most part we did.  But in 2016, we kind of slacked off again.  That's why I decided it was time to give Chris "A Year of Dates" again for Christmas.  And while I'm technically giving it to Chris, it really is a gift for the both of us.  And I can't wait to start having regular dates again.  

This year, I made 12 cards that each have that month's "date" printed on it.  I put them into envelopes, with a calendar printed on the front.  Each month, Chris will open that month's envelope to see what our date is.  Some dates are already scheduled, while others are more flexible.  Some dates require a babysitter, while others will be at home dates after Noah goes to bed.  There's a mix of more affordable dates as well as some more expensive ones.  The important part is that each month we will be making a point to spend time just the two of us.  

I really hope that Chris likes the dates I have planned for us.  And if he doesn't, I'm always up for changing things up as the year goes on.  I plan to share our monthly dates on the blog, so I'd love for you to follow along.  

For all of our 2014 dates, click here.  

And while we are on the topic of gifts for Chris... today is his birthday!  We will be spending the day celebrating both his and my sister in law's birthdays (who just happened to be born on the same day AND year!).  We will also be getting together with Chris' parents tonight to celebrate Chris and his dad's birthday (which was on Tuesday).  Even though Chris rarely gets his own celebration, Noah and I try to make sure he knows how special he is and how much we love him!   Happy Birthday Chris!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Guy Behind The Blog | Christmas Day Moments

Earlier this year, I started interviewing Chris each month and linking up with Betsy from Heavens to Betsy and Laura from According to Laura Jean for their The Guys Behind the Blog series. I really looked forward to it each month and was pretty bummed when they decided July was their last month. That's why I was so happy to find out that  Crystal from Hall Around TexasElizabeth from Chasin MasonEvelina from Fortunate HouseJamie from Cocktails and Carseats, and Jessica from Secrets of a Stay at Home Mom are keeping the link-up alive!

So here we go... the questions for December:

1 // How do you spend the holidays? Any favorite traditions that you had growing up that you like to share with your family now?

I spend the holidays opening presents with family on Christmas and usually having family and birthday get-togethers since my dad and I have a birthday a few days after Christmas. Those are the main traditions that I want to carry on.

We definitely still spend the holiday with family.  Since both of our parents live nearby (within 10 minutes) we make sure to split the holiday - Eve with my family and Day with Chris' family.  Chris always takes off the week between Christmas and New Year's and we often do fun things as well as get together with Chris' extended family and celebrate his and his dad's birthdays.  You can see some of our favorite traditions at the end of the post.

2 // Do you prefer to have a real tree or a fake tree?

In the past, we always got a real tree each year, but they required a lot of cleanup and needles were everywhere. Now that we've gotten a fake tree, I can get used to this for the timbering.

While Chris and I both grew up having a real tree (my family went back and forth), both of our parents now have an artificial tree just like us.  It really is easier in my opinion, but if Noah ever requests a real one I think we may try it.  

3 // How old were you when you stopped believing in Santa? Did someone ruin it for you or did you find out on your own? Do you play Santa for your kids?

I think I was around 5 or 6 when I stopped believing in Santa and unfortunately my younger brother spilled the beans to me. One of his friends had told him! We do play Santa for Noah.

While I hope Noah lasts longer than 5 or 6, I can't really say that I believed for much longer than that either.  My mom had a policy that we ever asked point blank she wouldn't lie.  I think I asked in kindergarten.  We definitely play Santa for Noah and even do the whole elf thing.  It's even more fun being Santa as an adult!

4 // What's your favourite Christmas movie?

My favorite Christmas movie is A Christmas Story.

5 // Office holiday party - take it or leave it?

Office holiday party - take it. My company always goes to interesting places and has cool events or themes, so it's always fun to check it out.

Chris' work really does throw some pretty cool parties.  Unfortunately, spouses aren't invited.  This year they had it at Tavern on the Green and check out these crazy workers they hired for the event!

Bonus Question:
6 // New Year's Eve... quiet evening at home or go out and party?
New Years Eve - was fun to go out when I was single, but it's fun to stay home or to go to a local friend's house now.

Chris and I have been on a cruise for New Year's and have gone out with friends before having Noah.  Since having Noah, the most we do is go to a local friend's house who also has kids, and we are still home by 10pm!  

And speaking of Christmas traditions, here are some photos from our Christmas Day with Chris' family this year.  We headed over around noon for more gifts and a Christmas dinner.  Some of my favorite moments are the ones that happen each and every year.

In Chris' family, Noah's Uncle Justin acts as "Santa" and picks gifts from under the tree to hand out to everyone.  This year, I suggested that Noah be his little helper.  They each had their own little stools, and Noah got really into helping his uncle with this important job :)

Each year, I take Noah to the paint your own pottery studio to make a gift for both sets of grandparents.  This year, we chose a plate and made his handprint into a Christmas tree.  He even wrote his name all by himself with the pencil and then helped me trace over it with the paint.  It's amazing to see how much his hand has grown and how much more he helps with the gift each year!

I also make a Shutterfly calendar for both sets of grandparents, and this year I even made one for Chris' grandmother.  It's always well received and we love looking through the photos for each month and reminiscing over the year.  Noah's favorite part this year was going through each month and saying "any birthdays?".  In this photo he's pointing out that Daddy has a birthday in December... which is tomorrow!!!

Uncle Justin has really been into buying gifts for Noah recently.  The fun part is that most of the toys he played with as a kid are really popular once again.  Like Ninja Turtles, Transformers, and all the superheroes.  Chris and Justin grew up playing army men, so Uncle Justin bought Noah tons of army toys... I honestly think Noah now has every set they make!  They then spent the afternoon showing Noah how to set up the army men and took turns attacking each other's side.  It was so cute to watch!

And speaking of toys getting a second life, here's a photo of Chris and his brother back in 1984 (the year I was born!!!) with their Flash and Green Lantern figures.  And while Noah isn't playing with their old figures, he does have his own new set that he absolutely loves to play with.  Chris found the old photo and we decided it was time to recreate it with Noah this year! Noah called dibs on Flash, so Chris had to pick a new superhero (Aquaman) to hold this time around :)

1984, 2016

What are some of your favorite traditions?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Santa Was Here!

Every other year, Noah's cousins (and my older brother and wife) spend Christmas with us in New Jersey.  We all head over to my parents' house for a fun (and loud) time.  It's become a tradition that we spend Christmas Eve with my parents and Christmas Day with Chris' parents.  This year, that really worked out well, since Christmas fell on a Sunday and my brother and his family would be spending the morning at church.  So we jam-packed Christmas Eve with all of our favorite Christmas Eve and Day activities.   Decorating cookies for Santa, acting out the nativity (I shared all about it here), singing Christmas songs, and opening SO MANY gifts! The kids all wore matching Santa shirts, Grandma was perpetually worried that someone would get hurt, and I followed everyone around with my camera.  While there's something to be said about last year's quieter Christmas Eve, the hustle and bustle of 4 kids under 10 is really what Christmas is all about.  Kids really do make everything better and more magical!

 looking at the annual Shutterfly calendar that I make for my parents
 it definitely came in handy that both Noah and Aidan got Batman Hideouts!
 playing Guess Who really brought me back to my childhood!

We left my parent's house around 9pm and I was really shocked that Noah didn't fall asleep on the car ride home, even if it is only 10 minutes.  Not only was he awake, but he wanted to play when we got home.  I let him play for as long as it took me to get ready for bed, because let's be honest, Santa was tired and still had lots of work to do.  Chris brought all the gifts up from the basement while I got Noah to sleep.  I then got everything organized under the big tree and the stocking stuffers under Noah's personal tree in his room.  I've mentioned before that Santa leaves his stocking in his room just as my parents did for us when I was a kid. And I will take full ownership that we went overboard. And not only did Chris and I get Noah a lot, but in addition to the many gifts my mom gave Noah earlier in the evening, she also sent a bunch more for Noah to open Christmas morning.  This boy really is loved!

Thankfully Noah didn't wake up to find us playing Santa and slept all night.  I usually end up co-sleeping with him in his bed, and every day this month, he would ask me three questions when he woke up.  "Is it morning? Is daddy home? Is it Christmas?".  I was really expecting that to be his first question when he woke up Christmas morning.  But instead, he just woke up and asked if he could watch his iPad.  He didn't even notice the stocking and gifts under his tree in the corner of his room, and since I was happy to wake up a little slowly, I gladly handed over the iPad.  Chris and I eventually decided it was time to tell him it was Christmas and Noah then excitedly jumped off the bed to see what was in his stocking!

I was able to brush my teeth and put some makeup on while Noah and daddy did some activity books that were left in his stocking.  Then it was time to head downstairs and see what else Santa brought.  Noah was so excited!  Noah had asked for 4 things from Santa.  When he peered over the balcony, he said "I only asked for 4 things, that's a lot more than 4!".  I asked if we should return the rest since he was happy with just the 4 gifts from Santa, but he quickly declined that option and was thrilled to open all his gifts ;)

Chris picked me up a gift card to my favorite store, Loft, for Noah to give me.  Noah really had no idea about it but he was so cute with helping me open it.  But my favorite photo is when I tried to get a hug and a kiss from him afterwards.  He's definitely not my baby anymore!

Chris is a Mets fan and I was surprised that we didn't have a Mets ornament on the tree.  So I decided to surprise him with one.  And while Noah really has no interest in baseball yet, he has grown attached to the Red Sox team, to the dismay of his extended family Yankee fans.  Chris is a really good sport and thinks it's funny that Noah is so adamant about his "favorite team", so I made sure to get Noah his own Red Sox ornament that we can put up each year next to Chris' Mets ornament.  Who knows what will happen in years to come, but it will always be funny to look back and remember that Noah was a huge Red Sox fan when he was 4 :)

After all the gifts were open, Noah was very eager to start playing with EVERYTHING!  After we fought with the boxes to get every last piece free, it was finally time for him and Chris to play with all the new toys.  I took the opportunity to go shower and get ready for Christmas at my in-laws' house.  I was impressed with how well Noah took it that he had to leave all the new toys he just got.  He even smiled for the family photo I requested.  I told him that my Christmas wish this year was for him to smile in a few family photos, and he happily obliged... Merry Christmas to me!!!

How was your Christmas this year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Christmas Nativity Play

I grew up where each Christmas we would put on the Christmas Nativity Play.  While our church would often put on a play with children as the "actors", I also remember doing it at home as a family activity.  Sometimes it was just the 5 of us while some years we would invite neighbors and family friends over to participate with us.  And even though Christmas has become very commercial over the years, this remains one of my favorite family traditions.  As we got older, we stopped acting it out and instead just read the story from the Bible.  But now that my older brother and I both have kids, we have started to carry on the tradition with the next generation.  This was our third year acting out the Nativity play with Noah's cousins, and was probably our best so far.  

Noah's cousins drove down to New Jersey on Christmas Eve morning.  As soon as they got to my parents' house, we started getting ready for our Nativity Play.  Growing up, our costumes were very homemade.  I remember I always wanted to be an angel and would end up wearing one of my dad's undershirts with some silver garland on my head.  And the shepherds would wear bathrobes and have towels secured to their heads with a neck tie.  We would even get some Burger King paper crowns and cover them with tinfoil for the 3 kings/wise men.  A few years ago my mom organized and directed the play at their church, and she ended up buying a ton of costumes that we now have at our disposal. (My mom bought these costumes from here, but my sister-in-law got some for their church from Oriental Trading).  Noah has one girl cousin, and she's happy to be Mary every year.  While one of Noah's boy cousins had no interest in participating this year (he wasn't feeling very well), Noah and his other cousin, Matthew, were very into it.  While my mom had purchased some shepherd "dresses", we then took a king size pillowcase and neck tie to make the headdress.  We learned the king size pillowcase was a much better size compared to the towels we used to use.  She picked up some staffs at Party City, and while we were a little concerned the boys would use them as weapons, we were pleasantly surprised that they behaved and no one got hurt.  

Back in 1984, this script was published in a church magazine.  Over the years, my parents have adapted the original script and we now use this script for our Nativity Play.  My mom's experience is that kids often mumble the lines or don't speak loudly enough.  So instead, she wrote the play so that a Narrator is the only person who speaks while the children act it out.  And my favorite part is that in between all the speaking parts, we sing Christmas songs to help tell the story.  My dad plays the guitar and leads the singing.  Here are the lyrics to the songs we sing.  If you don't have someone musical in your family, you could easily sing without background music or even download the songs to sing along with.  

I love how this family tradition brings back so many childhood memories.  To this day we use the  crib that I used for my baby dolls as a child.  This year, we borrowed Noah's Cabbage Patch doll to be Baby Jesus, but we still wrapped him up in my baby blanket.   

And since we only had three kids this year, everyone got to have multiple roles.  Mary and the shepherds did a quick change mid play and were then the 3 Kings (we got the crowns from here).  I wrapped up some empty boxes for the wise men to give to Baby Jesus.  The funniest part was when the kids were goofing around moving the boxes all over the place... they each wanted the gold wrapped one ;)

And once we were done with the Nativity Play, we sang some more of the upbeat Santa songs.  We handed out bells, Santa hats, and reindeer ears and the kids put on a little show for us.  It was hilarious to watch the kids dance around.  Noah was very serious with his bell ringing and was tapping his foot to the beat.  

Christmas is a big deal in my family.  And while we definitely go all out with the toys and the gifts, it's nice that we also make sure to include the story of Jesus' birth into our celebration.  I love that it's an easy and fun way to really get the kids involved and remind them of the real reason we celebrate.  

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