Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ernie the elf

So, we have an Elf on a Shelf. His name is Ernie. For those of you unfamiliar he is a magic Christmas elf who stays and keeps an eye out to make sure the boys are on the nice list. Each night he reports back to the North Pole and each morning he appears somewhere new in the house. He gets dropped off at our house when St. Nick visits and leaves with Santa on Christmas Eve. The boys love to take turns leading to find where Ernie is each morning.
Elf on a Shelf was once a little known thing, but it caught on and these days lots of kids have an elf. But the last two years they were being sold in stores and there was a cartoon special and there were piles of elves everywhere you turned. I did everything I could to avoid them, because how do you explain that the magic elf from the North Pole can also be purchased at Target? And sure enough before Ernie arrived Peyton saw the Elf on a Shelf in a toy catalog and asked why that was in there and being sold. I froze for a second and talk about "she thought up a lie and she thought it up quick" (I still have trouble with the whole web of lies that is weaved at Christmas while simoltaneously teaching them that Jesus is the most important part of Christmas). Anyway, I said "wow! Ernie is famous. He was picked to be in a catalog." They were so excited too. When Ernie arrived Jackson said "Ernie, congratulations! We saw you in the catalog!"

This was Ernie's message to the boys on his first day, spelled out in M&Ms.

Another of my favorite Ernie moments was about a week later. My dad gifts us with an online Advent calendar each year. It's very cool and interactive and you click on the number and a different scene comes up from the village each day.The icon on the computer screen is a big snowglobe with a tiny village in it. I had trouble getting it on my computer, but was able to get it on my work laptop. Since I was at work when I got it to work I had not yet shown it to the boys. One day the boys asked how Ernie knew if they were being good if they were at school or outside of the house. I said I thought the North Pole elves used a giant snowglobe. Shortly after we got home that day Jackson was standing near my work computer where I work from home. He shouted "Mommy LOOK! Ernie's snowglobe is on your computer!" The boys said they could see our house in the village. I didn't have the heart to tell them otherwise so Poppy's Advent calendar became Ernie's magic snowglobe!

So, each Wednesday when their Aunties watch them while I'm at work the boys do their football picks. It's just for fun and the boys really enjoy following along all week. So with the help of my "elves" Ernie did his picks (he also had the top picks that week with 11 correct).

You can guess who Santa's helper is when your elf has a Dolphins flag in his hand!

Christmas time

We have had an unseasonably warm winter. As I write this in early January we broke a record for 320 days without and inch of snow and today it is 42 degrees and sunny. Here we are in December at Auntie Kerry's house. It was in the 60s and we didn't need coats while helping her put out some of her exterior Christmas decorations. We took advantage and took a break to play football as well as walk to their neighborhood park for some fun.

Every day the boys wanted to decorate something. They have their own trees in their rooms and love to choose and hang the ornaments themselves. Brett LOVES his tree and plays by it almost every morning.

Brett helps Grandma decorate her tree.
Jackson putting ornaments on Grandma & Granddad's tree.

Enjoying the Christmas train under Grandma & Granddad's tree. When you walk in their house Brett doesn't even look at them he is contorting to get a look at the train. He loves that train!
Are there any gifts yet? Left anywhere in a room Brett will roll until he is under the tree and able to grab the branches.
One of our favorite family traditions is an event called Spirit Village at our church. They transform a portion of the church into an old time town. All the volunteers dress in old-time costumes. There are activities and treats for the kids, but the purpose is to raise funds for the missions our church supports. You go to the different "shops" in the village and can "purchase" a goat for a family in Africa or school supplies for children in the inner city of Chicago. There are a wide range of price points and options.
Grandma helps Brett gets his face painted with a snowman by Aly, one of  the girls in my Confirmation small group.

Peyton coloring a Christmas card that will be sent to a missionary in another part of the world.

Jackson showing off his Christmas card for a missionary.

 We had a lot of fun marking our days through Advent this year. Despite that the boys asked just about daily if the next day was Christmas.
Jackson marks off the days on a Santa face he made in preschool.

Grandma & Granddad wrapped books for the boys Advent. Each night before bed they took turns opening a new book and we would read it before bedtime. So much fun for the boys and perfect for me because I love books! The boys were so good about taking turns. They also took turns opening the windows of the Advent calendar from Grammy & Poppy and have gotten so good at spotting their numbers.

Each year we have had the blessing of attending the Shriners Christmas party via an ongoing invitation from a gentleman Tate works with. We attended long before Brett's diagnosis and we have since benefited greatly from the care given Brett at Shriner's Children's Hospital. So it is now a double blessing. The party includes lots of fun such as clowns, moon jumps, a gift from Santa, games, hot dogs and chips and our annual visit to Santa himself.

Auntie Kerry helping the boys with pop a shot basketball.

Auntie Kerry and Brett.

Peyton got a nose from a clown and decided he was Rudolph.
 Another favorite family tradition has become watching Charlie Brown Christmas while eating pizza in front of the TV. It's a big deal at our house. Then we tuck in our sleeping bags and get to sleep under the Christmas tree. It's pretty magical.

The boys made each their own gingerbread houses at Grandma & Granddad's. They decided they would wait until after Christmas to eat them. Then decided they were too stale to eat. The boys and their cousins all pitched in on a gingerbread house during Family Fun Day at Auntie Kerry & Auntie Nancy's

Jackson, Sophie and Peyton.

Brett licking his fingers after finishing.
This is actually several weeks later while celebrating Christmas. Brett, Caroline, Peyton, Sophie & Jackson took the gingerbread house under the table and got busy eating it.

Later that evening they changed into their PJs and all the cousins went to the Park District for storytime with Santa.
Auntie Kerry keeps them entertained while waiting to see Santa.
A visit with the big guy Caroline, Jackson, Santa, Brett, Sophie and Peyton.

After seeing Santa the children all got milk and cookies. I snuck in a snuggle with Brett.
After milk and cookies the children go on a reindeer hunt. They search throughout the park district rec center for a bag of candy canes with their name on it and some reindeer antlers. Jackson sporting his - so cute!
Listening to Santa's bedtime story.

The boys all had a lot of fun getting ready for Christmas with lots of fun art projects in Preschool. Jackson & Peyton performed on stage for the first time in their preschool show.

Brett made this adorable hat at his preschool Christmas party. I had the privilege of volunteering in his class that day and we had a lot of fun!
Jackson in the white snowman shirt and Peyton just to his right in red.

The boys helped make M&M Christmas cookies which they gave to their friends and volunteers who help in their Sunday school class.
Brett enjoys helping in the kitchen and added the M&Ms in.

Peyton adding in the flour.

Jackson waiting patiently while the ingredients are blended.

Sitting on the couch watching Christmas cartoons and licking a spoonful of cookie dough - doesn't get much better than that.

We did the Minivan Express - each of the boys got a ticket after getting in their Pjs and got to get on board the minivan for a tour around town to look at the lights. They begged to get out of the van to get a closeup look at our town's tree. It was cold, but they chased each other around the tree, sang and giggled and it's a great memory.

We celebrate Christmas Eve by going to church with all of the family. That is my favorite. We take up a whole row but all of my immediate family and Tate's all sit together and worship - that's Christmas to me! Afterwards we go to my cousin Joan  & Joe's house. As always we all had a blast.
Peyton and Grammy partner up to play Go Ape.

In their PJs at Joan and Joe's and ready to head home to tuck in before Santa arrives.
I will do a separate blog on Santa's visit to our house. Here are some moments from Christmas day at Grandma and Granddad's.
Jackson, Tate and Peyton look over the directions to one of their new toys.

The pictures don't really capture the joy. They were so excited about each and every gift they opened.

Love this picture! Grandma, Jackson, Granddad, Brett and Peyton

The boys were off school and I had some vacation time so we headed to the arboretum to see the trains. Poppy, Grandma and Auntie Rhonda joined us. It was fun and a nice change of pace.
Poppy and Peyton watch the trains go by.

Brett would have stayed and watched those trains all day!

We had a dusting of snow on the ground and the boys begged to go play in it. It turned out to be great packing snow, but not enough for sledding as they were hoping. We did manage to make this very tiny snowman though and have a small snowball fight.

Then we enjoyed hot chocolate! Actually, they really just devoured the tower of whipped cream and dashed off to play.

We celebrated Christmas with Grammy & Poppy four days after Christmas on Saturday so everyone could be together. It was nice and we had the whole day to hang out and play!
Grammy helps Brett open his gift.
Tate, Peyton and Jackson play with their baseball guys.
Uncle Jackie leads the family sing along.

And then the kids took over!

The cousins: Peyton, Brett, Caroline, Sophie and Jackson.
Wow! a family picture!! Back row: Tate, Kerry, Nancy and Jackie. Front row: Me, Brett, Peyton, Poppy, Caroline, Grammy, Jackson, Amy and Sophie.

If you made it this far you are likely as exhausted as we are, but it was a blessed season!