Over Thanksgiving Break we started decorating our house for Christmas!
This was our family goal during the Advent Season.
We got a great deal on a 9 foot artificial tree on Black Friday! We took the plunge and went fake this year and it was so easy to put up and light- since it was pre-lit, and there's NO watering!
Surrounded in Christmas STUFF! Brooks loves the Little People Christmas Train and Nativity Scenes.
Decorating the tree!
Putting the ornaments up high by riding on Daddy's shoulders!
My new favorite ornament!
And an old favorite too! Marshall Fields Chicago
We could barely reach the top to place the star.
Brooks thought it was so cool!
Heath LOVES all the Christmas Season!
Such a big kid and so helpful.
And here's the finished product!
The next weekend we continued the Christmas fun by visiting Santa and Prancer at our Stonegate Clubhouse.
The boys thought it was so cool that Prancer flew Santa here to visit.
The older two are old pros at Santa now.
This year they brought letters for him.
Here is Santa reading Heath's letter. He looks so sweet while listening.
Nolan read his to Santa.
And they smiled together.
And Brooks wanted nothing to do with sitting on Santa's lap, no surprise there. But he let me hold him and he quietly talked to Santa and told him that he wanted a "green ranger".
Then these two took a picture together and got little goodie bags from Santa. We love that our neighborhood does this fun and free event! And the best part- no lines!
After seeing Santa we went outside for hot chocolate and cookies!
And then Brooks was all smiles again! But he's funny with cookies. Sometimes he like them. Sometimes he doesn't and he very rarely eats the whole thing. But isn't that bottom picture with a big grin and cookie in hand just the cutest thing?!
We checked out Dasher some more while we waited to take a carriage ride through the neighborhood. We ran into a bunch of neighborhood and school friends while there. And we rode with my friend Katelyn from work and her family. We were quite the rowdy cart and sang carols the whole way. Mark even serenaded the group with his rendition of "Christmas Don't be Late" by the Chipmunks! All of the kids were in awe of his Chipmunk voice! He is something.
Brooks participated in the annual South East Christian School Christmas Program.
We really didn't know what he would do, he gets overwhelmed in new situations and prefers to be in smaller groups of people. So I was preparing myself for him possibly crying or getting scared or sitting down or running off the stage.
Waiting for the show to start…Heath and Auntie keeping busy!
So much to our surprise, we were thrilled that he just walked right out there, stood nicely, and looked all around.
We only got there 20 minutes early, so we had seats in the nosebleeds, so we could barely see him. He said to me afterwards, "You not there. Me looking for you and me no see you." Aww, poor guy couldn't see his biggest fan!
But he's the front row all the way on the left bottom. That's a lot of preschoolers!
Not quite sure he sang or shook his jingle bell at all.
But he's up there, being SO brave and we were SO INCREDIBLY PROUD!
And he was so proud of himself too! And he LOOOOOOVES his jingle bell bracelet!
Afterwards we snapped a few photos in the lobby. (What is Heath doing here?)
He is our heart.
Thank you Oma & Opa and Auntie & Flobby for coming to watch all 3 minutes of his performance!
Afterwards Auntie & Flobby had a Christmas party to go to, but Oma & Opa came to our house for drinks and desserts.
Here are a few photos of what Eckabee, our Elf on the Shelf, was up to this month.
He was caged with the nice dinos and protected from the scary ones on the outside!
He t.p.'d the Christmas Tree! The boys were amazed that throughout the day he moved and added more!
A sweet message on a day that the boys needed this reminder.
He drank Coke throughout the day and left a fresh bottle for Someone Nice. The boys were thrilled that I actually let them drink the Coke!
A Chistmas Dance Party while watching the lighting of the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center!
We started Anne Voskamp's Advent book this year: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. We've always done Advent devotionals with the boys each night during the Christmas season. Jayne bought us this book last year for the boys' birthdays and we really enjoyed our time spent in it this year. The illustrations are beautiful, the questions are great, and we've been able to practically apply many of the lessons learned from it. We spent a lot of time talking about how to show love to others, how to give to others, how to be Jesus here on Earth. So the boys and I came up with many ways to bless others this month, putting money in Salvation Army buckets every time we saw one, giving to the homeless man on the street corner, taking money from their wallets to give to Toys for Tots and a Carters p.j.'s program, writing notes to people, being more helpful, etc. It was neat to watch them find ways to love well.
We also put together these little gifts for our neighbors.
I found the idea on Pinterest and loved it!
And we wrapped up our Advent season by giving to a cause that has been stirring in my heart. http://thecompassioncollective.org
We talked to the boys about the refugee crisis happening in Europe. We showed them photos and discussed just how sad it would be to be separated from each other, how hard it would be to not have a home or a coat or food. We tried to explain terror and fear that are not a part of their world or understanding. We want them to always know just how blessed they are. We want them to "choose love over fear."
Compassion will guide us. Compassion is humanity’s North Star. It will always guide us out of the dark, back toward peace, hope and each other.
It is so neat to watch them grow hearts for others.
Love this quote from a classic.
Auntie had us over for an early Christmas celebration before she left for Chicago for the holidays.
The boys played the Pickle Game! Nolan found it!
Proud of his pickles!
They each got an ornament too!
Nolan got a Genie to remember his fist bump at Disney World.
Brooks got Jakey- his fav!
And Heath got Yoda- he's been coveting Nolan's C3PO ornament all season long, so he was thrilled to have his own Star Wars guy to put on the small tree in their bedroom.
I just could not get them to sit still for a picture that night! They LOVE Auntie's cozy couch!
She had a cute little table set up for the boys to eat at.
And I should have taken a photo of the pretty table that was set for us adults. Their new home is really coming together and looking so cute.
Even though I said NO PRESENTS this year. We went to Disney to make memories together, we spent money there instead of on gifts for each other. But no one in my family listened to me and they all got the boys gifts! Ha! But they were SO happy and we are grateful. Look at these cuties!
Now that's more like it!
He was so excited about his first present of the year!
A Jurassic World Dino!!!
They each got a dinosaur and a candy filled candy cane.
Showing off their goods!
Brooks giving Auntie's baby his gift. We watched a lot of Shark Tank together while they lived here. And in one episode we saw Soapsox and I knew right away I wanted to buy one for their little guy.
We picked out Jackson the Whale. You put soap in it's mouth and then use it to wash a child in the bath. Or they can play with it like a stuffed animal, only for the bathtub! It's so cute! And we love buying fun things for our new nephew!
Ugly Sweater Day at School! Love these fun friends that I've had the pleasure to teach with for 13 years now!
Nolan's Christmas Choir performance!
He did great as usual.
He really sings his heart out.
Here are just 2 little clips from his performance...
After 3 hours of choir on Saturday and 4 hours on Sunday morning the choir also went to the Aurora Mall to sing carols outside of J.C. Penney. After that they had a Christmas Party too. So Nolan spent more than 9 hours at choir that weekend! Crazy. He was so exhausted when he got home late that afternoon. We rested on the couch together for about an hour but then we were on to our next Christmas Event.
We had dinner at the Vogel's house and then went with them to Christmas at the Ranch at Cherry Hills Christian Church.
It was a beautiful show and was neat to do as friends. Even if I had to shush a bored Heath and quiet a squirmy Brooks just about every 3 minutes. We are thankful to have these lifelong friends now live here in Denver. And it's neat to see that our kids have become fast friends too!
The Annual Cookie Exchange at Cara's house...
It was fun to have Mandy and Mallory join us this year!
And Payton even played beauty shop with me! She french braided my hair!
One last party at the VanDusseldorp's.
As you can see, we had a great time!
Nolan had a kids only Christmas Party at school this year- they did Holidays around the world and rotated through all of the 2nd grade classrooms doing games and crafts from different Winter Holidays.
And Heath's class did a kids only Polar Express Day, they got to wear p.j.'s and drink cocoa and eat popcorn while watching the movie.
Brooks had a party at school that Daddy got to go to again…that's the downside of me teaching mornings when he is at school. I can never make it to any of his fun activities. But we are thankful that Mark's job is flexible and that he can be there to support Brooks!
What a great Dad!
They made these adorable ornaments and he was so proud to hang them on the tree.
During my classroom party, my class surprised me and had gone in on a Christmas gift for me. I was completely shocked and honored! They were super sneaky and put together a sweet book while I was in Disney World. And they gave me a very generous gift card to Target too!
I'm the luckiest teacher to have such supportive families to work with!
Wow! That was a lot! We really enjoyed Christmas this year and tried our very hardest to "prepare Him room". This will continue to be our goal as we enter the new year- Christmas all year long.