Christmas Eve 2016

Before Thanksgiving we headed to the mall for some early Christmas shopping. We happened to walk by “Santa’s Workshop” and I thought Sam’s eyes would pop out of his head. He was in sheer amazement at seeing Santa Claus in the middle of the mall.

As we walked by, he peered surreptitiously over the walls trying ever so hard to not get caught, but sly little Santa saw him and winked. Sam quickly ducked down with eyes of sheer amazement and gasped, “He is real, Mom! We were wrong!”

And so the saying goes, “The rest is history.”


We headed to the mall the day before Christmas for a special treat – to MEET Santa! Sam was amazed and Timmy was pleased as a peach. All three children sat in Santa’s lap and the boys told Santa exactly what they wanted for Christmas. Interestingly they each named one thing. Later that day, Daddy went out and bought those two precious gifts because … well, why the heck not?


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Later that evening we opened our Christmas jammies, but poor, Cary, she was just not into it all. christmas-eve-2016-5 christmas-eve-2016-6

Turns out she was really sick, and the next day would prove it. But we put her on to bed, and we played Dominoes with the boys.

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After games, we went outside to “feed the reindeer.” I grew up feeding the reindeer and thoroughly enjoyed sharing the tradition with the boys. christmas-eve-2016-8

We made sure to write a note to Santa, but since Sam had only just decided that very day that he believed in Santa without a shadow of a doubt (apparently he’d mulled over his Santa experience all month before finally deciding), we didn’t really have that great of cookies to leave him. Santa didn’t mind though, I’m sure!christmas-eve-2016-9 christmas-eve-2016-10

Timmy was over the moon excited that Santa was coming, but Sam was holding back his emotions. He was turning into doubting Thomas by the end of the night. haha!

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Lo and behold, Santa came! He worked late into the night because making little boys’ dreams come true at the last minute isn’t always easy! 🙂


Johnson Family Photos 2016

Over the Thanksgiving holiday we gathered for a family photo shoot. We added two more little girls to the family so Nonnie wanted an updated picture. It was NOT easy getting a picture of everyone and we certainly aren’t professionals, but I think we snagged a few good ones worth sharing. 🙂


The snazzy woman who makes us all get together for these sessions (for which we are actually all grateful even if we give her a hard time).


Sometimes the test pictures are some of the best ones.



The group that all the following craziness branches from …family-pics-2016-5 family-pics-2016-6

And because this picture makes us laugh until we cry, we’re including it here. family-pics-2016-7

I could point out a million things in this picture, but I love that Anna and Timmy are holding hands. I’m also glad that my kid isn’t the only one who tucks his hands in his sleeves (ahem, Addison and Avery). 😛


The boys!family-pics-2016-13

The girls.



Oh, Timmy, why so sad?


The Johnson’s…



Then we gave the kids the camera. Yes, we did! They had fun. The rest of the pictures are courtesy of all those over the age of … well, family-pics-2016-16 family-pics-2016-17 family-pics-2016-18 family-pics-2016-19 family-pics-2016-20 family-pics-2016-21 family-pics-2016-22 family-pics-2016-23 family-pics-2016-24 family-pics-2016-25 family-pics-2016-26

I love this crazy family! The chaos, the loudness, the laughter. Just all of it.

Christmas Cookies and Memory

I love baking cookies. It’s one of those things I wish I did with the kids more, but I’m just not a very good baker. There are very few recipes that I can actually pull off because I’m not that great with details and baking is a science. Not really my forte.

thumb_IMG_9824_1024But I’m learning that it really doesn’t matter how they turn out, it simply matters that we pull out the ingredients and grow together.

And sometimes … just sometimes, we get it right, and tonight was one of those nights. One of my favorite bloggers also happens to share recipes that are so simple I can’t even mess them up. When Lisa shared on Instagram that she had a favorite frosted tea cookie recipe, I knew it was the cookie for me.

thumb_IMG_9819_1024The boys and I made the dough earlier in the day and let is sit in the fridge until after dinner. We all (Daddy too!) pitched in to get two pans of cookies filled, and while we waited, we played a couple of games of Memory together.

Once the cookies cooled, I frosted the cookies while the boys took turns adding sprinkles. Daddy kept Timmy from getting more frosting on the shaker than on the cookies, but that’s neither here nor there.

thumb_IMG_9820_1024Then it was eating time!

thumb_IMG_9822_1024 thumb_IMG_9823_1024 These were the best cookies we have ever made. By far my favorite experience of cookie baking. Definitely saving this recipe for next time. The only problem we found was that the cookie dough was so good, the boys were a little full by the time the finished product arrived on the table. 😉

The Polar Express & Christmas Lights

Last week as part of our Advent Activities we watch The Polar Express together as a family. It’s probably one of my favorite Christmas movies, and both boys enjoy it every year.

So, this week we thought it would be fun to get the boys in their pajamas, load up the car stocked with popcorn and hot chocolate, check out some Christmas lights.

thumb_IMG_9810_1024We got all dressed up right down to fuzzy slippers for both boys, conductor hat for Daddy, and Santa hat for Mommy. Got our tickets to ride The Polar Express and hit the road to pick up other passengers – Uncle Ray Ray, Aunt Heather, Jackson, and Emmy. We all piled into the suburban and headed to Newport News.

It was a fun night and a wonderful memory maker. Sam said it was a very fun express, and then he promptly fell asleep. A big night for everyone and very fun pretending we were on a train and recreating portions of the movie from the perspective of our four and two year old!

First Annual Gingerbread House Party

As part of Advent each year, we always make gingerbread houses together. I even threw a Gingerbread House Party for several two and three year olds when Sam was that age. It was so much fun. We never forgot it!

This year we’re in Virginia with family so I thought it would be fun to host a family gingerbread house party! We set the date and told everyone to bring 3 bags of candy per family. We provided spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and the other two families covered salad and bread.

After dinner we got to work on our gingerbread houses. The only rule was that everyone had to make one – even Big Papa! Mark and I assembled the houses beforehand for each person so there were no, “my house won’t stay together” moments. Plus this made it easier for Timmy and Sam since they are much younger, allowing Mommy and Daddy to participate too. I also made sure there were enough icing bags for each person to have, and we all just passed around the colors.

If you want to throw a party, or just make gingerbread houses without paying a fortune, check out this post.

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First everyone filled up mini-muffin papers with all the various candies. I’ve found this easier than sitting the candy on the table and passing it around. Eventually, we pull the bowls over, but mini-muffin papers are perfect!candy cane sensory fun-5 candy cane sensory fun-6 candy cane sensory fun-7

This boy has been asking to make gingerbread houses since December 1st. I think the countdown to today has been just as exciting for him as Christmas Day!candy cane sensory fun-8 candy cane sensory fun-9

Timmy’s house stayed mostly bare. It took him quite a while to get in on the decorating. He was perfectly content eating all his candy. candy cane sensory fun-11

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He finally asked me to help him put a candy cane on top. He really wanted it to stand up straight, but we couldn’t get to stay. candy cane sensory fun-15

The works of Uncle Ray Ray in the front. candy cane sensory fun-17

Timmy’s is on the left. Mark’s is on the right. candy cane sensory fun-18

Daddy’s meticulous work. 🙂

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I think this might be Grammy’s. I’m already starting to forget which was which! They were all really good. candy cane sensory fun-21

Emmy’s house. candy cane sensory fun-22

Sam’s very, very meticulous work. He didn’t ask for help a single time. He knew what he was doing and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. I think it was all he expected it to be. 🙂

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Timmy’s finished work!candy cane sensory fun-2

A better look at Daddy’s house.candy cane sensory fun-3

This one is mine. Merry Christmas!

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When we were all finished, everyone voted for their favorite gingerbread house. The only rule was that you couldn’t vote for your own. Once the count came in, we had a four way tie. So we all voted again on those four houses.

It was a tight race, but Jackson pulled away the winner and he walked with $20. He’s the one who really thought he’d lose. He said when he found out we’d all be voting at the end, “Mine always turn out horrible.” I’m always up for an underdog win. 🙂

candy cane sensory fun-19I think it was the snow that won it for him!

I really had no idea what to expect when we started, but what a great time we had! I can’t wait for the second annual gingerbread house party!

Candy Cane Sensory Fun – A Yearly Tradition

I started putting this candy cane sensory activity together for Sam when he was two years old. Sam loves sensory bins and had been begging me for a “smell good sensory bin” all week. I’ve finally been feeling well enough to comply, and set this up for them to find.

It’s just baking soda, vinegar, food coloring and peppermint essential oil. I added a couple of plastic candy canes to help them make the association with the peppermint smell.

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I gave Timmy a dropper and two small measuring spoons to use. Sam got a dropper and medicine syringe thing-a-ma-jig. candy cane sensory fun-2

This was Timmy’s first time taking part in this little activity and with the peppermint essential oil smell added to the vinegar it made it a very aromatic experience for all of us. I just sat and watched and enjoyed the aromatherapy. 🙂candy cane sensory fun-3 candy cane sensory fun-4The syringe was a huge hit with Sam. It allowed him to really squirt the liquid a little more forcefully giving the explosive effects more pizzazz.

thumb_IMG_9719_1024I loved watching them process and experiment. candy cane sensory fun-6 And of course it always ends with getting a little messy! Who doesn’t love a little gooey texture between the fingers every now and then.

They loved it and spent nearly half an hour exploring. I love creating memories with these two boys!

Color By Number or Shape By the Christmas Tree

thumb_IMG_9698_1024I continue to feel better with each passing day. Thank you second trimester! I’ve missed our intentional learning times together these last several weeks. Samuel continues to be a self-starter and teaches himself when I’m not able, and Timmy is getting to the point when focused learning time is just FUN!

We spent one morning doing some fun coloring worksheets I found online for free. I remember Sam doing the color by shape ones. Now, it’s Timmy in my lap growing leaps and bounds while Sam sits across from me coloring all by himself. I’m always so impressed with how much they know that I don’t even realize!

Trimming the Tree

We trimmed our tree and put out several of our Christmas decorations today. We decided to get a fake tree this year after many years of real ones. We love it!


I am pretty sure Timmy never wears clothes when I plan to take pictures of “memory making” moments. He was dressed the same last year too. This year we had to keep telling him that the ornaments weren’t balls. thumb_DSC_0538_1024

Sam knew what he was doing. He looks so big!thumb_DSC_0540_1024

Cutie patooty!thumb_DSC_0542_1024

Timmy didn’t believe us about the no ball thing. Sad moment…thumb_DSC_0550_1024 thumb_IMG_9665_1024 thumb_IMG_9666_1024

I love having a fireplace, even though we don’t use it for a fire. haha!thumb_IMG_9668_1024What a peaceful sight!