Saturday, December 26, 2009

A little more Christmas Fun

We always end Christmas Day with one more trip to my parent's house. Santa likes to leave something at her house for the kids and of course there are stockings to open too.

The big hit of the day was Landon's new Elmo restaurant kitchen. All three kids had a blast cooking and ordering. Meredith got a baby doll bed and was excited, but then looked at us and the kitchen and said "But I can play with that, too?" Jillian got an adorable ride-on horse and stroller, too. This was a pretty big hit with all three kids too - guess you just can't go wrong with little ones, huh?

Checking out her horsey
I think Meredith might be begging to go visit Landon more often now!
Jillian with a rather large "stocking stuffer"!

Christmas with Bubbie and Grandad

We had our traditional Christmas brunch with Bubbie and Grandad at our house this year in hopes that Jillian would get a good nap. She decided she didn't want to miss out on all the fun, so that didn't work out exactly as planned, but we all loved having everyone to our house - especially Meredith, who could show Bubbie all of her fun new toys!

Probably my favorite moment of Christmas was watching Meredith open her present from Grandad. She has been asking for a Barbie "Rolling House" (aka RV) for months - this all stemmed from her love of Grandad's "Rolling House." The Rolling House was on her list for Santa from the moment she saw it. When Grandad found out, he went out and got it for her. Please understand, that in all the years that I have been in the Hanks family, I don't think I have known Grandad to go shopping for anything other than some groceries. I was completely touched that he wanted his sweet Meredith to have something that much that he would brave the Christmas shoppers on toy aisles!

Meredith was so excited to get her Rolling House!
Big Hugs for Grandad
Jillian loving on her Bubbie.

Merry Christmas!

We loved our first Christmas with Jillian - what a joy to have two little ones in the house on such a wonderful holiday. We not only saw the joy of her witnessing all the beauty of Christmas - from lights to bows on presents, but also saw Meredith show love and her giving spirit by picking out things that she knew her sister would love, and even telling us she had to tell Santa what Jillian would want, since she is a "baby and can't talk yet." I also loved this year's preparations because Meredith is really learning the Christmas story. She would walk around the house reenacting the night in Bethleham - knocking on doors and declaring "There is no room!" And then finally "You can stay at my farm!" She learned about the gifts that the wisemen brought and loved siging carols about Jesus. We had a really special tree in our house that we made with my Mom's group at Church called the Advent Jesse Tree - there was a devotion each night that told stories of God and of Jesus. She looked forward to putting on the ornament each night and hearing the Bible Story.

This year, of course, she really got into the Santa stories too. She loved getting ready for Santa, choosing which cookies to put out for him and where we should put them. This was a big step up from last year, when she cried because Santa ate her cookies. I didn't sleep well on Christmas Eve because I was afraid she would run out to the living room before waking us up, instead, we had to go in and wake her at 8 am (which is very late for her!)

What Santa had waititng for the girls. This included a Green Teddy Bear that about caused me a heart-attack because it wasn't looking like it would get to the North Pole in time to be on Santa's sleigh. The other super exciting item was Meredith's new Violin - which was one of her big requests this year. She is loving playing us songs on it - maybe we'll have to upgrade to one with strings next year! :)

Checking out her stocking
Pretty, smiling baby crawling for real just in time for Christmas (she still reverts to leaving her tummy on the ground most of the time, but is getting better and better and lifting it off the ground)
Big sis was very excited to show little sis how to make the baby she picked out for her work.
Modeling mama's snuggie from daddy

Hoping this smile will talk us into letting her go for a whirl on Meredith's Sit N Spin.

Christmas Eve

After some fun in the snow, we headed up to church for the Candlelight service. I look forward to this every year - I love singing all the carols with a packed house full of lots of people that I love and then singing Silent Night with all of our candles lit - it is really beautiful! The girls were both fantastic and stayed through the whole service- which meant I got to too!
Our family with the church Christmas tree

After Church, we headed to my parent's house for dinner and then lots of presents! We did the kids all together first and then the adults got their turn. Meredith would exclaim "Oh, Man!" everytime she got something she was really excited about (which was pretty much with every present) Sometimes we got an "Oh, that's cute!" or "I SO love this!" Jillian of course loved rolling around in paper and bows and would have been content if that was all there was!
Sweet cousins! We are so blessed to get to see Landon as much as we do, I know alot of cousins don't get to be this close. They have so much fun together and they all love each other so much.
Our little family - our first Christmas as a family of four!
And all of together
Meredith getting ready to open all of her loot!
Jillian getting into unwrapping, even if it is just so she can play with the bows and paper.
Finally, she realizes that the stuff inside is just as good as what is on the outside!

White Christmas

I had given up asking for a White Christmas in Texas LONG ago, but this year we all got one! How exciting! Neal was so happy - he said it just helped put him in the Christmas Spirit more than ever before. We made a quick trip out to play before we had to get ready for church and Meredith had lots of fun. She wasn't quite ready to get down into the snow since it was wet and cold, but she still thought it was pretty great.

A few snowballs were thrown - mostly from Daddy! Since there wasn't enough snow for a snowman, she told us she was going to make a snow flower.

Catching some snowflakes on her tongue...
Jillian says "Me, too!"

Our front yard Christmas Eve

Happy Birthday Jesus!

Meredith was very excited to decorate a Birthday Cake for Jesus this year - she decided he would want a cow on his cake, luckily I convinced her to use a toy cow instead of me drawing one on there - that could have been interesting!
Watch out Ace of Cakes!
After singing Happy Birthday on Christmas Day, Meredith was very happy to blow out the candle for Jesus (I found cute star ones and she was equally thrilled about those "They are stars like the star at the manger!")

Gaylord ICE

We had a great day celebrating Christmas with the Sook family last week - we headed to The Gaylord Texan where they have an incredible Christmas display made all of ice. This year the theme was The Grinch and it far exceeded my expectations and was a huge hit with both girls!

The whole hotel is so beautifully decorated - just a photo op waiting to happen!

Before we headed to the main attraction, we checked out a Gingerbread House store where we all got together to make a masterpiece! Meredith and I had already made one at home, but she was super excited to get to make another "Benjerman House" again especially with Laura, Victoria, and PJ to help! I loved it because it was all the fun without the mess to clean up at my house!

Meredith was very excited to get to sit in Vic's lap for the decorating - she loved having us put icing on Vic's finger to use for glue and on hers for tasting. Notice PJ's finger in the front of the pic - he tried desparately to give our house a satellite dish, unfortunately it didn't cooperate too well.

The decorating team with our creation
And the final product - if you look on the far right, you can kind of see what Meredith and Vic worked on most of the time - a sled with a green elf. There is also a porcupine in front of that thanks to Miss Meredith - because what Benjerman House is complete without a porcupine?
Aunt Sandy and Jillian cuddling to keep warm in the 9 degree temps inside the ICE exhibit. Jillian was quite content to be snuggled right next to Aunt Sandy and just peek out to see all the fun.
Meredith LOVED the slide made out of ice - she would have gone down it all day if we would have let her. She did make me promise we could go back and do it again next year.
Meredith looks slightly terrified in this picture, but was actually loving it the whole time. How cool is it that the whole Grinch is made of ice?

No one could resist the train set up at the end of ICE. If you know the Sook family, you wouldn't be surprised to know there was a breakout of singing. PJ just starred in his HS production of White Christmas so everyone re-enacted the train scene from the show. Very fun!

Monday, December 21, 2009

School Christmas Party

I can't remember much that was more exciting about school than the annual Christmas party - I was so happy to get to be a part of Meredith's first one ever! She was pretty excited that she not only got a party but that I got to come up to her class to be there with her friends and teachers.

There were fun games for the kids to play - including decorating the kids like Christmss trees and pin the nose on Frosty. And of course great food - pizza and more cookies than any kid should consume in one day (but since it is a party, moms just look the other direction!)
Meredith and her friend Maddie, getting ready to decorate their friends with Christmas ornaments
Yummy lunch - and look at those too cute cookies!

Church Choir Performance

Meredith has loved getting to spend her Wednesday nights at church with her friends during Choir and Mission Friends (a program where preschoolers learn about different types of Mission work around the world). Last week we got a special treat with Meredith's first Choir performance! All the three-year-olds performed together and sang beautifully!

They started out with Jingle Bells (seemed to be a favorite since they got to come into the room with their very own bells to ring!) and then sang several songs for everyone to enjoy.
Sweet little girl singing along.

Jillian cheering on her favorite choral performer

There was also a song that they sang complete with sign language - love it when they do this!

Before we went to the concert, Meredith was very excited about what snacks they might have that night. I told her that because there was a concert, I wasn't sure there would be snacks. Apparantly, she decided to clear that up with her teacher RIGHT away, because in the middle of one of the songs, Meredith stopped singing and made sure to tell me "Mama, there are snacks! My teacher told me!"

Later, Meredith and a few of her other friends decided that the Christmas music needed some breakdancing. So there were lots of spins on the floor in her fancy dress. They had a blast! I think this picture was just a warm-up for the breakdancing - just a little skirt twirling.
Meredith and her friend, Edie, being silly after the concert.

After the concert, we headed to Campo Verde, a fun Mexican restaurant by our house. They are decorated for Christmas year-round, but really up the amount of lights and garland to a newly-tacky level at Christmas time. All the decorations and a train that runs overhead throughout the restaurant make it a great place for kids, so we went with all of her fans to have a fun week-night treat. Both girls were so excited about all there was to see - Jillian even had a hard time eating with all that was going on around her!

What could be better for an 8 month old than a mirror hitting her at just the right height and surrounded by glittery tinsel and blinking Christmas lights! She was in heaven!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jillian is 8 months old

Another month has flown by and I am still not getting used to the fact that Jillian is growing up so quickly! This month has been lots of fun watching her try so hard to get to everything by pulling herself along on the ground with an expert army crawl. She has started to get up on her hands and knees and rock a bit, so I am sure the true crawling is just around the corner. I know that will be a happy day for Jillian so that she can keep up with her sister just a bit more! That will also mean she can catch up to Coki and Bubbie's dog, Kendal and then the poor dogs will be safe no more!

She has also started pulling up - it started off only happening when she was playing at her music table that seemed to be just the right height, but on Monday, I walked in on a little girl who was refusing to nap and protesting by standing up in the crib! Luckily, Neal moved the mattress down that night to make sure she didn't decide to jump!

Jillian loves to babble and now says both Mama and Dada frequently (of course I would like to think it is always because she wants us, but mostly it is just babbling!) and also Nana - which definitely means "I am not happy. Fix it."

She and Meredith are really starting to have lots of fun together too - Meredith loves to do anything that will make her laugh and of course Jillian loves that too. She is also loving all the Christmas festivities - the lights, the ornaments and especially the presents. The bows on the presents aren't quite the same as they were when I first wrapped them and there are lots of boxes that have slightly torn and crumpled paper courtesy of Jilly Bean. We are looking forward to these next few weeks to get to experience Christmas with her and with Meredith as a big sister!

Meet Sphrunkles

Our house has been blessed with a tiny little elf friend this Christmas season, his name is Sphrunkles. This is a cute little tradition called Elf on the Shelf - the Elf comes to your house and watches to see if you are naughty or nice each day. Then he flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa and then flies back to your house and finds a new place to hide for the next day. We named him for Daddy and Meredith's love of sprinkles on all things sweet - and Neal calls sprinkles sphrunkles just to add a little flair, so we decided that name was perfect. This has been so much fun for Meredith. She used to run to our room each morning as soon as she was up to wake us too. Now, she runs through the house to find Sphrunkles first, then wakes us up to tell us where he is. She also loves talking to him, telling him goodnight, reciting her Santa wish list, and just about anything else.

The other day, after all the Gingerbread men were gone from Landon's visit, there was a request for more in our house. We started out making them and Meredith insisted we make one for Sprhunkles to take with him to the North Pole in case he was hungry. This led her to think that Santa probably needed one too, so we packed up one that she designed for each of them and also sent a note with Sphrunkles to take to Santa.
Meredith roll, roll, rolling the dough
I wanted to take Meredith's picture with Sphrunkles, so I asked her to stand on the counter. One of the rules for the Elf is that you can't touch him , and she takes this VERY seriously - she even makes us walk with our hands behind our backs when we pass him so we don't forget. So she refused to stand because she might touch him. Sitting seemed to be a safe distance.
Sphrunkles, the cookies for he and Santa, and the note that Meredith wrote for them.

Meredith's Preschool Christmas Program

Meredith had quite the cheering section for her first Christmas program. We filled a row with her biggest fans and watched her smile as big as she could the whole time. She seemed to eat up being a performer. And she did great - she sang all the words and was doing huge versions of the dance moves. We were all so proud of her! The whole group of three year olds were amazing. They sang: Happy Hallelujah Christmas Song, The Counting Song (a big favorite for Meredith and her friends to practice after school leading up to the performance), and On a Donkey's Back (this one seems to be her current favorite -we get lots of encores of this one now!)