Sunday, December 29, 2013

Leg Wrestling Anyone?

I interrupt my Christmas recap to bring a few extra smiles to your face & hopefully a few good chuckles too.

For anyone that knows me, I am pretty competitive when it comes to basically anything. & for as long as I can remember my family has always had some sort of competition or tournament during the holidays. One year it was Mario Kart on the Wii. Another year it was a Pitch Tournament or  Pool Tournament. And when we were younger we always had Leg Wrestling Tournaments. Not only does it make for a great laugh but it allows a certain nephew to know that even though he may be bigger than his mother, he still isn't as strong!

& its never too early to start practicing the fine art of Leg Wrestling. I just know this will be an Olympic Sport in 2028.

and take two…

But by far, my most favorite video is of Kaden and his high jump. His Uncle Zack will be proud when he sees this. The back story--Kaden, Logan and their Cousin Colton were "high jumping" the other night and it was pretty cute to watch them go back and forth. Colton had a "huddler" style while Kaden  was most certainly a long jumper or high jumper. So of course after Justin and I got done telling the story we got out a yard stick and had Kaden go for it again. Notice his attire---he loves to be in absolutely nothing but his underwear.

& because we can't just can't record it once…

The second attempt is never as good as the first but the running in place and the slapping of his hands is pretty priceless & of course ME TOO had his turn at it too.

This is what holidays are all about. Loved being home and spending some much needed time with some of my favorite people in the world.

The Biggest Tree EVER

Everyone is always talking about how magical Crown Center is over the holidays and it was about time we checked it out too. Our initial plans were to go last Saturday, the 21st but a little snow/freezing rain kind of got in our way. With only days left before Christmas & very few nights open, Becky & I loaded up the boys and headed out to see the "biggest Christmas Tree EVER".

& of course we would leave it till the 23rd so of course that meant it would be the COLDEST night of the year yet & the weatherman kept his word. We got there just as it was getting dark, found a great parking spot, only to be told it was private parking and that I would have to move my Yukon.  & For the record, I still hold my ground on the fact I was not parked on private property & this "valet attendant" was just lazy.

We had decided that since it was dinner time that we would just treat the boys to dinner at Fritz's, they love the trains & since we have one 4 year old that doesn't recognize his own inside voice, it makes for a pretty good spot. Only issue, the line was winding around and around. They kids probably would have done just fine waiting but I wasn't even wanting to attempt it so we settled for D'Bronx which ended up being a WAY better choice. The boys devoured their pizzas and cheese bread in no time.

We had one of the best seats in the house--right across from the "Biggest tree EVER" & honestly, we contemplated standing the boys up in front of the glass and taking their picture and calling it a night but what kind of moms would we be…

So we bundled the kids up from head to toe and took off on the freezing 30 yard walk to the tree. The boys, were so excited. But not because of the tree but because of the SNOW that was on the ground. We did a little bribing to get them to "cooperate" for a few pictures and then we turned them loose for what seemed like 30 minutes but in reality was only about 3 minutes long. They ran through & checked out each of the houses in the holiday village & finally were ready to go when they weren't able to feel their noses!

Once in the car we announced that we had one last surprise for them---we had some special "trains" to show them & drove over to Union Station. We were hoping that there were a couple trains outside lit up so that we could just do a drive by but when we pulled up, it was as dark as it could be--we had a few bummed kiddos so we hatched a back-up plan & went on the search for some neighborhood Christmas lights. 

20 minutes later, a few wrong turns & detours and we found exactly what we were looking for, only problem---the boys were a little less than excited. They seriously were over our Christmas Lights outing  & asking to go home. Crown Center Magical? It certainly was for Becky & I but maybe next year we will have to do our Christmas Tree/Lights Tour a few weeks earlier when hopefully it isn't as cold out. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Me Too.

Let's face it, we should have named him Me Too. 

Every other phrase out of his mouth is "Me Too." "Me Too."

& so it only made sense that when I was going through his closet looking for something for Logie to wear today that I found this sweatshirt. It has always been one of my favorite shirts of Kaden's but the poor guy only got to wear it once because it shrunk too much in the dryer…Oops. Even though he only wore it once, I was able to get my most favorite picture of him EVER!

So of course I just had to take a few pictures of Logie to be able to compare them to one another. Now in this picture Kaden is a little over three and Logie just turned 2 1/2. 

& of course the outdoors image with Kaden is much better quality because it was so much nicer and we could capture him outside but there is just something about this little man that just makes my heart flutter. Every. Single. Time. I look at him. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

I think I love being a parent during Christmastime more than being a kid. It really is the most magical time of the year. & to me, I look at this picture & all that comes to mind is...


in HIM.

A Different Kind of Christmas Eve

This year Christmas Eve was spent a little differently than every other Christmas Eve I can remember. Most Christmas Eve's we are with my parents. We typically spend the night on the 23rd and then celebrate as a family on the 24th. We finish our little trip off with a Hartley Christmas & then drive back to KC to set out milk & cookies & we tuck the boys into bed as we try to get everything ready for Santa's arrival--if we make it to bed before 1, we are in good shape.

Christmas has a number of reasons to celebrate & at the top of my list--family. So when we found out that my brother had to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day working, there was no question about figuring out a different day for us all to be together. & since we wouldn't be traveling on Christmas Eve, we decided to spend the day baking. Baking with family--Justin's family.

Now, I may not cook, but I can bake with the best of them & wanted to try out some new recipes from Pinterest & my all time holiday favorite of my Grandma Dorothy's. & since we would have SOOO many different treats, we figured why not share them with our neighbors & lucky for us, Grammy, Becky & Colton were all for helping out and bringing some of their favorite recipes too.

Justin and I both did a little prepping--we made dough for our Rolo stuffed Snickerdoodles, dough for our Sugar Cookies & the Oreo Fudge ahead of time. I had all the ingredients ready to go so we could just plow through everything. I truly had no idea just how long all of this would take but I was fully prepared for an all day baking extravaganza.

My two little guys were starting to get a little impatient and needed something to do so I put them to work on their first baking project--lining up their pretzels for our Chocolate Covered M&M Pretzels. For every one pretzel they placed on their cookie sheet, they ate two. Same thing happened with the kisses...

Next up, Rolo Stuffed Snickerdoodles--and Becky & Colton rocked these out. & as an added tip--don't use the regular rolos, that would be a nightmare to unwrap but buy the minis they are slightly smaller, already unwrapped & you don't have to use as much dough for each cookie which means more cookies! After Becky and Colton stuffed each cookie, all three boys and Grammy took to adding a little color to the cookies…

As you can see, Logan LOVED the red sugar sprinkles, a little too much.

& while the Rolo Stuffed Snickerdoodles were being prepped for the oven, I took on my Grandma Dorothy's bite size Smore's--my favorite holiday treat. & no one can make them like she could but just making them makes me feel as though she is right there beside me.

Next up on the baking agenda, sugar cookies. It was time to let the boys ice their cookies for Santa so we went to Pinterest to find the perfect icing recipe. We were wanting something that was a little thicker, not so messy so the boys could possibly ice them all on their own but everything we found looked somewhat runny--i.e. Royal Icing. Just not what we were thinking, so we kept looking and finally ran into a fluffy white icing that had crushed candy canes in it & luckily for us Justin actually had marshmallow fluff on hand and Janet had brought some too. We were in business & in the end, the Candy Cane Sugar Cookies ended up being my favorite cookie that we made, totally festive.

Grammy Janet made peanut butter balls--with a touch of paraffin & Justin's Grandmother Ruth's Peanut Butter Fudge--both of which the boys did flips over!

Oreo Fudge

& after all the baking was over, all that was left was to deliver them to our neighbors. The boys, along with Colton, walked up to each of our neighbors, handed them the Christmas goodies & wished them all a Merry Christmas. We might not live in the "youngest" of neighborhoods but it doesn't bother me one bit because although we aren't the only one with kids on our street, our neighbors just adore our boys. Then again, who doesn't!

And although this might not turn into a Christmas tradition that occurs each Christmas Eve, it will certainly not be the last time that we have a holiday bake-a-thon as a family. It was so great to be around family & to be able to just enjoy our time, sure we were making candies and sweets, but it didn't seem like work. It was enjoyable. It was one of those many reasons to celebrate Christmas that I was talking about--family. There's nothing better.


Playing Christmas Catch-Up…

As we have started our own family, holidays have become more and more of a challenge when it comes to ensuring we see both sides of the family--but we make it happen.

This year we did things a little different for the Hartley side but not on the South side. For as long as I can remember we have always gotten together on Christmas morning for brunch. We spend the early morning with our little family & then around 9:30 or 10 we come together & celebrate. We often have way too much food--waffles, biscuits and gravy, bacon, sausage, cinnamon roll casserole (even better than regular cinnamon rolls!), fruit, eggs, & hash browns. As always, Justin doesn't disappoint & we were all so incredibly stuffed but not too stuffed that the boys couldn't open a few gifts!

But before we opened any gifts, the boys had to take their annual picture with Grammy & please note, the boys have yet to take their pjs off--we are trying to stay in pjs as much as possible these days!

We always start with the kids & we always start with stockings. They were filled with lots of goodies & their annual ornament where Grammy chooses one of her favorite pictures from the year and marks it with the date. Both boys instantly ran over to the tree to hang it up, right beside their 2012 ornament & in Logan's case, right beside his 2011 ornament too!

Even the dogs got something special & I think Stoli approves. 

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme from Kaden's birthday played a major roll in Christmas too. & I love that the boys got the same Turtle van that my brother and I played with when we were little. 

They also got a really cool race track from Cousin Colton. Cool & Big--thankfully we have a train table where if fit perfectly. & good thing this mom is good at putting boy toys together or we would have some very sad little boys. 

I am so happy that Fishlegs the Elf asked the kids to donate toys because they received more gifts then they know what to do with. We know that we are beyond blessed to give our boys a wonderful holiday but we also try our best to keep things in perspective. After all, it isn't about the presents, its about a whole lot more--family being one thing. & our family is very fortunate to see each other often. Grammy lives only miles away, as does Adam, Becky & Colton but that doesn't make Christmas any less special. Sure we may see each other once, sometimes twice a week but its hardly spent just being. Usually we are off running to see Nanny, or we are celebrating a birthday with dinner out, or it could be just dropping off the boys while we run a few errands. On this day, we just got to sit back & watch the boys play with all their new toys & have time to remember just how blessed we truly are. We have three very healthy boys, who are going to grow up best of friends. Two "bigger" boys who love their mom with all their heart & would do anything for her which only warms my heart more because I can see exactly how my boys will be when they get older. I couldn't ask for a more loving & caring family to marry into.

The holidays bring so many magical moments & wonderful memories & just like each year keeps getting better with the boys, I imagine the holidays will too.

Still to come--The Hartley Christmas.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Tradition-Ornament Style

I am sure I am not alone with this one--each year growing up my mom & dad, probably more my mom than my dad, got us each a new ornament. Each ornament had some sort of special meaning behind it…

Like a baby's first Christmas ornament, a la 1982. 

Or an ornament from 1983 when I was no longer the baby of the family--can you believe that 1982 baby's first Christmas & then 1983 I get shoved aside and a new baby's First Christmas ornament goes up for my brother. Way to take away my spotlight dude!

1990--we got this guy on our family vacation to Disney World.

2005--my mom & dad bought this ornament for Justin & I's first tree together, in our first home together.

Once I got my own tree my mom handed me the rest of my ornaments to fill my tree. & I figured why not keep the tradition going with my boys--each year we would pick out an ornament that captures either what they like or who they are during the past year. 

When it came to find this year's ornaments, it was pretty simple. In fact, a few friends did the work for me, they had sent me links and Pins that they thought the boys would like & they couldn't have been more right. 

This year we went with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle theme. Leo for Logan and Raphael for Kaden. At first Kaden was the only one really interested in TMNTs but it doesn't take long before lil' brother Logan follows along right behind his big brother. Before we knew it, we were buying him his own Leo pillowpet to go right along with Kaden's Raph pillowpet. So it just made sense to get two--one for each boy. 

I am not sure if my boys will appreciate this little tradition as much as I do looking back over my childhood but maybe someday their wives will & as they have children maybe they will continue the same tradition. Our tree isn't just covered in random ornament (we do have some) but instead, covered with 32+ years of memories & counting. 


I love that not only were they hand painted but they have their names and 2013 on it as well. & if you son or daughter are into something specific & you would like to order something for next year check out her site…TheGildedMoose