Wednesday, December 31, 2014

the {south} life 2014

This past year has been one big highlight after another--I think the boys getting older and them being able to enjoy more things has maybe a little something to do with it.

So cheers to a great 2014...

Logan put on the big boy underwear. FOR GOOD.

Jen & I did Chicago.

& I captured some of my most favorite images of the boys.

Celebrated SIX years of being husband and wife.

Took in the St. Patrick's Day Warm-up Parade--our favorite holiday.

Celebrated Daddy's birthday with our first of many trips to The K.

Visited Pier 39 while on a family trip to San Francisco.

Logan turned THREE with a "Bad Guys" birthday party.

Grammy Janet retires after 43 years of teaching.

Our countless evening trips to the pool.

The Pitt Smokers take Grand Champion.

The boys' first trip to the pond.

Two weeks of Miss Leah.

Justin and I did Vegas.

A trip to the Lake.

Kaden starts Pre-K & turns FIVE!

ONE amazing vacation.

Kaden learns to ride a bike with NO training wheels.

We said good-bye to Logan's locks.

A Royal October & a trip to Game 7 of the World Series.

A 99 year celebration of life with family.

Thursday night dinners with Papa Tom.

Logan does gymnastics.

Kaden's pre-school Christmas program. 

Cookie decorating party.

A Christmas Day Adventure

A Hartley Christmas

The first thing I noticed when I started pulling this post together was the lack of pictures that went along with our Hartley Christmas. Please don't make the mistake of correlating the amount of pictures with how great our Christmas was, because it might be hard to find something I love more than being with family & in this case, all of our family.

My mom and dad decided to have their Christmas celebration the weekend following Christmas. We would get together around lunchtime, exchange gifts, lay the kids down for naps and then once everyone was up we would head over to the Hartley Christmas with all our aunts, uncles and cousins. We had a lot to fit into our 36 hours we were in town but we were going to make it happen and soak it up.

We left fairly early on Saturday morning & as soon as we got on the highway the song that reminds me of my Grandma Hartley came on the radio---she was totally with us and knew exactly how to start the  Hartley Family weekend off. 

The boys were not at all tired. They talked they whole ride down & we were all very excited to pull into my mom and dad's. 

We unpacked as everyone else started arriving and as soon as everyone was accounted for we started handing out gifts. But not before noticing the beautiful white snow falling and before capturing a family picture with Mom and Dad. 

Grandma Sara asked for a little help from Kaden, Maddie, Logan and Leah. Leah would read each present and the littles would pass them out. Maddie was really only interested when her name was on the presents but these two little elves passed out every single gift. & Leah pulled off a great photo bomb.

Like I had mentioned in the South Family Christmas post, us Hartleys have decided to adopt the South way of opening gifts---one at a time, youngest to oldest with the kiddos. We made it around twice before it was a free for all. Probably best for all involved too.

And as you can see the Superhero theme continued but it wasn't all they received, they each also got a really cool V-Tech watch. You can play games on the watch, take pictures and videos or just learn to tell time. It has been a big hit.

The other hit, this guy. & I don't mean Logan either, although he is always a hit in my book.

He came out for lunch with us all and I am sure the moment he stepped into the house he was overwhelmed by the noise, we can be a loud bunch. This wonderful man has a way with small children, they flock to him---I chalk that up to the yummy goodies he gives out. Madison climbed on his lap for pie. Kaden and Logan were right behind for M&Ms. And although it's a great icebreaker and it gets the kids all warmed up, they could careless about the candy because the back scratching is where it is at. I know that when I was a little kid I would sit in front of my Grandma or on her lap and she would do the same thing---just sit there, rocking, scratching my back. It breaks my heart knowing our boys won't be able to meet her & know her like I did. To feel her love. And although she isn't here, I am so very thankful that Papa Richard is and that he is able to share some of those specials things we all love and miss about her with my boys.

After the gifts were ripped open and the wrapping paper was all picked up and handed to Papa Tom, Kaden went to work on his Lego set while Logan found a comfy bed and snoozed. Naps aren't always a requirement at Papa Tom's and Grandma Sara's but they help, especially when the boys stay up till the late hours of the night with everyone else. This was going to be one of those nights, we were off to our 2nd Christmas for the day. 

The adults do a gift exchange--one for the men, one for the women but before the gift exchange the kids get to open up their gifts. Our family is the best, my dad has two brothers & each one of them along with their families buy for our kids, Madison and Blake since they don't participate in the big gift exchange. They do this out of the kindness of their hearts. The boys certainly don't need more gifts, or we could bring something for them to open but no, they insist on getting the little kids something. & Kaden and Logan got a winner---look at these handmade Superhero capes that my Cousin Brad's partner's mom whipped together. They were so excited, and once again, fit the theme of Christmas. They also got some really cute stocking hats & a bag full of fun toys and candy, the glow stick is stilled used to this day at bedtime! 

The following morning we all--10 of us--were up and out the door by 8:30. One of Mom and Dad's request was to have us all at their C3 church service with them. We may have filled an entire row but we were all there, that hasn't happened in years & I know it meant the world to my mom and dad. Since there wasn't much time for breakfast before they took us out for breakfast after church. We ate at Granny Shafer's in Joplin & had this little room all to ourselves. The kids pancakes were bigger than Logan---Kaden, Logan, and Maddie all ordered them. I got my own order of blueberry pancakes and thankfully only got one because they too were massive---Leah was trying to figure out how she was going to finish her double stack. Wasn't happening. Not in a million years.

It's not often that my mom and Dad are able to sit at the table and enjoy a meal with their entire family and not do the cooking themselves. Or the cleanup. We left there with full bellies and full hearts.

Jennifer and her kids headed out as soon as we got back and we settled in for the Chiefs game. We sat and watched as the Chiefs beat the Chargers and their season came to an end. We loaded up shortly after the game and said our goodbyes. On our way home I got one more reminder that Grandma had been with us the entire weekend celebrating from above. Every time I see a PINK and ORANGE sky, I think of her. The evening that she passed away and was welcomed into her forever home the sky was just as beautiful...

I know she is looking down at us with a sense of pride, she & Papa Richard created quite the legacy.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A South Christmas

For the last few years we have hosted Christmas brunch at our house with Justin's side of the family. Justin usually cooks way too much food but we somehow find a way to try everything & then we gather around as the boys help pass out presents to one another. The first time I was fortunate to take part in a South Christmas my mind was blown. For good reason though. Growing up it was a free for all when it came to unwrapping presents. We tore open gifts, paper went flying, gifts went flying and in a matter of minutes it was over. The South household wouldn't be caught dead doing this. It's a strict one person at a time & we work our way around the circle. The kids get a little more leniency and often unwrap at the same time but we ensure it isn't total chaos. & before they were able to start unwrapping their gifts, they had to pose for a couple pictures---as you can tell I am not afraid to withhold certain things until the boys give us what we want...

On top of the yearly ornaments which we get the boys, Janet also gets them an ornament with a picture of them from the year. As you can see, Kaden's is from Halloween when he was Captain Hook. Logan's was from our trip to St. Maarten. The boys love getting these ornaments and jet right over to the tree to hang them with their others. They get a kick out seeing their pictures throughout the year and  love showing them off to anyone who will take the time to look at them. 

The boys are pretty lucky to have such a cool Grammy and Aunt & Uncle because they got some pretty cool toys and games. They added a few more games to their very young Wii collection. 

They added a few new books to their extensive collection but these books are special books because Kaden is just starting to learn all his site words and hopefully will be reading these before heading off to Kindergarden. 

& Kaden just knew that there was something more in the bottom of this box. If only he could just reach it…

Logan was in awe of his new toys & just couldn't wait to play with them. We kept saying "be patient my son" & although he was, he now uses that line on us ALL the time! 

Sometimes it's hard to get super excited about a South holiday because it doesn't always feel special. We see each other all the time. & one might think--wow, that's harsh Kayla but you would be totally wrong. Justin and I are beyond blessed to live so close to his family & even more grateful that we enjoy being around each other as much as we are. Yes, it may be just like any other weekend get together (with the addition of presents) but I wouldn't want it any other way. 

Christmas Morning

I swear, Christmas morning just keeps getting better and better. I think its more magical as a parent--the boys are at such a wonderful age when it comes to celebrating the magic of Christmas and the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. & His birth has kind of paved the way for our Christmas mornings when it comes to presents. But our gifts aren't the first gifts they got to see and open…

(& forgive me for the crappy photos--I pretty much put the camera down and used my phone for Christmas morning & then turned my camera on auto for the rest of the day. I wanted to be as present as I could be while still capturing memories!)

I thought the boys would wake up earlier than normal but for some reason they slept in later than normal. Once they were up, both Justin and I ran downstairs so we could watch their reactions. As soon as we gave the okay they barreled down the stairs and abruptly stopped right smack dab in front of the tree. 

It took no time before they knew exactly what Santa had left them--a Wii with a few accessories and a Skylanders game. They looked it over  quickly and then went straight to the stockings. Out of the stockings came the usuals--underwear, toothbrushes, socks---and a few surprises too--flashlights, gum, finger puppets, new arts and crafts markers and pencils, slap bracelets & EOS Chapstick. We probably could have ended Christmas there and they would have been totally satisfied but there was more. 

Now back to the gifts we get for the boys...

My sister started a wonderful tradition with her kids and I knew as soon as we had kids ourselves that we would do something similar. The boys get three gifts a piece---a wear, a read & a want. Why three? Well, if three gifts were good enough for Baby Jesus, then three gifts are certainly good enough for our boys. On top of the three gifts we did one family gift that would be taking us on a little adventure later on in the day.

The read. I was in IKEA about a month or so ago and saw that they had large hardback books that had matching stuff animals to go with each story. Logan got The Frog Prince with came with both a princess and a frog that transformed into a prince--it's pretty sweet. Kaden got The Elk King which came with a HUGE elk that he believes is a moose, we thought it was appropriate considering Moose is one of his most favorite Royals. 

The wear: Logan received a Batman sweatshirt and a Superman t-shirt. & here I thought Kaden loved Superheroes--not as much as Logan does. Each day he has to wear something in the Superhero family, some days you can catch him in a Spiderman shirt, a Superman hat and Batman underwear--seriously, no joke. Anyways, I found this Batman sweartshirt that has Batman ears on it at H&M and knew he had to have it. 

Kaden's wear wasn't as exciting, a sweatshirt and plaid collared shirt from H&M. 

The want. The boys have been asking for some sort of Power Ranger phone with keys and low and behold, I actually found one at Target. And on sale. & you know if I get one for one of the boys, the other needs the exact same thing. Their eyes lit up the moment they ripped open these boxes and I think I heard a This is the BEST Christmas EVER coming from Kaden's direction. 

As soon as the boys were finished opening their gifts Justin started the Blueberry Butter Braid and I went to work on setting up the Wii. It didn't take long and both boys were cruising away on Mario Kart. They spent most of the morning in 11th and 12th place but trust me, it didn't take long before Kaden was winning trophies left and right. 

We put our lil family Christmas on pause as we celebrated the South Christmas but once things had settled down and we picked up the house a little we told the boys it was time to jump in the car, we had a surprise. 

They had no idea where we were going or for how long because they didn't realize I had packed their suitcase. As we were driving we asked if there was any place they would like to go---Kaden's response was to play at Korie's & Logan's was Ummm, let me think about it, to maybe stay in someone else's house? He was pretty darn close. We pulled up to Great Wolf Lodge and they both were wondering if we were at a giant house or a hotel, the log cabin look was throwing them off. I explained that we were staying in a hotel but that wasn't the only surprise…

Luckily for us it wasn't all that busy on Christmas Day and they had a room ready to go for us at 1. As we headed to our room we pulled the boys over to see the REAL surprise, the water park. Is that for us? Can we go in there? & then Kaden immediately became worried, what about his swimsuit he asked. No worries, Mommy & Daddy took care of everything. 

For the next few hours the boys explored the water park and to my surprise, Logan jumped right in and was floating on his back. Justin and I were both amazed by how brave he was considering he was still a little timid at the end of the summer when it came to swimming and getting his face all wet. 

They loved the lazy river and the slides in the kiddie pool but there favorite by far was the 1000 gallons of water being dumped every five minutes. They started out standing on the very edge of where the water would rush and cover your feet like a wave would but after each dump they would gain a little courage and move a little closer. With each step closer Kaden took, Logan was right behind him. 

We could tell the boys were starting to get tired and their timing was pretty perfect since someone's kiddo pooped in the kiddie pool closing it down for a few hours so we took this opportunity to explore the hotel & to eat. The arcade was another favorite. 

And it came as no surprise that both boys were out like the light when their heads hit their pillows. It had been one amazing morning followed by one amazing water park adventure. 

Kaden and Daddy woke up a little earlier than Logan and they decided to head home to let the dogs out and to bring us breakfast. The water park wasn't opening that morning until 9 so Logie and I had a little snuggle time. 

But you better believe that at 8:59, the boys were lined up ready to go back to the park. I spent the majority of the morning bribing Kaden to go down one of the bigger slides in the treehouse. I pulled out what I thought was all the stops--$10 dollars, a new NERF gun (he is saving his money for one) for both he and Logan, even asked him what he would like--but no such luck. He wasn't about to go down it, he needed someone he knew to show him it was okay. Maybe next time. Maybe on our upcoming Disney Cruise. 

Checkout was at 11 and although we could have stayed all day to use the water park, we were leaving town the next morning and we knew the boys would be just as happy at home playing with their new toys from Christmas morning, after all, they hadn't really gotten to play with them since we left around lunchtime on Christmas Day. 

I'll admit, I was a little hesitant on GWL but it turned out to be the perfect way to spend our Christmas afternoon. Just me and my three boys. The boys had perma-grins throughout the entire day--minus one little breakdown from Logan but we chalk that up to sheer exhaustion. I couldn't help but just look at them in amazement and awe, this was my life. Two little boys who couldn't be better friends to one another, who love us unconditionally no matter how "mean" Daddy and I have to be at times. Two little boys who might only be three and five but could teach me more about loving one another than I could teach them. Best. Christmas. Ever. 


Each year the boys get a new ornament. This is something which I did growing up and wanted to keep the tradition going with my boys. Our tree each year consists of ornaments from my childhood, a new South family ornament & then the kids add one to it each year.  Plus this year Janet gave me a few of Justin's from his childhood & they will get to join the mix next year.  The theme this year was Superheroes & I can see this being a theme for years to come as they are totally obsessed. Kaden's was the Amazing Spiderman--he loves their movies right now. Logan got the Batmobile & it plays the Batman theme song. They each loved being able to play it once before heading off to bed. I loved watching them shake their booty as it played.