A Very Merry Christmas

 Christmas is my Super Bowl.  I begin planning and training for it in August!  Little by little each month I gather gifts as they are on sale or clearance!  
 Nothing makes me happier than bringing joy to the kids and Max.
 Kaitlin's big present was Alexa.  It is a speaker that is voice activated to play music, turn on and off lights, tell you the weather, set timers and many other functions we have not figured out yet.  Big Brother has arrived.  Alexa is here to "help" you.
 Hank had quite the Christmas!  He got a drone that he and Max are still trying to figure out how not to crash.
 Karlie was thrilled to get a pair of green Uggs.
 We open one gift at a time to savor the moment.
 Kaitlin got a mermaid tail blanket to cozy up in.
 Hailey gave her giant teddy bear to Hank for Christmas.  He has been snuggled up with him since.
 Hailey got a camera and a computer.  With all the art and school work she is doing, it was time for her to get her own computer.  She was ecstatic!
This was the Christmas Karlie has been waiting for.  She really might be the last one in her grade to get a smartphone.  We give them a flip phone when they go to middle school.  They have 18 months to prove they can responsibly take care of the phone and be in touch when we need them before we allow them to get a smartphone.   Well someone jumped on Karlie's backpack and smashed her phone 4 months ago.  We had been telling her that she did not prove she was ready and she would have to get another flip phone for the rest of 7th grade.

For some crazy reason we keep all the boxes devises come in.  I am a very mean mom and set up a scavenger hunt with all the prior phones and their boxes.  The first one was her flip phone.  I could hardly stifle my laugh as she tried to put her best face forward when she opened the box.  The disappointment was palpable but she tried to smile and not cry.  Then she read the note that told her she would need to use the force to find her phone since we couldn't call her.  On the Star Wars DVD was the next box which was Max's iPhone 4 that was shattered in his car wreck.  The next clue said maybe some epoxy would help repair this phone.  In the garage next to the glue was the next iPhone5 that was also broken.   The next clue said it was time to get a new phone.  Back in our room under the clock was Hailey's broken iPhone 6 with the final clue that told her to be sure not to lose it in the couch.  Under the couch cushion she had been sitting on all morning was her new phone!  She was so excited that big old smile didn't come off her face all morning.  The long wait made it so special.
 Hailey drew a artist rendition of the microanatomy of the lung for one of Max's papers he published. For Christmas she put the picture on a tie for Max.  The coolest tie he has for sure!
 After three hours of opening gifts we had worked up an appetite.  The ladies helped daddy make creamed eggs.
Santa's Elfs celebrated another very merry Christmas.
 We spent the day setting up and playing with toys.  
 I am not sure if the drone was for Hank or Max.
To finish off a wonderful day we had prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, sweet potatoes, and green beans.
 I went to sleep and slept the best I have slept in months as I dreamed of children playing and laughing with all their toys.  Merry.  Joy.  Happy.  Family.  Blessed.  Christmas.

Christmas Eve

We always seem to find ourselves on Christmas Eve without any cookies for Santa.
It might be at the last minute, but we got in decorating cookies.
After cookies it was time to get dressed for church.  It is finally cold enough for a REAL jacket.  All the girls (especially me) were all a twitter about how cute jackets were.  :)
 Our good friends met us there to celebrate the most Holy of Nights.
 It is one of my favorite services to attend and I always cry when we sing Silent Night.
After church we went home to make a feast fit for a king.
 King crab legs, artichokes, pasta and salad.
The kids put an after dinner show together for us.  Karlie always organizes the routine.  She is the Director indeed.
Hank was the comic relief and told jokes in between the musical performances.
Karlie played some beautiful violin pieces, while Hailey and Kaitlin played piano.
Kaitlin and Karlie also tried their hand at singing.  Well, lets just say playing the violin and piano are their strong suits.  LOL
After the lovely performance they got to open their Christmas PJs.
Which is always followed by a painful but traditional family picture session.  Only took 386 this time!
Such a wonderful and beautiful day getting ready for the best day of the year!

Chef Karlie

Karlie loves to cook.  We were lucky enough to be treated to a six course dinner completely created and executed by Karlie and her staff of sous-chefs.
 Karlie carefully researched her courses and made a grocery list of the things she would need.  We went shopping together to get the ingredients.  The night she was cooking she set up a romantic setting in the dining room.  We were to stay there and play cards and chat.  We were not allowed in the kitchen!
The appetizer was a platter of goat cheese, fresh cut pears, and crackers.  Next was the salad course with a homemade Caesar salad that was followed by a made from scratch creamy beet soup.  The fourth course was broiled baguette with a cream cheese and fig spread.  The main course was home made Alfredo sauce and pasta with fresh herbs.  The elegant dinner ended with homemade cupcakes and frosting.  She paired a white wine with the meal.  Kaitlin and Hank helped her and waited on us while she cooked up a storm.  I am pretty sure at her age I didn't even know goat cheese existed, how to bake a box cake mix, or had ever had beet soup or figs.  I felt so lucky.  Not only did she want to spoil us, it was delicious and she did the dishes! What a girl!  Possibly my favorite Christmas gift ever.  If Notre Dame doesn't work out, I am quite sure the culinary schools will be more than happy to take Chef Karlie.

Christmas At The Princess

Every year the kids look forward to celebrating the Christmas season at the Princess.
 The resort transforms into a Christmas wonderland with polar slides, a carousel, a Ferris wheel, a train ride, three million Christmas lights, and ice skating.
 It has been fun to watch the festivities evolve over the time we have been here.  It has grown each year to the point where it was an all out event with tons of people this year.  But we still found magic in the evening.  We will just go much earlier in the season next year, not two days before Christmas!
The ice skating is what the kids cherish the most. 
 It is overpriced and was quite crowded this time.  However,  there just seems to be something special about ice skating next to Saguaro cactus with fake snow falling on you.
 We brought two of Hailey's friends along to join in the fun.
 My sweet girls love to ice skate.  They are getting better and hardly fell.
However, Hank the wrecking ball was a terror on the ice.  He seems to not learn from his mistakes and would take off like a steam engine and go crashing full speed into the ice.  Over and over and over.  His pants were soaked by the end of it.  But you couldn't convince him to slow down or get that sweet smile of his face.  I would have needed an ambulance if I fell just once the way he routinely fell but he just kept skating and crashing!
 The grounds are gorgeous.  We took a walk around the whole property to see all the lights.
 The lights on the giant Christmas tree are choreographed to music.  It is mesmerizing. 
It was a fun evening and certainly got us in the mood for Christmas.
 Maybe even an evening fit for a princess.

Brace Face Times Three

You really know your kid is growing up when it is time for braces.  Oh how much Kaitlin has grown! She is our tender flower.  She feels things very deeply, so deeply she passed out when Karlie got her ears pierced.  Out of sheer worry for her sister she passed out!  Well, she managed to do fine when she got her own ears pierced but when the big day came to change her earrings she passed out cold.  We had to finish changing them with her on the floor.
Ever since then she would get a little green around the gills if we touched her ears.  Well, at her consultation appointment she had to take her earrings out for the panorama scan.  I told them of her history and had her sit for a while after I took them out.  They took her off to X-ray room and I went to see how Karlie and Hank were doing in the lobby.  A few minutes later they urgently come out and told me they need help with Kaitlin.  The woman was holding her up while Kaitlin was limp as a dead fish.  I lied her down and put her feet up trying to bring her to.  However she had been out so long it was taking a very long time and she sort of seized.  I began giving her sternal rub and told them to call the Dr.  However, just at that moment she came to.  It was the scariest few minutes I have had in a long time.  You can imagine after that episode they wanted to treat Kaitlin very gently!  She got her top braces on first and we will go back in a few weeks for round two.  She handled it like a champ.  I think as long as her ears are not involved it is going to be smooth sailing.

Christmas Craziness

After Thanksgiving it is a wild ride until Christmas.  Everyday there seems to be an activity or party.
 I went with Kaitlin's class to the Halle Heart Museum where we spent the morning learning about the heart.  I am so sad knowing this is the last elementary field trip my big 5th grader will go on.  They are all growing up so fast.
One Saturday morning Hank had his school flag football tournament where they play all the other schools in the district.  His team took first place!
Karlie made a club volleyball team this year.  We experienced our first all day tournament balancing act.  I had to leave her tournament to coach Kaitlin's volleyball team and then we were hosting a Christmas party so we had to rely on one of the team mom's to bring Karlie home.  There are so many moving parts these days!
Every morning I put a silly joke in their lunch.  I had been sending Christmas jokes and one morning I found this note from Hank.  Pretty much Christmas Joy for this mama.
Some mornings the kids would have a special treat in the advent calendar.  Can't have Christmas without Gingerbread Houses.
One day they came home to a Christmas bed!
 This year we bought a larger tree for our main tree and upgraded our States Tree with our old one.  One morning they went on a hunt to find the new tree skirt that says Family 50.
 Every Christmas they get an ornament from the states we visited that year.  This year was the Needle in Washington, the tornado for Oklahoma, and the Razorbacks football for Arkansas.
They also got the guitar for Tennessee, the Gateway Arch for Missouri, a picture of Churchill Downs for Kentucky, and the sunflower for Kansas.  We love putting this tree up every year and remembering the adventures we have had on the MKHKKH Family 50.
Disney is making seeing the new Star Wars every Christmas a new tradition in our house.  They got Star Wars Socks and movie tickets one morning.
 This time of year wouldn't be complete without a rumble with dad around the Christmas tree.
Watching the kids sing Christmas songs at church is one of my favorite parts.  The little boy in front of Hank picked his nose the entire time.  Everyone was laughing, except maybe his mother.
 Oh the parties!  Our neighborhood had a Christmas party and Hank won 1st place for the gingerbread decorating contest.  We figured it must have been in the most toppings used category.
I am room mom in both Kaitlin and Hank's classes which means you get to organized the parties.  I adore Kaitlin's teacher.  She is so much fun and had a great idea for the kids to have to find a piece of Hubba Bubba gum on a plate covered in whip cream.  The first one to find it, chew it, and blow a bubble won!
 The kids loved it and it was hilarious!!
 In both Kaitlin's and Hank's class the kids had to follow instructions to draw a snowman on a paper plate on top of their head.
 Oh the giggles!  Hank's class also did a penguin relay race where they had a scarf around their legs and had to waddle with snow balls (cotton balls) on a spoon around an obstacle course.  Might have had a few injuries.  I am not sure what mom thought that would be a good idea.  I was so busy I didn't have time to snap any pics but there would have been lots of kids on the floor.  I guess I will scrap that one from future parties.
We hosted a Christmas dinner with some of our closest friends.  We had a Mexican feast with prickly pear margaritas.  It was a very fun night for all.  
You know it was a good time when someone ends up in a elf suit and 3 out of 5 of the cars guest drove are still in your driveway at 10 am the next morning!
 It was really fun because each of the kids had friends to party with too.
 We had a hot chocolate bar and cookie decorating station for the kids.
Each one of these families came from other states with in the last 6 years.  We are so grateful for the friends that have become like family here in the desert.  
 Kaitlin and I made snowflakes on the winter solstice.  This is about as close to snow as we are going to get.
 Kaitlin has the gift of baking.  She baked two loaves of bread.  One for us and she had Holly take the Christmas loaf to Santa.  She is the Christmas spirit for sure.
With school out and the anticipation rising, I took these wild things to AZ Airtime to blow off some steam.  Our little splash brothers are like little puppies that play, wrestle and a run until they have nothing left and then they collapse in a heap and fall asleep.
These two fell asleep waiting for me to come snuggle.  I couldn't believe how much they look alike.  The wonder, the magic, the busyness of the season is put to bed until next year.