Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas, Round 2

Is it us, or does Christmas last forever nowadays? We welcome it-- the longer Christmas lasts, the more friends, family, and gifts there are!

After a whirlwind celebration with Frank's family, my family came to town. We were looking forward to the visit and rest and relaxation, but it also meant one thing to Tyler-- more Christmas! He was so surprised to find that Santa paid a visit to Grammy and Granpy's house in Indiana as well as his home in Massachusetts.
After we rounded up all the troops, it was time to sort the gifts and get to work! Tyler soon discovered that Santa is a very smart man and he knew just what Tyler wanted.

Fortunately, Santa knew that Tyler had asked for the Tag Reading System (no complaints from his mom and dad on that gift request, either!).
As for the rest of the gifts under the tree, there were surprises as well! Grammy got a wonderful Polish Pottery tray:
Frank was ecstatic over his new Wii hockey game:
Frank was ever more excited (as was Tyler) to open his new Islanders neon sign for Man Town in the basement:
The best gift of the night? Granpy's Green Bay Packers Snuggie. That's right, a Snuggie. Every time Grampy comes to our home he asks where we keep our Snuggies. Now he doesn't need to ask, he has his own!
Ever since I can remember, we always got full stockings on Christmas morning. Usually they were full of candy, little trinkets, soaps, you get the picture. As we got older, the gifts became more interesting. Shower caps, sewing kits, pens, all with hotel logos on them. Being newer in the family, Frank thought this was hilarious and throughout the year we would stock up on all the freebies we got at fairs and during Frank's college visits. Since there were no official stockings this year at Christmas, round 2, Granpy found a new way to "surprise" Frank:
By filling a freebie laptop case with all the goodies! Although I did say that there were no official stockings at this celebration, there was one reserved for Granpy-- filled with all the goodies he gave us last year and more goodies we picked up through the course of this year. Only the next 365 days will tell us what next years stockings will be filled with!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

This year we celebrated Christmas in Massachusetts with Frank's family. We were so excited to stay at home and host everyone for the holiday. It also meant a lot that they were willing to forgo their usual holiday traditions at home and bring their party to us! By lunchtime everyone had arrived and the kids were dying to start ripping into some gifts! First, I was determined to grab some family shots before things became too crazy.

After awhile, there was no holding them back any longer. We decided to let the kids open their gifts from Grandma and Papa and from the parents on Christmas Eve. This served a dual role: the kids had new toys to play with while we relaxed, cooked, and watched sports, and it meant that Christmas morning was saved for gifts from the big guy!
I thought this shot was kind of funny-- all the adults watching the kids rip into their gifts and documenting the occasion as good parents do!
Tyler's gift from us? Star Wars stuff, of course! We got him the Disturbance at Lars Homestead playset, something he saw at Toys R Us one day and just had to have!

After we were done with gifts, it was time to get ready for Santa's visit. We put out milk, cookies, and carrots inside for Santa and the reindeer, but we also wanted to make sure that the reindeer found their way to the house and the kids ventured outside to spread the reindeer food. Back inside, the kids put on their jammies and proceeded to play Star Wars.

After a bit, dinner had settled and it was time for dessert. This year, Tyler and I made a Christmas tree birthday cake for Jesus. The kids sang Happy Birthday and blew out the candles and then it was time to eat again! We had this cake, chocolate chip cheesecake, sugar cookies, and a delicious peanut butter pie that my sister-in-law whipped up during the day. Yummy!

Right before bed, Frank read all the kids "Twas the Night Before Christmas". I had to capture the shot:

After storytime, it was time for the kids to hit the sack. We waited until we knew they were all asleep and then we put our elf caps on and went to work.

For some people at 4 Brookside Circle, Christmas morning start very early-- like the 4 o'clock hour early. Cousin Conor woke very early and could not get back to sleep. luckily, Uncle Jim was able to distract Conor until after 6A.M. so the rest of us could be coherent for most of the morning! As soon as the kids saw what Santa had done, they could not wait to get work!
As soon as the presents opening started, it was over! The kids were anxious to start playing, but also obliged to take a quick Christmas morning shot:
Amongst all the Star Wars toys, Transformer figures, and hockey stuff, Santa managed to come through with something else on the list this year: Zhu Zhu Pets! Frank put it together (only took about an hour!) and the kids played with the playset for a bit. Later in the morning, I wandered into the living room only to find Papa, Frank, and Puck playing with it!
The day was very relaxing for all of us (thanks in part to the early rising that morning!). We rested and relaxed for most of the day and then cooked during the afternoon. The kids even dressed for the occasion and once again obliged me with another picture.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Seven on Sunday-- Holiday Edition!

I am not really sure how to fit all the Genovese family craziness into the short amount of time I have, but here goes!

1. For the past 2 years I have "adopted" a child for Christmas from MSPCC, my former place of employment. Last year, I asked for a boy, close to Tyler's age, to purchase gifts for. I really wanted for Tyler to understand how lucky he is and to enjoy giving to someone in need. This year, I adopted to boys, brothers, ages 6 and 3. We went out a few weekends ago and bought Transformers and Toy Story stuff for them, along with other "must-haves"-- crayons, art supplies, balls, etc. We wrapped it all, labeled it and I dropped it off to the office this week. Here is Tyler helping to box it all up:
2. For weeks now I have been asking Tyler to write his letter to Santa. He finally decided that it needed to be done and sat down this week to write his own letter. We were so proud of him! What did he ask for? Transformers, hockey guys, and a television set with a remote control (?). We will have to wait and see what Santa decides to bring this year.

3. Last Friday we had a holiday get together with some friends. The plan was to load 5 kids and 3 adults into their mini van and drive through Forest Park and Bright Nights together. Lucky for us, it had snowed earlier in the week and having the snow on the ground was a wonderful backdrop to all the lights in the park. Unlucky for us? There were a lot of cars and we opted to go before dinner. Whoops! Lucky for us? We all packed snacks! Problem solved. The kids were wonderful troopers and hung in there for most of the trip, thanks to the snacks and Kids Bop, Christmas Edition!
4. After a lot of stress and worry over which teachers to buy gifts for and what to buy them, I finally settled on a plan for Tyler's preschool teachers: movie gift cards and baskets. It was so much fun to put together! I found "popcorn buckets" at the Dollar Tree, filled them with candy and a box of popcorn, included a Blockbuster gift card, and viola! Gift complete! Hopefully Tyler's Green Valley teachers will enjoy family movie time as much as we do during the Christmas vacation!
5. Grammy sent Tyler an early Christmas gift-- books! We decided a long time ago that you can never have enough books in a house. When I had more time, I loved to read and would polish off a book in a sitting. At night, during quiet time, we read 3 books. Lucky for us, Tyler has picked up on the love of reading and this was the scene in the hallway yesterday morning:
Tyler was reading to all of his animals and his son. His son, you ask? That would be Charlie Brown....
6. For the past month now, Tyler has been working on earning his latest bribe, ahem, reward, for good sleep behavior. Walking through the mall one day I saw that Build-A-Bear was featuring Star Wars outfits! Knowing that Christmas was coming and this was a much bigger prize that normal, we set out on 30 days of good sleep behavior. Friday was the last day of the reward and Tyler definitely had earned the prize! We decided to turn it into a fun holiday night and headed to diner at Uno's, visited with Santa and had pictures taken, and then made our way to Build-A-Bear. Tyler told me in the morning that he wanted to pick out a kitty, and he did just that. He dressed his kitty in a Captain Rex outfit and named him StarWii. You can see a picture of StarWii in the photo above.
By the way, what did he ask Santa for? A television-- with a remote control!

7. Saturday Tyler and I ventured into the world of Gingerbread House decorating. After hearing from people about how difficult it was to get the structure to stay together I was a little apprehensive about what the finished project would be. But I am happy to announce that we used ample frosting and allowed for lots of drying time and we were successful our first time around! Tyler had a blast once he got the hang of it and kept asking me "Can I eat this?" "Of course", I said-- that is half the fun!

Hockey with Santa!

Tyler loves hockey. He loves playing it, watching it, talking about it, and anything that has to do with it. Scratch that, he hates mascots and refuses to go anywhere near them. Last winter while we were at a Springfield Falcon’s game, he was very nervous about going inside to out seat because “Screech would be there”. A friend of mine told him that night that she had called ahead to the rink and told them to keep Screech away from Tyler. Thank goodness—it worked like a charm and now we can all relax and watch games!
But I digress.

This week in hockey a “special guest” would be joining the kids. Knowing that last year Screech, the Falcon’s mascot joined them, we were prepared! Luckily Tyler’s fear of costumed anything does not carry over to the jolliest of them all—Santa Claus! The kids took the ice and Coach Steve told them they would play a scrimmage for practice this morning. The kids were all very excited—usually practice is all about the drills!

The catch? Santa would be goalie! What a treat! (I guess I assumed there would be lots of ice at the North Pole, but when did Santa learn to skate and be a goalie and protect his shins?)

The kids had a ton of fun and I had a great time watching them. Tyler did awesome considering the only hockey games he has ever played are those that take place in my kitchen or in the basement. There were a few older and bigger kids out on the ice and Tyler made sure to show them who was boss and took them out a few times. I also could not help but think that bedtime tonight would be a cinch (and it was!).

After they were all done with their scrimmage, it was picture time with Santa. They took a group shot:
And a shot with Daddy:
By the way, if you are keeping track, this has got to be visit number 4 with Santa this year. I am sure he is not going to forget who Tyler is, what he wants, or where he lives!

I couldn’t pass up these shots afterwards. Tyler loves playing hockey and Frank loves that he enjoys it. Frank is out there every weekend on the ice with him, helping the other kids, and encouraging them for the hour. It is great to watch and sometimes even makes me forget that I am in a freezing rink in the middle of winter!
Frank and kis "Mini-Me" (in more ways than one!):

Saturday, December 12, 2009

All Aboard the Santa Train!

After a lot of debate about taking Tyler to the Polar Express Train, I cam across another train-themed Santa activity. There is a restaurant in Palmer, Massachusetts, Steaming Tenders, that is housed in an old train depot. It is located right next to train tracks and while you eat, you watch the trains go by. They also have an engine and an old dining train car that are both stationary on the property. This year they advertised "Cookies with Santa". The best part? A fraction of the price and a third of the drive! Because Frank was busy with hockey, I asked my friend, Elaine, if she would want to join Tyler and I with the kids, she was a go!

We arrived at the restaurant and were a bit early. We took the opportunity to snap a few pictures of the kids by the steam engine. It was massive and really cool. As you can see, Derek had no interest in looking at us when there was a huge train right over his shoulder!
From there we went and waited in the reception area with Maggie the clown. Despite Maggie's friendliness, Tyler wanted no part in her or her juggling! After a bit he relaxed and loosened his grip on my hand. It also helped that a train went by right at that time and the kids glued themselves to the window! After the train left, Jingles, Santa's main elf, came and told us our cookies were just out of the oven and to come aboard!

Mrs. Claus and Jingles served us all hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies while we waited for Santa to arrive from the North Pole!

After a short wait, Santa finally arrived. He visited with each table and made his lap available to anyone who wanted to take a seat. Tyler was happy standing next to Santa and reporting that he wanted hockey guys and Transformers for Christmas.
When we were all done, we got this shot of the kids on the steps of the dining car. They all had a great time and even were able to take home some candy cane balloons Maggie the clown had left behind!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Green Valley Christmas Pageant

Tonight was Tyler's first ever school Christmas show. To say Frank and I were excited would have been correct! We had no idea how he would react to being in front of so many people. We also had no idea what the show was going to be like-- he kept telling us "it's a secret"!

Elaine, Olivia's mom, and I went early to get seats. We were the second set of people there! We got great seats-- third row on the isle. We both manned still cameras, video cameras, and, oh yeah, 11 seats! The guys arrived and the kids were still in one piece! Tyler made his way to the stage and found his seat:

Tyler's group was one of the later ones to perform. Each child was assigned a song to sing in a smaller group. We were amazed that he sang along to the other songs as well. When it was his turn, he came to his spot and stage and was given his prop-- ice skates! The name of his song? 'A Slippery Song', all about ice skating and falling down! His teachers told me later that it was no accident he was assigned to this one!

After each group was finished and they sang their finale, a special guest showed up! Santa Claus! Each child got a chance to take a picture with him and receive a special gift! Tyler wanted no part in sitting on his lap, but did settle for taking a picture next to him:
Tyler and Olivia:
Each child was given a personalized smock as their special gift. I can only imagine the teachers making 30 of these!
Tyler and Olivia with Mrs. Fitzpatrick, their lead teacher:
Thanks for a wonderful night! It was wonderful to watch the kids perform and we are looking forward to many more shows in years to come!