Christmas Times Three

Christmas day afternoon, Grandma, Poppa, Aunt Melissa, and the future Uncle Robert and family friend Shawn joined us for our third and final family Christmas celebration!


Yes, Aunt Melissa got engaged!! The future Uncle Robert and Melissa are planning to get married spring of 2017, and were engaged before Christmas.




All of us ladies got some beautiful new jewelry, candles and clothes. It was actually warm enough outside that Brian used the grill for Christmas dinner!

On Sunday, we visited Great Grandma, but this year we were disappointed that Great Grandma was sleeping through the day.



Jameson told sleepy great-grandma that he was five now, and the kids had fun eating (a LOT of) cookies and playing with Zac and Caden, their cousins. We celebrated dinner with everyone on Becky’s side of the family, and Robert got to meet everyone for the first time.



Sunday was my last day of “Christmas break”. I used up all my vacation days the week prior, so I worked all week except New Years Day. Brian had off with the kiddos, and they also spent a night at Aunt Melissa’s for the rest of their vacation. The daycare is closed the week between Christmas and New Years, so it was nice that Brian was able to be off the whole time as well. It was a great Christmas, but not just that: to be able to spend over a week with family was, as they say, priceless!

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Santa Visited


Santa came!


Jameson got his wish for a Bumblebee and Optimus Transformer. These 3-step transformers are good for his age, Santa made a good choice. Santa also brought a Star Wars shirt and socks, and a book of Frog and Toad stories, which will be perfect as Jameson starts learning to read. Jameson requested additional items later, such as a Hulk costume and Ipad, but some of those wishes mom and dad made come true.

Coraline, after much back and forth, did request a doll for Christmas to Santa and tried to change her mind later. She did end up getting a special doll that has eyes that close along with hair to brush, a beautiful 16″ doll she seems to have named Dolly (also, Alligator and a line from a Christmas song, and anything that came to mind first after being asked what the doll’s name was). She got a doll high chair too, a bonus gift that went outside Santa’s usual “one toy” rule but since they went together, he had some flexibility. She also got a Frozen shirt and socks (we promptly lost one of the socks), and a book of Berenstain Bears stories.





Before opening stockings, Coraline said she needed to take a nap and went upstairs. She came downstairs not long afterwards half dressed with one sock on. She fed her new dolly and did open her stocking after some prompting. Jameson meanwhile was exuberant and excited and really into everything he got. He initially tried to line up all the gifts for everyone in a row to give out, but we told him to start opening by type of wrapping paper: the black ones with the white ribbon were his, and the green ones, etc.

Brian got me a new iPad, so Jameson inadvertently got his wish, since he now gets to use my old one. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t get to use it whenever he wants, haha.

I think that Jameson’s favorite gift, based on how much he’s used it, is his bow and arrow set. We also got him a keyboard to be able to practice piano at home. Coraline got a set of piggies and Calico Critter house which were my favorite, but Coraline I think really does like her doll best, which now sleeps with her.





Brian got a DIY mustard kit (I always get him a food related DIY thing, though I’m starting to run out of ideas), along with some other items he asked for. I also got us a new floor lounger (“Husband” pillow), which was hard to find. They really don’t make these for normal sized people anymore, most of what I found was really small! We really outdid ourselves this Christmas, and as always I was both happy to see the kids’ excitement and sad that the magic of the season was over.

Coraline still points out Christmas lights everywhere she sees them, since a few places have kept some up. She sometimes talks about Santa still, too. Christmas really made an impression on her this year. I said that this year was going to be the best yet, but I don’t know: this coming year may still top it!

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December Birthdays and Christmas Celebrations

Every year, we try to visit my side of the family before Christmas so we can celebrate both Christmas and December birthdays! Jameson, Aunt Holly, and Meemaw all have birthdays during December. Jameson had some gifts to open from his birthday when we arrived!



This giant box is a giant frisbee, he was very excited! It will be a fun spring.


One very cool gift we got from Aunt Holly and Uncle Tyler was the Disney Playmation. The Playmation game bridges the gap between super hero and real world experiences. You can put on Iron Man’s arm, and fight a host of good and bad guys through various missions. Jameson played it a lot while we visited, but hasn’t pulled it out much since: we have a lot of new toys to play with! But one thing great about this toy is that I think it will grow with him!


Another tradition is doing puzzles with Meemaw! Jameson loves to work on puzzles. We had a really challenging puzzle this year because I bought a custom one for Meemaw from a photo I took during our visit to Venice. The 1000 piece puzzle took us several days to complete. Meanwhile, the kids worked on bear and dog puzzles. Coraline was only so-so at “helping”, haha.


Uncle Tyler also visited this year, driving up with his pup Athena. We were able to all watch Holly graduate from college! Brian dropped me off at OSU on his way with the kids, and Meemaw, Uncle Tyler and I watched her get her diploma.


One warmer day that wasn’t rainy we were able to go to the playground. Jameson, Meemaw and Grampa played fetch with the dogs (and got super muddy), while Coraline and I played on the playground. She found a new little boy friend that made her laugh while we were there, and was a real trooper walking almost the entire way there and home. No strollers for us!



Then we celebrated Meemaw’s birthday (she opened her puzzle from us early so we could get started on it), and that evening, we also went to our local lights show, another annual tradition.





We celebrated Christmas officially the next day after all the birthday celebrations were complete! Kids opened gifts, and were delighted at all things. Ralphie the Elf even came down to join us at Meemaw and Grampa’s house before he had to fly home to the North Pole. Coraline got a huge set of Frozen figurines, and Jameson got a set of Star Wars ships. I love the photo of his lips making the “vroom” noises a starship makes.




We did go see the Star Wars movie with Jameson while we visited! Brian stayed home with Coraline while the rest of us went to see the movie. We had to encourage everyone to come, because we had a gift for dad that that would only make sense after seeing it. We got him the BB8 robot!

The remainder of the day, Jameson was excited to spend with Grampa playing with airplanes! Grampa made him one of light wood that they shot into the air with a rubber band. Airplanes with Grampa is one of the things Jameson really looks forward to!




Christmas Eve morning, I took the kids to a breakfast potluck at my old friend Tracy’s house. A group of friends and her family were all gathered there, and it was fun seeing everyone and their kiddos and dogs.

Brunch with old friends and new friends

We left for home and arrived home with the light of the full moon.


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Jameson Turns One Hand Old


Well we don’t have the traditional chair in it’s usual corner anymore because it is downstairs, and during Christmas it was mostly inaccessible because of the Christmas tree, so we did our 5 year blocks on the couch upstairs. Jameson still wanted to do it though so I was all for it!

This year, his appearance was wrapped up in his long hair which we grew out all year until cutting it after Halloween. So it seems like something is missing between the photos of Jameson at 4 and Jameson at 5. It’s all that hair!


We did gifts with Brian’s family on his actual birthday after work and school, which was Wednesday. We also had an Elf on the Shelf for the first time this year, and our elf, Ralphie, wasn’t really into decorating or doing cool things except on Jameson’s birthday when he strung streamers and balloons for the occasion! Jameson’s face did a big “o” of surprise when he saw it that morning.


Jameson got a new scooter for spring, marble run, and more. We got the marble run out right away and both the kids enjoyed it. But that wasn’t all! We decided Jameson was old enough to have his very first big-boy-friend birthday party. We held it at a local indoor bouncer place. It was close by, and a great location for winter parties. We provided the cake, they provided everything else.





Just like last year, we requested no gifts, though we did get a couple. Instead, we had people bring donations for our local animal shelter.



Jameson loved playing the claw machine. They had an easy one that had balls in it, and he got 3 or 4, one for him and a couple friends and Coraline each! It was the first time we’ve invited school friends to our parties and Johnny, Ella, Corinne, and Gunnar came. Johnny’s parents help Jameson play video games with the boys which was nice as Brian and I were constantly wandering around tracking Coraline or Jameson or being social with friends.

Our regulars also came including Jonathan and Joshua, Bobby and Jack, and Vivienne and Finn. We also had my cousin and his 3 boys there, and even Nathan came! Nathan has recently come back to school; they’re not in the same class but they see a lot of each other in the mornings and afternoons regardless.



Coraline also had a blast. She spent some time on the bouncers, and then played in the little kid area reading books and going to the chalk room. It was nice that she was old enough that she didn’t need constant attention, and wonderful that while we were there there weren’t a lot of really big kids either so she was happy to participate.



Jameson visited the doctor for his check up and he’s in perfect health! Still a skinny little dude weighing in around 37 lbs. He didn’t need any vaccines, but he did get to pee in a cup which was a new novelty (for both of us). He got vision and hearing tested and checked out fine.

What Jameson is Wearing:

  • Size 4T pants and size 12 shoes.
  • 5T or XS shirts, they’re sometimes a little big but he’ll be able to keep them for a couple years.
  • Soft pants and swishy pants, and clothes with Star Wars, superheros, or Ninja Turtles on them
  • Big boy underwear day and night. And underwear only at night for as long as the weather allows!

What Jameson is Eating:

  • Meatballs, chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and most any meat he can eat with ketchup or ranch
  • Cucumbers with ranch or without. He’ll eat a whole one straight up like a pickle. Also tomatoes.
  • Regular and “special” yogurt. Still doesn’t like eggs.
  • Candy of course, and now he gets to have gum! It’s like a treat for him.
  • Potatoes most any way
  • He finishes his dinner the majority of the time.

What Jameson is Saying:

  • Jameson likes to ask us about how our work day was, and insists that we answer his questions first before he answers (minimally) about his day at school
  • “It’s ok sweetie”, (almost) always a sweetheart to his little sister.
  • “It’s not fair!” This is happening more and more frequently. (Life isn’t fair though you know).
  • “Stinky” and “Stinker”, and using other mean words that we have to discipline.

When Jameson gets angry, he shouts “Fine! You’re not my best friend anymore.”

What Jameson Likes These Days:

  • He really loves to watch TV, any show or movie TV now and all the time. We’re working on this. This year along with the usual favorites we’ve also watched Star wars and super heroes cartoons based on the Avengers, Bat Man and Justice League.
  • Jameson enjoys reading about super heroes and Star Wars.
  • Jameson is much more flexible about what he wears lately, but he still likes soft or swishy pants the best. Anything you’d identify as “running” or “exercise” wear.
  • Duffy the little teddy bear and his soft brown blanket
  • Swimming lessons and soccer.
  • Piano, he’s started lessons at school
  • Listening to “his” songs, kid music. Favorites are the Hercules song and the Mulan “Man” song.
  • The ipad, but now he only really gets it when traveling so he doesn’t ask for it as much
  • Wrestling with daddy

What Jameson Doesn’t Like These Days:

  • Sitting still to eat.
  • Hot sauce on his tongue. A new discipline helpful for talking back.
  • Public toilets, though he no longer has a tantrum about them, he still doesn’t like the loud potties.

I thought Jameson was dressed too warm today and told him so; he said that was so we could cuddle!

What Jameson is Doing:

  • Writing his name, identifies letters and loves stories still. Occasionally sounding out a word.
  • Making light sabers out of tinker toys
  • Brushing his teeth and hair on his own, doing all things in the morning without assistance including dressing himself and putting non-tie shoes on.
  • More clarity in his artwork. He’s drawn family portraits recognizable as people now and doing more drawing.
  • Making paper airplanes, every single day. (Better not let him catch us throwing them out, either!)
  • Jameson likes to help make dinner with Daddy and desserts with Mommy

We were just playing tea party when Jameson declared he was pouring beer for daddy.

What We Are Working On:

  • Bedtimes without tantrums
  • Regular chores… we’ve done making the bed, setting the table, and putting toys away irregularly
  • Sitting still to eat.
  • Mommy and daddy are figuring out good ways to reward good behavior so more of it comes without being told.

What is your name? Jameson
How old are you? 5
What is your favorite color? orange
What is your favorite animal? A lion
What is your favorite book? My favorite book is…the Avengers (And something else I couldn’t understand)
What is your favorite TV show? The Lion Guard (A recent discovery of the spin off of the Lion King)
What is your favorite movie? Lion King (This might not really be true anymore but the first he thought of; he really likes the Lego Movie)
What is your favorite song? Old McDonald… I mean, my favorite song is the Star Wars one
What is your favorite food? Meatballs and macaroni
What food do you not like? I don’t like ravioli, quesadilla, eggs, and pancakes
What is your favorite drink? Hot chocolate
What is your favorite snack? Fruit snacks

“I’m going to eat all of my dinner. 100 of the dinner. All the snacks, all the table, all the carpet…all the walls.”

What makes you laugh? I don’t know (After some prompting, he agrees that Coraline makes him laugh)
What is your favorite thing to wear? Underwear!
What is your favorite game? Donuts (being silly I think, but after some thought it could be he’s talking about the gopher game where you bop the heads since he described popping the head up)
What is your favorite toy? At Nathan’s I like to play on the trampoline
Who is your best friend? Nathan
What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Duffy and blankie
Where is your favorite place to go? Canada Never been there. After some prompting we discover that’s where Aunt Melissa and Grandma and Poppa are going, so after some prompting he says: I like to go to Florida (He likes to sleep there and get new Duffys)
Where do you want to go on vacation? Disney
What do you like to do with your family? Mousetrap
What do you want to be when you grow up? A superhero… I want to be Ant Man
What did you do when you were little? Climb on dad’s face
What do you like to do now that you are big? Go to Kindergarten in March (March is Coraline’s birthday so we had to clarify that this happens in the fall)
What is your favorite thing to learn in school? I don’t know… Can we be done now? Ummm eating donuts.
What is your favorite thing to remember? Remind me to get a drink
What do you want to buy with your money? A toy
What is the thing you do the most awesomely? Didn’t get to ask this


One Year


Two Years


Three Years


Four Years

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We went to a birthday party a couple weeks ago at a kids gym. Jameson had a blast, and I had some great mom moments to share. When we arrived, Jameson called me “stinky” in front of the other moms. It wasn’t too funny until I realized that he was in fact talking about me and not about the birthday boy’s mom, which I thought this had been directed at for a moment, thankfully. However, birthday boy picked up on it and repeated it too. We affectionately use all kind of names like this when we tease the kids at home, but it’s being turned on us and has been a little bit frustrating lately. Lesson learned.

However, all was forgotten when the kids went in to play. Jameson was a non-stop ball of fun. He was loud, excited, but listened well and gave birthday boy all the attention. I thought he was acting as a great friend should, and was proud.

My proud heart enlarged tenfold when he asked friends for help picking up “kryptonite” beanbags with the sticks they’d been given. His beanbag was the last one of the balls and bags that had been left around the gym, and he was struggling when he said “everybody help!” and had four friends all help carry the bag with their sticks to put it away. Jameson declared “great teamwork!” and the instructor said that was the first time she’s seen kids help each other in that activity.

I was and am delighted with Jameson’s behavior. I don’t often get to see him outside home with friends, and also have the attention span that you can only have when you’re watching just one child at a time. It was a pleasure!








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Jameson’s Last Preschool Christmas Concert

This year, Jameson got to be a reindeer (but not, he declared a little bit disappointed, Rudolf. He was pretty comfortable on stage this year I think, and he’s got one more spring concert before he’s done with preschool concerts, but I can be a little sad about his last Preschool Christmas concert anyway.



His friend Nathan has started coming back to our school after a couple year hiatus. Right now, he’s not in the full time classes, but they will be together again soon! They won’t be in the same class, but will see each other mornings and afternoons when they frequently combine the classes. We’ve enjoyed seeing them a few times with our neighborhood Halloween party and a few playdates, and Jameson still considers him to be one of his really good friends. (The term “best” is flexible and depends on the day!)

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Annual North Pole Visit


For the third year, we visited the North Pole on the Polar Express train. This year, grandma joined us for the journey.


Our kids are getting bigger, and the seats seem to be getting smaller, but everyone had a wonderful time. We bought 5 seats but fit ourselves into the 4 seats together. We’re not certain we’ll do this again next year, but it’s been worth the time each year. Jameson asked when we were going to the North Pole again well in advance of our ride, since he had memories of our ride last year.




On the way to the North Pole, they read the story and give out cookies and hot chocolate. This year, they also got glow bracelets.


The “conductor” asked Coraline how old she was to see how many holes to punch in her ticket this year. She has been regularly declaring herself three years old even though she’s only two. Sometimes I forget that she’s two, too.




When we approach the North Pole, the lights go out and the adults move out of the way for the kids to peer out the windows. They see Santa go by, and Frosty, Olaf and Rudolf plus some elves.



Then, Santa boarded the train! Santa was wonderful this year. Santa told Jameson he needed to be a good big brother. The kids got a bell, which is their favorite part, and on the way back, we had the pajama parade and songs.






Jameson was really in his element singing. He is much less shy this year, and didn’t hesitate to belt out the songs he knew, so he got to help one of the elf ladies sing on the way back. Coraline, following his lead, was more than happy to meander around the train with him (and then without him if I hadn’t grabbed her).


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Thanksgiving and Pie

This year we celebrated Thanksgiving with Brian’s family, and got to see his cousin Gabrielle and her son Griffin again, which thrilled Jameson. Despite the age difference, Griffin is wonderful playing with Jameson and they had a great time!


Coraline was a little shy with them but warmed up pretty quick after some time with grandma and Aunt Melissa.



It’s been unseasonably warm so far this time of year, so the kids even got to play outside (sans coats!). Coraline cleaned up pine cones and Jameson played ball with Griffin before Thanksgiving dinner which consisted of turkey, grandma’s homemade cranberry relish, sweet potatoes with pecans this year, and fried cauliflower, among other wonderful tasty dishes.


Yes, this is Brian with a stick poking at Jameson with a sneaky smile on his face.



After dinner, we whipped out the pie we made for the occasion. We’ve really gotten into making our pumpkin pie from scratch, and this year we had a special pumpkin from the farmers market, which is supposed to be like a sugar pumpkin but lighter and fluffier. It did make an exceptional pie! The kids of course just wanted to eat the whipped cream!



For the rest of Thanksgiving weekend, we drove to visit Meemaw and Grandpa.


We had another pumpkin pie for this visit too, plus two more that Holly and my mom made, so we had three different ones to try. The verdict is that homemade pumpkin is better than canned. And the pecan topping we both made for our versions was amazing.

3 Pumpkin Pies

A quick trip, but one filled with shopping for Meemaw and I. It was fun, but short. But don’t worry Meemaw and Grandpa, we’re seeing you again soon!

Bye bye Meemaw and Grampa!

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Italy: Chianti Country

It’s been a while since I last recapped some of our Italy trip! We visited Rome, Pompeii and Florence. Then we took a day trip from Florence to Chianti country in Tuscany. Chianti is the only wine my mom would drink, and it was happenstance that that was within driving distance to Florence!

The morning of our day trip was downright rainy, and we finally caved and bought a cheap umbrella, which broke after a couple days use, but served it’s purpose. We cross the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge to get to our meeting point on the other side of the river.


Our first stop was Corzano e Paterno, a winery but also a farm, cheese maker and olive oil maker. We started in their cellar and were introduced to their extra large traditional wine barrels, so large that someone can fit inside to prepare it for the next batch of wine!



The rain was a mixed blessing. We were happy that it was raining on a day where we had plenty of indoor activities, but we missed out on walking among the vines. However, the tour made up for it by letting us see how their cheese is made! After we finished up in the cellar, we took a detour to see:






It was truly fascinating! The tour we took was called Super Chianti Wine Tours, and we loved our guide and driver. He spoke to us a lot during our visit, though we heard from the winemakers directly as well. At Corzano e Paterno, we also got to have a little tasting that including cheese and olive oil.



Our guide (above) spoke to us about the region and the rules around Chianti and other varieties of wine. Mom learned how to observe the color of wine and took a lot of photos of her wine’s reflection.



What we truly loved about this tour was that we learned how Italians appreciate their wine and how it goes with the meal. It’s an attitude toward meal time and relaxation and company with friends that mom hadn’t really learned to associate with wine, and the tour ended up being a favorite experience of our entire trip.




Our lunch stop was at Antica Macelleria Cecchini, and we experienced a phenomenal meal (with more wine) in a family style manner. The butcher is located across the street, and the whole experience is in a charming hilly town in Panzano. The cobblestone steep streets and the city on the hill felt quintessentially Italian.


We had one other winery to experience after lunch, and we went to Poggio al Sole. The winemaker and owner here had a fascinating life, uprooting and moving to Italy from Switzerland for the land to become a winery.




Overall, we left with a true appreciate for Italian wine and really enjoyed our day trip away from looking at maps and trying to figure out the next tourist site! I think the tourist sites were important experiences, but it was wonderful the way we progressed with our trip feeling more and more relaxed as it continued on.

Our tour dropped us off at Piazzale Michelangelo at our request, known for picturesque views of Florence. It was a bit far for us to walk there and back to see, so we were happy to end there and just walk back to our hotel from there. And the views were as promised:






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Mammoth Cave

Brian and I also got to have our own getaway in late August to Mammoth Cave. We dropped the kids off at my parents house “on the way”, and enjoyed a very large and beautiful cabin all to ourselves in Kentucky.

Our first stop was, of course, Mammoth Cave. We didn’t get to do an spelunking or cool tours like that since they were offered at limited times and already full, so we joined a large herd of tourists like us for a traditional tour. I almost regretted not bringing my regular camera, but just like it was wonderful to freely take photos in Hocking Hills, it was similarly but differently wonderful to not feel like I had to take any photos at all.





Brian and I also did ziplining for the first time. I thought I might be scared, but our guide was an expert and all I felt was excitement. I was first off the platform, no problem.





We planned one night out and one night in, cooking in our awesome cabin. On our night in, Brian cooked on the grill and it started raining lightly, but I hung out on the wrap around porch and it was still perfect facing out of the cabin to what looks like limitless forest. Also, creepy once it’s fully dark. But wonderful at sunset no matter the weather when you are warm, with wine, on a wrap around porch in the country while your husband is cooking next to you.

Though I don’t have any photos, I think one of my other favorite parts was just the driving around, especially on the way to dinner out to the tune of Johnny Cash. The countryside was amazing, full of farms and fields and forests.


The next day we did kayaking. This was an endeavor that I was worried about, because for the first time I was getting my own kayak and Brian his. I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to keep up or get tired. I was tired, but I made it just fine! There’s even a little shallow cave that when the water isn’t too high or too low you can go in with the kayak, which we did.


In the center of the river there are a few “islands”. We stopped at a couple, and Brian found a giant live mussel (which we put back as requested by the livery operators but sadly was found and removed by two girls after us).




We finished our tour at the ferry (we used the ferry in our car daily which was fascinating), and we drove back to Mammoth Cave to explore the grounds around it. There are several caves and underwater deep cave features.








This photo right here is the moment when I wished I had my regular camera. In my opinion, aside from hanging out with Brian, this was the highlight of the trip. The baby deer was steps from us, unafraid, and walking across the path to it’s mother. We came upon it at the perfect time.


We had a nice trip away, and it felt so good to get out in the fresh air. I was really happy with how good I felt since I had been running a lot. I really felt like I was keeping up and felt strong and alive hiking up through the woods for hours. I told Brian that a couple years ago I wouldn’t have performed nearly as well. I think he disagreed, but I know that I’ve been feeling very well since I’ve been running in earnest through this summer and fall.

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