Best. Christmas. Ever.

 Let's premise this post by saying.. "I LOVE CHRISTMAS!" Really. I love everything about it.  The decorations, the music, the gatherings, the gifts, the traditions that make this season of advent and expectation the most wonderful time of the year.

We always put our tree and decorations up after Thanksgiving.  The boys love having their own tree and boxes of decorations.  When Beckett and I were getting his boxes out of the attic he told me "I've been waiting for this day for a whole year!"  He gets it. 

Do you know how much I love that Eli wanted to put on Christmas pj's?
One of the best things about age 6?  The way they kept saying in excitement "Mommy? Remember this? Remember when we got this ornament? Remember when we made this?  Remember we put the nativity scene here? Remember that the wise men wonder all over the house?"  Pure joy, y'all.   And of course per tradition, they each get a turn putting up the star.

On December 1st of each year, we have our North Pole Breakfast.  New Christmas pj's, a Christmas book, advent calendar, and this year an elf.  Geez.  I avoided it as long as I could but when they look at you and say "Mommy? Why can't our house have an elf too?"  Melted.   Welcome Elfie Snow White to the family (combo named by Eli and Beckett)

Star Wars Pj's, The Home Alone book and the Advent Calendar (I bought last year at an after Christmas sale!)
And then the season kicked off in full force!  

Polar Express Day at School (the most exciting) 
decorating ornaments for a school project (love the stickers Eli chose)

I collect nativity scenes and I love this one that Eli made me.. almost completely by himself.

This year for advent I did something different, I chose this book which I loved.  I had a period of fairly intense Bible study and this was just what my soul needed.  I highlighted, underlined, and saved so many of the daily readings from this.  (and I even had a visitor a time or two in the quietest of morning hours) 

They both loved all the details from our church.  The trees, the lights, and of course the Christmas sprinkles on the donuts!

Christmas Parties!

Tacky Christmas Party with our small group 

Our first year of school parties.  I'm so glad Justin could make the time to come.  We took turns going back and forth.  They both played games and made a fun craft.  It was wild.  Chaos.  They both loved it.. and they really loved early release :-) 

Beckett's class party 

Eli's class party 
They had fun making these gift card snow globes for their teachers.  Wish I had taken pictures in the process but 2 boys with a hot glue gun, glitter, and water required all hands on deck.

Each year we do one Christmas light event.  This year we did our Christmas with our best friends, the Galloways, and then took in the Magical Winter Lights that were in town at the local race track.  We arranged dinner at a restaurant close to the race track that looked like a great menu and with a great kids menu.  When we showed up, we realized that we were in a fine dining, I mean fine dining, white table cloth place with lots of super dressed up adults and not a kid in sight.  We survived!  I can't believe how good they did... with just a few kicks under the table and threats.

And then the lights.  Carnival included was a bonus! 

We made our annual trip to see Santa and successfully delivered the important list.

We celebrated our annual neighbor Christmas.  We are incredibly blessed by these folks next door.  They love us, feed us, take us to the ER in the middle of the night, and bring us wine on the hard days.  They are the best!

And of course we got our annual Christmas sick kids ;-(   Both were sick the week of Christmas.  It didn't stop us from making Christmas cookies.  The boys were excited that Elfie Snow White brought Star Wars Gingerbread cookie cutters.

Christmas Eve was crazy.  Our fence was blown down and Justin was working to fix it before we went out of town.  I worked a full day and in the middle of that day, Justin calls to tell me Eli's fever is at 106.  He gives him a big dose of ibuprofen and in between services I run home to get Beckett so Justin can take Eli back to urgent care.   Fortunately, his fever came down (strep and flu were negative) and he got a breathing treatment.   It was scary though! 

sick and Christmas.. no fun
 Beckett got to "work" and hang out with me though and attend his very first candlelight service in big church!

Beckett and his friend Beau 

I think my warning of "be quiet during the message" worked.. out like a light! 

Just woke up! 

chilling in my office.. he was such a sweet boy!
I read a blog post about expectations at Christmas.. boy I have learned to get rid of mine.  It didn't look ideal, but we made it work!  Beckett and I got home in time to snuggle Eli and get ready for the big red man.  As soon as he called, they were in a frenzy to get the cookies ready and get in bed.  But did not got to sleep FOREVER.  The excitement level was off the charts. 

This note. Poor guy.  He went into his room and came out with this. "I hope that I never be sick again. Love Santa" 

And just like that, it was Christmas morning!  

What do you mean we have to wait on you??

The first look!

Christmas morning excitement!! Their gifts to each other. 

And then the rest of the afternoon looked like this..

Wii u coma.  They were so excited!!!
And then 4:00am came to early and we were on the road headed East with a wookie and a storm trooper.

Seriously? A Cracker Barrel picture?

Stop taking my picture 

He held his Skylander Giants game all the way. 

Watch out for alligators and Wookies!

Stop for lunch in Mobile 

And the Riley Christmas was underway!

Riley Family Selfie 


Cute Cute Cousins

Falling on the floor in excitement!

Big hugs!

Playing with our cousin Emmaline from Florida and Silas from Arkansas 

Cousin play time 

I mean.  We tried.  All the cousins!

Nana and 3 of her great grandkids 

Sweet hugs 

She always loves her calendar 

Cousins Kenny & Deidre (white elephant game sharks)

Family pictures were a hot gift in the white elephant game 

I stole her mason jar lemonade dispenser but she still loves me 

one of the best moments of vacation.  Family snuggles 
Annual Gingerbread house 

Big Poppa's "glueing"

that face says "'I'm sneaking the candy in my mouth"

Beckett said "you can save yours.. but I am eating mine!
Girls snuck away while the boys went to Star Wars 

Family game of pie in the face 
And back on the road again headed north to Alabama for the Roberts family Christmas.. and they hit the ground running! (and no shortage of toys, fun, and activities!)

Rolling Stone pinball machine.. I new addition this Christmas 

Evil pirates have taken over the ark 

Eli and his closest new friend.. the storm trooper 

This stinker in the middle.  

"But I'm a good elf" 

My favorite part of Christmas right here! 
And the boys surprise for Christmas.. segways! 
The next morning we exchanged gifts and it was crazy.. 

3 generations of lovely ladies.. in our pj's!

Waiting patiently!

Uncle Bubba gives good gifts. 
The big grand finale was New Years Eve.  What could make for a better NYE?? A HUGE Bama college play-off game!  We spent the day prepping for the big party.  Starting with fireworks!

We were ready.   

Justin working on a low country boil 


And a fun photo booth set up by my sister.

Pretty cute NYE crew right here 

My gorgeous sister 

My handsome date 

Every time we scored.. the fireworks went up!

It was a great party.. and a great way to bring in the New Year!

And then it was time for loading stuffing the car and good bye hugs and we were on our way to the last stop.  Did he do it? (Not pictured 2 segways and large suitcase...) Did Darth and Storm Trooper fit??

Birmingham bound to meet our new baby cousin!   We loved being able to stay with them for a night. Catch up.  See their house and meet this precious guy.  Baby Justin.  

My best friend Nikki and sweet baby 
Daddy Justin. Uncle Justin. Baby Justin.  That's a lot of Justin. 

These 4 had a blast hanging out! 

I love this person. And that little person.  God is amazing!
Always so hard to leave but.. 5am found us on the road headed West to Texas.  

Waffle house stop in Mississippi 

And in case you were wondering... Darth & The Stormtrooper made it to Texas.. 

Whew.  9 days.  4 Christmas.  3 houses.  Countless amazing meals.  Hugs. Laughter. A fear tears.  Parties. Relaxing. Friends and Family.  We are incredibly grateful to be loved so well.  As Beckett said as we drove away. "Best. Christmas. Ever."

The Riley's 
The Riley FamilyComment