The kids had their cousins over to make some 
Christmas treats and had so much fun!
Abby and McKenna made sugar cookies with Abby's new stuff.
 They did it almost all by themselves and shared the results. 
They were actually really good!
Max and Arianna made a giant gingerbread house with the 
help(?) of Afton and Milly. (how cute is Afton in this picture?)
They kind of gave up half way through, well Max did, 
and Aunt Traci and Arianna finished it off nicely (sorry, no pic).

The Aftermath

The day after Christmas... what a wonderful day. 
Everyone just sits around, bein' lazy, enjoying new toys. 
It was a great day and so relaxing!

Our nephew Tyler was with us for the holidays 
and quickly became Abby's best friend. 
He was soooo good to her and extremely 
patient with her many demands.
He took her sledding and was nice enough to carry 
her on his shoulders most of the time.
And he was everyones favorite Wii partner. 
(Even though he laughed at me). He is a pro! 
Tyler was a blast to have around. He is such a cool kid 
and we can't wait until he comes to visit again!

So what did Max do while we were having all this fun?
That's right.  Sound asleep. After such an emotional Christmas (please see previous post), a Christmas night sleep over with his cousins, and way too much Wii... he crashed for a good 4 hours!

Ahhh, the holidays!

Christmas Celebrations

Let me warn you... 
this is most likely the single longest post ever for me. 
What can I say? We had a really good time.

Christmas Eve

Yeah! We were all so excited that it was finally here.
Here is our official Christmas Eve family picture.
We had dinner at my parents house and the night started with a bang. Literally. We like to blow things up and this year 2 gingerbread houses saw their demise. This picture isn't so great, but you can see other videos of our pyro-technic adventures by following the "Sam's Youtube videos" link to the right.
After a delicious feast we went next door to my brother's home for a program. A favorite Christmas Eve tradition in our family is acting out "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Everyone draws a number out of a bowl and it is always entertaining... this year didn't disappoint (even though it was a little rigged). We had:

Twelve drummers drumming (grandma and grandpa)
Eleven pipers piping (Saundra and me)
Ten Lords-a-leaping (Sam and Joel... my personal fave)
Nine ladies dancing (Peter, Wendy and Grandma Kathy)
Eight maids-a-milking (Melody and JJ... another fave)
Seven swans-a-swimming (little sis Aubrey)
Six geese-a-laying (Cassidy and Abby)
Five Golden Rings (Luke... it was a very "Golem-esque" performance... think "my precious... it's mine, mine!")
Four Calling Birds (Grandpa RJ and Ben)
Three French hens (Taylor and Max)
Two Turtle doves (Chris, Afton and Tyler)
and we don't have a partridge in a pear tree... 
we all just sing that part.
Of course we had the obligatory talent part of the program and Max and Abby, along with some of the other kids, played the piano.

Then we played Chimes. As usual, my dad was the conductor...
and everyone paid very close attention to make sure that we actually sounded like the songs we were trying to play. Some people had a harder time than others (Cass!!).
We closed the program with a very reverent re-enactment of the nativity. Well, we tried to be reverent but Baby Jesus wouldn't stop crying and the stable animals wouldn't stop rolling around on the floor. The stars this year were Abby as Mary, Ben as Joseph, Coleman as Baby Jesus and Joel was typecast as the ass (love you, Joel). 
The whole cast: (L to R) Ana (on the floor) as a stable animal, JJ (in back) as a shepherd, Max as a wise guy, Coleman as the screaming baby Jesus, Ben as Joseph, Taylor as a shepherd, Abby as Mary, Luke as a wise guy, Lizzie the angel,Peter as a wise guy, Aubrey was anti-gravity (she made the angels fly), and Afton, who started out as a stable animal with Ana but ended up as an angel. Chris was the narrator.
Then it was time for desert... a favorite part of the night. While we were enjoying our goodies there was a mysterious knock at the door and when the kids opened it there were pajamas left by Santa Claus. They all ran to put them on so they could hurry to bed so Santa could come back with the rest.
How cute are they in their matching Christmas PJs? 
This is probably my personal favorite Christmas Eve tradition.
Then we headed home and hurried to bed... while visions of sugarplums danced in our heads!

Christmas Day

All the kids waiting at the top of the stairs singing Christmas songs while we get the cameras ready, light the fire and turn on some Christmas music.
I love Afton holding her pants up... she is so stinkin' skinny!
My favorite thing in this picture? Abby's face... she actually looks a little worried that there might not be anything!

Favorite gifts:
Afton loved this little set of jewelry, fake make-up and purse. 
She put the earrings on and stared at herself in the mirror forever, shaking her head back and forth. Of course I have no idea where the little things are now!
Abby's favorites were this bride Barbie (what's Christmas without Barbie, right?)
and some cooking stuff: an adorable apron, a cookbook, some measuring cups and spoons and things to make sugar cookies.
Max's favorites were this computer game and
these 2 books from Nana.
Cassidy's favorite was a new cell phone... well, new to her. 
It was actually Chris' old phone but she was so excited! 
Coleman didn't really care about any of it... he just sat there and looked cute all morning.
We've never dressed our dog, but Cass got her this super cute shirt... I love it.
Here she is enjoying a bone Santa brought her.
and that was it... or was it?

Chris and I were able to pull of the perfect Christmas surprise this year. It was amazing and I have some great pictures to prove it.. I so wish I'd had the video camera ready though. I had no idea we would get the response we did.

This is the 3rd year our kids, especially Max, have asked for a Wii for Christmas and the 3rd year that we have said "no... it's not gonna happen". But this year we actually planned to do it... we'd heard enough good things about it from other parents that we figured it would be a fun family thing. So, I bought one way ahead of time to make sure we would be able tof ind all the stuff we wanted. Well, then we decided not to do it... then we decided to do it... then not... then okay... you get the picture. For about a week before Christmas we were sure that we weren't going to do it... we have so much stuff, we didn't need one more thing for the kids to fight over... if you're a parent you know what I'm talking about. Well, about 10:00 pm on Christmas Eve the kids in us gave in and we made a last minute change of plans and decided to give them the Wii. But we wanted it to be special so we wrapped it up  and put it way back behind the tree and behind another big box from my mom for Cole. We opened all the presents and enjoyed them for a while and you could tell that Max was disappointed but trying to put on a grateful, happy face. After quite some time I asked Max to hand me the extra gift for Cole so I could put it away (earlier I had explained that I didn't need to open it because I knew what it was... which is true) and we "found" the extra present with no labels. Chris and I pretended we had no idea what it was and that it must be from some grandparent. Since we didn't know who it was for we decided to split the packages up (I had wrapped all the components separately) and have everyone open them at the same time.

This is what happened:
(again, so bummed I didn't have the video camera ready)
There was screaming... louder than you've ever heard!
Look closely at this picture.... do you see what I see?
Here, let me crop in close so you can see...
that's right... a tear. An actual, real life tear. He was so happy he was crying. 
I kid you not, the laughing, screaming, and, yes, crying went on for about 5 minutes straight.
It was a true Christmas miracle. Chris and I were thrilled to pull of such a great surprise and thrilled with the response.

Here is our annual "In front of the tree after 
opening all our presents" picture. 
Afton was pretty much done with it all.
Then we were off to play Wii until...

We went over to Kathy and Carolyn's for Christmas morning waffles. They were delicious. 
The highlight of the morning was a phone call from my little brother, Bryn, who is serving a church mission in London.
We miss him tons and it was great to talk to him.
Grandma Carolyn and Cole.
Cassidy, Eric and Cole.
So, I've mentioned we've had a lot of snow lately, right?
Well, Christmas was no exception... it just kept coming down. 
As we were driving home from brunch we were dreading the thought of going home and shoveling for hours and hours. No fun on Christmas Day and we had just done it a couple days before (and by "we" I mean Chris). So we pull up to the house and Cassidy's car gets stuck and we are barely able to pull into the driveway when our neighbor, who just happens to own a back hoe with a front loader, shows up and does this:
It was quite a sight and our kids thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was a little nervous with how close he was to our house and Cassidy's car, but he really knew how to use that thing and did in 10 minutes what it would have taken us 3 hours to do. Need less to say we were extremely grateful!!

Then we took the required Christmas day nap, 
enjoyed a lovely dinner as a family and 
went to see "Bedtime Stories" with all the Higbee's.
It really was a great couple of days and truly a

Very Merry Christmas!!!