December 28, 2016

My Favorite 2016 Christmas Gifts

In mostly unimportant, fairly useless blog post topics, here's a list of gifts I love from this year's Christmas haul:

This snow globe was a pre Christmas gift I bought myself. It plays "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and I find it so adorable and will love it even more when we move back to the states.

I found these cute ornaments at the shop where we purchased our Christmas tree. Apparently I really like Big Ben and double decker buses. 

I collect tea pots so was thrilled with this gift from Miles of an Alice in Wonderland teapot. Alice in Wonderland was written here in Oxford (Alice was the name of the daughter of the dean of one of the colleges here who was friends with author Lewis Carroll, an Oxford fellow).

These were a gift for Mary, but we have all enjoyed them. I've heard for a couple years how popular magnatiles are, but these, while slightly different, are cheaper and honestly equally enjoyable. My nephews own some and I'm glad we got a set though I seriously want to order more!

Legos! Finn got HOOKED up this year. Legos were his only request for Christmas and he got some from our friends Craig and Michelle, Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Rob and Aunt Sarah, us, and Santa. I love how much he enjoys them, how good he is at following the directions to build a set and even better using his imagination to come up with his own creations. Bonus - no batteries.

If you were to ask Mary her favorite gift she would say her Paw Patrol presents, but she also got this baby doll and does really like it. I read once how a good way to promote diversity is to ensure your kids have toys that look different than them which seems like such a simple and smart idea to me. Plus I find it adorable when she acts like a little mama.

Books. I love setting out our Christmas books about a month prior. The kids love reading them because they haven't seen them in awhile and each year we add a couple it seems. Here are some cute ones my mom sent the kids this year:

Other honorable mention gifts - Miles shaved his beard! I have mixed feelings about the facial hair, but his clean shaved face was a nice (and I'm sure temporary) surprise. We gave Finn a piggy bank of a red British phone booth to store all his UK money in (he's saving up for more Legos, naturally) and my friend Brandy sent me a new Cale ornament as part of an ornament exchange I do with some baby loss friends. I love seeing his collection grow each year.

What were some of your favorite gifts this year?


December 24, 2016

'Twas the Night Before Christmas {2016}

Mid December we took the kids to visit Santa about twenty minutes outside of Oxford. It was my favorite Santa visit to date as they only allowed so many people in per time slot so there was no waiting in a long line, the kids got to speak with Mrs. Claus who informed them they had just made it on to the nice page (despite Finn informing her he has been a little bad in addition to being good), and then they got to take their time talking with a really authentic looking Santa. Finn was a man of little words during the encounter - I think it still feels too much like a celebrity sighting for him to be his usual chatty self and Mary was reluctant to speak to the strange man, though did whisper a few replies to some of his questions.

Then Santa gave them each a present as well as some food to leave for his reindeer. I had no desire to be in the picture, but Mary started to fuss and walk away so they asked us to hop in and Miles quickly did so then I felt obligated to as well, though I wish I just put my foot down and stayed out and let the kids be in it by themselves even if it meant Mary threw a fit because kids freaking out in Santa pictures are THE BEST anyway. 

We spent this past week in Paris which was so wonderful. but unfortunately I brought home a bad head cold and have been pretty miserable today, so I look forward to hanging out in my pajamas all morning while my kids entertain themselves with the far too many gifts they will be opening. Below was the result of checking our APO box today. My mom informed me that there are SEVEN more boxes en route. Oye.

The darling pajamas Mary is sporting are a gift my good friend Deborah got Mary LAST year, but they fit her perfectly this year. Mary is holding an ornament I got as part of a baby loss ornament gift exchange I do each year with some great friends. This one has  C in the middle of the heart for Cale and I love that he is "in" each of these pictures, though that wasn't actually my intent. I was just wanting a sweet picture of the kids looking at the Christmas books under the tree.

Santa got Mary a scooter this year and Finn is getting a couple Lego City sets. I really am excited to see the excitement on their little faces in the morning, but mostly I'm feeling thankful for the health of my family (head colds aside), and the opportunity to spend this Christmas together. 

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.


December 16, 2016

Mary Turns Three

Leading up to her birthday she would tell you that she was turning six, but she did in fact turn three today, as hard as it was for all of us (herself included) to believe. 

This year brought many changes for our little girl. It's sometimes hard to remember she saw a speech therapist for a short while as she is so articulate and chatty these days. She has no problem telling you what's on her mind and what she wants, logic and reasoning be damned!

She's still our meatball - about the height of most two year olds - and still sports a delicious little belly that I hope sticks around a bit longer. Her once near black hair is light brown with some near blonde highlights that accentuate her soft curls.

She tells Finn she loves him each night before bed and loves to play with whatever he is playing with, but also thrives on her individual time when he is at school and often likes to pick a fight with him, usually by simply disagreeing with whatever he is saying, much to his chagrin.

She's shy at first when meeting new people, but warms up quickly and has great manners (much better than her brother it seems!). She is very caring and concerned when someone isn't feeling well or is hurt. Finn had his first ear infection last week and she came up to him to just gently rub his head and tell him it was ok. Or if you say "oww" in her presence she will quickly run over to get boo-boo bunny for you or come give you a kiss and then tell you it's all better.

When she is sassy though she does it justice. She can throw a fit like nobody's business and during her moments will tell me "I don't want daddy/Finn/Big Mike to talk to me" when someone has the audacity to want to speak to her when she's not in the mood.

Mary loves to sing and enjoys music time at the local library, but when Miles and I sing her random songs she will often tell us, "stop it! That hurts my ears!" She refers to herself in the third person which is all kinds of adorable.

She tells me she misses Roscoe and the other day asked me where our house was and I responded, "this is our house, honey" to which she said, "no, our house is in SaBANnah!" She seems to have a great memory as she talks about a lot from Savannah still - a pool we went to five months ago, her friends there, and even the rental truck we had before moving.

She sleeps in a double bed now, the crib a thing of the past, and if she wakes up in the middle of the night will ask you to "please snuggle with me" which I'm likely to give in to because it's just so sweet.

She loves books and being read to, loves animals, and is obsessed with Paw Patrol. When asked what she wanted for her birthday her answer simply was, "a cake" because she's the best (though she got some presents as well).

It's hard to believe that it's already been three years and it's hard to believe that it's only been three years with this delightfully wonderful little girl.


December 14, 2016

Warwick Castle

While my sister was visiting we drove out to Warwick Castle one morning. Finn was in school so we didn't tell him we were going and try not to bring it up around him since going to a castle and watching a birds of prey show would have been way cooler to him than another long day at school. But, it was definitely a worthwhile trip and one we think we'll make again with the next set of visitors so we'll be sure to bring him next time.

Warwick Castle's origins date back to 1068 when William the Conqueror first built it (it was rebuilt in the 12th century). Inside they have done a great job of preserving a lot of the history and they have a lot going on (tours and shows) to really keep you engaged. We watched a birds of prey demonstration which was very good.

 We ended the visit with a trip to the gift shop where we purchased a BUCKET of candy. 
Mary was pumped.


December 4, 2016

Thanksgiving in London

While my sister and her fiancé (!!) were here visiting we made a day trip in to London. We decided to go on Thanksgiving day as we took Finn out of school that day and figured it would deb less busy thank going over the weekend. This wasn't our first trip in to London since moving here, but the other times have been very brief and we had yet to see any landmarks.

Finn just learned about some of the landmarks in school so was really excited to go see them in person. He seemed especially fond of Big Ben (which, for the record is even taller than Big Mike, the fiancé).

Buckingham Palace:

Finn was more entertained by chasing pigeons than being at Buckingham Palace. 
Insert eye roll.

 This way to Big Ben!

Walking around London is hard. Mid day fit deemed absolutely necessary by Mary.

We did a fast sightseeing tour that day (so we could get back to Oxford for a Thanksgiving dinner), but we managed to see Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, and took a river taxi boat tour seeing several more monuments and landmarks. We want to go back sometime and ditch the kids with a babysitter so we can actually go in some of these building and do tours that they could care less about (especially if there are pigeons around). All in all, it was a great way to spend our first Thanksgiving here - being grateful for British History!


November 28, 2016

Proposal in Oxford

My sister and her (then) boyfriend Mike came to Oxford last week to visit us. Mike asked my parent's for their blessing to propose to Kate back in July when we all went to California so we were anxiously awaiting this special moment. He got in touch with me a little bit ago to let me know he was planning to propose to Kate while they were in England visiting us and asked me to think of a few places he could pop the question. We got a great suggestion from a friend for him to do it at the top of the tower of University Church as the views up there are hard to beat. 

In typical British fashion the weather was crummy they day the arrived and it wasn't looking to promising the following day, but thankfully by early afternoon the rain stopped and we were able to go into the city centre for lunch and for me to show Mike and Kate around Oxford. We met Miles, who had just picked Finn up at school, at University Church and climbed the 138 steps to check out the top. Mike wanted the family nearby and asked me to snap some pictures, but unfortunately the top of the tower was especially narrow (you have to walk single file around the top) so I couldn't really get a great angle on any of the pictures. But regardless it was really awesome to witness. Kate had no idea it was coming when it did and her surprise made the moment that much better.

I mean, really, this view is pretty awesome

View from the other sides of the tower:

I took a picture of him down on a knee, but you couldn't even see him in the picture. Mike asked, "I have two questions for you. 1. Can I be a part of your family? and 2. Will you Marry me?"

We had the best lighting as the sun went down. View of the tower (we were up above the clock), and the Radcliff Camera after we climbed down.