Second Annual Christmas Card Challenge Winners

I know like three of you (ok, more like seven) have been anxiously awaiting the results for the Christmas card challenge. I mean, a freaking Starbucks card is at stake here!!! What could be more exciting than that?! So I gathered with my panel of judges...I mean, I grabbed my cup of coffee and stack of Christmas cards and went to work. Now for the results...

First to arrive - My sister-in-law Carli won the coveted first to arrive spot. And I guess she deserved it given she sent us a Christmas card right after Thanksgiving, trying to be the first to arrive. 

Best handwritten note - My friend Heidi and her family had the most adorable handmade cards this year. Just look at that finger reindeer family! 

Best photo(s) - I just can't get over the adorableness of this family. And it only makes it better that the parents just blend right in with that gang of kids. Aww, I love it so much! 

Best Update - People sent some pretty creative updates this year. I definitely feel like the creative update letter is making a come back. But this one took the cake. It's a brochure and I totally loved it. 

Best Overall - Just look at this family. I love my friend Bryana and her adorable family. And, well, I also loved her card. I love that it is two sided and that the color scheme of the message on back matched the family's outfits in the picture. 

Honorable Mention - I wasn't planning on adding another category. But, our friend ordered Christmas cards and forgot to change the generic name on the cards. I laughed when I read about it on facebook. I laughed even more when I saw it in person. Thanks for the laugh "Davis family". Your card certainly did send some "Christmas cheer" my way ;)

Now for the winner of the $20 Starbucks card...drumroll please...


Alright people, now get a head start on your 2015 Christmas cards and start planning them now! 

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I felt like I was more excited on Christmas Eve than my kids were. Now, admittedly, I think I kind of ruined things for them by putting presents out a week ahead of time and making them stare at them, so it wasn't like they fully got the idea that they got to open them the next morning. But, me, I was SO FREAKING EXCITED!

The morning of Christmas, Connor was excited and ready to open presents. Isla, on the other hand, screamed when we tried to bring her out. So, she sat in her room while Connor opened his presents. Once she was ready, she made her way out. In fact, she came out wearing a reindeer headband. It was pretty funny and cute that she did that all on her own. 

^^ I'm still in that "I must document every time my kids play together without fighting" honeymoon phase. But I am loving that my kids are playing together more and more often without fighting every 15 seconds. 

After spending the morning at our house, we went and spend a couple hours at both mine and Ian's parents houses. Isla was showered with Frozen stuff and has been switching back and forth being both Elsa and Anna over the past few days. Of course, her favorite dress is a light up singing Elsa dress. And it's pretty funny to see her in it because she totally thinks she is hot stuff. Connor got a police lego set and a bunch of police playmobil stuff and has been going back and forth between playing with it all.

It was a good, busy, fun, exciting and tiring day.

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Connor: This kid has certainly liked Christmas this year. He is very into the festivities and never tires of opening gifts. On a side note, dumping fake snow on your kids heads is really fun and they totally get a kick out of it. 

Isla: She got a pink feather boa at a kid Christmas party we went to. It was the perfect gift for this girly-girl. In fact, Christmas was kind to her and she received many princess items and has been changing constantly.  

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."

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A Preschool Christmas

Last year I wasn't able to go to Connor's preschool Christmas party because I was in LA for my dad's back surgery. So, I was kind of extra excited this year because I had no clue what was in store for me. Again, the parties were staggered for the parents who have kids in both classes. First up was Isla. 

^^ Super excited to spot mom and dad in the crowd

 ^^ Isla and her teachers, whom I totally love. 

Isla's class sang a couple songs. One of the songs they rang their necklace bells during. Isla actually sang along this time, as opposed to at Thanksgiving. After the performance, we enjoyed cookies. Isla got a book from her teachers and she made us (or more her teachers made us) a Christmas plate. It was really thoughtful for them to make a present for the parents. 

Next up was Connor...

^^ Drummer boy Connor 

^^ The present to the parents in Connor's class. The angel ornament made me laugh, but it is cute too. 

Connor's class dressed up and did a little presentation to The Little Drummer Boy. Connor was one of the drummer boys. He kind of stole the show about half way through when he decided to start drumming with his eyes closed. He kept knocking his drum over and being all crazy. Then, at the end, he declared to everyone, "I can drum with my eyes closed" and everyone laughed. That boy is definitely comfortable being in the spotlight and enjoys hamming it up for people!  In Connor's class we also had cookies. Connor also got a book from his teachers. And he gave us a decorated chalk board along with the ornament of him dressed up like an angel. 

It was a fun morning of parties. I like all the cheesiness of preschool and how excited the kids get about stuff like this. And, to be honest, it gets me all excited too. Now we are on break and I am enjoying not having to rush out the door in the mornings for a couple weeks. 

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2014 Family Pictures

I'm going to warn you, you are about to be inundated with so many pictures, you may not know what to do with yourself. But it was hard to limit myself to even these because there are just so many pictures I love. I love that these pictures capture the real us. Our kids were squirmy that day {and always}, we played, we had fun and great moments were captured. So here you go, a few...or a lot...of my favorites. 

^^ Look at that genuine smile!!! I love it so much. 

^^ I love this picture. So fun and such joy. 

^^ And this may actually be my favorite picture from that day...or in the top three...there's just so many good ones! I just love the genuine look of joy on Ian's face. 

^^ Me and my boy!!!

^^ This pretty much sums up my kids relationship. They can't touch without fighting, so this is how it happened. 

^^ My favorite family photo. I kind of can't get over Isla's little legs being crossed! 

^^ Already trying to get away from my {surprise} kisses

^^ Let's just label this one "real life". Kids tend to do this to couples. But, you've gotta fight to stay focused on each other. 

If you made it through, I'm so proud! Just be glad I didn't share all 80 of my favorites! Now to get these printed and plastered all over my house. But seriously, there are so many I love, I kind of feel like I should make a photo book of just them. I love them...and the people in much. I love this family of mine. 

If you want to look at family pictures from years past, here you go - 2013 and 2012, and a little 2009-2012 comparison.  

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Please tell me I am not the only person that finds themselves constantly taking pictures of their kids with the Christmas tree?! I already have pictures of them reading by it, these ones, ones of them looking in ornaments. It's just that they gravitate to it so much...and so do we end up with a lot of Christmas tree pictures. 

Connor: He is so excited for Christmas and his stocking and presents. I wrapped and put the presents under our tree one evening this week. I couldn't wait to see how excited the kids would be in the morning. I quickly realized it is pure torture to put out presents a week before they can open them. Oops. 

Isla: This girly-girl's current favorite accessory is this red sparkly headband. Lots of times lately, she even finds it and puts it in her hair after we have put her to bed.  

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014."

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A Visit with Santa

The mall totally upped their game with the Santa experience this year. It started off with a meter that tells whether you are on the nice or naughty list. Connor made the nice list ;) And Isla refused to be tested. Next up was "elfing" ourselves. Connor didn't participate in this, but Isla and I became the heads of dancing elves. They even emailed us the video...of which Isla was totally entertained by and watched over and over and over and over again. Then we went into a room where they had a realistic setup of controlling Santa's sleigh. Connor totally dug this. It made noises and lit up. It was pretty neat. Also in that room were these monitors where you could see what was going on behind different doors...elves wrapping presents, etc. Then they took a family picture...I told Ian had I known, we could have skipped family pictures this year and just done that. I totally kid, but look how cute Isla looks in that picture! Then we were on to seeing Santa...

^^ Connor having a moment with Santa. 

Isla did not want anywhere near Santa. In the first couple pictures, she was screaming. The photo girl was determined to get a good picture. I finally convinced Isla to stand next to Santa and she did it without crying. The photo girl wanted to keep trying, but I feel like each Santa photo kind of tells a story of that year. And it totally got me thinking about how traumatizing it must be for my kids to be thrust into the lap of a perfect stranger. It even sounds like torture when I describe it like that. But, they survived another year of it. 

In case you care, here are the Santa pictures from years past - 2013, 2012 and 2011. I kind of love that they now provide the digital copies of the pictures. It makes posting them on my blog and putting them in picture books so much easier! 

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Generous with my Possessions

When I chose the word generous for the year, I knew it would mean focusing on all different aspects of generosity. And, given that it is a quality that I want to possess, I was ready to take it on.  The thing I have really learned over and over this year about being generous with my possessions is making sure people matter more than my possessions. I know that sounds a bit like, duh Jessica. But really think about that for a minute. I am sure all of us have a possession, or twenty, that we really care about and would probably lose our cool if something happened to. A few months ago, I was tested with this and managed to come out feeling good that I didn't loose my cool. I realized when I value my possessions over people, that means that relationships end up getting damaged or ruined over stuff. STUFF. And aren't people more valuable than possessions any day?

Another thing I have learned is when I loan something out or give something to someone, it needs to be done with no strings attached. Because how would it be generous if the other person was afraid to use whatever it was for fear of damaging it. That would negate the purpose of the generosity. I'm not saying that when I loan something out that I don't want it back. But what it is saying is I don't expect it back. If they broke it while using it or left it on the trunk of their car while driving and it fell off, not a big deal...because, really, I shouldn't have loaned it out if I was that attached to it. As for giving things to people, I have learned over and over that I need to give out of love and meeting a need and what the people do with that is up to them, not me.

True generosity is putting more value in people over stuff.  This is something I know I will have to remind myself of over and over throughout my life. Heck, my own kids teach me this on a practically daily basis! When it comes down to it, I want to be a person who is known as being generous and one who puts people before possessions. I'm still (and will always be) a work in progress.

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