decorating the tree (and the house!)

So as much as I love Christmas, the actual setting up of the Christmas tree and decorating it is not my favorite part. I love the tree once its up and decorated and making the living room so cozy-- and I love all the memories tied to the ornaments-- but the whole process is not too much fun, in my opinion. This year, because we were traveling home from Michigan the weekend after Thanksgiving (when we're usually putting up the tree), we did the tree decorating in stages. First day, got it out of the basement, put together and fluffed up. Pine needles were everywhere because Jake thought he was helping us out by shaking the needles out of the tree storage bag. Hilarious.

That next evening, we managed to get the lights wrapped around the tree and brought up the ornaments. Poor Jake wanted so badly to decorate the tree but we just couldn't get to it right away since we had to do other things like groceries and meals and getting ready for the week coming up. So that next afternoon while Reid was sleeping and Deric was obviously at work, Jake convinced me to decorate the tree with him. Usually we make it a whole family affair but I knew Deric doesn't love decorating the tree, so Jake and I did it ourselves!

The best part was watching Jake's excitement over *finally* being allowed to get the ornaments out of their boxes and choose where to put them. Of course we had a few lessons here and there about ornament placement ;) but otherwise he did a great job spreading out the ornaments and covering the entire tree! I did make sure to put the special ornaments around the top half because I wasn't sure what Reid would do with the tree. Thankfully his curiosity has waned and the ornaments stay put. (Can't say the same for the Christmas train, however!)

This was our first year to decorate the outside of our home and I was so, so excited for it! I found inexpensive lights at Target one afternoon while there for something else (always how it goes) and called Deric to measure off the roof line. As soon as I got home, Deric climbed out through a second story window to put lights up and the boys and I tried to rake leaves while we watched him climb around the roof. Jake chose colored lights and I love how they look! Nearly every house on our street is decorated and its so fun to see when we drive home after dark.

Looking for Dad way up on the roof!

Someone got cold and went in to supervise Dad up close!

The last bit of color right before a windstorm this weekend stripped all of the trees bare! But we also had some snow this weekend so I am definitely not complaining! I love seeing snow in December!

Back inside, a few other decorations have gone up too, like this felt tree I made when Jake was one. Its not getting much playtime with this active one year old, but Reid (and Jake) will still occasionally decorate it with the ornaments. The train around our tree is the biggest attraction and I'll post some photos and videos of Reid watching the train because it is the cutest!


baking pumpkin pie with Jake

I'm not sure where Jake got the idea, but he mentioned to me a few times before Thanksgiving that he wanted to bake pumpkin pie. It worked out perfectly that we celebrated an early Thanksgiving two weeks early with one side of Deric's family, so the day beforehand Jake and I got started on our pies. It was a good opportunity to involve Jake on the whole process of reading the recipe, buying ingredients at the store and then doing the actual baking and I knew he'd like having more responsibility in the process.

So first, we read through the recipe and jotted down a list to take to the grocery store...plus a couple extra things we needed. (I had a back up list on my phone in case I forgot what we needed because that handwriting is so cute but sometimes hard to decipher ;) )

Let's see if I can remember...
"pie crust
1 can pumpkin
2 cans (evaporated) milk"
...continued on the back

Then Jake and I headed to the store by ourselves and he got to push the cart and navigate the aisles to find what we needed.

Trying to find pumpkin pie puree amidst alllll the pie filling choices!

Can't get over him trying to read his own writing!

Back home we got right to work on the pies! The recipe was so simple and perfect for Jake to really help with. He's helped me bake for a while and I'm trying to give him more freedom and responsibility lately-- more than simply dumping and mixing ingredients. We can laugh now about the time he was sitting on the counter and broke an egg on his lap. It wasn't funny in the moment but now he thinks it is. And now he's learned to crack the eggs over the bowl, a lesson we all figured out at some point!

One of my favorite things about our house is this big counter that has room for both boys to help me bake. I'm not the "fun imaginative play" parent in the household but I figure it balances out when my activities ends with something good to eat! ;)

Jake's pies turned out great and he got so many kind compliments from our family that next day. I tried a tiny slice but pumpkin pie is just not my thing! Thankfully the rest of the family were big fans and we went home with only two slices left, one for the chef and one for his pumpkin-pie loving dad.


Thanksgiving in Port Hope

We were able to spend Thanksgiving in Port Hope this year with (most of) my family and I'm so glad we could swing almost a full week in Michigan! Just like this summer, we traipsed back and forth between the house and the Mercantile a few times and I loved seeing the Christmas display in the front windows!

Jake had a great time as usual, playing with Cana and running around the house. Those two are always glued at the hip when they get together and I love watching them play. Jake got to watch The Grinch (Jim Carrey version) for the first time and he loved it. I'm so excited to expand his repertoire of Christmas movies over the next few years!

Poor Reid, however, got sick with just enough cough and congestion to feel miserable and sleep terribly, therefore no one in our family got much sleep during the trip. But two naps during the car ride home and some major naps in his own bed these last few days, and he's much more like his normal self. This is how he spent the majority of his days-- pinned to Deric's legs:

He did manage to spare some energy to climb onto the chairs and try to "help" with the jigsaw puzzle. 

Reid and I got a few early mornings to ourselves thanks to his coughing so we took one for the team and made pancakes for everyone to fill the time!

I saw flurries for a bit during the first day we were there but nothing came of it, sadly. Each day got a little warmer so we ventured outside occasionally to run off some cabin fever.

Thanksgiving dinner did not disappoint, not that I was expecting it to! Along with the turkey, Dad smoked a ham all day and oh my gosh, I've never had a better ham. I actually didn't have any turkey at all because the ham was so good. Add in sweet potato casserole, pineapple casserole...I'm just sad we didn't bring a cooler with us to steal some leftovers for the ride home.

A little backgammon with Grandad before Thanksgiving dinner!

On our last night we all went over to a friend of my parents to check out her Christmas light display and I was blown away! So many displays outside, but the inside of her house was like walking into the North Pole! I didn't count how many (full-sized) Christmas trees she had up, but I would guess five!! It was beautiful. The kids were in awe and had it not been so cold, they could have run around the property forever.

Like usual, I forgot to get a picture of our family and our extended family, but we'll make up for that with Christmas photos! We had a great Thanksgiving and we're grateful now to be home, cozying up for Christmas and looking forward to seeing our family again soon!


a space-themed Halloween!

Halloween was so much fun this year! Every year has gotten more fun as the boys understand trick-or-treating a little more, plus I love seeing them dressed up in their costumes. We had friends over for dinner and then scoured the neighborhood with them. I feel like we got a late start on trick or treating but we started at 6! We had a group of kids ring the doorbell at 5:30 and it totally surprised me. So by the time we headed out just a little later, it seemed like we were the last ones out the door...and we were the last ones walking home at 7:45, surprisingly!

Jake was hung up between being a robot or an astronaut for probably a month leading up to Halloween! I'll admit, I steer his decisions based on what I can feasibly create, but he also loves robots and astronauts so I didn't feel too bad. ;) But then after looking online for costume ideas, I worked harder to steer him in the astronaut direction because 1) we already have an astronaut costume and 2) the diy robots just weren't that much fun unless you want to go all out with a cardboard head, and I knew Jake would hate to wear that. So he settled on the astronaut as long as he could have a "robot" jet pack, aka a jet pack he could actually play with! That was just fine with me. Deric figured out the jet pack while I worked on making Reid a rocket ship costume.

(I thought I might have better luck with some photos if I put them in their costumes earlier that afternoon before the excitement but clearly, no. Reid couldn't stand the thought of staying *on* the porch long enough to get a picture!)

This one's a framer. ;)

I love how the rocketship costume turned out but it was freezing that night. So after we stuffed Reid into two jackets, the costume was a *bit* snug. (I'd planned for just one jacket!) But he didn't care. He managed to walk to a few houses and then Reid and our friends' youngest snuggled up in the double stroller and let the big kids get the candy for them. Smart move!

We loved being able to trick or treat in our own neighborhood this year and meet a few more neighbors! It makes me excited for years to come and traditions to continue!


camping trip!

Last week we packed up  every blanket and jacket we own (or at least it felt like it!) and camped at Raccoon Lake, a gorgeous campground less than an hour west of us. We booked a campsite about a month ago with only a recommendation to go off of and totally loved it. We've got plans to go back as soon as we can. (Unfortunately the temperatures at night have really dropped just in the last few days so we may have to wait until spring!) We only planned for one night because we weren't sure how Reid would do or how everyone would sleep and although we all would have loved to stay another night, judging by how quickly the boys fell asleep on the way home-- I think we wore them out!

We set up camp pretty quickly....once we switched campsites and hauled stuff to the new one. Not in our plans but the campsite we'd reserved backed up to a drop off and I couldn't handle the added worry about Reid! Our campsite was perfectly positioned between the bathrooms, playground and water source so we wandered over to the playground while our sweet potatoes cooked in the fire for dinner.

Easy but delicious dinner! Brats, sweet potatoes and fruits/veggies on the side. It balanced out the s'mores that came later. ;)

The campsite we switched to backed up to a trail that led down to the lake so after dinner, we hiked down and spent some time exploring and throwing rocks into the lake, of course. Jake's working on skipping rocks and got one or two with some practice! He had so much fun running along the shore, climbing the rocks and jumping off.

We keep a soccer ball and shovels in the back of the van at all times! They almost always come in handy.

One of us always has a hand on this child when we're outside ;)

Deric's been training him in the art of silly faces for every picture. ;)

Jake sat up with us that night and we looked at the stars while warming up by the fire before going to bed. He is at such a perfect age for camping and he loved every bit of it. Exploring the lake and the campsite, helping roast brats and marshmallows, looking at the stars...hands down the best part of the trip was watching how much he enjoyed it.

My favorite part of camping: the food! Even though we didn't do anything gourmet, drinking hot chocolate and eating breakfast by the fire (even if it was a bit wiggly with Reid!) is so fun. And man if he didn't look adorable in his penguin jammies! I almost didn't want to change his clothes for hiking.

Little brother watching big brother throw the walnuts!

Deric cooked hash browns over the fire and admitted he burned them a bit because of the uneven flame. For some reason Jake thought it was hilarious and kept talking about "the burnt hash browns!" As in, "Mom, can I have more burnt hash browns? I'm almost done with my burnt hash browns!"
Hilarious...and still delicious.

The lake is surrounded by hills and trails wind up and down these hills, over bridges and up log stairs. One of the trail heads was right by us so the next morning after breakfast, we loaded Reid up in the backpack and went out to explore.

Jake was so happy out on the trails. We always designate him our navigator and let him "read" the maps to figure out where to go (with some helpful hints along the way!) He was singing and running and playing and having so much fun. There were so many pretty views of the lake that I'm bummed I couldn't capture them on camera!

Wish we could go back this weekend, but we'd freeze our rears off if we did! I'm so glad we were able to squeeze in a trip on the last week of beautiful weather!