Friday, December 19, 2014

Holidays Around the World

During the first week of December, Kaitlynn was able to experience an awesome and unique experience at school. Every year, the PTA at WoodCreek plans and organizes a special event called P.A.T.H.S. (Parents and Teachers Helping Students) for each grade level. These events are like on-campus field trips, and each grade level has a different theme. The theme for the Kindergarten kids is "Holidays Around the World," where the kids are able to visit different countries, learning all about how holidays are celebrated in each.

This year the kids visited 7 countries: India, Nigeria, England, Israel, China, Poland and Mexico. Dozens of volunteers came together to decorate 7 rooms, 1 for each country, and they also organized various activities and crafts to help illustrate each country's holiday celebrations. The kids were given official passports and traveled from country to country, getting their passports stamped and learning all about each country through costumes, music, food, and fun!

Some of the awesome volunteers from Holidays Around the World.

The event was held in the campus's spare portable buildings, which was nice because we had them to ourselves for extra time to plan and decorate. When it was finally show time, the kids were super excited to begin their journey around the world.

Here they come, 210 kindergarteners ready to travel the world! Kaitlynn was so excited!

I've been so busy with various PTA activities this year that I decided to take a lesser role for this event. But I still wanted to participate and ended up on the Nigeria team. The team lead, Christy, is the Mom of Kaitlynn's classmate and she did a GREAT job of planning and representing Nigeria in our portion of the day's events.

Our Nigerian country leader, decked out in authentic dress. She looked awesome!

Kaitlynn's class listening intently to Christy, learning all about Nigeria. The brown bags are their "suitcases" which contained their passports and all of their fun country-based holiday crafts.

Kaitlynn working on her Nigerian coral beaded bracelet.

Quick pic with Mom in Nigeria.

When I asked Kaitlynn which country she enjoyed the most, she said China. They were able to witness the dragon dance with the awesome dragon costume, and they made miniature dragon crafts with little blowers in them. So cute!

One of my friends texted me this picture of Kaitlynn's class in China. I was a little caught off-guard when I noticed Kaitlynn with her arm around one of her classmates. (She has since declared that this is the boy she wants to marry, and she gets shy and giggly everytime she mentions his name. Ummmm.....)!

Kaitlynn visiting China, with her arm around her new man.

Kaitlynn and one of her best friends, Haasini.

The country next door to Nigeria was India, and I could tell that the kids were having a blast in there all day. The Indian country leaders brought enough kid-sized Indian clothes that all of the kids were able to dress up during their visit. Then they watched a little presentation and learned how to dance Bollywood style. So fun!

Kaitlynn in authentic Indian dress.

In India, the kids watched a short video to learn more about Indian holiday traditions.

My friend Nadia (Ms. Vaid, Connor's former 1st grade teacher who now teaches Kindergarten) was getting a kick out of watching Kaitlynn learn the Bollywood dance, so she took this short video to share with me. Love having teacher friends that love on my kids like this, too cute!!

After spending all day at school with 200+ kindergarteners, I was totally pooped! But what an awesome experience for the grown-ups and kids alike. Kaitlynn learned so much about the countries and holidays around the world, and I'm so thankful that she has such fun and unique learning opportunities at her school.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Meeting Santa 2014

One of our favorite Christmas traditions with the kids is taking them to visit Santa every year. It's so fun to experience their excitement when they see him and get to sit next to him while telling what they'd like for Christmas. And of course, as the family photographer, I never want to miss the opportunity for yearly comparison photos. Not sure how much longer this tradition will last so I'll enjoy it while I can!

2014 Santa photo

As I was rushing the kids to pick a Christmas outfit and beat the mall crowds, I failed to notice what Connor happened to leave the house wearing. His Santa shirt -- Skeleton Santa, that is. Oops! The very first thing Santa talked about when the kids sat down was Connor's inappropriate shirt. Oh my, I think that means that Mom is on the NAUGHTY list!! (I apologized profusely to Santa, just so you know!)

A quick snap right when they sat down. All smiles!

Sweet faces as they have a little chat with Santa.

Another sweet sibling pic.

We've been going to Memorial City Mall for the past few years to visit Santa. They do such an amazing job with all of the Christmas decorations. It's become a fun little tradition to visit Santa and then enjoy a midweek dinner together at the mall.

Standing outside the Santaland.

Look at those lights -- beautiful!!

This year, both kids wrote letters to Santa before visiting. They wanted to make SURE that Santa knew what they wanted, ha! I tried to tell them to write something other than just a list of gifts that they wanted. But well, kids will be kids!

Kaitlynn did an amazing job of writing her letter almost completely by herself, but it still requires translation:

Dear Santa: Merry Christmas! I love Santa. Thank you for our elf Jexan! Thank you for giving all for the presents! Some presents I like are Anna doll, bike 18 inch, princess dress, watch, nail polish, Anna nail polish, jewelry! Love Kaitlynn! Thank you for this great Christmas!

(Connor may have emphasized to Kaitlynn the need for exclamation points throughout her letter, just to let Santa know how excited she was about Christmas. She took that suggestion to heart, ha!)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jexan the Elf

Our 2014 Christmas is extra special due to the arrival of a very special guest. Meet Jexan, our family's very own Elf!

Yes, I realize our family is WAY behind the times when it comes to the Elf on a Shelf stuff. For years, our kids have talked about other friends' Elves, asking many questions along the way. And Jeff has given me such a hard time for the past couple of years wondering why we didn't have an Elf like everyone else. I can't say I'm a big fan of this tradition, but how can I refuse when the kids love it so much?

Our Elf arrived via special delivery on Dec. 1. The kids came home from school to find a special package that had arrived for them. They were super excited when they realized what it was.

We read the accompanying Elf on a Shelf book and realized that we needed to name our Elf. Connor immediately suggested "Texan" while Kaitlynn had some more interesting suggestions like "Princess" and "Dress". Umm, ok. I told Kaitlynn that his name should be an actual name, like John or Jimmy. So of course, she then said, "Jimmy! Let's name him Jimmy!" I responded that we needed to compromise on a name that both Connor and Kaitlynn wanted. So...

Jimmy  + Texan = Jexan!

Ever since Jexan arrived in our family, the kids have been excited to see his new spot every morning. He isn't as creative as some of the Elves out there, but he definitely has made himself comfortable in the house and is finding all sorts of ways to enjoy himself while spying on the kids' behavior.

I'm also starting to think that Jexan has a thing for Barbie. Kaitlynn seems to think now that Barbie is Jexan's wife! At the rate he's going, Jexan may find himself on Santa's naughty list if he doesn't tone down his behavior, ha!

In any case, we are having fun with Jexan the Elf and look forward to seeing his new antics daily. I was hopeful that Jexan's watchful eye would help curb the constant sibling bickering that continues to happen in our household.

But, nope! ;-)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thanksmas 2014

For the Thanksgiving holiday, the Courtright family had another wonderful visit to Michigan to hang out with Jeff's Mom's side of the family. We call this tradition "Thanksmas" because we are able to celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas all in one. Jeff's extended family is large, loud, and so much fun!!! I always feel right at home! ;-)

Thanksmas is always hosted at Jeff's Aunt Patti and Uncle John's home in Saugatuck. What a gorgeous home that we are so blessed to enjoy year after year! And this year, we were able to enjoy another snowy visit. It's the one time of year that we can hope for snow so that the kids can experience the conditions we'll probably never have down here in Katy. What a blast, for little and big kids alike!

John and Patti's gorgeous home in the snowy weather.

Playing in the snow, not sure who had the most fun!

I ventured out for a quick pic. So cold!

Our favorite mountain dog, Riley, rolling around in the snow.

Connor in a snowball fight with his cousins and Collin and Kevin.

And of course, it's the one time each year that we get to visit with our cousins from all over the country. Our families are at the phase in life where each new year, there are new little cousins to add to the mix. Connor and Kaitlynn love all the cousin time! This year, Kaitlynn had an extra special time with all the sweet girl cousins in the family. Our newest cousin, Roslyn, was adored by ALL and greeted us all with huge smiles.

This year the princess castle took over the downstairs "man cave" in the basement, ha!
Lennyn and Kaitlynn, sweet cousins.

Collin enjoyed some cuddle time with Lennyn and Kaitlynn.

Cousin Jon didn't know what to think about holding the little ones, ha!

Kaitlynn and Lennyn; love how little girls hold hands to how their friendship.

Leighton and Kaitlynn playing in Aunt Patti's toys.

Leighton, Emmaline, Kaitlynn, and Willow. (Emma and Willow are twins; I may have gotten them mixed up, oops!)

Connor and Liam fighting over the football. They are great buddies!

Sweet smiles at dinner.

A quick funny story about the little girl cousins: when baby Roslyn first arrived, her Mom Jessie set her down in the living room in her baby carrier. Within seconds, every single one of the other girls were crowded around Roslyn's carrier to take a peek. The boys were nowhere to be found, but the girl couldn't get enough face time with the precious baby. Even the toddler twin "babies" were admiring the baby, LOVE it!

All the little girls welcoming baby Roslyn, and she loves every second of the attention!

Then the girls had to take turns holding the baby. So sweet!

Our tradition for Thanksmas each year includes Christmas carols and gifts on the night before Thanksgiving Day. That, of course, is always the kids favorite part!

Ready for Christmas carols.

I never get tired of the surprised expressions from kids opening gifts. K got her Elsa doll!

Jeff's gift from Cousin Jon, a custom jersey from Jeff's alma matter.

Uncle Chris gets some love from Riley.

Daddy horsie rides.

Poker time.

I told the girls to give me their best poses. Ummm....

Love my girl!

We stayed at a nearby hotel with an indoor swimming pool, so the kids enjoyed swimming by morning and snowball fights by afternoon. Gotta love that!

Out for a Christmas treat with Aunt Patti and Lennyn and her twin sisters. So precious!

The girls with their treats.

This year at Thanksmas, Aunt Patti arranged for a photographer to come take pictures of all the families and the entire group. There was a lot of moaning and complaining by the guys of the group, but it's so nice to have these pictures to compare year after year.

The Courtright family.

Our extended family with Nana, Grandpa, and Uncle Chris.

The entire gang, that's a big group!

Sooner than we realized, it was time to head back home. We flew through Minneapolis this time and were all really impressed with that airport. There were great food options, lots of fun shopping, and even a kids' play area. Every airport needs one of those!

Fun at the kids play area.


K spotted an Anna and Elsa sign and had to get her picture taken with them. Is it just me or has Frozen taken over the world?

One last story from the trip home to Houston. We had 2 flights, one to Minneapolis followed by one to Houston. I had the pleasure of cuddling with Connor on the first flight and Kaitlynn on the second. There must be something to the Mother's touch, because for the flights when they were sitting next to me, they both fell asleep almost instantly and slept the entire time. When we were about to land in Minneapolis, Connor started waking up and I asked how he slept. For some reason, he always denies that he was asleep even when it's obvious that he's OUT. Right after he insisted that he was just resting and wasn't asleep, he said, "Has the snack cart come by yet?" Ummm, buddy, we just landed. So yeah, you kind of slept through the snack cart! Ha!

Naptime on the plane.