January 4, 2016

Happy Holidays!

Our holiday season was a little short this year. Memaw needed to have major surgery, so Carla went back home for a couple weeks before Christmas. Jim held down the fort with the kids for the last few weeks of school. We did squeeze in a few things, including a pre-Christmas trip to the Everglades (we have lived in Florida for 20 years and never been there).

We had Christmas at home and then hit the road to West Virginia and Virginia to visit family. It is an annual trip and one we all look forward to. We get to visit lots of Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins.

Here are a few of pictures!


The photo diary is below:

Christmas Holiday


Everglades Camping Trip   Miscellaneous




Christmas Holiday (back to top)

Christmas was nice at home. We went to Christmas Eve service at church, ate our traditional Italian meal and Kai and Sierra opened one present.

We celebrated Christmas day at home and enjoyed our gifts, then hit the road for the long trip up North.



We didn't think a visit to Santa was on the list this year. Although we love our Santa and for 10 years, Kai and Sierra have seen the same Santa at the same place. This year, due to travelling back home, we weren't planning on it. Sierra was concerned he wouldn't know what she wanted (even if we mailed it). We got a reservation to see one at the mall down the road before Carla left to go back home.


Kai's goofy list for Santa.



Sierra's Santa list.


The front of our Christmas card.


The back of our 2016 Christmas card.


Fred, our Elf on the Shelf, in one of his crazy positions.


We put up the artificial tree this year before mom left.


Sierra decorating while watching TV.


Silly girl.


"Come on mom, take it already."


We got a few decorations up, so the house would be festive while mom was away.


All the decorations up, while watching Elf (part of our tree decorating tradition).


Dad getting the star in place.


"Thumbs up, mom."



It's done!


Merlin likes the Christmas rug.



The Christmas cactus in full bloom.


Christmas Eve present.



"One present - what could it be?"


"Yeah - a new slingshot"



"I'm going to shoot a lot of paint balls with this."


Christmas Eve at Journey. The stage was beautiful.



The boys ready for the service to start.


Kai and Sierra posing for mom.



Family shot.


Dad and Merlin are ready for bed.



Watching Elf again.. almost Santa time.


Our Kazakh decorations.



Father Christmas and Snow Girl nesting dolls.


Cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer.



He came!


Santa was in the house!



"Wait, I see a few in the back."


Axe body kit.



Tacocat shirt (mom loves this one)










"Watch your face."


Rocking out... they're getting the hang of it.



More presents ... Dick's in the house!



Everglades Pre-Christmas Camping Trip (back to top)

Last year, we decided to head on a quick camping trip before Christmas (after the kids got out of school for winter break). It was a lot of fun, so we decided to try it again this year. We decided on the Everglades since we had never gone before.

It was a cool place to go see, but we probably won't be heading back... we can say we checked it off our list. The "zombie mosquitos" down there were like nothing we have ever seen before. Poor Jim and Kai were torn to pieces.

We decorated the camper for the holidays.


The campsite wasn't anything fancy, but easy to get in/out of.



This was the mosquito meter during the day... hysterical level after dusk.


Osprey flying overhead.


Watchful eye, looking over the babies.


Black vulture.



Crocodile! This is the only place in the country to see alligators and crocodiles.


Our pretty girl.


Even though the water was very chilly, the manatees were out.


The boys reading in the RV.



Cool looking dragonfly.


There were huge airplants in the trees (some looked like pineapples).



Flat but pretty National Park.


We had to cover the car with a tarp for this little hike. The black vultures scratch the cars up in the parking lot, so they provide tarps and bungee cords for the cars.


Hollow coconut.


"I'm coming for you."



Cool, jewel looking eyes on this alligator.


Just swimming by.



Drying out in the sun.


Kai enjoyed taking some pics of the wildlife.



Lillypads pooling water.


The eyes on this bird were amazing.



We found this guy under a bush resting.


They put a sign up in the parking lot to warn you about the vultures.

The birds rule around here.


Everglades National Park park entrance.



More birds flying by.


Forrest dressed up in her Santa outfit... ready for Christmas.



Sierra found a tree to climb (we checked it for pythons before she went up).


Kai joined her.



Playing games.







Diamond back rattle snake crossing the road.


We found another Osprey nest.



Biking up to the marina.



Double manatees.


It is hard to tell from the picture but we saw a mama manatee and her baby.



I wouldn't want to get any closer, but these crocodiles were very cool.


There he goes.



No luck fishing, but we have fun trying.


We tried to use squid this time... no luck.



Sierra checking her bait.


Pelican flying by.



Dad tried to.


We took a canoe trip with a park ranger.



It was a free program (including the canoe) and we were able to go through many different habitats.


The boys were in one canoe.



We would stop occasionally so the park ranger could tell us some interesting facts about the area we were in.


This area looked like a prairie from the road but we canoed right through it.



Mom was on the trip... not in many pics but present.


Another stop to learn about the mangroves.



Sierra was a big help paddling, especially when mom stopped to take pictures.


The Higgins' clan.



Mom sacrificed herself to do doggie duty after dark. This was the outfit... no exposed skin or you would get chewed to pieces. Even in this, it sounded like they were dive bombing the jacket the entire time... tat, tat, tat,tat.


We would turn off the lights while mom went in/out, but still would get 30-40 mosquitoes in on the quick door open. It would take us 30 minutes to kill them once we were back inside.





Another osprey coming in for a landing.



Mating or fighting black vultures... we couldn't tell.


Selfie after the mosquito dog walk (after the sun came up, not one mosquito outside... come dusk, the zombies were out).



The day we checked out, Jim reached up to unplug the electric and felt something jump on him (which caused him to jump back). Found this guy inside the panel... Carla was cracking up; Jim was ready to get out of the swamp.





WVA/VA Trip Back Home (back to top)

We had a great trip back home visiting everyone. We didn't get any snow this year, but temperatures were cooler than home so we could at least bust out our sweatshirts.


Kai with Mick2 and Forrest.


Mick resting with Sierra.


Sierra and Aunt Nancy.


Cousin Brad and his friend.

Cousin Seth.


Kai and Sierra made Seth show is man-bun.


Hanging on the deck.


Aunt Allison with Scarlett.


"Check out my hat."


Nancy and Seth.





Cousins.. Brad and Ryan.




Aunt Allison and Stacy.


Cousin Evan and Scarlett.





Watch.. Mom's going to get you.



Uncle Mike and Scarlett.


Aunt Nancy and Scarlett.



The King boys.


She is stylin' and ready to go.



Stacy and Scarlett on the move.


Pretty sisters.



Riding the fake bike in downtown Lewisburg.


Me too!



Aunt Nancy always gets a squeeze in.


Attack of the Aunt Nancy.



Carla and Sierra sporting their new hair dos - Thanks Aunt Allison.


Sierra getting the royal treatment.



It is shaping up nice. She hasn't had short hair in more than a year.


Turned out pretty awesome.



One more breakfast with Grandma Nancy before we head out of town.


Time for the Ward side... Star Wars and pizza.



Aunt Kit and Uncle Jeffrey.


Aunt Bunny and Tristan.



Uncle Ken and Aunt Bunny with all the grandbabies.


Carla, Jeffrey and Bunny.



The Higgins'


Silly kiddos (Sierra, Kai, Kaden, Thomas, Forrest).



New hairdos.


"What? what?"



Cousin Jen, Aunt Bunny, and Cousin Ellie.


Cousin Seth and Aunt Bunny.



Carla and Jen.


Kai practicing his sling shot with paintballs.



Serious business.


Check out the shooting stance.



Ping-pong tournament.


"Take that."



Jim and Kai battle it out.


Hunter and Laura take a turn.




Sierra and Smokey.



Kai and Bandit.



Aunt Kit and Uncle Jeffrey duke it out.


Cousins (Hunter, Forrest, Kai and Sierra)



Happy 2016!


Yeah - going to be a great year!





Who can blow the noise makers the loudest.



Seriously... right when I put food in my mouth?


Hunter at the farm.



Kai's been looking forward to this all year.


Forrest likes the mud.



Hunter is a lot taller than Aunt Kit now.


Checking out the farm.



Hunter getting in some driving practice.


Pawpaw's annual railroad picture.



Say cheese.


Annual modeling shots.



If you smile, it goes quicker and you can go play.


Ok - how is this smile? Are we almost done?



How is this pose?


This never gets old? Wait, yes it does.



This one will be fun to replicate in 10 years.


You're not that much taller.



Now - we play!


I'm ready to roll.



Crazy Uncle Jeffrey.





Stuck in the mud!


Uncle Jeffrey to the rescue.



Alright... mom doesn't let us get this dirty at home.


Yeah... this is what I'm talking about.



Stuck again.


Look at that smile.. happy girl.



Uncle Jeffrey making deeper cracks.


I could do this all day.



Me too.


Hunter helping making the trail deeper.



Serious business.


One more spin.



Hunter finally gets his back to race around.


Taking a spin around the farm.



I love this.


Slingshot time.



They went through an entire bucket of paintballs.


Watch out.



The grandkids on the tracks.


Just the Higgins' on the tracks.



The Wards' on the tracks.


That's my girl.



More slingshots.


Forrest taking a turn.



Hunter's 15th early birthday celebration.


Happy Birthday Hunter!



Forrest has to get in the shot.


Pawpaw gets the dessert.



Miscellaneous (back to top)

In addition to all the fun described above, we had lots of other miscellaneous adventures (see below).


Kai and his team (Aidan and Drew) won't 2nd place at the science fair.




The winter band concert at Lake Brantley.


The crew hanging with MeMaw before her surgery. We documented the hospital stay but figured she didn't want them all out here for the world.













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