Sunday, January 9, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year !

We started our holiday season by escaping to the North Georgia mountains for Thanksgiving. We didn't have any family visiting and felt like getting away to colder weather and some mountains. It was a long drive but very fun trip. We had a nice, little cabin in the woods with no working cell phone or internet coverage! It was an adjustment initially to "technology detox" but it was exactly what we needed. We played games, read Harry Potter (then watched the movie), had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal together and did many outdoor activities.

Once we got back to reality after Thanksgiving, we started our busy holiday season. We took advantage of many holiday festivities in the area and had two very hyper children in our house as Christmas drew closer. Kai and Sierra finished their first semester of first grade just a couple of days before Christmas. It was nice that Christmas fell on a Saturday. We had Christmas Eve off from work and the extra day after Christmas before returning to work. It was a nice, long, relaxing weekend.

Three days after Christmas, we left on a plane for VA/WVA to visit our family, many we hadn't seen in a year. The timing was perfect. The blizzard hit up North the day after Christmas and the airport opened back up the day of our trip, allowing us to safely get to our various destinations. We had plenty of snow to play in, but they had plenty of times to get the roads clear before we got there!

Below are our 2010 Christmas/Happy New Year card, and further down are more details about our adventures!


The photo diary is below:

Thanksgiving in GA Mountains
Christmas Festivities
Trip to Virginia/West Virginia

Thanksgiving in GA Mountains (back to top)

One day, the kids may not think it's cool to spend time with just our little unit, but right now, it's their favorite thing to do. We'll take it, because we know it won't last forever. This was a great, long weekend for us and forced us to close the computers, turn off the cell phones and just play. The cabin was great (other than the little mouse mom kept hearing scurrying across the floor on the cold nights). We went horseback riding, hiking and geocaching during the day. We finished up reading the first Harry Potter book as a family, then watched the movie together on Thanksgiving night. Other than one rainy day, we had great weather (although it was chilly). The pictures tell the story..


After an 8 1/2 hour drive, we stretched our legs and played a little ball once we got settled.


We're almost there... Mom and Sierra at Applebees for lunch.

The living room.


The game room.


The kids room.


The kitchen.


The master bedroom in the loft.


"Wow - you're way up there, Mom"


The boys got us a nice fire started.


"Kai - here it comes."


This piece of firewood looks like a 1/2 moon with a face... too cool to not take a picture.


This is the backside of the cabin.


"Sierra, catch!"


Daddy explaining the rules before the game.


We introduced Uno to the family on this trip... it's now a family favorite.


"Mom - stop taking pictures so I can finish my movie."


Playing more Uno.


Forrest got to come along on this vacation and loved it.


Beautiful morning sky.


"We're almost finished with the first Harry Potter book."


Sierra chillin' out on the porch our first morning in the mountains.


"How about playing some checkers, Mom?"


Oh - yeah, the hot tub was awesome!


Thanksgiving Appetizers.


Daddy likes!


Mom took a break from cooking to come play a little fooseball.


"I don't care that you're a kid, you're going down!"


Dinner is served!



What started out as easy/simple/store bought, turned into cooking a turkey, ham and the various sides. It was good but we had enough food to feed an army - lucky we had the cooler to take our left overs home.


Kai liked his "wine." It was a big treat to have sparkling grape juice out of a real wine glass.

"I prefer the white!"


Happy Thanksgiving!


The game room had an old sega the kids liked to play.


Mom finished up Harry Potter - now we're ready for the movie.


"Check out these leaves - they're bigger than our heads!"


Forrest enjoyed her vacation. She actually rode in between the two kids, which she never does. They thought that was cool.


We surpised Kai and Sierra with horseback riding. You can see Sierra was very happy.


It was only 40 degrees for our ride, but she loved it. She loves horses.


Sierra was led by the guide, but Kai "drove" his horse himself. He did a great job.


Goofy Daddy!


The mountain view.


Our guide took a nice family photo for us. He was kind enough to line our horses up as well.

"You couldn't wipe this smile off my face if you tried."


Kai and Sierra behaved so well that our guide gave them a real horse shoe to take home. It was like finding gold (especially when they didn't see any other kids with them).


It got very chilly in the evenings. We would take bets on how low it would go.



Sierra had backpack duty on our hike up to see the waterfalls.


Using a railing as a tripod, Mom got this cool picture of the lower waterfall.


We made it to the top!


There were some small remnents of fall still around!


Sierra was the navigator on this geocache adventure!


We found the prize.


This normally beautiful lake was drained by the power company temporarily. It was neat to be walking on what was normally the bottom of the lake. We decided to build a rock statue ... wonder how long it stayed.


"I'm sure the wind knocked it down shortly after we left, but it was cool looking."



Our last night in town, downtown Blue Ridge was having their little Christmas parade/festivities.

Sierra played with the animals from the live Nativity scene.


The parade was great... lots of local businesses, police officers, fire trucks etc.


The train carried some characters.


Frosty and Rudolf waved at us as they went by.


Santa and Ms Claus were in the caboose.





Christmas Festivities (back to top)

Christmas is always fun around the house with the kids. This year, instead of putting up our artifical tree, we decided to go to a tree farm. We had so much fun with it, that we decided to make it one of our traditions.

We also went to Seaworld and Busch Gardens to enjoy their Christmas decorations/shows, and went to see the Junie B Jones - Jingle Bells Batmans Smells play.

We were happy that our church had their outdoor Christmas Eve service. It was cold but nice to be outside under the stars. Sierra lasted about 10 minutes before fallling asleep. However, she woke up as soon as we got home. We let them open one present on Christmas Eve and she wasn't going to miss that.

On Christmas day, we unwrapped & played with our gifts, then had a nice breakfast with Dick and Cathy. Later in the afternoon, Dick and Cathy joined us again for our "big meal." After we were all about to pop, we had dessert! It was a perfect day.



"How about this one Daddy?"


We wandered and wandered trying to find the perfect tree.


Sierra measured to see how tall each of the trees were.


"Hey - how about this big one?"


Daddy found the one perfect for us.


'Hurry - let's catch the hayride back."


The hayride took us back to the area were they prepped our tree (and kindly took our money for it).


The tree farm had horse rides.


They also had a petting zoo.


"Can we take him home?"




The boys got the tree tied on the top of the Jeep.


Let the decorating begin.


"This is the perfect place for my ornament."


"We're done!"


"We're crazy!"


"Whalla - our masterpiece!"


The stocking were hung by the chimney with care.



Kai's list for Santa.


Sierra's list for Santa.


Kai's wish list for Mom/Dad (Kai didn't fill in all the rows because he thought what he put on the first 5 lines cost enough money).


Sierra's wish list for Mom/Dad (stars indicate "really want").


Santa was awesome. He gave us puppets this year.


"Sierra, you have something in your hair."


"Check out my cook peppermint peace Christmas shirt."


Santa got a kick out of Kai's Christmas shirt this year.


Below are the pictures from our annual "Santa photo shoot!"

















"Let's be nice to mom and pose in front of this big snowman."


The polar bear light exhibit.


Sierra by one of the light up penguins.


The Sea of Trees was very cool.


There were hundreds of trees lit up out on the lake.


We're not sure what these characters are, but Kai and Sierra know that Mom's fun is taking their pictures EVERYWHERE!


There were cool light up tables near the snack stations... we need these at home.


The Clyde and Seamore Sea Lion show was changed to a Christmas theme.


You can't see it that well, but they blew snow out on the audience.


The walrus is waving goodbye.


The lights were beautiful around the park.


Sea of trees were lit up green and red.


Kai and Sierra always need to climb on this polar bear when we pass it.


The Polar Express exhibit is always fun. They actually had the train engine there this year.


You can't see it in the picture, but the train was blowing smoke too.


"I believe!"


"I can't stop taking pictures of these trees."


"How do you like me now?"


Sierra was in a posing mood on this chilly night.


"How's this one?"


"I can see my reflection in the ornament."


"How's this one?"


"And this one?"


"Ah - we need to hurry and make the cookies... Santa is coming tonight."


The boys at Christmas Eve dinner (Cafe' Positanos).


So cute!


"Sierra is ready for the fun to begin!"


Christmas Eve service under the stars.


"I get to hold the candle all by myself."


Poor Sierra conked out.


Our tree is all lit up at night.


The one present Sierra chose to open Christmas Eve was from Kai.


"Oh my gosh.... you got me webkins."


"I love you Kai - you're the best brother in the world."


Kai also decided to open his present from Sierra.


"I love it Sierra - thank you"


Santa came!




"Oh my gosh - yeah"


"Look - I got the UP Wii game"


Sierra showed Leroy his stocking she made for him.


Santa came! He also took our carrots up to the reindeers. We found little carrot pieces all over the driveway that had fallen from the roof.


Sierra likes her horse slippers.


Thanks for the new hats Mom and Dad.


Mom made Sierra her Alivin shirt.


Our Christmas morning explosion.


This year's Christmas scavenger hunt was a little more challenging than last year (and we had to give the disclaimer that there were no live animals at the end - so no one would be disappointed since last year's hunt was for our cat, Leroy #2 and Kai the fish).


This year's scavenger hunt was for their new (used) golf clubs (playing with mom's is a little tough).



Santa's Wii gift was a big hit.


Kai liked his Air Hog Vectron.



Sierra's focused face.


"Let's play again."


"I love my Leroy#2."


Cathy and Putter joining in the fun.


Thanks Dick and Cathy - wait until you see it all put together. It's a piece of furniture.


"Dinner's ready!" (although I'm not sure why we look so serious).


Thanks Dick and Cathy for the presents.


Our pretty snaggletooth.



Trip to Virginia/West Virginia (back to top)

After all our Christmas festivities, we headed North for a long overdue visit with both the Higgins' and Ward sides of the family. We flew into Norfolk, ate a quick lunch, opened up presents from Memaw and Pawpaw and then hit the road for West Virginia to visit Grandma Nancy. We spent a few days there playing in the snow and visiting, then came back to Virginia for New Years Eve. We spent the second half of vacation there and then headed back on January 4th. It was a fun, whirlwind trip!

After our sleigh debacle last year, we thought ahead. Carly gave Kai and Sierra a sleigh (for us to keep at Grandma Nancys so all the kids could use) - Thanks!


"It's sled time!"


'I'm on fire!"


"Come back sleigh!"




Sierra taking a break!

It's time to climb the hill again.


"No hands" (or legs)

"Here I come!"


Daddy took a turn.


"My feet are buried in the snow."


"Hang on!"


Ok - get ready for another run.


Kai leaning to turn.


Mmmm.. fresh snow.


"The race is on."


"Wee... I'm going backwards."


Mom was a little slow to launch.





Face plant!




"Check out my new hat."




It was slow going on this run.


We're starting to get tired.

Kai got his second wind.


Maybe we have a future Olympic Luge candidate.


Hmmm, what sport could Sierra participate in?

"I'm so cute!"


"And here I am in black and white."


Daddy's girl.


Watch out.. it's a snow storm.


Kai is Daddy's next victim.


Aunt Allison, Ryan and Evan met us for dinner.


"Smile everybody... Where is Grandma looking?"


"Brrrrr - 20 degrees"


The snow was perfect to make a snow man.


"Watch out!"


We gave our snowman pinestraw hair and pine bark eyes (and leaf ears). He turned out pretty good.


Sierra making her arsenal of snow balls.


"Watch out Daddy, you're going down."


"Oh - you got me!"



Snowball fight!




Everybody better take cover!


We decided to make a "snowball wall."


We built our wall almost as tall as Kai.


Kai measuring Sierra next to the wall.


We did it!


Grandma, Mick, Kai and Sierra.


Smile girls (and Mick)!


We were greeted with a beautiful sunset as we arrived back in VA.


New Year's Eve Bonfire!


Hanging out with Hunter and Amanda by the fire.



Smile everybody!

Uncle Jeffrey keeping everyone warm.


Pretty girls!


Kai shared his seat with Aunt Bunny.


Uncle Ken and Aunt Kit - Happy New Year!


Aunt Bunny and Forrest.



Seth and Memaw hitting the chili.


Papa at the chili bar.


Clay warming his tush.


Kiddie games.


Bunny and Carla.


Bunny, Amanda, and Carla


"Give me a big squeeze Uncle Jeffrey."


Weeny roast!


Thanks Uncle Jim.


Happy New Year's smooch!


The Woodworth boys.


"What's funny?"


Aunt Kit in her Happy New Year head band.


Surprise, Memaw chose purple.


It's firework time.




There goes another one.


Hey - how did Daddy get Memaw's headband?


"That should warm me up."




Earmuffs (the fireworks were too loud)!


"It's countdown time!"


"10, 9, 8....."




"Kai, are you ready for this?"


"..7, 6, 5, .."


"..4, 3, 2, 1"


Happy New Year!


On Saturday, we went to Hunter's birthday party at Laser Quest.


Happy Birthday Hunter!


The party, ready for laser tag.


It's hard to believe Hunter is 10!


The special birthday surprise is being "TP'd" in front of everyone.


Hunter thought that was cool.


We wrapped Forrest up for fun as well.


Of course, Kai had to join in the fun.


We visited Bud at his new apartment. He remembered us.


Bunny had everyone over on New Year's Day. Amanda posed with PawPaw in his suspenders.


Bunny and PawPaw.


Bunny and Ellie.


Ellie is trying to find out what is in PawPaw's mouth.


Kai and Thomas are putting together Lincoln Logs.


Ken, Bunny and Ellie.


Jenn and Amanda pose for a picture. Poor Jenn is getting introduced to the new paparazzi family.


Smile Seth!


You too, Clay!


Ken and Jeffrey in deep conversation over a cocktail.


"Check out the iPad"

Grandma Bunny reading a bedtime story.


It wouldn't be a family get together unless Jeffrey turned Bunny upside down.


Sierra loved Spencer! They played catch most of the night.


Kai, Hunter, and Sierra watching TV at Bud's apartment.


Jim giving Bud his Christmas present.


Forrest asked Bud if he could have one of his apples.


We took Bud out to lunch. It wore Jeffrey out.


Sierra and Bud.


Bud with 4 of his great-grandchildren.


We had a great visit - but it was time to go home.
Kai read the last of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books on the airplane ride home.


Miscellaneous (back to top)

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


We helped our friend Grace decorate her tree.


Kai and Sierra love the Junie B. Jones books, so we took them to see the "Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!" play at the Rep.


Sierra wanted a picture with the rows of animals she'd arranged.



We went to the Altamonte Springs Christmas lights and walked around one evening. It's always pretty.


"Who's cool?"


Kai needed to make a cool look too.


We went to visit Busch Gardens to see their Christmas highlights!


"Oh no, the hippo is eating my head."


Our beautiful babies!


"It swallowed me, but I'm still happy."


Kai helping navigate the Rhino Ralley.


Sierra always loves the Carosel.


"It's he handsome?"


Kai reached the next height level (48") and was able to ride the Phoenix, which went all the way upside down.


Sierra was only 45 1/2" so the Phoenix was a no go for her... but she wanted her picture in front of it too.


No hands!


"Hold on, Mom!"


Kai wanted to be a solo rider (he was taking advantage of it since he was tall enough to ride alone).


The sea otters were playing with us.


The characters never get old.


In a few years they won't be able to ride the kiddie roller coaster.


Kai was also tall enough to ride the hang gliders.


Kai and Mom raced (not a fair race since they sent Kai out first; Mom didn't have a shot).


Kai was very happy to win.


Yeah - more characters.


"I'm a kangaroo"


This was a very cool little kangaroo area where they roam free.


"Who's scarier?"


"Check me out!"


"Let's go have some Mexican!"


Snaggletooth Sierra - she had "the big one" come loose and insisted that Daddy work on it every day - and finally it came out.


Kai and Sierra have the same "snaggletooth hole" (they both lost the top left one).


Sierra was SO excited to lose the big one.


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  A Jim & Carla Creation - 2004