Christmas

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Needless to say, the boys woke up to find Santa did indeed visit our house…

Presents

and he brought them SKATEBOARDS!

Skateboards

and an Xbox…

Xbox

and some Xbox games…

Xbox

including what is evidently the best Xbox game ever, Star Wars Battlefront

Xbox

And then it was over…

Aftermath

and Mom made the boys their traditional reindeer pancakes! Mmmm.

Pancakes Pancakes

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ALL ABOARD! With gold tickets in hand and the boys dressed in their pajamas, we boarded The Polar Express in Tavares, Florida, for our trip to the North Pole…

Polar Express Tickets

Today’s experience was our Christmas gift from the boys’ Godparents, Chris and Sherrie, and is based on the more-than-30-year-old Christmas classic, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsberg, and the 2004 animated movie directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Prairie Dogs

Each car in the train had it’s own steward (ours was named “Hannah”), who directed all of the show’s activities, including the conductor visit, the hobo, the reading of the story by the author, singing Christmas carols, and the hot chocolate song complete with dancing waiters in the isle. She also punched the tickets, of course…

Steward Hannah Tickets Punched

When we reached the North Pole, Santa joined us and presented all the kids on the train with “the first gift of Christmas,” a silver bell…

Santa

The whole experience lasted just over an hour and was well worth the two-hour drive to Tavares! Although Adam questioned: 1) why the trip to the North Pole only took 30-minutes (“because the movie was two-hours”); 2) why, upon reaching the North Pole, there was no snow; 3) why Santa’s gray mustache wasn’t white like his beard; and 4) why he couldn’t have more hot chocolate.

( sigh )

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The trees are up! We have the regular Christmas tree upstairs and Cindy’s special “Elf Tree” downstairs…

Christmas tree Elf tree

and the house…

Christmas Decorations

Christmas Decorations

Christmas Decorations

I’ve said you always know what time of year it is by looking at our house! And the tradition continues 🙂

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So, how do you top a great Thanksgiving dinner at Disney? How about snow tubbing and ice sculptures in sunny Florida? This afternoon we visited the Gaylord Palms Resort for ICE! Featuring Christmas from Around the World. It was a great afternoon, but first, we had to pick-up some caps and gloves for the boys…

Christmas Tree

Naturally, I was wearing shorts, which in the end was really short-sighted…

Christmas Tree

Then, we were outfitted with parkas for what was to be an 9°F winter wonderland experience (and underneath the parka, I was still wearing shorts!)

ICE!

It was fun at first…

ICE!

but, it got colder…

ICE!

and colder…

ICE!

and we didn’t even WORK there!

ICE!

Still, it was pretty amazing and the ice sculptures were beautiful…

ICE! ICE!

especially, the Nativity scene!

ICE!

After the ICE! display, we took a minute or two to warm-up, then visited the Ginger Bread Room…

ICE!

where we built a ginger bread house…

ICE! ICE!
ICE! ICE!

TA-DA! (although I’m not quite sure how much candy went on the house and how much went into Adam’s mouth!)

ICE!

And to cap-off the afternoon, there was snow balls…

ICE!

and some ice sledding!

ICE!

What a blast! (an icy blast, but still a blast!)

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…wherein we delay the traditional Holiday meal until the day after Christmas.

Dinner Selfie

In addition to the ham and other staples, we have our traditional Christmas crackers…

Dinner plates

which despite the boys’ impatience we enjoyed AFTER dinner.

Christmas Crackers Christmas Crackers

The Christmas Cracker King…

Christmas Crackers

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The famous ‘Red Ryder’ BB gun is a lever-action air rifle first manufactured by Daisy Outdoor Products in 1938. Named after the comic strip cowboy Red Ryder it was prominently featured in the 1983 film, A Christmas Story, as the Holiday obsession of a young boy named Ralphie. Ralphie’s mom was convinced he would ‘shoot his eye out’ so she would demur every time he brought it up. Anyway, Alex and Adam now join Ralphie and a long line of little boys (and girls, I’m sure) that claim ownership of this historic piece of Americana.

This afternoon, we hiked into the woods and set-up a couple of targets. After learning how to properly load and fire the rifle and taking the proper safety precautions, we’re ready…

Shooting the Red Ryder

Not bad!

Target

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Well, the boys were up at 5:00 a.m. and a few minutes later they were at the side of the bed informing me that Santa had indeed visited them while they slept. This was a great relief for Adam because he was almost certain he was on the naughty list. Anyway, everyone else was still snoozing, so I started some coffee and the boys brought their stockings to the front of the tree…

Boys with their stockings

Fortunately, Santa had left the boys enough in their stockings to keep them occupied until the coffee was done and everyone was up. Then, we passed-out the presents and they went to town…

Opening presents

Opening presents

My favorite presents every year are the one’s the boys’ buy at their school’s Christmas shop…

Opening presents Opening presents

After the gifts were opened and the wrapping paper, boxes, and other packaging were cleared-out, we retired to the kitchen for breakfast, which included Cindy’s specialty, reindeer pancakes, for the boys…

Reindeer Pancakes

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Nana and Pop wanted to wait until the boys arrived to put-up the Christmas tree. But first, we have to cut down the tree, which means a visit to the tree farm. Once there, the boys are given a mission: Locate the Christmas tree…

Christmas Tree

Finally, among the hundreds of trees lining these hills, we find the perfect tree…

Christmas Tree

And with the pull of the cord and a quick swipe with the chainsaw, Pop cuts down our Christmas tree. The boys are pretty proud of themselves

Christmas Tree

Now, we’re gonna meet Mom and Nana for breakfast! Then Mom and Nana can decorate the tree 😉

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There’s a song by Kenny Loggins called, ‘Celebrate me Home’. It’s about a man (Kenny, I suppose) who returns home for the Holidays to be among his friends. They play music and sing. For the man, the music recalls memories of home when he’s away. Kenny sings,


Please, celebrate me home
Play me one more song,
That I’ll always remember,
And I can recall,
Whenever I find myself too all alone,
I can sing me home.

So, what’s the point? I originally heard this song in 1977 and had a copy of Kenny’s album of the same name. At the time, ‘Celebrate’ didn’t have much impact on me (my favorite song from the album was ‘Lady Luck’). However, I would rediscover this song almost 10-years later. In 1986, I was living in Colorado Springs and on my first Air Force assignment. Until this time I was never more than 2-3-hours from home, so it was easy to return for special occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now, I was 1,500-miles from home, which is no easy drive. In December 1986, I was spending my second Christmas away. Although I had a family of my own (my son was less than a month old), nostalgia was tugging at me, then I heard ‘Celebrate’ on the radio and the song took on a whole new meaning.

This year we’re spending Christmas with my folks and extended family. And although I can ‘count on being gone’, for the next few days you can ‘Celebrate me Home’…

Celebrate me Home

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This year we took to the boat for our annual family Christmas pictures. We docked on Julington Creek, set-up the camera, then set the timer…again and again. As always there’s one or two good ones in the bunch. Don’t know if these will make the final cut (that’s Cindy’s job), but you get the picture (pun intended)…

Family Boat

…and outside the boat…

Family Boat

Getting a good picture of the boys and Charlie is a lot like herding cats…

Family Boat

We spent about 30-minutes taking pictures. In between Cindy’s arranging the boys, the dog, and the boat, I snapped the scenery…

Deck

When the pictures were done, we headed back to the marina. The sun was getting low in the sky, so we took our time. The boys napped under the watchful eyes of their best friend…

Sunset

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