Sunday, December 29, 2013

Merry Christmas! 2013

Merry, Merry Christmas!
 This year I have heard more than ever different opinions and views on the whole Santa debate. I have been asked several times if in our family we believe in Santa or not. In our family, Santa does come visit our house and brings presents for the kids. I have heard that because Eric and I do "play" Santa, that it will be confusing to our children because if we are "lying" to them about Santa, then how are they going to know that we are not lying to them about Jesus. That question I have thought long and hard about, and I have discussed it with some of my closest friends. A dear true and close friend of mine, Alisha, discussed this with me on the phone one day. She was saying how with our kids we discuss all the princesses (if you know our girls, you know that they are princess obsessed!), talk about them and their stories like they are real, when we go to Disney World we don't tell them it is just someone dressed up in a Belle/Cinderella/Buzz/Woody/Mickey Mouse costume, we just let them use their imagination and pretend, just like we are doing with Santa. Santa pops up in our house maybe a couple of weeks before Christmas, and often he isn't even mentioned every one of those days in those couple of weeks. It might be asked, "What do you want Santa to bring you?" Jesus on the other hand, Jesus is mentioned not only a couple of weeks before Christmas, He is mentioned several times in our house every single day of the year. We pray as a family before meals, we gather together every single night in one of the kids bedrooms to say what we are thankful for that day, and pray and thank Jesus for his blessings and give him any prayer requests we may have, no matter how big or small (and Elsie always prays for Vada's cough to get better- no matter if she hasn't had one in months). ;) We go to church as a family every Sunday and Wednesday. We are discussing Jesus and His grace, His blessings, His forgiveness constantly in our house... and the kids often hear me praying for patience. Even though right now our kids believe in Santa, they know the real and true reason for Christmas and would be more than happy to tell you all about that very first Christmas. One day Santa will be a fun memory, just like Rapunzel and Spiderman I believe, but I pray that Jesus will always be in my kids hearts. I feel that if you choose not to do Santa in your house, that is just fine and I'm glad that we each can make a decision on what we feel like we can do for our own families. My precious husband sent me an email one day with a link to this blog post that was saying (only in a much better way than I can) exactly what I was trying to.
So, on Christmas morning when Jackson, who was so patient and quiet (since all 4 kids were asleep in our bedroom) was given the okay to wake his sleeping sisters up, the first thing we did was to open our last gift to our "What Does God Want For Christmas" book set we have. (This set is a wonderful activity to do with young kids starting a week before Christmas. Each day you read a short story and open one of the gift boxes, which includes an angel, Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Shepherd, Wise man,  and the seventh day- Christmas Day- is a mirror showing that God wants your heart more than anything else.) We thanked God for sending His son on that very first Christmas Day, Sang "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, and discussed again the importance of this day and how Santa brought some gifts, just like the Wise Men did to Baby Jesus. We then went and opened the gifts that Santa brought.

We then went up to Mamaw Di and Papaw Fred's to have a delicious breakfast, and to open presents from them and Aunt Jessica.

After hanging out there for a while, we came home and packed and headed towards Sparta to celebrate with the Clifton's and Leftwich's. 

After a packed and busy day, we spent the night in Sparta. The next day we woke up, opened up gifts from Gramma Winkie, Grandpa David & Uncle Marshall, and then we headed towards Pigeon Forge for the night to see all the beautiful lights at Dollywood.  After we left Dollywood we were still driving around Pigeon Forge looking at the Christmas lights at 11:15pm. The kids were loving all the lights! We then went and checked into our hotel and let the kids play in the jacuzzi tub in our room before they passed out for the night. 

When we got home Friday night, we walked into a messy home full of unwrapped wrapping paper, new toys galore, and many wonderful Christmas memories from this season.

What a busy, wonderful Christmas we had celebrating the birth of our Savior! 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Play & Christmas Parties

Last Sunday (12/22/2013) we had our Christmas play at church, and all the kids did great!

While we were at the first practice assigning parts, Jackson spoke up and said he wanted what was probably the second biggest part in the play. I told him he had to really practice and memorize his lines, and asked if he was sure he really wanted to do that, and he said yes. One day while we were at home I gave him the play and told him that he needed to read through it and memorize his parts. He read through it, and then handed it back to me. I gave it right back and said, "Read through it again." He did, and laid it back on the table. I said again, "Jackson, you have to memorize all your parts," to which he replied, "I already did." Not believing he had, after reading through it twice, I said, "Fine, let's go through the play." I started reading through it and every time I would get to one of his parts, he would say exactly what he was suppose to. I wish I had his photographic memory! Ansley did wonderful on all of her parts, and was even given another small part right before the play began because one of the girls was out with the stomach bug. Elsie did good at the beginning, but then she decided that she would cross her arms and pooch out those lips about half way through, and not say anything else. My favorite part of the play was when Eric and the kids sang, "Go Tell It On The Mountain." If you watch the video clip, you'll see what I mean about Elsie crossing those arms. That girl!

(Click here if it isn't showing up for you)

The next day we went to Mamaw Ollie's to have a fun Christmas party with all of the Phipps family. The kids love hanging out with Abigail, Amelia, Bella and Carter, and if you know Mamaw Ollie, you know there was plenty of delicious food to eat.

All the Phipps great-grandkids, except we were missing Blake

The next day, Christmas Eve, we had the Watson Christmas Party. It was full of laughs, stories, and lots of excitement from all the kids 

We came home to give our Elf on the Shelf, Simon, a good-bye hug (it's okay if we touch him on Christmas Eve, because the kids are allowed to give quick hugs and kisses, put him back in his box, and then lay him under the tree for Santa to pick up when he stops by). We then put some cookies and egg nog out for Santa, laid a note from Ansley and Jackson to him, had a quick sip of egg nog for the kids, read Twas the Night Before Christmas, and then kept with our tradition of having a sleepover in mommy and daddy's bedroom. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Nutcracker 2013, Meeting Santa, and Christmas Parties at School

What a month December has been! Eric and I had looked at our calendar in November to see if we could find a day that we could go Christmas shopping, and we had something going on every single day until this past Saturday, the 21st, which we had something going on then, too, but just left that afternoon while leaving the kids with my mom. Some of the happenings we've been busy with includes- Ansley dancing in her second Nutcracker, this time as an angel:

She is still loving dance, and especially loved that she got to dance on the "really big stage." She told me a couple of days after her performance that she wished she could dance on the big stage every single day. 

Santa Claus came to Red Tail one night, so we took the kids there to tell him their wish list. When he asked each of them what they wanted, their responses were: Jackson- Mario Lego's; Ansley- A big Mulan doll; and Elsie- a Barbie. While he was talking to each kid and after they said the one thing they wanted, he then said, "What else?" to each kid, and each kid responded with, "uhhh, I don't know!" I absolutely love that they are that easy to buy for! Vada Belle wasn't a fan of Santa's, and didn't enjoy that we attempted to get a picture with him. :)
If you were wondering why Jackson has his blanket with him in the Santa pictures, it was because he was not feeling well at all. There was actually another chair sitting beside Santa, and Jackson sat there at first because he said he didn't want to get Santa sick. Santa grabbed him and said to not worry, that he wouldn't get sick. A couple of days later we took Jackson to the doctor where he was diagnosed with scarlet fever!!! Never once did he complain with his throat hurting, run a high fever (which it is normal for Jackson to run a fever of 104 with just viral infections), and his only complaint (which he complained of a LOT) was his stomach hurting. Since there had and still is a nasty stomach bug going around, we just knew it was that. After several days of his complaining though, we took him to the doctor to find out we were wrong. They gave him a shot and by the next morning when he woke up he was already so much better. 
Unfortunately though, he had already missed his class field trip to Barter Theatre and out for pizza, painting Christmas ornaments, and other fun Christmas activities at school. Thankfully he was well enough to make it to the class Christmas party and Polar Express/PJ day. Ansley's class also had their Christmas party on the same day, and Elsie and Vada Belle (who was on my back in the Ergo, which is why she isn't in any pictures) had a blast going back and forth from room to room.
What a busy, exciting, exhausting week! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

November 2013

In November we went to the last day Tweetsie was open for the 2013 season, where we happened to walk right upon some sweet friends, the Zaragoza's, on the mouse mine. The kids were excited and it made their last visit of the season even better! 
Jackson and Ansley love taking hikes up in the woods to Mamaw Di and Papaw Fred's house, and Vada Belle enjoys running around their huge backyard.

Jackson started his first season of basketball, and we stayed busy this month running him to basketball practices and games. Eric found out at the first practice that he was going to be helping coach and Jackson was excited about that.

My dad and Eric planted some sugar cane this summer, and after the planting, weeding, stripping the leaves, cutting the tops off, harvesting it, it was time to grind it and boil it down. They put the mash in the big pot at 8:00 that morning, and it wasn't ready to take off until about 6ish that night. Now you know where the saying slow as molasses comes from! They started out with about 130 gallons which boiled down to 18 gallons of molasses. What a lot of work.

Elsie has become the sweetest little thing lately, and is such a wonderful sister. No matter if she is playing princesses with Ansley, encouraging Vada Belle to use the potty, or running to give Jackson and Ansley hugs when they get off the bus, her heart is just so sweet and kind.

After 33 years of working for Mountain Electric, my dad retired on Wednesday, November 27th. Anyone that knows my dad knows that he constantly has to be working, so it wasn't a huge surprise that the day after he retired (which was Thanksgiving), he went and got 50 goats and 13 calves (to add to the already many cattle that he has). Retiring, Thanksgiving, and celebrating his birthday all in a week- three days in a row, actually- what a memorable week!

Our Thanksgiving tradition of going up to Mamaw Di and Papaw Fred's continued this year. There weren't as many people that were able to attend as usual- some had to work, some from out of town didn't come- but we still had a great time with the 28 people that were there. There was so many delicious dishes made by Mamaw Di and others that came, and we had a wonderful time with those loved ones that were there.

Vada Belle has grown up so much lately, and loves to play dolls and princesses with her sisters, put on necklaces and jewelry, and is saying new words everyday, but she isn't anywhere near ready to give up her bunny lovie or sucking on those fingers. I finally decided to put her in her own room this month, and it didn't bother her for a second. This last baby stuff is tough for this mama. :)

We had a rough week this month when our three girls were sick. Ansley and Elsie ran a high fever for days, but after testing negative on the flu and strep tests, we were told it was a viral infection. This picture of the three of them asleep on the couch is what much of that week looked like. Pitiful!

Ansley did her family tree project this month, at 8:30 the night before it was due.  I forgot about it until about 6:30 on Sunday, and had to rush to get the pictures sent into Wal-Mart to be developed before they closed. When I chose the 1 hour service online I received a message stating that it was too late, so we had to quickly load the four kids up, rush to Wal-Mart, and I got the pictures developed on their instant machine at 7:59, and it shut off at 8:00. Whew!

The last couple of pictures is from where Jackson's class did a Thanksgiving day play, which he played a Pilgrim in, and his best friend Caleb was a Native American, and then a sweet one of the three sisters playing with their princesses. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

October 2013

October was a packed month! It started with our church welcoming our new pastor, Dwayne Tester and his family, Kim and Austin, to our church, which happened to be our "Friends Day," too. What better way to begin preaching at your new church, right? We had a large crowd, a terrific service, and a delicious dinner afterwards.

We used our season passes to Tweetsie to get into "Ghost Train." When Eric and I were both working at Tweetsie, it was during Ghost Train that we first started dating. It was quite different running around with our 4 kids, helping buckle them on and off the rides, than it was 11 years ago when we were getting all painted up and in our costumes. The kids had a great time, but we stayed away from the Haunted House and Spooky Forest- we were afraid that might be a bit too much for them this year.

We also used our season passes to Dollywood to go to the "Harvest Celebration" there. Jackson and Ansley are now tall enough to where they can ride some of the bigger rides, which made it a little more difficult trying to keep the little girls satisfied. Usually we have my parents or sisters with us that could help entertain the little girls, but this trip it was just the 6 of us. Elsie and Vada were great though, and didn't complain about having to wait on big brother or sister at all. We did take them down to the kiddie area and let them play for a long time, just to be fair. :)
It was the first time that we took Jackson and Ansley on the big swings (I always forget about this ride!) and Jackson LOVED it. He laughed and laughed the entire ride, and had me laughing, too.

Abigail and Amelia came up to stay at Mamaw and Papaw's for a weekend while Tiffany and Mark were out of town, so we enjoyed spending lots of play time with the girls. We took them to see all of the scarecrows on Main Street, and their favorites were the Little Mermaid one, and the Duck Dynasty one.
Vada has learned this month how to climb onto her chair, then her high chair and then onto the top of the table. The girl is definitely a climber, and is really keeping me on my toes these days.

While Jackson and Ansley are at school, and when Vada Belle naps, I get to spend some one-on-one time with little Elsie. She is so much fun and has turned into the most hugging, loving 3 year old, and is all of a sudden a huge mommy's girl. I never imagined our sassy little toddler would be this loving- but she still has lots of that sass left in her! 
"Mommy- I don't want to wear this shirt. I look weird!"  ~Elsie

The 21st of this month was "watch day" at Ansley's dance class. She is still loving ballet and tap, and we are looking forward to watching her dance in The Nutcracker next month. Her class is adorable, and every one of those girls did a great job at practice!

Near the end of the month, a group from our church, went to Stickley Farms. There we did a hay ride, the kids bounced on the jump pillow, some from our group went ziplining, and then we all went through the corn maze. 

We also had our family's fall festival, dressed up for Halloween, took some fall pictures, celebrated friends and family members birthdays, and managed through the every day hustle and bustle of life. What a beautiful life it is!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Phipps Fall Festival 2013

The last couple of years my parents have had a gathering of family and friends at their house to make some apple butter, apple cider, and have a huge pot luck, which includes several dishes cooked over the outdoor cooking fire pit. It was a gorgeous and perfect fall day, and I think everyone that came had a great time. Everything was decorated beautifully and the food was delicious! 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Halloween 2013

As everyone probably knows by now, our family loves to do themes for Halloween (as you can see here and here). I honestly thought that last year would be our last year because the kids would want to be doing their own thing, but when we were on a hike while camping in September the kids started talking about what they wanted to be for Halloween. They immediately started trying to think of a theme, without me even influencing them! I'm not even sure who brought up doing a Peter Pan theme, but the kids took it and ran with it. So, here we are: Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Wendy Darling, Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily and one of the mermaids from the movie:

The kids have watched Peter Pan only about a hundred plus times (which I think is why they choose that movie to dress up like), so they kept saying in the weeks prior to Halloween what each one of us had to say and do. Dad was to say, "Blast the Peter Pan" (in an English accent of course), Ansley would wave and say "Hello Peter," Jackson would call dad a "codfish" and Elsie would have to pull my hair, but over and over again she would say "I promise I won't pull it hard, mommy." On Halloween Elsie told me repeatedly that daddy really didn't have to stick Vada Belle's feet in the water- ha! Jackson especially loved having a sword fight with "Captian Hook" while using his dagger. 

We went to several churches trunk and treats where the kids got so much candy.  We hung out at our church for a little while where we ate and the kids got even more candy.

We then went to the mall, where we got to at 6:58 only to find out they stopped doing trick or treating there at 7:00, but it was ok and the kids didn't mind because we got to meet up with Caleb and Lyla and see them all dressed up. 

Happy Halloween!