Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas activity advent calendar

This year we did an advent calendar of sorts with a Christmas-related activity for each day of December leading up the 25th. There were a few activities we didn't end up actually doing because the boys, especially Jamie, were sick towards the middle of the month. Overall it was a very fun way to incorporate a lot of different activities into our holiday celebrations.

Here were the activities we planned for each day:

1. Make paper countdown chain

2. Write letter to Santa

"Deer Santa clos
I love the prezens yuo breeing. Thai are wudrfl. I'd Lice a bag uv hcoclit coyns, a cadie cain, a toy, a dol hows and sum dols. Miu bruther wons sum plaito [play-doh].

He also included some pictures of presents for Santa. Cutie.

3. Angel Tree - Jamie picked out a toy for a boy about his age (some sort of alligator truck).

4. Cooking decorating with friends - Our friends the Tietjens came over and decorated sugar cookies with us. We had a lot of fun.
Jamie and Carter watching Star Wars
Thomas with his buddy Finn

5. Home Depot kids workshop

6. Put up the Christmas tree

7. Decorate your door like a snowman

8. String cotton balls to look like snow

9. Make paper snowflakes

10. Daddy's graduation and playing with cousins (I knew we wouldn't have time for anything extra that day!)

11. Christmas shopping - We went to the store so Jamie could pick out his present for Jacob. Ahead of time he decided he wanted to get a board book about Elmo, and he found a really cute one.

12. Watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas (animated version!)

13. Meet Santa - Jamie loved this and was brimming with questions to ask Santa when it was his turn. Meanwhile, Jacob hated every second of it.

14. Learn about Hanukkah - We read some Hanukkah books from the library, made potato latkes for dinner, and played a dreidel game.

15. Make borax snowflakes - This is one that didn't end up happening.

16. Christmas color-by-numbers

17. Make cinnamon ornaments (we used these instructions but didn't do any painting)

18. Watch Home Alone

19. String popcorn and cranberries - Didn't end up doing this one.

20. Make a gingerbread house - A huge tradition in my family! Previous editions: 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.  We had a little bit of trouble this year with a cracked roof piece, but I "glued" it back together with frosting, and after it dried it was fine. It was also Jacob's first year helping, which basically meant Jacob's first time eating a ton of candy that was intended for the house. He only put on a couple of pieces; the rest went straight in his mouth! Jamie was super creative and planned almost all the decorations.
roofless because the frosting wasn't hard enough yet on the cracked part

Jamie's awesome snow fort idea


21. Drink hot chocolate - Homemade hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. Yummmmm.

22. Take a drive to look at Christmas lights - A couple of homes close to us have special light shows that are synced with Christmas music that you can tune to on your car radio. Those were awesome.

23. Make cookies for Santa - This didn't end up happening either because a large basket of Christmas cookies and brownies arrived from Thomas's Uncle Geoff that day and we decided to share those with Santa instead.

24. Read The Night Before Christmas and  the Christmas story from the Bible - more on this later!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

like mother, like son

I was 5 when my oldest brother graduated from high school. Here's a picture of me wearing his graduation cap and Jamie at 5 wearing Thomas's. Just thought they were cute together.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Thomas's graduation!

Thomas officially graduated with his Ph.D. in August, but since UT doesn't have a summer graduation ceremony, he walked in the fall graduation on Thursday. We had a wonderful day celebrating this huge accomplishment!

Thomas's mom and dad came out for the ceremony, and his uncle Geoff also flew in from Boston, unbeknownst to Thomas! What a great surprise. My brother and sister-in-law from Atlanta also came up for the day with their girls. It was so nice to have everyone there together.

In the early afternoon, we had a small get-together at our house for friends and colleagues to drop by and say congratulations. We had a lot of fun -- especially Jamie, once his cousins got there! I once again made Thomas's favorite carrot cake. If you haven't made this cake, seriously, you must. It ALWAYS gets tons of compliments.

Jacob and Finn, cake buddies.
our friend Mandy holding our niece Savannah
carrot cake coma?
cousin time! Jamie was blurry in 100% of pictures.

The actual hooding ceremony was later that afternoon. We got there just in time to get some pictures beforehand.

I love this picture! Jamie was just 2 months old when Thomas started his PhD. It has been his whole life, and they've gone through it all together.
Jacob was not interested in keeping the cap on!

We had 7 kids with us at the graduation, and I have to say I was impressed with how well they did! Jacob had the hardest time, but we managed to keep him entertained with snacks, Thumbkin, and climbing between the rows. He didn't fuss nearly as much as I expected.

I had never been to a PhD graduation before, so I didn't know how exactly how it worked. For the master's students, it was still a normal graduation--walk across the stage, shake hands, walk back down to your seat--but for the doctoral students, their advisor walks up with them and actually puts their hood on them as part of the ceremony. It was pretty cool.

Dr. Thomas Lecaque, with his advisor, Dr. Jay Rubenstein
Afterwards, we said good-bye to Mark & Sarah, took the boys home and left them with babysitters, and then went out to dinner with just the adults. We went to Lakeshore Tavern, which we had heard good things about but never gone to before. We really enjoyed it! It was a great end to a day of celebration.

And here are some pictures from the rest of Grammy & Papy's visit.

making the bûche!