Tag Archives: Christmas

Disney Trips Flashbacks

As I mentioned in my last post, we are going to Disney World in December!!  I am beyond excited.  This will be my fifth trip to Disney World–I’m so fortunate!  All of the excitement of our upcoming trip has made me think about past trips and how much I loved each one of them.  I thought it’d be fun to share some flashbacks of my previous Disney Trips!

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Summer 1989 (2 years old)

For some reason, this is the only picture I have of our trip.  My mom has more, but this is the only one in my scrapbook.

Like I said earlier, I don’t remember this trip at all, but I know my family had a great time!  We went with my mom’s whole family.  And one of the things about taking such a little kiddo (at least so I’ve heard) is that it’s more for the parents than the kids.  I know my parents loved watching me get so excited while we were there.  And I’m thankful that I was able to go at such a young age!

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June 2002 (15 years old)

I just took pictures of my scrapbook pages for this trip since I don’t have any digital copies of the pictures.  And here’s a close-up of our family:

This trip was a BLAST!  We camped at Fort Wilderness on Disney property, and stayed for a whole week.  My little sister was 5, my brother was 12, and I was 15.  We were all at such good ages for a Disney trip.  My uncle, aunt, and their 3 kids also went with us.  We had such a good time, even though it rained every day.  We felt like a group of ducks in our yellow Mickey ponchos!  We visited all the parks, both water parks, and played mini golf.

It was so wonderful to be there with my family.  We made SO many great memories, from dancing with the parade people at Epcot, to getting splashed on the last hole at Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf, to eating breakfast with Pooh and friends, to riding everything we wanted to at least once, to just being together.  It was one of my favorite vacations of all time!

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October 2006 (19 years old)

This was our “Girls and PawPaw Trip”.  I skipped college and took off work for a week in order to go on this Fall Break trip.  My mom, sister, aunt, cousin, her two girls, Meme & Pawpaw all went.  We really missed my dad and brother, but it was such a great trip!  We were on the Disney Dining Plan for the first time, and it was probably one of the biggest highlights of the trip!  (I’ll probably never go to Disney World without it now!)  It was also my first time to go “off-season” and now I’m sold on the short wait times and cooler weather!

We met TONS of characters,

Rode/saw everything we wanted to with virtually no waits,

Went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party,

Acted goofy,

Ate INCREDIBLE food with the Dining Plan,

And just had a great trip.

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September 2009

This trip was just Michael and me.  It was AMAZING.  We went as a sort of delayed honeymoon.  There will never, ever be another trip like this one.  We were able to do and see everything we wanted to–without having to do the things we didn’t want to.  We didn’t have a care in the world besides what to pick to eat.  And speaking of eating, we did the Dining Plan again and ate at incredible restaurants!  We were goofy and carefree, but also took time to enjoy just being together and celebrating us.  It was PERFECT.

We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge,

Met Mickey & Minnie,


Ate at incredible restaurants,

Saw all of the different nighttime events, including Wishes, our favorite fireworks show,

Had PRIME seats at all of the shows and rides due to planning, planning, planning (this is when I fell in love with planning Disney trips, by the way),

Took pictures in goofy hats around Epcot World Showcase,

Michael got to be in two shows,

Rode everything we wanted to at least once,

Took a tour (which was great),

Took tons of “magic shots”

& just had an AMAZING time together.

Like I said earlier, it was PERFECT.

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Needless to say, I am SOOOO excited about our upcoming trip.  It’s going to be so great to take Josiah to Disney World for the first time and get to spend time with family.  It’ll be here before we know it!

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–Staci

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Q for you:  Have you ever been to Disney World (or Disneyland)?  What was your favorite thing?

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A Sunday Christmas – By M

This is year is kind of an unusual one.  For the first time since 2005, Christmas falls on a Sunday.  This makes for a pretty interesting December 25th for us Ministers and other church go-ers… To have a Christmas day service or not?  THIS POST by Jon Acuff made me think about this question again, and it made me want to post my own thoughts about it.

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Although our last Sunday Christmas day was only a few years back, I honestly don’t remember what our family did that day.  I had just completed my semester of college, and I do remember that I got pretty sick over the break, so the 2005 holiday is pretty much a blur to me.  Also, it was the first Christmas that my brother and sister didn’t spend the majority of Christmas break at home.  That shook things up around the house a bit.  And to top it off, it was the first of several years that my dad spent Christmas away from home on medical mission trip.  All this to say that it already wasn’t a typical Christmas at the Elizondo’s that year.

The only previous Sunday Christmas day previous to that (that I was old enough to remember) was in 1994.  I remember being bummed out that we had to get all dressed up and leave home for church when I wanted to stay at home and play with my new toys.  Granted, as a 7 year old, their really isn’t much else on the mind other than to play with your toys.

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This year, I have been struggling with the fact that Christmas lands on a Sunday meaning that Staci and I will be at our church’s 10am service rather than staying in enjoying the warmth and comfort of home.  That is, I struggled with this thought until this past Sunday.  During our church service, our senior pastor gave a pretty compelling message why it should be a no-brainer to have and attend church this Christmas day.

He pointed out how ironic it is that Christians are usually pretty good about getting upset that Christmas, the day we celebrate our Savior’s birth, is so horribly commercialized.   We fume about how the mainstream media is pushing the phrase “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas.”  We demand that Culture not take the “Christ” out of Christmas!  Yet… we look at our calendars dreading the year that Christmas fall on Sunday.  Why?  Because it’s too inconvenient to go to our place of worship to celebrate Christ’s birth?  Because we’d rather stay in and play with all the new gifts and toys we got for Christmas?

I don’t post this to sound preachy.  I only post it because I was so convicted as the words came out of my pastor’s mouth.

Hopefully I can make Christmas more about this…

 

And less about this…

Presents, family, friends, memories… They’re all great!  And they are great by-products to the season.  But hopefully we can still put Christ at the front –above all else– this Christmas.

That’s my prayer for me this year.

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– M


Christmas Albums 2011

Last year Staci and I did a post on our favorite Christmas albums. It pretty much covers our favorite albums up to last year. You can check that blog post out HERE.

With the new year and the new Christmas albums that we’ve gotten, I figured it was only right to post about those albums here. Check ’em out and Enjoy!

(Staci’s thoughts will be in italics.)

“Oh For Joy” by David Crowder*Band — The David Crowder*Band (DCB) has been one of my favorite bands since I was in high school. I’ve waited a long, long time for this album, and although it wasn’t what I would have expected, it is an instant favorite. The DCB had its humble beginnings as a worship band, and I feel like this CD kind of takes their newer flare and meshes with their roots in a really creative and moving way. Although I will always love the classic type of Christmas music, it tends to wear on you throughout the Christmas season; so I feel like “Oh For Joy” is a breath of fresh air from your typical Christmas album. Oh and their cover of “Christmas Sarajevo” better known as “The Carol of the Bells” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is impeccable!

I haven’t really listened to this one much, but when I have, I’ve liked it.

“Christmas” by Jadon Lavik — This is a great Christmas album that has a really acoustic feel to it reminiscent to Jack Johnson (I think that may be the reason why I personally like it so much). You’ll notice my trend in finding artists who really put their own vibe on the Christmas classics. Although I have never listened to Jadon’s non-seasonal music, I have really grown to love this album.

I’d never heard of Jadon Lavik, but I really like this album! It’s classic, yet original at the same time. The only problem is it has “Mele Kalikimaka” as the second to last song, and it ALWAYS gets stuck in my head. I love the way he does the song, but it’s not so much fun anymore when I wake up singing it at 4:30 a.m. 🙂

“Christmas” by Michael Buble — We share the same first name, now if only we shared the same vocal abilities! A few years back Michael Buble came out with his Christmas EP “Let it Snow,” and I couldn’t believe that he only put like 4 songs on it. As soon as I heard there was full length Christmas album I had to have it right away! And to my expectations, it was totally worth every penny spent on it; lots of fun tracks with his Michael-Buble-buttery-smooth voice to top it off. And I like his old school groove. I almost have to say that he tops Franky and the Rat Pack on certain tracks. The only complaint would be… why on earth would a male do a remake of “Santa Baby”. I will say this track stands out (in a completely bad way) on the rest of the album. Just kinda of wrong for a man to sing that song to Santa. Otherwise, a very very good album!

Oh my. I can’t say enough about this one. I’ve been a HUGE Michael Buble fan since my freshman year of college. And he has the absolute perfect Christmas voice. I agree with (my) Michael that “Santa Buddy” (his remake of “Santa Baby”) is completely ridiculous. But the rest of the album is incredible! He has some really fun tracks, as well as some great classic-style tracks. I think my favorite might be “Jingle Bells”. He just does an incredible old-school style. “Ava Maria” and “Feliz Navidad” are both done in a very good way as well. I could comment on every single track on this album, but you’ll just have to check it out for yourself! This is definitely my favorite addition to our collection this year.

“Snow Globe” by Matt Wertz — If you’re into the pop-ee, Singer/Songwriter genre then this Christmas album is a must have. I like that he has a good mix of originals –such as the title track “Snow Globe”, and “Tennessee Christmas”– as well as the classics. Staci and I are huge fans of Dave Barnes and his Christmas Album that debut last year, and this album kinda of just flows along with it; definitely a new favorite for the two of us!

We’re actually listening to this album right now. I love that it’s so upbeat. He has a lot of original songs, “Snow Globe” being my favorite, as well as a lot of classics. Matt Wertz has been another favorite of mine since college, and this album definitely ranks high on my Christmas favorites!

I also have to say that Dave Barnes’ “Very Merry Christmas” is still my very favorite Christmas album. Sometimes I listen to it multiple times in a day.

And for me, Mercy Me’s “The Christmas Sessions” will always be #1 alongside “Charlie Brown Christmas” by Vince Guaraldi.

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What are some of your new (or old) favorite Christmas Albums?

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Michael & Staci

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Ski Trip 2010: Skiing & Snow

We woke up well before our alarm went off (we tend to do that on the first day of vacation).  It was time to put on 1.2 million layers and head to the slopes!

Um, not exactly the ski mask I had in mind.  The kids might have nightmares.

As you can see, the snow was mostly fake.  This is what the parking lot looked like:

Can you tell we’re excited?!  Some of the cousins getting ready to hit the slopes:

Notice the orange bandanas?  My cousins came up with the idea.  They were SUCH a great thing for our group!  We had 19 skiers/boarders, and it really helped us be able to spot each other on the slopes.

Before long, it was time for Michael to get on his skis for the first time!

My sister, future sister-in-law, and 3 cousins participated in “Snowboard School de Marcos” (my brother).

They spent most of the day like this:

Michael did so great on the bunny slope and the next-step-up-slope (whatever it’s really called) that we decided we were ready for the top of the mountain.  Keep in mind that we’d only done the step-up one twice before we headed to the big lift.

The view was gorgeous!

See that Green called “Easy Way Down”?  And see all of the grass showing through?  YEP.  It was closed.  Great.

That meant we had to take the Blue down.  And it wasn’t just any blue.  No, it was a Blue-Plus.  Which means it’s on it’s way to being a Black.  Joy.

We thought we were going to die.  I felt so bad for my dad and uncle.  I don’t think two people could take longer to get down the mountain than we did.  As Michael said, “I had no clue it’d be this hard.”

But we did end up making it down in one piece, even though Michael’s ski kept popping off whenever he’d turn.  Here’s a pic that makes him look like shows that he’s a pro.

When we finally made it down, we vowed that we’d stick to the easy lift and/or get off at the 1/2 way mark for at least the rest of that day.  After that, we had a LOT more fun.  We weren’t afraid for our lives.

We even took a couple of runs with the Boarders.  See the little town down there?  It was so cute!

That night, we all ate together and then some of the adults played “In a Pickle”.  If you’ve never played this, it’s hilarious.  I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe.

It had been a great first day–even with the first run mix-up!

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The next day, we felt much more confident and we had a great time skiing at our own pace and enjoying just being on the slopes.

It was SO much colder than it had been the day before, so we decided to take a break with my cousin, N, and get some overpriced hot chocolate.  It was worth it.

We were completely wiped out by mid-afternoon and decided to head in early.  It was a good thing, because when we got back to the room, it started snowing.  A lot.

That night, we played “Funglish”.  It’s another really fun game!  Think of it as “Taboo” with word tiles instead of talking and explaining the item.

Another great day with the fam!

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On our third (and final) day of skiing, we finally got to ski on powder.  It was awesome.  Even though it was tons better than the ice that we had the day before, it was still hard in it’s own way.  There were times where the powder was so thick and soft that we’d get stuck trying to turn or something like that.

But it was gorgeous!

It was hard to get very many pictures since it was snowing hard all day (and my fingers just about froze off every time I took off my glove to take a pic), but I did get a few.

And Michael and I made it back up to the very top of the mountain again!  We also tried some of the other Blues and liked them too.  I was still really slow, but Michael did fantastic!  No one could believe that it was his first time skiing.

We met everyone up at the top of the mountain for lunch and to warm up.  Look at the snow on the outside seating!

My brother was wearing a helmet under his ski hat, and the heat from his head had melted the snow in places.

I didn’t really feel like eating a hamburger, and we were ready to call it quits, so we decided to go ahead and ski one more run and then go to lunch somewhere.  We’d over-done it the day before and we really wanted to go out on a high note.

It was a perfect last run!  We both felt great, and we had a lot of fun.

We turned in our gear and headed to our car, which looked like this:

Definitely different from our first day!

We decided to go to a little Italian restaurant that faced the slopes.  We were given the best seat in the house!  This was our view:

But we were nice and toasty inside.

It was snowing SOOOO hard!  This is what we drove through to get back to our room:

Since we’d put off doing our souvenir shopping until the last night, we braved the storm and headed back into town.  Thankfully it’d let up some by that time.  The town was beautiful with all of the snow!

We started shopping with my parents, and then we met up with some of the rest of our fam.  After trekking all over the town on foot, we finally found everything we were looking for.  Even though we were walking through feet of snow, it was a really fun, relaxing night.

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We were supposed to leave at 5am the next morning, but we ended up having to push it back until 9 or 10 because of the snow on the roads.  Here’s a picture of the outside of our rooms:

We went in and had a little bit more family time before it was time to go.  I can’t get enough of my little cousins!

This is our group, minus my uncle and 4 cousins that left the night before.  It was SUCH a great family trip!

And here’s our family in the snow:

A couple of pictures of the gorgeous scenery:

And one last picture of Michael and me:

And then we were off.  I couldn’t get over how beautiful everything was with all of the snow.

By the way, this was the temperature when we left:

After FOURTEEN hours, which consisted of plenty of 90s songs, a pizza stop, my sister riding with us for a few hours, Sonic for dinner, talking about Disney for over an hour, and lots and lots of checking the clock, we finally made it to my aunt and uncle’s house to drop Marcos and Maddie off at their car.  Then Michael and I drove another 40 minutes to get to my other aunt and uncle’s house for the night.  Oh, and we welcomed in the New Year by driving on a Dallas highway.

But once we got to my aunt and uncle’s house, we had a great time!  They’d been on the trip with us, and we had a ton of fun with their family.  My aunt even put tootsie rolls on our pillows to make sure we got the 4-star treatment!

We slept in late the next morning, had pancakes for lunch, and then headed back to Beaumont.  When we got there, this was the temperature:

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It was a REALLY GREAT vacation!  I’m so thankful that we were able to go and be with my family for a late Christmas.  We had such a great time!

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–Staci

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Ski Trip 2010: Arrival & Christmas

Now that this trip happened over a month ago, I think I’ll finally take the time to write about it.  Sorry!  Let’s just say that if I could sum up January in one word it’d be BUSY.  We had guests and youth trips and sicknesses and more.  It was a very, very busy month.

But now I have a little time to share about our family ski trip to Red River, NM.  It was fantastic.

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I think I might have mentioned this before, but we switch between each of our families for Thanksgiving and Christmas each year.  This was our year with my family for Christmas.  Since we had Christmas Eve services at church and then had church the day after Christmas, we were home by ourselves for actual Christmas Day.  But the day after Christmas, we went up to Dallas to spend the night with my aunt and uncle and their family so we could head out early the next morning for our ski trip.

Michael had never been skiing before, and he was really excited to finally try it out.  I’ve been a few times, and I enjoy it, but I was mostly excited to just spend time with my family–and be with Michael when he learned to ski.

We left bright dark and early Monday morning.  My brother, Marcos, and his fiance, Maddie, were with us.  While they slept in the backseat, we kept ourselves entertained with fun music in the front.  After the sun rose:

Michael had gotten “Despicable Me” for Christmas from his parents, and it came with an inflatable Minion.  He became our trip mascot.

My aunt sent us scavenger hunt items to look for on the way.  We could have sworn that she just saw the items and then texted the list, but she promised that she wasn’t even playing.  It was everything from a train car to an abandoned house to a bird sitting on a sign to all kinds of things…  The Minion helped me check off the pictures I found (Oh–and I won, by the way!)

After about a million songs, waiting 30 minutes for my brother’s coffee, plenty of pictures, a failed nap, plenty of laughs, and 11 hours in the car, we finally made it to Red River, New Mexico!

That night, we had Christmas with just our family (3 of my aunts/uncles and their families, plus one of my dad’s work friends and his family were on the trip too).  Since skiing was our big gift, we decided to make presents for each other.  We’ve done this one other time, and they’re my FAVORITE Christmases.  I love the thoughtfulness that comes with a home-made gift.

Emily made me a wall hanging with our initial and Disney decorations/colors for our office:

Michael and I made Marcos/Maddie a book with notes, recipes, advice, etc. from family and friends (my office friends had made me something similar when we got married):

I made Em a necklace hanger made from spools of thread, buttons, and wood (my good friend, Jamie gave me the idea):

We also made ornaments (at the place with Paul and Liz) for everyone:

Marcos/Maddie made us a canvas with paint and their pictures:

I made my dad a collage of all of us for his office:

My Mom and Emily (and my dad) made Michael a t-shirt quilt with all of our Pine Cove shirts (it’s our new favorite movie watching blanket.  We LOVE it!):

I gave my mom a flash-drive with all of the pictures I’ve taken (that she would want) from 2005 until present.  I edited most of them too:

And my mom made all 3 of us photo books of our past family Disney trips:

It was SUCH a good night.  All of the home-made gifts were so much fun, and it was just a really, really good time with my family.

We went to bed nice and early so we would be ready for our first day of SKIING the next morning!

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Up Next:  What do you mean the Green is CLOSED?!

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Q for You:  Have you ever made home-made gifts for anyone?  Have you ever received one?  What was your favorite to make/receive?

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–Staci

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December in a Nutshell

Now that December has come and gone, I guess I should finally get to posting about it.  Needless to say, it was a BUSY month!  I’m sure you can relate.  Instead of trying to go back and do an update for each individual part of December, I’m going to just write one big update with little glimpses of everything that went on in December.  As always, feel free to just look at the pictures.  🙂

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Gingerbread House Decorating

Michael and I decided to buy a gingerbread house to decorate.  I hadn’t made one in years (my Meme used to help us make them out of graham crackers and milk cartons), and Michael had never made one.  We were super excited until we started making it.  It just would NOT stay together!  We even tried blow drying it.  By the end of our decorating, it would have made Hansel and Gretel cry.  Let’s just say we’re pretty convinced that the box lies.  (We found out later that some of our friends hot glue theirs together before they decorate it.  If we ever try this again, we’ll be “borrowing” their method.)

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Road to Bethlehem

The first weekend of December, our church put on a huge event called Road to Bethlehem.  Our gym was transformed into the village of Bethlehem, around the time that Jesus was born.  We had people of all ages helping and taking part, from a four month old baby, to elderly men and women, and all ages of families and people in between.  People from all over the community were invited to come and “meet a beggar and the King on the Road to Bethlehem”.

Guests would enter our gym and find themselves in the Bethlehem marketplace, complete with weavers, brick makers, a wedding procession and feast, food stands, a beggar and a thief, and plenty more village people.  Michael and I were the inn keepers.  We all stayed in character, and the guests were able to ask questions and interact with us.  At the end of the “road”, they came to the manger scene with Baby Jesus.  I loved being able to be a part of something like this.

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Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens

The next weekend, Michael and I went to Houston to visit my cousin, Paul, and his wife, Elizabeth, again.  We had a great time!  On Friday night, we went to Moody Gardens in Galveston to see the Festival of Lights.  All four of us have been to the Festival of Lights in Chickasha, OK, which is absolutely incredible.  So we weren’t expecting a ton from this Festival.  However, we were pleasantly surprised.  Even though there were some very strange displays (zoo scenes, pirates, blooming flowers, and lots and lots of ocean scenes), it was really nice!

We stayed around and hung out on Saturday, and Paul even taught Michael how to take someone’s blood pressure.  He was pretty excited.  (Paul is in med school, and you can read his story here: http://storyofawhitecoat.wordpress.com/)  It was a GREAT weekend!  We’re so thankful to have family/friends so close!

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Anniversary Trip in Dallas

For our second anniversary, I planned a trip to Dallas.  (We’ve decided to take turns planning each year and then plan our multiples of 5 together.)  I did the “name your own price” thing on Priceline, and once again I was VERY pleased.  If you’ve never tried this, try it!  You pick your destination, star rating, and price, and then you see if anyone accepts your bid.  We stayed at the Grand Hyatt in Dallas for $60 (regularly around $230)!  And we stayed at the Hyatt Regency the next night for $50 (regularly over $100)!  Anyway, I love using this feature.

Since we have Fridays off, we drove up to Dallas on Thursday night and checked into our hotel.  It was really nice!

The next morning, we slept in (after waking up at sunrise), grabbed some breakfast at Panera Bread, and went to see “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader”.  The theater was empty when we got there, and only two ladies came during the movie.  It was fantastic!  We’d just finished reading the book, and we loved the movie even more than the book.  If you didn’t get a chance to see it, be sure to rent it when it comes out!

We went to check in at our new hotel, and we got a free upgrade to the Deluxe King room just by asking about free upgrades!

After we dropped our stuff off, we went to downtown Grapevine to eat dinner at a local Italian place called Napoli’s.  Grapevine was decorated so nice!  I wish we’d had more time to wander around, but we were on a mission.

This was the part of the trip I was most excited about:  ICE! at the Gaylord Texan.  My cousin had told me about this, and I knew that Michael would love it.  Every year, the Gaylord Texan brings in ice sculptors from Japan to make an ice display.  They use colored ice, and some of the ice even has lights inside of it.  It was so cold inside that they issued everyone parkas!  But the ice sculptures were definitely worth it.  This year was “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which is one of Michael’s favorite movies.  It was incredible!

After we went through ICE!, we walked around the hotel and looked at all of the decorations.  It was absolutely gorgeous.

We both loved seeing ICE! and exploring the Gaylord Texan.  It had been a perfect day!

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Christmas with Mom’s Side of the Fam

The next morning, we went to my uncle’s house to have Christmas with my Mom’s side of the family.  I was so happy that it worked out for us to be there, since we didn’t think we’d be able to make it up for Christmas this year.  The adults play “Dirty Santa”, and the gifts were hilarious, as usual.  We also took a new family picture, complete with Maddison.  I loved being with my family, even for a few hours.

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Kayla and Sean’s Wedding

To complete our Dallas trip, we went to two of our close friends’ wedding.  Kayla and I have been friends since we were on the same hall our freshman year, and I think Michael and Sean have been friends since freshman year too.  Sean was one of our ushers.  Needless to say, we were SO happy for them.  The wedding was beautiful, and it was great to see some of our college friends.

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Christmas with Michael’s Mom and Sister

Michael’s mom and sister, Sarah, came to visit for a couple of days before Christmas.  Sarah lives in New York, and we hadn’t seen her since last Christmas.  We were SO happy that they were able to come visit!  We went to dinner, opened presents, and played lots of games, including the BluRay games on Beauty and the Beast (I’ve said this before, but they are so much fun!).  Even though we wished they could have stayed longer (and that Michael’s dad could have come too), it was sooo good to see them!

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Christmas Eve

Our church has three Christmas Eve services, and this year we chose to go to the 6:00 and 11:00 services.  For the 6:00 service, we sat with one of the families that we’ve gotten close to since we’ve been here.  I’m so thankful for their family!  The service was wonderful, and the candle-lighting was beautiful.  Afterwards, we went to the associate pastor’s house for tamales and chicken tortilla soup.  Yum!  We helped run sound for the 11:00 service.

When we got home from the 11:00 service, it was already Christmas (technically), so we decided to go ahead and open our gifts from each other.  We’d decided that we just wanted to do stockings from each other, and then plan something special instead of getting traditional gifts.  For my big gift/event, Michael is taking me sky diving!!  I’m SOOO excited!  It’s something on “my list” (which I plan to post sometime soon), and I can’t wait to go!  I planned a mini vacation to Destin, FL for us for this spring.  (We may or may not be taking it though, because we’ve decided to start saving for a house.)

It was fun opening our gifts and starting our “just the two of us” Christmas early.

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“Just the Two of Us” Christmas

This was our third Christmas since we’ve been married, but our first to celebrate “just the two of us”.  Even though we both missed our families a lot, there was something sweet about just being together for Christmas day.  Since we were up way past midnight, we slept in late and then had a big breakfast.  We played some games, watched a few of our new movies, did laundry (we had to pack for our ski trip), and just relaxed.  It wasn’t like any other Christmas, but it was really nice.  That evening, I made a big dinner.  We’d bought a pork tenderloin from one of our youth, and we saved it for Christmas.  I also made red skinned potatoes, green beans and carrots, bread, and my apple roll-up.  (I took some pics for recipe posts that I’ll post sometime.) It was yummy!  It turned out to be a wonderful Christmas at home!

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We left for our ski trip a couple of days later, and I’ll write about that in another post.  Thanks for catching up on the December happenings with us!

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–Staci

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Q for You:  What was your favorite thing you did in December?  Did you stay at home or visit family for Christmas?

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Mary and Joseph

This Christmas season, Mary and Joseph’s stories have been really special to me.

For the past two Wednesday nights, we watched “The Nativity Story” with our youth.  If you haven’t seen this movie yet, go out and rent it today.  It’s that good.  Every time I watch it, I love it even more.  They do an absolutely incredible job of portraying what it really could have been like for Mary and Joseph.  So often, the story of Jesus’ birth becomes so familiar that it’s no longer special.  Or we’ve heard it told to children so often that we view it as a fairytale.  “The Nativity Story” will help you see Christmas, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus like never before.  One of our students said it was the best movie they’ve ever seen.  Again, it’s that good.

There are also some songs about Mary and Joseph that almost make me cry every time I hear them.  I find myself wanting to listen to them over and over.

This first song is “Breath of Heaven” by Amy Grant.  Someone took the song and put it to clips of “The Nativity Story”.  It’s beautiful.

“Joseph’s Lullaby” by MercyMe is one of Michael’s very favorite Christmas songs.  I love it too.  Joseph gets overlooked a lot, but God chose him to be the earthly father of His Son.

“Magnificat” by Todd Agnew is also wonderful.  It’s Mary’s song that she sings as recorded in Scripture.  It’s just amazing to me that these are the words she chose to sing in response to being told she would carry God’s Son.  This is put to other scenes from “The Nativity Story”.

Dave Barnes is one of our favorite artists, and he has a new Christmas album out this year.  “Mary and Joseph” is a story of Mary and Joseph as they might have been today.  I can’t find a video of it, so I’ll post the lyrics.

Mary was the first of three
Long black hair and sugar sweet
Daddy’s eyes and Momma’s crooked smile
She was barely seventeen
Got a job keepin dishes clean
Planned to stay in this city for awhile
For awhile

Joseph ran a lumber yard
About a mile from olive park
Quiet boy he never had much to say
It was love right from the start
He bought a ring and won Mary’s heart
Had hopes for a home and kids someday
Kids someday

The angel scared her half to death
She would’ve screamed but she lost her breath
On a midnight there in the middle of May
He said “Oh mary don’t be afraid
You’ll bear a son that the Lord has made
Name him Jesus, He’ll light the way.”

She packed the clothes, he made the plans
They had to go to Bethlehem
But there was nowhere left to stay
So in a barn she gave birth
To the King of Kings the Lord of Earth
Just a little bitty thing sleeping on the hay
Sleeping on the hay

The story’s too long to tell
But he walked on water and lived through hell
Killed on a cross and rose from the grave
We got a King they got a son
Mary and Joseph were the only ones
There on that very first Christmas day
There on that very first Christmas day

Lastly, I’m reading a book by Francine Rivers about Mary.  It’s from her “A Lineage of Grace” book (five stories of unlikely women who changed eternity), and Mary’s story is called “Unashamed.” (They can be purchased as one book or individually.)  I’ve loved reading about the other four women listed in Jesus’ genealogy, and it’s perfect that I’m to Mary’s story during this Christmas season.  Each story is only around 100 pages, and I can’t tell how much I’ve been touched by these stories.  I highly recommend them to anyone, but especially to women of all ages (from late high school to elderly).  The stories are: TAMAR — Betrayed by the men who controlled her future, she fought for her right to believe in a loving God.;  RAHAB — A woman with a past to whom God gave a future.;  RUTH — She gave up everything, expecting nothing, and God honored her.;  BATHSHEBA — Her beauty stirred the passion of a King.  Her pain moved the heart of God.;  MARY — All eternity had been waiting for this moment.  She responded in simple obedience to God’s call.

I’ve been so touched by Joseph and Mary’s story this season, and I pray that these things might have touched you as well.

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Do you have a certain part of the Christmas Story that has become a favorite of yours?

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–Staci

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PS. You can click on any of the different song, etc. names and they’ll take you to the Amazon page where you can look at the product.

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Christmas Albums

Christmas music is one of our favorite things about this season.  We have WAY more albums than we’d be able to listen to since we only have a month, but here are some that are at the top of our list.  Enjoy!

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Michael’s Favorites:

  • “A Charlie Brown Christmas” by Vince Guaraldi — I love the movie, therefore I love the soundtrack.  Many people, except for close friends, don’t know that I love jazz music.  This album is classic and jazzy, it’s a definitely a holiday favorite!
  • “The Christmas Sessions” by MercyMe — Great classics done in fresh ways.  Plus Bart Millard (the lead singer) has an incredible voice.  This CD has my favorite versions of 3 songs: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and “Winter Wonderland/White Christmas”
  • “Let it Snow, Baby… Let it Reindeer” by Relient K — This goes way back to either my junior or senior year of high school when Relient K (then, one of my favorite bands) came out with “Deck the Halls, Bruise Your Hands.”  It was their original Punk-Rock Christmas album.  Mind you, it’s not for everyone (if your not of fan of that style and prefer the more traditional Christmas).  This album builds off “Deck the Halls…”(it includes the tracks from it) with brand new favorites.  Some of the best Christmas remakes and some of the best Christmas originals!
  • “Christmas Spirit” by Los Lonely Boys — Although they are known for their Hispanic spin on rock and roll, this album is a great bluesy addition to your Christmas collection!  This is a very fun album!
  • “Very Merry Christmas” by Dave Barnes — This brand new album has really good original Christmas songs and a couple of remakes.  It’s a great refresher from the standard Christmas songs (which I enjoy, because even though I love Christmas songs, they tend to wear on you – so i appreciate the fresh feel of this album).
  • “O Come All Ye Faithful” by BEC Record Label — Another brand new album.  This album was recorded by the various artists featured on BEC Records.  There are lots of great artists on this album.  Definitely a good buy.
  • “Vintage Christmas” by Various Artists — This is one I picked up last year.  It has a bunch of old favorites by the greats: Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, etc.  If you’re looking to go old-school, this is definitely the way to go.
  • “At Christmas” by James Taylor — I like James Taylor’s soothing voice.  It’s a really good all-around album.

There are a lot more great albums out there; these are just a few of my tops.  Hope you check them out and enjoy them!  Let me know what you think.

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Staci’s Favorites:

  • “The Living Room Sessions – Christmas” by Chris Rice — I could literally listen to this CD all day.  All of the songs are instrumental (piano only) and Chris Rice does an amazing job.  It’s beautiful.
  • “Very Merry Christmas” by Dave Barnes — Dave Barnes is one of my very favorite artists, and I was so excited to find his Christmas album this year.  This is the most romantic Christmas album I’ve heard.  He does a lot of the classics, and he also has some great original songs on it.
  • “Let it Snow, Baby…Let it Reindeer” by Relient K — This is one of my favorites, too!  I think we’ve probably listened to it around 5 times already.  It’s what I want to listen to when I want something up-beat and different from the traditional Christmas music.
  • “Elf” Soundtrack — “Elf” is one of my favorite Christmas movies, and this is one of my favorite Christmas albums.  Some of the music isn’t necessarily “Christmas” but it definitely works.  It’s fun and up-beat, which I love.
  • “Let It Snow!” by Michael Bublé — I’ve loved Michael Bublé’s music since my freshman year of college.  His music is incredible.  His Christmas album (although only 6 songs) doesn’t disappoint!
  • “Christmas with the Rat Pack” by the Rat Pack — There’s just something about Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. that is perfect for Christmas.  This CD is classic.
  • “The Christmas Sessions” by MercyMe — This is one of my favorites, too.  They’ve taken a lot of the classic songs and made them their own.
  • “A Christmas Together” by John Denver & The Muppets — This isn’t quality music by any means, but this was my family’s favorite from the time I was little.  We would put this in every year while we decorated the tree.
  • “WOW Christmas” (Green Albums) by Various Artists — There are some songs/artists on here that I’m not the hugest fan of, but over-all, I really like these albums.  They’re a good mix.

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These are just some of our favorites.  What are yours?

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–Staci and Michael

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Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree – By Us

Yes, you read right!  This post is not just by Michael or just by Staci.  We’re combining our awesome mind powers to bring you this special holiday post of our night of Christmas Decorating.  So, here’s how things are gonna go.  Michael’s typing will be in Italics, and Staci’s will be in Regular font.  Here we go!  (ps… if you couldn’t tell, Michael wrote this first paragraph, but it’s not in Italics)

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We actually put up our tree a week before Thanksgiving.  I know, I know…that’s super early.  But it was the only time we’d be able to put it up before we went to San Antonio for Thanksgiving, and we wanted our tree to be the first we put up.  I made Chili Stew (I’ll probably post a recipe sometime.  It’s really yummy!) and we put in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to watch while we ate. When it was finished, we put on some Christmas music and pulled out the decorations.

“Charlie Brown Christmas” is my favorite Christmas movie.  And chili stew is good!  And Christmas trees are awesome!  And Christmas music is fun!  And my wife is my favorite!!! … So I guess you could say it was a night of AWESOMENESS!!!!!

We bought this little tree our first Christmas right before we got married.  So even though we’ve only been married a little less than two years, this will be our third Christmas together.

Our first ornament of the year is one our friend Kaitlyn made for us before we got married:

Since we got married 5 days before Christmas, we decorated in red, silver, black and white.  We used lots of ornaments and things that we still get to use in our Christmas decorating.  So it’s like a double bonus–decorating for Christmas and thinking about our wedding!

Our wedding was awesome too!
Before the lights and the star:

It was my turn to put the star on this year!

We have a star because we were looking for a tree topper (angel or star) and all the angels were way creepy looking!  So we decided to go with this star!  I like it… it doesn’t stare at my soul.

ANYWAY…

Here’s the finished product:

We made those stockings last year.  We searched EVERYWHERE for stockings that we liked and couldn’t find any.  We finally found these at Hobby Lobby, but they both had huge bows on them (like mine).  So I took the bow off of Michael’s, and added a snowman.  I love them now!

Isn’t my wife so creative and cute?!    …. By the way that’s a pretty good-lookin’ tree if I say so myself!

I’d delete that, but he said I can’t change what he wrote…And speaking of my husband, Santa came to help!

And I have no clue what he’s doing here…

What do you mean you don’t know what I was doing?  I was protecting us from the scary ornament stealing elves!!!

We had lots of normal ornaments plus ones that we’ve been given or have bought over the past few years.  Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved looking at all of the ornaments; I love being able to think about where each of them came from.

We bought this one at church a few weeks ago.  It’s from Bethlehem (a company called Bethlehem Art), and it’s made from a real olive tree!

My friend, Jamie, gave us these at work last year.  It’s a pickle!  You’re supposed to hide it and then the kid (or person) who finds it gets an extra gift.  I think we’ll start using it for real after we have kids and they get older.  But for now, it’s a fun ornament.

This is from our vacation to San Antonio last summer:

And this is from our Disney Vacation last year:

My Meme gave me this one.  I can’t remember if she made them or if they’re Granny’s or who’s…but I like it!

I could go on and on about every ornament, but I won’t…

whew… that was a close one!  🙂

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We also put other decorations around the living room.  This is under the tree:

On the bar (but now it has another Christmas plate on it too):

My Meme painted these a long time ago.  They’ve always been at her house, and I’ve loved them since I was a little bitty girl.  Well, last year Michael and I were helping Meme and Pawpaw decorate for Christmas and she gave these to me!  I was SO excited!  Now they’re beside our tree:

In the shelves under the TV:

My dad bought me the little Nativity Scene before we got married.  It’s made out of clay, and it folds up into a present!

On either side of the TV:

I’m so thankful that Michael is such a great husband and helps me with all of this!  It was so much fun being able to decorate everything together.

Christmas is my very favorite time of year.

Me too!

I just love the weather (it was 30 degrees this morning, by the way!  Woo-hoo!!  It was about time it stopped being in the 80s!), time with family and friends, decorating, music, and everything about it.  And I can’t forget the true reason for Christmas: Jesus.  Could there be a better holiday?!

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–Staci AND Michael

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Q for you:  Have you put up your tree yet?  Do you have any special Christmas tree decorating traditions?  What is your favorite ornament?

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