Christmas Sta-cation! (Part 3…last one!)

We did a lot of fun family activities to celebrate the Advent Season- making a concerted effort to keep family time and JESUS at the center of our focus. One of our family memories from this year that I am sure will turn into a tradition is the Christmas Light Scavenger Hunt. Hayden pretended to put the kids to bed- got everyone dressed in jammies and started to tuck them in. I had secretly place “golden tickets” on their pillows with instructions written on the back to board the Mommy Mobile for a fun ride! I had loaded the car with sparkly garland, hot cocoa and cookies. We set out with a check list in hand to find different things in peoples yards- snoopy, an airplane, 3 angels in one yard, a display with music, Santa on a roof, etc. The only one we couldn’t find was the Grinch. It was quite devastating not to see him but we vowed to keep looking on other days as we drove around. We decided we’d seen so many other decorations that we could skip one! The kids talked about it for days afterwards. (another nod to Pinterest!)

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Wednesday was Christmas Eve and we got ready for our traditional visit to Chuck E. Cheese. Poor Hayden was not feeling well. He took a few buddies hunting but came home feeling worse. After a quick nap for him, we were off. We had a blast tearing up CEC for a while. The highlights:
– the best picture I’ve been able to get with all three kids was of course, the one with Chuck!
-Haley put two tokens into a machine that didn’t work and got upset that she lost two tokens…Trey instantly reached into his cup and gave her four. He is our most generous and peace-making kid. He makes me swell with pride.
-Hayden was an absolute trooper doing a great job to mask how sick he was…as soon as we got home he threw up in the yard- couldn’t even make it inside. I love him.

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I usually have grand ideas of all that I’d like to accomplish for certain things. Many things I have to let go of as reality hits and one thing I almost didn’t get to do, I made time for on Christmas Eve. I really wanted to make Trey some Penguin PJ pants…and a matching set for his favorite bear, Beary. (again, literal children) But, since Hayden was sick in bed and the kids took naps, I snapped into action. I got both sets done and it was worth it! Trey LOVED his pants that were made especially for him and was surprised to see Beary looked just like him!

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So, the rest of Christmas Eve was pretty calm…naps, easy dinner, play time, Hayden in bed…until SANTA CALLED!! Haley got to talk to him first, then Trey, then Avery. As soon as Haley had passed the phone to Trey, she said, “I’m going right upstairs to brush teeth and get in bed!” It was 6:30pm. I didn’t want to slow her down! Trey and Avery got to talk and Avery did not want to get off the phone. She kept saying, “Um, Santa?” Hayden’s Dad makes it a point to call each year and the kids go crazy about it. Luckily, we had already read the Christmas story, opened our Christmas pajama gifts, and made the cookies for Santa! The kids wrote letters and their own cookie placement on the table for Santa. Haley thought he’d like hot cocoa better than milk, so that’s what he got. (I couldn’t help but laugh thinking of the scene from Fred Claus, how Santa must eat ALL of the cookies laid out so as not to hurt the kids feelings. The kids had 10 cookies laid out- 5 for Santa, 5 for Mrs. Claus…and a couple extra tiny ones for Elfy.)

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Speaking of Elfy, this was the worst part of Christmas Eve. The night before Elfy had posted 25 pictures of himself around the house so the kids would have something to remember him by. He also left a Christmas Eve present- a disco ball so we can have fun all year! Luckily he left me a special note explaining that on his last night, each kid has a chance to hug him and say good-bye. It was torture at our house watching the kids. Haley was in tears, Trey was sad but excited to play with him in his hands for a bit, and Avery couldn’t believe no one was yelling at her for holding him! She couldn’t stop hugging and kissing him. (All month the kids did an excellent job of keeping her from touching him!)


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Christmas morning came early and we were all up at five. Santa had come!! The kids loved opening their presents and were pleased with all that they got. We pared down some this year and I was hoping they wouldn’t notice too much and they did not. I plan to do even less next year! Hayden gets the kids his own gifts each year and he did amazing this year…as usual.

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Favorite gifts:
Haley– the pink bow and arrow set from Hayden.
Trey– a Fur Real dog, he named him Buster, and a hot wheels race track
Avery– a case of baby wipes and three boxes of band-aids; also from Hayden. You have never seen so many baby wipes thrown around a room! She was in heaven. She constantly asks for baby wipes, we usually have to limit her.

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Even though it was cold, Hayden lit us a fire down by the lake after dinner and we bundled up to go sing Christmas Carols. Next year we might have to invite the neighbors- it was so much fun…hopefully another tradition in the making. We sang everything from Silent Night to “…Batman smells.” (one of Avery’s favorite.) Hayden and I still have our favorite from a Christmas Program that Haley sang when she was three- “How on Earth can God’s Baby Sleep?” That one was sang a couple times!

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In typing this and in planning the month’s activities, it seemed like we were doing a lot with the advent calendar, Elfy, etc. BUT, I heard of a truly great idea to start as a Christmas tradition. The Sparkle Box. It’s a box with a lid, paper and pen inside. Anytime someone catches any of us doing something for Jesus or that would make Jesus happy, we write it on a paper and put it in the Sparkle Box. Christmas morning breakfast took a little longer than planned so we read the papers at the breakfast table.

For the next several days we pretty much stayed home and PLAYED! Hayden and I found a new TV series to watch, we have cleaned up the aftermath of opening gifts, and played with everything the kids have gotten and then some. It has been awesome. Everyone has been happy and laughing and we wouldn’t do Christmas any other way. (Haley is the only one who escaped the stomach bug though.)

As the end of the year approaches…and is now upon us…I’m getting all sentimental about not having captured enough about the year and hoping I will remember how the kids are right now. Time is going so fast and I want to remember it all. Bad news- I have a terrible memory! So, I write detailed journal entries whenever I can. Hopefully, this wasn’t all too much info for you, but it’s really for me. 🙂

We are now at Millington. Hayden took Trey duck hunting this evening and is taking Haley in the morning. I’m a sucker for dressing for a theme- so we are all wearing our SIMONS t-shirts that Hayden’s Dad had made up for all of us. We love them!!

As for Elfy, we miss him a lot but we was so kind to send us a picture book recording his adventures with us this Holiday Season. It was a surprise that came in the mail and answered Haley’s question about whether or not he’d be back next year…YES! We will miss him til then.

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Christmas (Part 2)

The kids got some Christmas money this year and I wanted them to buy each other gifts. So, they got their money and we all went to the Dollar Store. Hayden took Trey and I took Haley. Avery kindof just ran crazy around the store. They each got a basket and had to get each other gifts. It was so cute listening to them on the way there talking about things they might like- nothing specific. “something cute and fuzzy, maybe with sparkles.” They were FIRED UP after picking their own gifts, paying with their own money, and checking out on their own. They couldn’t help ask each other and us questions. “Dad, do you like to drink coffee? Maybe on the way to work?” “Mom, do you like zebra print? Do you like to sew?” “Trey, do you like things that glow or light up?” I loved what the kids got me. Trey got me a paint brush, which I actually really need. Haley got me a pin cushion…it is a zebra print high heel shoe ring holder, turned pin cushion. Best gift! (or maybe the best gift was watching them so excited to GIVE their gifts to one another, not just GET on Christmas morning.)

Monday at the house was COOKIE DAY!!! One of my favorite days of the year. Julie came over about nine and we all got started- first things first, aprons on! Last year I made us all aprons and I’m so glad I did because they add the perfect touch to the

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day. We even got the twins aprons, but sadly their plans changed and they weren’t able to make it in time for Cookie Day…but we dressed them in the aprons for their first taste of cruschiki. We all pitched in and made three batches- will probably do four next year. They were good and everyone was able to help out which made it really special. My Grandma Bretzler would have loved it!! I love that she passed down this polish recipe because it keeps her memory vividly alive.

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(Pants optional!)

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Tuesday we celebrated Christmas all together at my parents. We had dinner and opened presents. I think it may have been the first time we had all been under one roof. It was a really special time and I loved laughing with everyone. Having the twins and Reed there- our newest members of the family- made it feel more complete…and that includes Demarkis! Haley made a game for us to play- pin the presents under the tree. She got two books and had one almost finished by the time we left. Trey was awesome at helping to sort and hand out gifts. He was such a gentleman and little trooper.

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(Growing up we always had to pose for this picture…20 years later…and it still embarrasses KJ evcry year! Me and Julie just look at each other and know what picture to take next!)

Nashville Girls Trip

December 2013

Last year my best friend, Laura, mentioned taking the girls (our three oldest daughters) to see the Rockettes In Nashville.  Laura had just had a baby so the timing wasn’t right last year but this year we made it a priority!  After Haley’s Christmas party at school we hit the road!  We decided to go up a day early and stay with some family.  Justin and Erin LeGrand live in Nashville and we asked if we could come for a visit.  We loved getting to catch up with them and see their newly renovated house.  My only regret from this trip is not getting a picture taken with Justin and Erin!  A Platten family Christmas tradition is to eat lunch with the LeGrands in St. Louis the day after Christmas…and to take a group picture.  I know we won’t be at that lunch, so we should have taken a picture of our own get-together!

IMG_2355We treated ourselves to milkshakes at Steak n’ Shake to kick off the weekend right!

Friday we had most of the day to play until Laura and her girls got to Nashville.  We started the day off getting our nails painted, then drove to Opry Mills to eat at Rain Forest Café.  That place was awesome- perfect for a mom-daughter date.  We shopped, played Legos in the Lego store, took silly pictures, and wore ourselves out!!  We decided to go rest for a bit at the hotel until the Holmes’ arrived.









There was an overbooking of our room so they upgraded us to two adjoining rooms!  We didn’t mind a bit…the Moms got a room to share and the girls got their own room!  After checking in, eating some chocolate (compliments of the hotel because of our “inconvenience”), we jumped on the bed and then rested while watching a movie.  We met Laura, Caitlyn, and Emily at the Aquarium restaurant for dinner before going to see the movie, Frozen.  The restaurant was awesome, we learned a lot about fish, and were just excited to be together.  The girls didn’t stop gabbing or giggling…and neither did their moms!



After the movie- which was AWESOME!!! – we pretended to either be frozen or ice skating all the way to our room.  The girls got new matching pajamas…with snowflakes all over…and laid in bed talking the rest of the night.  Caitlyn made a book for Haley as a Christmas gift- such a treasure!  As Laura and I laid in bed talking and listening to the girls in the other room we agreed this was our college dream come true- that our girls would love each other like family and genuinely enjoy being together.



I took this picture of Haley, age 6, at the Grand Ole Opry.  She has aspirations to “own the stage” during the Singing Christmas Tree at church.  She even prays for this often.  One thing I know about God- He often answers our prayers in ways we could not even dream or imagine.  So, just in case her future includes an amazing singing career, I thought I’d do all the talk shows a favor and take this picture of her where one day she may just own this stage!



I had so much fun being care free and focused on Haley.  She doesn’t get that undivided attention much and it helped me realize that we need more time together like that and what a fun kid she is!  She is growing up.  I hope weekends like this will keeps us especially close and keep those communication lines OPEN!


Christmas Stay-cation! (Part 1)

It all started with the arrival of Elfy and putting up our Christmas decorations. This is only our second Christmas in this house so it’s still fun figuring out where the decorations go…and picking up a new item or two to add to the stuff we pull out every year.

Elfy is our Christmas Elf. I had been hesitant to bring an elf into the fold because we try not to initiate Santa discussions for the most part and do what we can to keep the focus on Jesus and the real reason for the season. However, we opted to get an elf and do our own version. I found a really cute and posable Elf at Kirklands for like $5 and decided to go for it. Elfy (named by my incredibly literal children) came with a note explaining that his job was to make sure we had as much family fun as possible this season, as we prepared for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. He was watching out for us to be extra kind, generous, and loving…while having fun with all the traditional Christmas excitement- marshmallow snowmen, hot cocoa, reading books by the fire, buying and wrapping gifts for others, having Christmas music dance parties, etc. Having Elfy at the house was priceless! Every morning was like a taste of Christmas magic as the kids would race each other to get up and find him each morning…and then rush in to tell me…at 5 am! I couldn’t help but smile, but had to force myself to get up and go look.

We visited Hayden’s parents mid-December and had a great visit. Before heading to Jackson, we stayed in town to see the dress rehearsal of the Singing Christmas Tree. It was amazing. Haley had the opportunity to see part of the try-outs and even got to sing for the director. He told her that one day, “You’ll own the stage.” She has clung to that and reminds us often. Seeing the show lit her up and I can’t wait till she plays the lead one day! She talks regularly about trying out when she is in third grade…and how it’s only 2 years away. I tell her, “then it’s only two more years til you see me sitting in the front row crying tears of pride and joy!”

A fun game we played on the way to Jackson was the “thankful game”. I got a similar idea from a Family Fun magazine a while back. I pretended to throw each kid a present. They had to open it and I’d announce what it was- some good, some not so good. “It’s a stinky sock!” The kids had to say “Thank you” and make a comment about how they could use it or why they were glad they had gotten it. It was a ton of fun and great practice for getting gifts they may or may not love. We had a talk about how it’s important to be grateful and show appreciation for the time someone took to pick out a special present for us.

We had so much fun openning gifts right after our arrival. Mammaw is kind not to make the kids wait! (Although I don’t know who was more excited- the kids to get their gifts or Mammaw to watch them open their treats!) Haley’s favorite gift was a sewing machine and Trey loved his lego sets! Avery loves it all and just likes to be in the middle of everything. After opening presents and playing with all the fun gifts Friday night, we went with Seth, Caleb, Laura and Ryan to the Children’s Museum on Saturday. It was really fun and the kids loved exploring it all. The highlight was Haley winning the dance competition! She was moving and grooving to the music and won a backpack full of goodies as her prize. She was also treated to a shoe shopping spree by Mammaw and Pappaw after lunch so she was feeling quite special. That night we went to Laura and Ryan’s for pizza and a movie- ELF! Can it be Christmas without that movie? Not at our house! We all laughed and the boys took to opportunity to have extra play time. Another activity that kept the kids and Pappaw Gary busy was trying to catch a bird. Their hard work and determination paid off…as you can see!

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The actual week of Christmas was crazy but awesome. My parents came to pick up the kids Sunday night to go get the kids Christmas presents at Build-A-Bear. I had invisioned this big night out and the kids going crazy wanting everything there. They came home- a snowman, a bunny, and a kitty. The snowman was the only one with clothes. My dad laughed and said he offered Avery every outfit that place had but said she didn’t want any of them. They did have a fun time and enjoyed being out with Grandma and Grampy. What did Hayden and I do with our few hours of freedom? Go to the mechanic and grocery store, of course! So romantic, I know. However, we didn’t stop laughing the whole time and took advantage of the Starbucks at Kroger. Our Kroger got fancy this year. The laughter of that night set the tone for the rest of vacation.

Monday morning was a hunting day for Hayden. He’s been going with a few different guys this duck season and they have had so much fun and have even seen some ducks this year! Last year was a very dry year- hardly any ducks flying. This year they have only come home empty handed once. Hayden’s gotten to enjoy more time with a couple guys from church and our teenage neighbor, Dylan.

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Snow Day! (Ice Day)

December 2013
I was so excited and relieved to hear that school was cancelled for today- Friday. This is our second year to use an Advent Calendar I made. It’s a countdown with a fun family activity to do for each day of December. I was smart to make it quick and easy, but hopefully memorable things to make the Christmas season more fun. However, this has been a VERY busy week and we haven’t had time to do all of it. So, we used today to catch up, take it easy in our PJ’s and HAVE FUN! It has been the best day we’ve had in a while.

Haley has been asking for a week to make Elfy a Christmas stocking. She loves to sew and it’s something we do together when we get an idea for a project so I really wanted to wait when we had time for her to do most of it. She drew the pattern, pinned the pieces together, and manned the sewing machine…then sewed on the bells! She is a quick study! It looks adorable and she is super proud.
While she finished that, I started white washing our chimney (inside the house). I picked to start on the upstairs chimney portion because it was

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a manageable size and less noticeable to visitors…in case the project didn’t go as well as I hoped. I am really impressed and feel like I’ve learned enough about my process to start the downstairs tomorrow. I can’t wait!
On a normal day, if I get all three kids bathed before noon, I feel like a rock star. Today, everyone took a bubble bath! So even if the list of what we got done ended here, I’d be amazed.
I cut some

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green Christmas trees out of felt yesterday for the kids to decorate with felt ornaments. All three kids LOVED drawing, cutting, and placing their ornaments on the trees. (One of our Advent activities from our calendar.)




After lunch it was nap time. The kids laid down late and took a really good nap. They didn’t get up till about 5. I worked on the chimney, Hayden made bread and got his gear ready for hunting in the morning, I took a nap, read my Bible, and then we watched TV together…with a fire roaring.

As the kids came to life, we started watching The Sound of Music. They were loving it and SO many memories came flooding back. Hearing “These are a few of my favorite things” made me think of my Mom and all the awesome things she did for us growing up, like I try to do for mine. And it made me think of how we always know we are her favorite things.
The funniest thing happened as I announced it was time for dinner. Haley looked at me and said, “WHAT? Dinner? What time is it?” She didn’t know she had slept and then thought it was morning. I was dying laughing. Then Hayden, who overheard us from the kitchen came in and said, “What do you guys want for breakfast? You go upstairs and get ready for church and I’ll get it ready.” She was flipping out. It was hilarious! So, what did we do? Made breakfast for dinner, of course!

After dinner we did another Advent activity. We all stood outside and I told the kids to tell me when they felt cold. (It is 30 degrees here tonight.) After about 2-3 minutes, the kids told me they were cold and I announced we were going to have a sleep over OUTSIDE! They all looked at me with disbelief. I told them I’d get them a couple blankets and a coat. We stayed outside a few more minutes then decided the best solution would be to sleep inside where it was warm…and talked about how blessed we are to have a warm place to sleep. We ran to the fire and each kid prayed for those who don’t have a warm place to sleep tonight. We took the kids to the Manna House in Memphis earlier this week and they got to help serve dinner to the homeless/less fortunate (another Advent activity).
Next on the agenda…making Christmas popcorn! I found the recipe on Pinterest and knew we had to do it. It’s popcorn mixed with melted white chocolate chips and sprinkled with green and red sprinkles!! We will finish The Sound of Music…or another Christmas kid movie while we eat it!



I think we have taken FULL advantage of this day! And had SO much fun. Days like today remind me of all the joys of being a MOM. (Oh, and Trey learned to spell/read Mom…and tried to write it on a paper for me. Oh, be still my heart.)