Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Christmas at the Beach

This year for Christmas Day, we decided to do something we had NEVER done on Christmas day before... we went to the beach!  Even though we were both missing extended family and going "home" for the holidays, we wanted to make the most of our situation and do something we would never be able to do in Washington or Wyoming.
After we spent the morning opening presents, we packed up our beach gear and headed to the ocean (we live about 15 minutes drive from the coast.)  Even though it was in the 80s outside, the wind was quite strong when we got to the beach.  We had wanted to check out one of the state parks, that supposedly had cool trails and paths out to the beach front, but sadly when we arrived they informed us that due to the wind and rip currents, people weren't allowed out on the beach.  So we decided to head a little down the coastline to Dania beach where life guards were on duty.  
We wanted to check out the pier before setting things up and were surprised to find that it cost 2-3 dollars to simply walk out on the pier.  We were both a little annoyed but decided we'd check things out this once.  The pier gave great views back at the city skyline and we also saw several kite boarders out on the waves.

Daxton and Daddy enjoying the sun and wind...

Snuggles from Daddy are the best!
It's always so much fun to watch these two interact.

Daxton was fascinated by the kite boarders while we were walking up and down the pier.

There were also several people fishing off the pier, which brought in a multitude of birds wanting to steal whatever they caught.  Daxton had a blast watching them all and screamed with delight when one of the fisherman fed leftover squid to a bird.

After exploring the pier, we headed down to the beach to play in the sand.  Due to the wind and rip tides, we weren't super interested in swimming, but we all ended up getting wet anyway.  As we were all building sand castles, Dallas and I had our backs to the ocean (one of the biggest rules not to break at the beach!)  We were in the middle of taking pictures when a sneaker wave came up and literally washed us all down.  Dallas was quick to rescue Daxton (after it had washed up to his shoulders) so I made sure the camera and sand toys didn't get washed out to sea.  We couldn't help but laugh after as we were covered with water and sand.  Daxton was such a trooper and immediately begged to get down and play in the sand again.  He's definitely turned into a beach bum while living in South Florida!

Building sand castles with daddy and his favorite Finding Nemo sand bucket we got on Disney's Castaway Cay.
We all had so much fun building in the sand.  Dallas would build several towers in a row to form a wall and Daxton would pretend he was a monster and brake each one, usually by stepping on them.  It was pretty funny to watch how excited he got while causing destruction!  In the picture below, you can see how windy it was by the palm trees swaying.

Below is one of my favorite pictures of the day...
My two loves having so much fun together on Christmas Day.

After we got pummeled by the sneaker wave, we waded into the ocean to clean ourselves off.  Daxton was a little nervous of the waves after what had just happened...

Building more sand castles...
I swear one of Daxton's favorite parts about going to the beach is showering off afterwards!  He was so funny playing under the water and giggling as his face got drenched.
One of the main problems of being the photographer is I rarely am in any of the pictures.  I ended up taking a couple on my iPhone just to prove that I was there as well.
It was quite the fun morning and afternoon, thus the exhausted toddler.  We really wore him out for sure!  And in return he gave us the best snuggles.
After the beach, we came home, changed, and headed to our Aunt and Uncle's house for Christmas dinner.  They were so kind to take care of all the yummy food!  We loved spending the evening with them and their three children.  They are such a blessing in our life here in south Florida.  It's so wonderful to have family so close, I just wish we were able to see them more often.  I am so mad that I didn't get any pictures there that night.  I didn't think about it until after dinner and right as I was about to force some family picture time, Daxton tripped over Dallas's foot and face planted on their wood floor.  He immediately formed a giant goose egg on his forehead and we had to keep ice on it for the remainder of the evening.  It was a very sad way to end such a perfect day!  Besides the head bump, Christmas was a total success, especially since it was our first Christmas staying at home instead of traveling.  We are already thinking of new and fun traditions to add to the holiday season next year.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning was pretty relaxed for us.
Daxton is not at the age yet to realize what Christmas morning brings, so he slept in sweetly to 8am.  When we woke we brought him downstairs where he let out an awed "Wow" when he saw his train table.  It was so sweet to see him rush over to it and immediately start playing with all the fun trains, tracks, and people set up.  He was so involved in playing that he was VERY mad at us when I set up the camera timer for a Christmas morning family picture.  After giving it a couple tries, we figured it was a battle we weren't going to win, so we let him get back to play time.
I really wish I knew what Daxton was thinking.  He is very inquisitive and fixates on the funniest things.  On Christmas Eve Dallas and I had placed several candy canes on the lower part of the tree.  When Daxton saw them the following morning, he grabbed every single one from the tree and began hiding them throughout the room.  I still don't know why!  He thought under the chair cushions was the perfect spot...

Daxton also loved pulling everything out of his stocking.  Some of his fillers included a snowman key chain to hang from the tree, fruit snacks, bubble bath, and children's tylenol.  Yes, we stuffed his stocking full of medicine and he couldn't have been happier!  Should I be a little worried??

Beginning to open presents...
Daxton is at such a fun age to buy presents for, so we may have gone a little overboard.  It was so much fun to watch him open all the presents, even ours.  He focused very intently on each piece of paper and took his job very seriously!  He got such a kick out of it.

His favorite presents were the Cars 2 characters.  He immediately dropped to the ground and began making car sounds while zooming them across the floor.  He is all boy, for sure!

He got so many fun presents from his grandparents as well (which they already have done too much and shouldn't have!)  He is quite the loved and blessed little man.

Playing with some of the toys and showing the "Aftermath..."

Since he has been so obsessed with Monsters University these past few weeks, we thought it would be funny to get him a Sully romper to wear.  He was NOT a fan of the hat and was super bugged by the tail.  I mean seriously, who wouldn't have been!?  Not the best online purchase for sure.  He wore it for about as long as it took for me to snap a few pictures and then it was off and thrown in the corner.  I'm surprised he didn't hide it in the chair with the candy canes!
Overall it was a really nice, relaxing Christmas morning.  We missed our families a bit, but enjoyed watching Daxton get so excited about everything.  He's at such a fun age.  Plus it was nice to start our own traditions and have family time together.

The rest of the day turned out to be just as wonderful...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Christmas Eve

Dallas and I made the hard decision to not travel to our family's home for the holidays.  Flights are double the cost around the holidays, we could run into weather difficulties since both of our families come from areas with snow, and Dallas had a lot of work and not a lot of days off.  We decided instead to plan a big vacation during the summer where we could see both sets of families, costs would be cheaper, no weather issues, and he would be able to take more time off.  Although we knew it would be very difficult to not spend the holidays with our extended family, we made the most out of our situation.  We made a list of several different things we wanted to do on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, some traditions from our families and some brand new.
I have to admit we had an amazing holiday and, although we missed loved ones, we thoroughly enjoyed creating new traditions together as a little family.

Christmas Eve morning was a lot of fun.  We had planned to have all six of our ward's missionaries over, so the morning was devoted to cooking.  I LOVE our kitchen!  It has so much space and a gorgeous island for everyone to sit around.  Daxton loves to "help" with everything lately and loved helping us make cookies.  I found a fun recipe for chocolate cookies where you put a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in the middle of each cookie.  I had Dallas and Daxton on unwrapping detail, but Daxton literally ate every single peanut butter cup he could open.  He was loving the holidays and treats!

It was so much fun to have Christmas music playing and be surrounded by my little family while cooking in the kitchen!

For as long as I can remember, my family has had the missionaries over for Christmas eve.  They are some of my most favorite memories growing up.  As a family we would eat dinner, wrap presents, deliver to families in need, and then have a spiritual lesson with music, scriptures, and (when we were younger) acting out Christ's birth story.  It was fun to include the missionaries on each of these activities throughout the night.

When Dallas and I decided what traditions we wanted to do with our little family this year, we both wanted to make sure we kept Christmas Eve with the missionaries.  I have five brothers (all of whom served 2 year missions) which make for 10 Christmases that mom and dad prayed for the safety of their boys in the mission field.  I know this is one of the reasons they've always had such love and care for those serving; they knew what it was like to hope that their children were being taken care of.

Since the church is growing so rapidly here in South Florida, we have three sets of missionaries just for our ward (Creole/French, Spanish, and English speaking.)  It was so much fun to have them all over for lunch and help celebrate Christ's birth.  It was also great that the lunch fell right in the middle of Daxton's nap time, so we were able to eat, talk, wrap presents, etc without the distractions of a little toddler.  Don't get me wrong, we love our little man, but it was nice to be able to focus on company and not having to fight with Dax to eat his food!
 We set the table with goblets full of different kinds of M&Ms and presents for each of them to open.  Our dinner was a bit on the shabby side, since we overcooked the ham, but the missionaries were so sweet about it and gobbled everything up regardless.  We also had roasted potatoes, rolls, corn, and a yummy spinach salad.

Dallas and I had gotten a name of a family in need for the holidays.  Daxton and I went shopping for all of them the day before, so we were organized and ready when the missionaries were done eating (all organization ideas passed on by mom and dad!)  Everyone helped with the wrapping and we were able to get all the boxes of toys and groceries ready for delivery within a half hours time.  It's always so fun to watch the missionaries wrap presents.  Everyone was excited, we were all telling stories about favorite family Christmas traditions, and laughing.  It was a wonderful afternoon!

Busy wrapping elves!

Elder Krikava (from San Diego area) and Elder Brakey (from Riverton, Utah)

 Elder Brockbank (from Woodland Hills, Utah) and Elder Felkins (from Roosevelt, Utah)

Sister Merrill (from Hooper, Utah) and Sister Daines (from Centerville, Utah)

We loved having the missionaries in our home.  Since it is a family tradition of mine, having them on Christmas Eve also helped alleviate a lot of the homesickness I had been feeling as well.  They all have such amazing spirits and excitement for the service they are doing.  What a blessing they are to us and our ward family.  I love the picture below, which shows how happy they all were to help with our secret Santa gifts...that, and to eat yummy cookies and M&Ms...
After we were done wrapping and the boxes were all organized, we handed everything off to the elders to deliver.  In the past we would usually drop, knock, and run, but that's not the safest idea here.  So the elders were gracious enough to make the delivery.

After everyone left, I called each of their parents.  I know that might sound silly, but I remember my dad calling or writing emails to missionaries families that he would meet randomly throughout his travels or in the stake.  While he was stake president, he would also make sure to visit "his" missionaries while on business trips if they were in the area.  I always thought that was so cool on how closely he cared for each of them and wanted to make sure they were ok.  I wanted to do the same.  It was so fun to briefly talk with their parents and assure them they were doing well and how happy they were.  Not everyone was home, so I left messages at homes in that case.  It was such a wonderful afternoon and we loved the company and reminder of Christ in our lives.

At the last minute we decided to take Daxton to see Disney's Frozen.  We had heard amazing things about it and already loved the music.  Plus we figured there would not be a lot of people at the 4pm showing on Christmas Eve in case he decided to be a crazy toddler.  We ended up loving every minute of it!  I brought LOTS of snacks for our little man and his special blanket, which was great since he got a little restless half way through.  He did really well, though, and either watched the movie, ate snacks, or crawled all over daddy.  It helped that there were so many fun songs and he LOVES snowmen.

Daxton's first time in a movie theater!
 As we were driving home from the movie, we remembered that we had given all our leftovers to the missionaries and that we had no food in the house.  Since Daxton was still in good spirits, we ended up at Olive Garden for Christmas Eve dinner.  We laughed at ourselves for the random occurrence, but figured we were on our own for the holidays anyway, so what did it matter where we ate?

When we got home we opened our Chirstmas Eve presents, which are always a new pair of pajamas and a book (another tradition from our families we wanted to keep.)  Daxton loves the Disney channel right now and was super excited about his "Jake" pirate pjs.  We were simply in love with his chubby belly!

Dallas was in charge of our "PJs" this year.  He got us a couple super soft tshirts, perfect for sleeping.  Daxton had a blast helping us open both of them.

 We just couldn't resist...

After putting out little guy to bed, Dallas got fast to work on Daxton's train table.  It was so much fun taking over "Santa" duties.  I was super impressed with how quickly Dallas put it all together.  Within an hour the train table was finished, stockings were stuffed, and house was ready for Christmas morning.  We made a great team!

I forgot to turn the Christmas tree lights on for the pictures below, but I thought it was pretty funny it shows how we had to decorate the tree this year...all ornaments safely out of reach from an inquisitive toddler!
I have to admit I got a little weepy when everything was set up.  I wish I could put into words how grateful I am for the life I have.  I have the most amazing husband.  He takes such good care of us and is so loving and understanding.  We have the most amazing son whom has become my best little buddy.  We live in a beautiful home and area and are so happy for life's choices that have brought us here.
Simply put, we feel blessed.
It was a wonderful Christmas Eve and the first on our own as a little family.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Dallas's Birthday Adventure in Volunteer Park

Dallas's birthday this year (December 22nd) fell on a Sunday.  The night before, we met with some friends for dinner and a movie.  It was a great evening and so much fun to spend time with each other.  Dallas has never been one to want a big celebration or have attention drawn to himself, so we (he) decided to keep this year's birthday low key.  After church we hung out as a family, I prepared a yummy meal, and then we all went to the park while it was cooking.  We've been having fun trying out all the different parks in the area.  I am constantly amazed at all the fun places to visit down here.  It makes sense why the local cities have maintained so much land for various parks throughout the county, the weather is amazing year round, which means everyone wants to be outside!

For Dallas's birthday afternoon we decided to check out Volunteer Park, about a couple miles from our house.  We immediately loved it!  There were basketball and tennis courts, soccer field, huge open spaces for picnicking and play, and several different play areas designated by age.  Daxton was in heaven playing on all the equipment.  There was also a gorgeous wetland trail circling a beautiful pond which was connected to the park.

Looking through these pictures, it's amazing to see how quickly our little man is growing.  He's such a toddler now!
Having fun in the tunnels...

There were several rocking toys spread on the outside of the play areas.  It was so funny watching Daxton rock back and forth, especially because he always led with his head.  His chunky cheeks would even start bouncing as he got going!

He loved the alligator most of all and kept chomping his teeth as he rode.

With some help and encouragement from daddy, Daxton finally went down the slide by himself.  He was pretty proud of himself and wanted to slide over and over again.

After we had explored all the different play areas, Daxton finally let us go on a walk around the neighboring pond.  I loved how the trail was often built with wooden boardwalk over the water so you could look down at the lily pads and fish.  Daxton simply loved to run!

It turned out to be such a pretty walk through the wetlands!

It was so weird for Dallas and I, as we were both sweating from running after our little toddler, to think that it was the end of December.  We were so used to being surrounded by cold and snow for Dallas's birthday; instead it was sunny and 85 degrees outside!  Such a fun experience to spend the holidays in shorts and T-shirts.

My loves

After awhile Daxton got tired and wanted to ride in his stroller, but would only sit at the bottom.  It was pretty cute to see him decked out in my sunglasses with his little legs bouncing.

We had so much fun looking for all the different wildlife in the area.  We saw lots of fish, turtles, and all kinds of birds.

Daxton LOVED watching all the turtles interact.

Two peas in a pod!
I absolutely love how close these two are!

Before heading home we decided to play in the playground areas one last time, since Daxton was having so much fun.  He still loves the swings and still giggles with delight.  I loved watching his facial expressions.  Such a happy boy!

It was such a fun day at the park and a great way to celebrate Dallas's birthday.  We both feel so blessed to live in such a beautiful area.  We are loving all of the new adventures we've been able to have as a little family and can't wait for the many more in store.

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