Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas again and again!

(back, l-r) Jerry and Dawn, Pop-pop and Nana, and Rich (front, l-r) Ben, Will, Kirsten, Jenn and Mae

It sure is happy here in NC with the Collins and Frese families together! We keep celebrating Christmas everytime more family arrives! We don't want to bore everyone with all the details, but we do hope everyone has had a wonderful holiday and hope to see all of our friends and loved ones in the coming year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holidays Heat Up!

The Frese tradition of "A holiday and a movie" was almost ruined this year when we drove up to the theater and found it on fire!

Actually, we did not see any smoke -- only the theater evacuated and fire trucks on the scene. Pop-pop, ever the Boy Scout, charged into the crowd to find out if the movies were in any danger only to learn that the popcorn machine had caught fire. After a short wait, management decided to close the theater and directed everyone to alternate theaters while the firemen tried to put the fire out.

Luckily, we were able to get in another showing of "Bedtime Stories" (and a few games of air hockey). Very cute movie -- totally recommend it. Even Mae almost made all the way through!

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Making our way down to Christmas morning

We'd been practicing for more than a month, and we are proud to say that Mae made it down the stairs Christmas morning without a problem! She was more than a little surprised to see the awesome tunnel system Santa left her and Ben at the bottom of the stairs, and then the block fort surrounding the tree! Everyone got such wonderful presents, from Santa, family and friends -- too many for us to list here. But we did snap a few pictures, and have video for anyone else interested!

Mae enjoys her new tunnel ...

... Aunt Lulu not as much ...

Robyn loved her hat; Ben couldn't wait to tear his off; and Mae tried to wear her tutu to bed ...

... Pop-pop and Mae tried to hide out from their nap times (secretly checking movie schedules from the wireless connection) ...

... some of us had to battle it out for total domination of the Wii ... Mae won, as usual.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Getting ready for Santa

It's minutes 'til Christmas is here, and still so much to do! Rich and Robyn were busy decorating the tree, Kirsten and Jenn wrapping presents, Will chopping cauliflower for dinner, Mae putting food out for Santa and the reindeer and Pop-pop reminding everyone they need to get some sleep before morning is here.

We'll keep this short so we can all get to hiding upstairs to listen for Santa and his sleigh. Merry Christmas and good night!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I know we keep saying it's our first Christmas here, but it is really exciting for us to decorate for the holidays for the first time. Tonight we put together all of our outside decorations (which admittedly weren't much this year. But you have to start somewhere, right?).

We have this awesome inflatable snow globe with a carousel inside with rotating Santa, snowmen, and reindeer that Kirsten's mom got us and it's just fantastic. Every morning, Mae comes downstairs upset that "Santa fell" or the "Snowmen gone." But every evening, she excitedly watches the globe reinflate and then wants to visit with her frontyard friends.

We also put the luminaries out -- very exciting! (NOTE ADDED: Kirsten was not pleased when she found out later that a few of them caught on fire and burned up the bags.)

We know our pictures aren't great, but we were still so excited we decided to post them anyway!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ben's Baptism

What a beautiful day! Today, Ben was baptized in Kirsten's former church in Maryland. This is the same church, Church of the Resurrection, where Kirsten's family still belongs and where Mae was baptized a year ago. To make the day even more special, Deacon Skip -- who conducted Mae's Baptism -- also conducted Ben's Baptism.

Both of Ben's godparents -- Kirsten's brother Will and Kirsten's bridesmaid Amy -- were in town along with Rich sister Renate and her family, Robyn, Kirsten's parents and sister, and Amy's family (Hi Scott, Ryan, and Baby Beatty!). The Williamson's came down special to share in Ben's special day, and we are specially blessed and grateful to have them with us to celebrate. The Beatty's, who live in Tennessee, were in town for the holidays and were able to make us a part of their travels - thank you so much!

Another little surprise was the day itself. In most countries, the feast of Saint Benjamin is celebrated on March 31. But, in Finland St. Benjamin is celebrated today, December 20.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dinner Date!

Today we made the trip to Maryland -- Ben's first! While our trip is only for a weekend, it will be an eventful one beginning tonight!

Our dinner date tonight was with the Williamson family (Rich's sister and her family), Robyn, Monkey Will, and Lulu (Jenn) and her new guy-friend. It was so great to see everyone, relax, play some games! But it was a big surprise to see how big, or really grown up, our nephews Greg and Curtis have gotten!!!

A special thanks to Greg, Curis, and Monkey Will for their gaming skills! During dinner, they played enough games and scored enough tickets to win Mae a Pirate Elmo -- which she loves! -- and Ben a colorful rainforest frog -- which delights him upon sight! Thanks so much, guys!

While our visits with family always seem too short, they are always so wonderful! Thank you so much, Roger, Renate, Greg and Curtis, for making such a long trip to be with us for Ben's special day. We know there were things you had to miss in order to be with us, and we are truly greatful! We love you guys!

Mae hanging out with her godparents, Jenn and Roger

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Trimmings

... just a few of our favorite decorations ...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Santa Train

Choo! Choo! Tonight we spent the evening with our friend Sherri and Santa in Durham, taking a ride on the Santa Train! The Santa Train came highly recommended by TriangleMommies, a group Kirsten has recenly become involved, and did not disappoint the Collins family!

We were originally supposed to go last week, but it was rained out. Worth the wait, though! We boarded the adorable little train bound for the North Pole where both Ben and Mae met with Santa! Last year, Santa was a bit of a problem for Mae. She kind of likes him at a distance, and loves him in the "Santa is Coming to Town" animation - but up close he's kind of scary. Ben, on the other hand, just lights up when the white beard comes his way. But, both kids seemed to like seeing him at his home in the North Pole (but then again, they could've just liked the train ride).

Then we continued on the train trying to help Santa find Rudolph, who was lost in the woods. Good thing Miss Sherri was with us - she found him right away!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Good Curling!

Congratulations to Rich and his team for winning the 2008 Fall League Championships last night! They finished their partial round robin with a 7-1 record, putting them in first place for the championship match. They were up against tough competition, but they won it in seven ends. And Jeff -- Rich's vice -- was also awarded Most Improved Delivery for the half-season. Way to go, Jeff! Way to go, TEAM!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Who's the Daddy?

We are not sure how well we are doing with Mae's religious education. Last year, Mae got a wonderful Fisher-Price Nativity set. Since we started decorating for Christmas, we've been using it to talk about the holidays and Mae's been pretty receptive. She loves the Baby Jesus, and is really fond of "Momma Mary" and the sheep. She thinks the Angel and the Kings are pretty, but she doesn't seem to think the cow looks like a cow (the "not-cow"). And the verdict is still out on the camel (Don't ask about the donkey, who is no longer "with" us).

Mae helps Momma Mary and Baby Jesus rub noses or eskimo kiss

So today we were playing with the Nativity, and she kept telling us that "Momma Mary" had to HUG Baby Jesus, and then smooch the Baby Jesus and then eskimo kiss the Baby Jesus. Then the Baby Jesus and Momma Mary had to go to the manger, which she knows is a special place. So, then there's an open spot (normally reserved for Joseph). But Mae doesn't want Joseph in the manger - he goes with the "not-cow." She rotates in different Kings, but then notices her Fisher-Price basketball. It's about the same height as figures, so it goes in the manger.

We tell her no, the basketball doesn't go with the Nativity. But then, she protests with the determination of a toddler and says, "Daddy Basketball."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

More Mae-tures

Mae's very excited about the Christmas tree and has learned how to turn the lights on. This is a daily thing, lights on and off. Today, while we were showing Ben AGAIN how pretty the tree is, Mae became inspired and insisted on taking pictures (telling the tree "Cheese!").

Here's some of her handiwork:

Not the tree
Still not the tree

Momma's personal favorite, but still not the tree

Editorial note: Mae has a unique approach to her art. She like to look at her subject, aim the camera and then point it at the ground to press the button because it is too heavy to her to lift and press the button at the same time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Chase me!

Mae's new favorite game is being chased around the house. Last weekend when her Uncle Russ and cousin Rusty were in town, she said "chase me! Chase me!" and she ran from them giggling all around and around the kitchen island and breakfast table. This weekend, with her grandparents in town, Mae said to Opi, "Chase me!" and he did for hours! What a good sport!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Our Christmas Present

Instead of trying to come up with gifts for each other, this year Rich and Kirsten decided to buy an HDTV for the family room. So before the crack of dawn on Black Friday, the whole family piled into van in search of a deal. We ended up buying a television at regular price, but, boy, is it cool! Thanks goodness Robyn was here to help us set it up (she is awesome at reading manuals) and to show us how to use it! It has the awesome picture-in-picture feature where we can watch tv and play Wii at the same time! Kirsten may actually "watch" football with Rich now!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Our First Thanksgiving

This year was the first time since we were married that we will be home for Thanksgiving, and with all of our kids -- so it is a very exciting time in the Collins' house!

There are so many things to be thankful for this year that we cannot list them all. But most of all, we are thankful for our family and friends and for everyone's good health. We wish the best to all of you this holiday season!

Monday, November 24, 2008


One of our many woodland neighbors includes an illustious Imperial Woodpecker that we have had great difficulty capturing on film (or SD media card, as it were). But today Rich has success! Lucky for us he was quick with the camera and caught a few images and thought we would share. He camoflages well with the tree, but you can't mistake that redhead.

He is an impressive guy and loves this dead tree behind our house, in full view of our breakfast area. We haven't seen him much lately, but then again we haven't been home much.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Welcome Russ and Rusty!

We were delighted when Rich's brother and nephew, Russ and Rusty from Michigan, said they would be driving by our state and wanted to spend an evening with us! We were the last stop on their East Coast drive that took them all the way to Florida, and we were so happy they could visit!

On their way out of town, Russ took Rusty on a driving tour of his alma mater, Duke University. While I am not necessarily a fan of Duke exactly, I am sure it would be great to go on a visit with Russ! Just as long as we can keep our tour and talk AWAY from basketball (GO TERPS!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

First Snow!

It must be a cold day in ... because we saw white stuff in North Carolina. Of course, none of the snow stuck around more than 5 minutes but I have proof it was here!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tiny Fingers

Thanks to Miss Sherri, Mae and Ben have a wonderful collection of art smocks and aprons! Today we decided to try one out and undertake a finger-painting project. In the past, finger painting only happened before bath time and Mae would be stripped down to her diaper. But, the smock worked great! She still managed to paint her face some, but it's all washable! Yea!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lockness Lulu!!!!

Lulu is visiting us for a few days, and we decided we should take her to our favorite new park: Kid Together in Cary! There is just so much for a kid (of all ages) to do! Mae's current favorite activity? Climbing the large dragon that juts out from the ground in spots. Rich thinks it's a North-Carolinian-Lochness, but we Mae calls it a dragon. We also took in the different jungle gyms and swings, and Ben went down his first slide!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bumbo and Bare

Ben's been getting restless, so today we tried the Bumbo chair. We didn't have one with Mae, so this was new for all of us. But so far, he seems to really like it being able to sit up in the middle of things. He can only sit there for a short while before becoming overwhelmed, but we'll gradually build up to longer periods.
Mae was also a fan of the Bumbo, playing around Ben so he could see what she was doing. But then she noticed Ben's head and let Kirsten know she was concerned about "bebe's head." Not quite getting her message, Mae felt compelled to show Kirsten what was wrong by trying to cover Ben's head with leftover yarn, saying "hair." Poor guy.
Of course, Mae felt the need to test out the chair for herself once it was vacated.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Howaweeeeeen!

... as Mae says it, when she says it. Sometimes she said "tick or teet," but most of the time she seemed pretty confused about the whole Halloween thing. When our neighbors opened their doors, she thought she was supposed to go in or play with their puppies. Sometimes she would take candy from their bowls, other times she might accept the candy offered by the host. One time, she actually took candy out of her bucket and gave it to the guy who opened the door. And Ben -- he really didn't seem to see a point to the outing.

But we had a great time showing off our semi-homemade Sesame Street costumes. Mae is currently in love with Elmo and his many friends on the street. So Mae dressed up as the adorable red monster, Ben was Cookie Monster, Rich donned Oscar the Grouch and Kirsten was Abby Caddabby (Elmo's new buddy). Most people figured out who we were, but just in case we taped the Sesame Street sign to the stroller.

We hope everyone else had a sweet Halloween and scored enough candy to last them until Christmas!!!