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.