We headed back up to Idaho for Christmas this year. As soon as we hit the house the big boys settled around the tree for a little training...

that would be TRAINing.

The little boy got right to work charming his grandma with some tunes

Oh yeah, he was working it!

The next day was Christmas eve and after a long day playing with those grandma toys we headed off to the Sizzler for our traditional Christmas eve dinner. We missed it one year so we are always careful to know when they plan to close.  After we were all home and full we all congregated in the living room when we heard the jingling of bells and saw a jolly fellow burst in the door!

Hyrum was starstruck! He wasted no time in telling him that he wanted a force glove for Christmas. And lo and behold what did he have in his bag for Hyrum but a force glove.  I tell you that Santa is good!

After a lot of the excitement had passed Santa came over to Elijah who was on my lap and talked to him a bit. He was starry eyed!

Noah just kind of held back and was a bit stand offish, we didn't think much of it until later. Santa was good enough to stop for a picture before heading off into the night to continue his rounds.

The boys all went to bed on time miraculously, we couldn't believe our luck until Noah woke up at 11:45 restless and proceeded to kick, hit and headbutt us for the rest of the night until he finally collapsed at around 6 in the morning. The culprit for keeping my little man awake? Santa. That would be fear of the big man. Oh boy!

You can imagine how that went over at 7:00 when Hyrum burst into the room eager to get out to the tree to see what else Santa left them. We held him off until 7:30 and tried to wake up Noah. He. would. not. wake. up!  He just could not keep those eyes open. Hyrum was incredibly impatient, naturally and was chomping at the bit to get out there. We sat Elijah on the bed to try to keep Noah awake and Hyrum trying to throw a nightlight projecting animal to Eli ended hitting him smack in the face.  So Elijah's bleeding, both he and Hyrum are crying and we're still trying to keep Noah awake and keep all of the boys in the room so I can go out into the living room to videotape them seeing their gifts.  It was a crazy 15 minutes or so. But as soon as we got ourselves all together and out to the tree everything got better and the morning craziness was forgotten.

They were enraptured by their gifts.

The favorite was probably the gift from Grandma Grandpa and Uncle Dave to all of the boys. The Imaginext Castle with just about everything they make to go with it. They ALL loved it

And of course no first Christmas would be complete without the outfit.

The boys played nonstop all day with their toys but we noticed whenever Noah could his head hit the floor or something soft.

Poor Noah!

We were dancing with a snow storm so we had to leave the day after Christmas but it was so great to be all together while we could.

On December 6th a new friend came to join our family for a month or so. His name? Tinsel

Or "the infernal spawn of EVIL" as he seems to appear to the boys. We read his book "The Elf on the Shelf" which told us all about an elf that lives in the house with the family and reports back to Santa every night about how well or not so well the kids are doing. It explained that he can't move or talk to them he just listens and if he gets touched that he looses his magic. And as soon as we were done the boys looked up and saw sitting on the half wall outside their door their elf on the shelf. They both immediately started to back away from him their faces etched with sheer TERROR. Hyrum kept asking "Is that REAL?!? I think he's real?  Is he real?" and looked carefully to see if he was moving. Noah kept saying "He's going away tonight and I'm happy! I want him to GO AWAY!" I went over to him to tell him that Noah was exceptionally good at the dentist office that day but they were still nervous about him. I'm surprised that they got any sleep at all that night worrying about the intruder. Not sure this was the best idea. The next morning the boys nervously wandered the house until they found him here.

Getting to know the new neighbors. That night the boys wanted to read the elf on the shelf story to Tinsel, perhaps to remind him of his duties and that he couldn't move when the boys were awake.

Every morning was met with a touch of fear while they nervously roamed the house until he was found.

One day Tinsel made the mistake of hopping in a toy school bus.  Hyrum quickly figured out that he could move him around without actually touching him.

He took a tour with the help of the boys

A neighbor friend tried to convince him that if you touched the elf once that it would talk to you but if you touched it again it would loose it's magic.  We tried to put the kaibosh on that. But he ended up falling out of his ride with the boys increased courage around him.

But they were still too nervous to touch him after he fell. He chose higher perches for his next few times

Tinsel acquired some brand new skills after his brush with magic loss

But soon got courage enough to enter back into the line of fire. He was properly respected this time.

It freaked Hyrum out to have him in his stocking. Tinsel soon found the kitchen is a delicious place to be

We also started sending notes back and forth to Santa through Tinsel.

Tinsel even joined us in filling the manger with good deed hay

And gave proper respect to the Holy Family

He was given a note from Hyrum that he forgot to take so we had to give it to him again at his next perch

The note is CLASSIC! A total keeper! If you can't read it, it says

am I on

The suspense was killing him! He was sweating it.  But Santa soon sent his response.

That little trick freaked out the boys too. At one point he was dangling from one hand. They were afraid to go in the bathroom. This was Tinsels last place

Hyrum wanted to light the candle so badly and Dad did it for him without telling mom who had said no. When I walked past I smelled the marshmallows burning and without thinking grabbed Tinsel and pulled him to safety.  He then lost his magic. Lucky for us and for Tinsel it was the day before Christmas eve that he lost his magic and was able to hitch a ride with Santa back to the North Pole while we were in Idaho.

The jury is still out whether we will ask Tinsel to come back next year. We may put it to a vote.

On Thanksgiving I was looking around Pintrest and found an idea that I knew the boys would love.

The idea is to present the boys with a ticket for the "Minivan express" after they are all dressed and ready for bed then whisk them off to look at the lights while they eat popcorn and drink hot chocolate.

Obviously a strong homage to "The Polar Express" PERFECT for my boys. (Although Hyrum is afraid of that movie still, but he's all about popcorn, hot chocolate and lights)

We finally decided on a day that we didn't have anything and I made tickets on the sly. As the boys got ready for bed I popped popcorn and made two cups of hot chocolate and had the car warming in the garage. We were all set to go.  Then Derek told the boys to say goodnight to me and I left still wondering how we were going to do this. Derek didn't have a plan either and told the boys they were going to bed by themselves and he walked out to get the tickets as the boys wailed.  We still weren't entirely sure how to start this. Finally Derek just put his Bavarian german hat and cried "All Aboard!!"  We walked in and handed them their tickets which we punched in the kitchen on the way to the garage.

We played music from the Polar Express as we dashed off into the night toward the Spanish Fork Festival of Lights.  The boys were beside themselves with excitement. You would have thought they were actually going to the North Pole itself (of course Hyrum would have been much more nervous if we had been)

They drank their hot cocoa in BYU cups and ate their popcorn from their paper bags.

We got to the Festival of Lights and the boys were mesmerized

I've been through these kind of light shows before and they are cool but not spectacular but this time it was different

Everything seemed to have a magic glow to it

They had a soundtrack playing outside and you could tune to it inside the car as well

We didn't listen to the Polar Express anymore but the piped music did have a Polar Express North pole feel

We even got to visit the North Pole of sorts while we were there

After we were done the boys still wanted more so we headed to Mapleton to see if we could find any other lights to impress us. There wasn't much but we did find this remarkable tree in someone's back yard

That's a full sized tree. Incredible!

We've already begun to think of how we will improve the start of our travels. We plan to find a train soundtrack and find a real conductors hat somewhere for Derek to wear. Perhaps even a conductors suit. That would be cool! This definitely has the makings of a year long looked forward to tradition.  I know I can't wait for next year.

In looking around to find out if the crystal making solution (from the crystal making kit we got from the dollar store) Noah just tasted was going to hurt him  I found  a "recipe" for making Borax snowflakes. We were all intrigued and were excited to try it.

We made the simple Borax solution and struggled to find containers that would be big enough to suspend the snowflakes in the solution without hitting the sides yet small enough that we wouldn't have to make 3 or 4 batches of solution to make 1 snowflake.  We ended up using interesting containers.

We got them all set up and could hardly wait till the next day to see how our snowflakes turned out.

They did not disappoint

But as I looked at them I wondered why we couldn't do a candy cane or a Christmas tree shape

We had to use different methods for hanging them in the solution but I thought they turned out really well. I've heard that they don't really retain their sparkle from year to year so we'll have to make more next year. Who knows what we'll come up with then!!

The first order of business when we woke up on Saturday was taking care of the sprinkler pipe. Derek feared it was beyond his blossoming handyman skills so we called in the professionals

Which happened to be a teenager fresh out of HIGH SCHOOL!(Seriously! Pretty sure he was 19!) Good heavens. But since he'd already done most of labor intensive part ( that of digging out the problem) it cost us significantly less than it would have had we called him without trying.  So Derek still gets major props. He thinks he could fix it from watching him do it so next time...we won't need to call.

As soon as all was complete and covered we started on the living room. Trying to figure out the best configuration of the couches to accommodate the tree. Derek wanted it in front of the window, and it was no small task. We must have tried three or four different ways and ended up vacuuming portions of carpet that haven't been vacuumed in a long while. As soon as we were satisfied we  hit the road for the tree lot for our Christmas tree. This has to be the very earliest that we've ever gotten a Christmas tree.  It was strange to walk around the tree lot and be almost warm.  As soon as we got it in the house lights were strung and ornaments were placed. Before I had taken any pictures it was done.

This is it...this is all I have of the decorating blitz. Not even a picture of our first tree trip on the van.(which was MUCH easier by the way) Pathetic.

A tradition we started this year was the Thanksgiving/Christmas chain.  This year, as in past years, the Family Home Evening before Thanksgiving we wrote down all of the things we were thankful for on strips of paper and made a chain. But this year when I was cutting the strips I discovered that I had cut 24 of them. It didn't take much to make the connection that there would be 24 days until Christmas as well. So after we each took turns choosing things that we were thankful for we made our chain and put it on our tree

We plan to take off a link each day and remember the things that we are thankful for all through December when it's most easy to forget what we are thankful for and only focus on what we do not yet have. I thought it was a stroke of genius...or more likely inspiration.  The boys still remember who said what on our thankful chain and are excited for it to be "their" thankful day.

I really think this will be a fun tradition that we'll keep doing for years.