The "Pre-Christmas" Christmas

Christmas has come and gone. The boys are incredibly happy and we are all thoroughly exhausted!

Every year Kirby and I wait too long to shop and wrap ALL the presents on Christmas Eve. This leads to an incredibly stressful two weeks leading up to Christmas. I have to say, however, this year we did pretty well.

I had started shopping over the past few weeks and had a good amount of it done. Saturday we went out after we put the kids to bed and finished everything. Even our usual Christmas Eve wrapping was finished up by midnight (pretty much free of any arguing, amazingly enough).

I will update more on the "real" Christmas later...this blog is devoted to our Christmas at Dad's house.

The Friday before Christmas we got together with my family at my father's house. This is one of my favorite times. We have dinner before hand and then head off for presents.

My father and his wife do not go crazy overboard with the gifts for anyone (thankfully), and they are all very thoughtful gifts (Sue even made me an ornament out of Scrabble pieces - many of you know about my addiction to online Scrabble). We also exchange names of all the siblings and nephews so we aren't all "stuck" with buying a million things and there is a limit of $25. Typically, we all chip in for a large gift for Sue and Dad.

This year my family had one of the hardest lists. We had both my brothers (who are both, typically, VERY hard to shop for) both their significant others and my nephew (the only easy one on the list). However, it all turned out beautifully.

Loren, my youngest brother (18) requested a book that was easy enough to order on Amazon; Christian, my nephew (6) requested a book and a movie (again, ordered on Amazon); Emily (Loren's girlfriend) requested an ITunes GC (again, how easy) and Andrea (Alex's fiancee) sent me a list of ideas. The only pain was Alex my other brother (27) who, when I threatened him if he didn't send me ideas, said that a concrete slab of the boy's hand-prints would be a "wonderful gift, Erica" - in the MOST sarcastic way (you have to know Alex to completely understand this).

Zachary had Andrea. He was SO incredibly sweet! He made up a list of about 10 different things and he really took into consideration what she would like. At one point while making the list, Kirby found him curled up in a ball on the living room floor. He asked him what he was doing and Zachary replied, "I am trying to figure out how to get Uncle Alex in a box because I think that is what Auntie Andrea would really like for Christmas"! So, we found a HUGE "Santa Bag" and stuffed Alex in it (amongst the few other things Zach got her). It was priceless! He really did put a lot of thought into her gifts.

Tom had Alex. After Alex's comment about the boys hand-prints being such a great idea, we decided that is exactly what he would get. I mixed up a big batch of salt dough, Tom imprinted his hand and that is what he got (along with a GC to Circuit City). He loved it - he thought it was the funniest thing. You have to remember that Tom is 17...his hand-print is bigger than Kirby's now...not so cute anymore :)

The boys got some great, very well thought out, gifts. Andrew got a bouncing Tigger (honestly, he looks like he is having an epileptic seizure, but he loves him all the same) and a few other things. Zachary got a Harry Potter Lego set and a remote control robot (both of which he absolutely loves).

Dad and Sue always fill a big reusable Tupperware container for Kirby and I. We love the container because we use it for putting away Christmas decorations every year. As our collection grows we lose space for all of it. The container may be one of the coolest parts of the gift :). We each get a few gift cards, some books, etc. Again, very well, thought out gifts.

Monica (my eldest sister) and her family got me and they gave me a number of CDs and a book off my Amazon list - these are things I would never buy for myself. So awesome! Her family also had Andrew and got him an outfit and a couple wooden toys that help with fine motor skills (score!!). She had Kirby and bought him an Ebay GC (his request). AND they had Tom and got him an MP3 player (and loaded a bunch of songs). He was SO psyched! Monica and Steve also put a ton of thought into their gifts. They are also HUGE bargain shoppers so they tend to get you a really cool gift without going over budget.

Loren got Zachary and bought him a really cool Hot Wheels stunt set. He loves it!

Dad and Sue are birders. Did you know that the word "bird" can be a verb? They go out looking for birds, listening for birds, identifying rare species and even participate in "bird counts" this time of year. They have a great time at it.

So this year, they asked for an extravagant birding package that included an IPod Nano and bird sounds...I'm not exactly sure what it was, just know that it is what they wanted (MY father with an IPod seems incredibly strange). Anyway, the gift was well out of our price range, so Dad asked us to contribute towards it and after Christmas they would go out and pay for the rest as a gift to each other.

Once again, Monica and Steve stepped up to the plate. They were able to find each of the items in this package sold separately AND within our price range! It was SO awesome! We each spent our limit and got them exactly what they wanted. I was so excited!

But the best part of the night wasn't really the gifts. While it is wonderful to get gifts that people really think about (rather than gifts that people give just because they think it is necessary to get you one) - the best part of the night was after the gifts.

We all spent until well after 10pm there hanging out, eating and spending time together. The boys were incredibly well behaved (aside from Andrew and Thanny - my 2 year old nephew - who get a rise out of each other by fighting over a toy and screaming "mine", "no, mine" back and forth at each other - cute nonetheless) and we had a wonderful time.

It is nights like this that help me remember that the stress of the holidays is all worth it. I love my family and they are the most important things to me, especially this time of year.

I apologize for the lack of pictures...I forgot my camera and Monica hasn't emailed me any yet.

Alas...it is well after midnight and we have a busy day tomorrow. I will continue on our holiday gatherings tomorrow...


Merry Christmas!

Just a quick post to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas! We had a wonderful, relatively, relaxing day. Even still, I am exhausted as are the children.

I will post again soon with pictures and great stories from our day!

Till then "Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night"!


ANOTHER snow day!

Another snow day today. It has been snowing for over 24 hours and I am ready for it to stop! These storms come at the most inconvenient times!

Zachary and I did get to do a little shopping in town today. One of the benefits of living so close to town is that we can walk anywhere. So we browsed the local stores and he finished up his gift for the family member whose name he drew (can't tell yet...one more day).

I am not even close to being done with my shopping. We are such procrastinators! I did do a bit today, but it is hard when you have one of the people you are shopping for with you!!

Tom finished up his gift for the family member he drew as well. Too funny! I will post pictures after they open their gifts tomorrow.

We talked to the boys a bit about Allyson having her baby. They don't completely understand the dynamics surrounding it, and they don't need to.

Zachary is SO excited to be an uncle! Andrew just thinks it is weird and poor Tom doesn't know what to think!

I don't have any new updates on Mommy Allyson or Baby Charity, but I do have some pictures and I thought you all would enjoy them.






And just a few bonus pics of the boys :) These may give you an idea of what a snow day is like around here!





The long awaited Christmas performance was last night. The boys were SO excited! Since this was Andrew's first time he was pretty nervous about being on stage and about "all the people".

The music teacher at Carpenter School is amazing! She and those kids put on an amazing performance every year. This isn't the Christmas concert from my school days. When I was a kid we sang the same old Christmas carols that you hear every year. These shows are more like a play with original music, choreography and costumes. It is truly amazing!

Since there are so many kids in the school and limited seating in the auditorium there are two shows. The principal and staff at the school do their best to get kids that are related in the same program but this year we had to attend two shows, back to back. It is the same show so I am very grateful that we love the performances like we do!

Both my parents came, my younger sister Dana and my younger brother Loren and his girlfriend Emily came for both shows as well. Alex was home sick as was Dad's wife Sue. They missed one heck of a performance!!

Dana - by Zachary

Grum - by Zachary

Emily - by Zachary

Zachary - what a cool dude!

Zachary was up first. It was neat to watch Andrew during Zach's performance. Since it is the same show, Andrew watched very intently and sang most every word. Zachary did wonderfully! There was a "rap" portion and he was so darn cute! He also played his paper saxophone like he was a jazz king! It was great!

The show

As soon as Zach's show was over Andrew burst into tears! He thought that was the end of the show and he wouldn't get to do his! It was so sweet! Kirby and I reassured him that he would get to do his show and we brought him to meet his aide (who was going to stand on the side of the stage in case of any mishaps).

The second the curtains opened for Andrew's performance I burst into tears. It was so bittersweet! To see my little man up there...I'm not sure I have the words. My heart filled my chest, I was so proud of him. He is getting to be such a big boy! And he was in his element! Understand, the same thing happened to me with Zachary's first show but it wears off after the 3rd.

Andrew sang and turned around and watched the kids behind him and sang and waved to Daddy and sang and got distracted by his aide off the stage...it was adorable! We were very lucky that he had a "stage buddy". It wasn't set up, but the kid next to him was sure to redirect him any time he got distracted (which with Andrew can be very often).

It was just beautiful!

Unfortunately, the auditorium is very dark during the performance so we weren't able to get too many pictures.

It was an amazing night...though bittersweet to see my baby boy growing up!

On another note...

More bittersweetness:
We were informed this morning that Allyson (my step daughter) had a little baby girl last night. Charity was born at 11:26pm on Tuesday. She weighs in at 8lb 8oz and Kirby says she is just beautiful.

I worry that Allyson and RJ have a tough road ahead of them and hope that she realizes that we are here for her. Only time will tell.


Christmas Time Is Here

Kirby and I are not known for our Christmas spirit. Nicki listens to my complain about hating Christmas starting in October (when I hear the Christmas coming through the phone from her house). We try to put on a good show for the kids...but it isn't always easy. We both get so stressed this time of year.

The kid's holiday performance was postponed this week due to a snow storm (I think it snowed EVERY day this week). It was actually an answer to a prayer. Andrew had been sick and wouldn't have been able to make it and he would have been SO disappointed! He woke up at 10:30pm on Tuesday crying, "I'm sick, I HAVE TO get better for my play". I told him that his teachers had heard he was sick and postponed it so he could be there when he was better :). The only down fall of the postponement is that Auntie Andrea can't make it now.

This weekend was FULL of Christmas!

Friday we made salt dough ornaments. We baked them that night and planned on painting them the next day. I am not a crafty mommy. The mess drives me crazy...Andrew isn't great with things that require use of fine motor skills so he lasts all of two seconds...Zachary is SO quick about everything that is it hardly worth the mess we make for him to take a minute or two to do it. However, I bit the bullet and we did it. We had a great time. It was messy (but easily cleaned up) and each of the boys made a few ornaments.

Yesterday was our annual Breakfast with Santa. It is such a fun day - stressful but fun! The kids get to eat junk (munchkins and cereal with sugar as the number one ingredient), make an ornament and then wit in line (for usually about an hour) to sit with Santa, have their picture taken and get a goodie bag. They love it! It is inexpensive and they really do have a great time, so it has become a yearly tradition for us.

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

After breakfast we stopped by Ocean State Job Lots to grab a few gifts for a needy family my sister is helping this year. Oh boy - were the boys full of "gimmies" and "I wants"! No matter how I prepare them before hand, they seem to forget the second we walk through the door. Zachary was able to get a couple things for his Christmas gift (we trade names with my family so they each have one person to buy for) and he was happy about that. I was able to get some acrylic paints for the ornaments (very inexpensive - so worth it).

We got home and painted a few ornaments, I realized that we needed some sort of lacquer to go over it to protect them. Besides that we needed to grab a couple more things for the family we are buying gifts for and drop them with my sister. So we went down to Rochester, into WalMart (more "gimmies") grabbed the lacquer and gifts, dropped some money in the Salvation Army bucket and went to my sister's.

I was very impressed with Zachary...I had $20 in cash, all but $1 was spent in the store. He "needed" a drink but he was asked which was more important, to buy a bottled water (when he could get a drink at "Grum's" 2 minutes down the road) or to help people that didn't have much. He chose the latter and dropped the money in the bucket.

Today was a heck of a day. We hadn't gotten the tree out yet (we have a fake) and there was about 3 feet of snow in front of the basement door. We finally got it up here to put it together (really, is a fake tree easier than a real?) - took us about an hour. It took us even longer to arrange the house as it is our first year here. After we FINALLY got the living room in working order Kirby accidentally snapped the tree...some duct tape and a little adjusting and "viola" it looks perfect :) Is that "white trash"? A tree held together with duct tape? Probably...ah well...

We decorated, the kids had a great time. This year was Andrew's year to put the angel on top (much to Zachy's dismay). He thought that was great!

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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

All in all, it was a great weekend. Despite my hate for Christmas I do need to remember that it is an important time of year for the kids. It doesn't have to be so commercialized if we don't teach it that way. It is about our family and friends and our traditions. Though we are in a new home now, our traditions remain the same.


Sick Day

Today Andrew is home sick. I kept him home today hoping to let him rest and get well enough to participate in his school holiday performance tomorrow. He is SO excited about the play that I would hate for him to have to miss it...

So far, he has done a lot of coughing, his cheeks are pink and he is a bit lethargic...no progress.

He is drinking plenty of water and a little juice so I am hoping that come tomorrow morning I can, at least, give him some cough medicine to help him through the day and send him on his way.

We are expecting a storm tomorrow night. I hope that it doesn't keep too many of our family members from making it over for the performance. Each has at least a 45 minute drive, so we will understand if the snow keeps them at home.

The boys are both incredibly excited and have been practicing for weeks! I can't wait to see it myself. Mrs. Goodwin and the kids at Carpenter always put on such a great performance! It is one of my favorite things about this time of year!


A day of cleaning

I went through a bit of a "nesting" day today. Usually that term is reserved for pregnant women (which I am not) but that is what it felt like. It seems to be in the air. My friend Nicki went through it yesterday and my friend Keni-Lynn is doing the same today.

This time of year we tend to do a deep winter cleaning. We empty out toy boxes and book shelves of anything that is broken or that the kids have grown out of. I tell the little boys that they need to make room for all the new things Santa is going to bring them and that we should donate the toys and books that are still good to kids who are less fortunate.

Zachary HATES cleaning. It typically turns into more of a battle than it is worth. He spends hours in his room doing nothing when, in all actuality, it would take him 30 minutes TOPS to finish.

I am very happy to report that he finished without too much of a fight today. He even wrote a blog about it (see the previous post if you haven't already).

Andrew is incredibly unhappy with me right now. I have taken 4 plastic bags full of toys from his room. None of these toys were anything that appeared to be too special to him - mostly miscellaneous McDonald's toys or toys from Grampie's "treasure chest". However, when he saw the toys that he had forgotten about (like the Dora House with the broken door and missing pieces) he had a fit! I am not sure that he is going to forget them again - he may be asking Santa for another Dora House this year.

The next step is going through Zachary's closet. I think that is going to be accomplished while the kids are at school...I have given up on the fight for a while.

We are hoping that the presents of toys are a bit less this year. My sister and I have asked that the family not buy toys for the kids that are made in China. In light of the recent, ever growing, list of recalls, we would rather not take a chance.

Besides all that, the kids have SO MUCH! They are never in NEED of anything and when they are overwhelmed with toys, well, they are just that. Overwhelmed! And I find that overwhelming leads to boredom and that leads to mom losing her mind!

So, once the cleaning is complete we will bring the toys and books where they can be used or given to families that need them. I heard yesterday that Goodwill is not accepting toys this year (also due to the ever growing recalls). We may end up dropping them at the Hospital Street Fair barns...only for a few to end up back here next summer...ah well...what can you do?

Feel free to check out my other blogs (these blogs are completely separate from our family blog and are my own):



Zachary's First Blog - Zachary's Room

Today I cleaned up my room by myself. I finished it today. I didn't need help. P.S. My name is Zachary


Introducing us

Zachary's second grade class started a blogging project. In order for us to leave comments we needed an account too. So, I decided to sign us up and start a family project as well.

Let me introduce our family: We are the Cray/Bickford Family of Wolfeboro NH. Dad (Kirby), Mom (me-Erica), Thomas (17), Zach (7) and Andrew (5). If you are looking at our picture you are probably wondering who I haven't named...that is Allyson. She is Kirby's eldest daughter and moved out about a year ago.

We have lived in Wolfeboro together for about 6 years. We love Wolfeboro. I worried about living so far away from everyone (mainly my family in Rochester) and everything, but we love it up here! It is quiet (we live right in downtown and the loudest thing to wake us is the snow removal during the winter months) and we love the schools.

We are very close to my family and it would be very unlikely to go two weeks without seeing them. My father and his wife bought a movie projector and we do lots of "Movies in the Barn" every summer. This evening we are heading down to watch some Holiday movies on the big screen in the house.

Zachary is involved in karate - though we are looking for a new school. Tom is taking driver's ed - and making Dad and I feel a whole lot older than we really are - he will be graduating in June. Andrew just started kindergarten and he LOVES it. This is Andrew's first experience in a "typical" classroom - he is on the autism spectrum and attended an integrated preschool for two and a half years before starting kindergarten.

I am a stay-at-home Mom and Massage Therapist. I own my own business here in town and arrange my hours so I work when the kids are in school or when Dad is home. Kirby is a salesperson for an insulation company and travels across the state most days for work.

The boys love snowmobiling and Dad just bought a second one so they are hoping to take longer trips together this year. We got out first snow this week so they took a few loops around and were truly disappointed that they couldn't go further (trails don't officially open until December 15th).

Andrew and I do a lot of walking in the morning before school. It tends to keep him better focused throughout the day. I don't know what we are going to do now that the cold weather and the snow are here. I am looking into the "Smart Cycle" to help him get out his energy in the morning. Perhaps Santa....

I am very involved in the upcoming presidential election. I am one of a group of volunteers here in Wolfeboro that make phone calls, write post cards and knock on doors for our candidate. The little boys have gotten involved as much as a 5 and 7 year old can. Zachary even got to shake our candidate's hand a few weeks ago!

I guess that's us in a nut shell. I am going to try to get the family as involved in this as possible. I know that there are different blogging groups that you can be part of...Zach and I have started a gratitude list too...a few things to help us get more involved.

Till next time...