Hazy Days

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December 2013

December 2013 was busy busy busy. We still had school to do:

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As if we hadn’t had enough of renovations, we decided to repaint the playroom, which meant removing all the books off the shelves, priming and painting and then putting everything back.

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Every surface covered, hence school in the first picture at the coffee table…

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The kids had loads of practices for the St James Church annual Carol service.  Finally it was time for the dress rehearsal:

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The same weekend saw us enjoying our last (or is it second last?) Postcards from Bethlehem event – a special carol service especially for age 6 and under.

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Mr Micah originally refused to be a part of it in any way, but then was the first guy up for the photo!

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We celebrated my Dad’s 71st at Café Roux.  IMG_2925

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Katie got her special Book Exchange book from Oz.  Kiera’s never arrived, sadly.

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When Nelson Mandela passed away, the country spent a good two weeks in mourning and celebration of his life.  Cape Town held a special memorial service – free to anyone who could get to the stadium with free tickets.  We took advantage of the free train and bus services and headed off there.  We, being me and the kids, along with the VBs.  We got a little patriotic …

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It was a really special time remembering a man who left an indelible print on the lives of all South Africans.

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The night sky was stunning and served to remind us that no man is as glorious as God himself.

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We left around 9pm as young kids needed to head to bed.  But there was NO transport home.  We didn’t realise that the trains weren’t running until 12pm again – to take the last people home from the memorial at the Cape Town stadium.  So, long story short, we resorted to a rather hair-raising taxi-ride home.  The kids were terrified – the loud swear-word-ridden music, the driver who texted while he swerved between cars and overtook on the left, narrowly missing scraping the taxi on the right – these were just a few of the things that had our kids convinced they were going to die.  It was quite hilarious, actually.  It was one of those situations where you could either freak out or laugh.  Ingrid and I chose to laugh at our kids – except in this photo when we decided to imitate them!  Ingrid is by far the more dramatic one! Smile Kiera’s face is pretty authentic though.  Of course, they LOVE telling this story now.  It’s one of those “the worst decisions make the best stories” scenarios. 

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The fact that I am writing this and that two days later, Craig and I got to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary is testimony to the fact that we survived.  Our anniversary began with gifts from the kids:

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And then a wonderful overnight stay at Monkey Valley, courtesy Craig’s organisational skills.

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Craig even organised a horse-ride on the beach!  Quite something, since he has never wanted to ride a horse since my mom and I giggled when my mom tried to give him some riding tips on Sally the horse at Klondyke Cherry Farm back in 1993.  He quite enjoyed the ride on Noordhoek beach.  He looks good up there!

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When we got home, we took the kids off to the Grand Parade where the public could leave messages and sign memory books in honour of Nelson Mandela.

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With our sign and a sign that Katie picked up. 

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Photographically, not the best photo ever, but symbolically, so special – to think that 20 years ago this was not a common photo at all…

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Craig’s folks blessed us with a holiday to Sun City in December.  It was a lovely time and the kids were super excited – can you tell?

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Although, they were oftentimes VERY tired…

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We were visited regularly by the Resident Peacock…

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Too Cute Joe-Joe

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And Mr Micah

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Our flight home was cancelled or delayed or something along those lines – this is when technology is very handy:

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Home again to more work in the playroom.  Unpacking!  IMG_3260

This involved some heavy lifting for Craig and Russel:

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Towards the end of the school year, I was invited to a couple of places to speak about Seekers.  One was Cherry’s school in Tokai.  The kids were really sweet and asked a ton of questions.  It was fun chatting with them.

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One Sunday, Craig organised Mango Groove tickets to the the Kirstenbosch open air event especially for his Mango Groove-fan family (he, not so much).

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The Joostes joined us…

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Fun fun fun!

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Finally, the playroom was complete:

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I never receive flowers – well, just about never.  I like them but they’re not on my love language list.  But, in one week, I received three bunches and they were all so beautiful, I took photos (I have a habit of letting flowers die quicker than they should.  But these guys all lasted!)

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Our Lunch Bunch Year End 2013 event was held at Caren’s house.  But with the fun of the slip-and-slide:

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The kids performed some musical items…

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And we watched our 6th annual year-end slide show:

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Lots of smiles and laughs!

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Craig’s company’s year end was a Gatsby Themed evening.  We had fun dressing up…

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Kiera and I got to be narrators, along with Tim, for the Carol Service – we had a bit of a giggle as the narrators were all homeschool representatives in some way or another.  Me as a homeschool mom, Kiera as a current homeschooler and Tim as a former homeschooler (all graduated).

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The cutest kids at the service were these three…

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Aw!  Amy S – looking like an angel.

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Uncle Willy’s again!  As always, a huge hit with the kids and family…

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Christmas Eve saw us doing the usual – our Christmas nativity…

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We kept things low key, with supper on our laps in the lounge and carols by candlelight there too.

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Kirsty brought her boss and friend, Simon.  Funny how since I’ve written Seekers with the main character being Simon – well, now I seem to bump into Simons all over the place!

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Craig was behind the camera for the above shots – and this one too.

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Christmas Morning – Mr Micah excited to be opening his stocking gift (filled with must-haves for the following year like school supplies and such!)

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Christmas lunch at Granny and Gaa’s – here Kiera chats with Gran-Gran…

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Christmas lunch! Yum yum!

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This was a delicious pudding by my mom – the perfect “christmas pudd” for a summery Christmas.

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Down to Hermanus between Christmas and New Year for a short holiday – we didn’t stay for New Year’s like we usually do, thanks to the enormous amount of work still waiting for us at home.  It was still fun, none-the-less:

The kids scored some boogie boards for Christmas from Granny Sally and Grandpa Peter, so off to the beach they went:

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Kiera enjoyed digging herself into the sand.  She’s doing the splits under there – with her legs on the left and right of her body (not front to back).  Ouch!

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Craig made some chocolate flapjacks – yup, the man is on holiday mode when he’s baking or cooking something yummy.

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Scrabble!  Can’t remember who won, but it definitely wasn’t me!

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Katie making mince pies with Granny.

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Oh – right, here’s who won!

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Boys wearing their Christmas socks on their heads!

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New Year’s Eve was a just-us event – so much fun! I was keen for a party, but it’s not fun for the kids to be dumped for the evening.  So, at the last minute we chose to make the evening fun for US.  And it was such fun.  The kids really enjoyed it and I think it’s something we should repeat in years to come, with other families too.

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Clearly, it was much enjoyed – and a great way to end 2013!

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Christmas 2012

Christmas 2012 had us turn things around a little.  Some years back we got into the habit of hosting the Newill gathering at our house on Christmas Eve and heading to the Hayes Snrs for Christmas lunch.  But, since my folks are selling their Hermanus home, they asked if we could do Christmas lunch with them, as it would be the first and last Christmas in their home of 5 years.  Initially, we didn’t have plans for Christmas Eve.  I toyed with a few ideas, but life is busy and so the ideas were lost in a sea of busyness.  It was only while in Morgan Bay that we consolidated some thoughts – long story short: we swapped!  So, Christmas Eve we had the Hayes family around to our home for the usual fun-and-games.  The Tubmans were going to join us, until poor Jem landed up in hospital with viral meningitis!  She’s all good, now, but it was a rough Christmas for them.

This meant, that this year it was all Hayeses who raided the dress-up box and took part in the nativity play.  And it was all Hayeses who sang Christmas carols by candlelight.  Since it was so impromptu, we settled for a much more low-key dinner: a braai with paper-plates and Christmassy serviettes (napkins, US friends!).

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening celebrating a wonderful event in our lives! 

And here is the evidence:

Bev the Inn Keeper:

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Taryn the Narrator-Dressed-in-Cat-Pee-Smelling-Curtain-Like-Shapeless-Dress-Thing-Masquerading-as-an-Angel.

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Chris, the King Herod guy!

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And we begin: Joseph and Mary…

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An apologetic Inn Keeper:

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Settling in at the stable…  Don’t you like all the horses?  And Sam’s tree – drift wood and recycled plastic (he must be an environmentalist at heart – *sigh* so proud…)

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The Angel Gabriel – prettiest one alive, methinks.

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The Shepherds acting in surprise…

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The Wise Men waiting in the wings…

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Cheeky thing!

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Singing carols!  Love love love singing carols by candlelight…

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Kids fully into it!

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With the flash: Craig got us all on video…

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Bev killing herself laughing at Joey – the little guy was hilarious!  He thought blowing out the candles was the best event of the evening and could hardly contain his glee with each puff!  Too cute!

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Bronny’s candle didn’t stay lit longer than a minute…

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When candles were removed from his reach, Joe-Joe tried blowing out the tree lights!

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Finally, pressies!  We played that Sneaky Santa game – pick a number.  #1 chooses a gift first and opens it.  #2 gets to choose if they want to take a gift from the pile or “steal” #1′s gift and give him or her the gift they chose from the pile.  And so it goes on.  With only 6 of us and pretty generic gifts, it wasn’t too difficult. 

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But the best was Cam’s choice!  And he was stuck with them! Smile  Guess what Bronny got extra in her Christmas stocking?

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The kids got to open gifts from their cousins – too sweet, I tell you!

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Much joy!

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We gave Craig’s folks and my folks a photobook of all of our respective families with all the kids and grandkids.  I’ve always wanted to do a photobook, but they’re quite pricey.  Thanks to Groupon, I managed to get a better price for the book and it turned out beautifully!  Bev’s tears got my tears going, so there are no photos of the moment!  I was too busy sucking it all up unsuccessfully!

The kids headed to bed by 9:30pm that night, but not before sneaking the gifts that they bought into their siblings’ stockings.  Fun fun fun!

The next morning, I had to drag my sorry body out of bed earlier than normal, for I knew that there were 4 little bodies dutifully confined to their beds – under strict instructions not to leave their beds for anything other than the toilet.  I love Christmas morning for 100% prompt, happy obedience in kids – only achievable if gift-opening is the last activity before we head to church Winking smile  Sure enough, 4 kids were champing at the bit to be let loose to enjoy a bun and orange juice breakfast.  Bodies were dressed, rooms were tidied and teeth were brushed in record time.  Before I was even done, there were four kids waiting patiently on the couch all ready with their best pleases and thank yous and polite behaviour.  Wish I could bottle that! 

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We finished up our advent calendar first, prayed together and then only hit the stockings:

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Delight!  The children had spent hours painstakingly choosing the Christmas gifts they’d like to give their siblings at the Crazy Store (similar to the Dollar Store in the US).  They were all so delighted with the gifts received.  But the best was seeing their joy over the gifts given!

The kids get a few gifts in their stockings each year – 1 small gift from their siblings each and a few things from us that are usually essentials for the following year: crayons, kokis, water bottles etc.  Then they get one gift under the tree each.  These two boys’ response was too precious for words.  Micah got some Duplo and Sam some Lego – both of them exclaimed with such delight – it was as if they had been given the best present ever.  “Oh! Wow!  Cool!  This is exactly what I wanted!” 

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Kiera starts guitar next year.  Try as I might, I couldn’t find a second-hand guitar for her.  So, a entry level new one was part Christmas present, part first-guitar-in-the-family instrument. 

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She’s not perturbed in the least!

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Gracie took to all the activities with a sense of ownership that only a cat can exhibit…

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Katie went to find her Christmas pressie – a bicycle we found on Gumtree a few months ago for an excellent price.  The previous owner rode it twice, apparently – judging by its sparkling appearance, I’d say that is about right.

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No photos – but we had a really good Christmas service at St James.  We got there early for a change!  As usual, lots of fun and games and singing for everyone.  We enjoyed a fun contest that had our kids running up to do tasks or answer Bible questions.  Scott did the sermon, comparing ourselves to a Christmas tree: dying, chopped off from the source of life and trying to bring new life through add-ons – decorating our dying selves with mortal baubles that will, at best, outlive our bodies.  He explained beautifully how Jesus’s birth is to be celebrated for it marks His entry into our world to save us from death – to “reroot” us, so to speak.  It’s totally impossible to replant a Christmas tree and hope it survives.  But, God is in the business of miracles, to use a tired old phrase that still packs a punch of truth.  And his #1 miracle is allowing His son’s death on the cross to take our sins away from us and make us new, clean and without sin or blemish so that when our mortal bodies die we can continue to live in perfect relationship with God and each other – with a perfect new Heaven and new Earth to look forward to. 

After a wonderful service with our church family at St James, we headed out to Hermanus for Christmas lunch with the Newill grandparents.  But not before some Skype time with the Newills Jnr in Oz…!  Love technology for keeping families connected!  We even got to see the Gliks later that evening.

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Then, it was food time.  I finally got back into food-photo taking (wish I’d taken of the Morgan Bay food – which was JUST delicious!).  Mom put on a spread that fed us for two days and had extra for their church share-a-plate outreach.

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This was the first Christmas in forever that neither Craig nor I had to do a thing in the kitchen.  I could get used to that!  Here is Chef Sally:

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Getting ready at the table…

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Mom’s table…

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Smile!  Traditional Hat and Crackers Smile

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Mr Sam doing his latest photobombing thing… but still managing to look gorgeous despite.

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Yes, Grandpa had his camera too, which means that I feature in a few photos for a change!

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After dinner, Kiera and grandpa tackled the washing up.  Love this photo!

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Then it was gift time at the Newills:

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Snorkels and goggles for our blazing summer Christmas by the pool and sea!

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Mom got the kids little toys each, including these puppets.  Micah was simply delighted!

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And enthralled at the Newill photo book – another great hit!  Yay for a) being organised with Christmas gifts this year and b) Groupon!  48-IMG_8618

The next day we headed out to Mermaid’s Pool.  Well, it’s actually called Davie’s Pool out in Vermont/Onrus, but we’ve called it Mermaid’s Pool since before I was born, so it’s still Mermaid’s Pool to us.  Usually there are only about 2 or 3 families there at any one time, but times have clearly changed!  We had to wade past the sea of PEOPLE to get into the water, but once in it was deliciously cool and refreshing!

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And my children all enjoyed a mince pie treat afterwards.  Treat?  Honestly, Craig and I have no love for mince pies, so I’ve never bothered to introduce the kids to them.  Well, turns out that all four of the Hayes kids are now firm mince pie fans.  Traitors. 

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And so ends the record of our celebration of Christmas 2012 – a gloriously fun time celebrating the most significant birth in history!

Uncle Willy’s Christmas Party 2012

Uncle Willy’s Christmas Party is a celebration we’ve been enjoying for 9 years now.  Kiera went to her first party when she was 2 and 1/2 (underage! Shhh) and we’ve gone every year since.  We love it. 

I think I wouldn’t love it nearly as much if I hadn’t gone to the same parties as a child (Uncle Paul’s Christmas Parties) with the exact same recipe of fun and excitement.  But, because my memories are infused with nostalgia, each year I enjoy my kids’ experience with as much enthusiasm as I did as a child.  It’s a tradition that I hope we get to enjoy until our youngest reaches the cut off age of 8.  Four more years! 

We’ve enjoyed Uncle Willy’s party with family, friends and met up with old acquaintances too and this year was no different.  And the level of excitement was no different either!  Here are four kids bouncing out of their skin with anticipation! 

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It was Phoebe’s first year this year – she stuck to Kiera like glue and loved every single minute of the evening’s fun.

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Can you feel the excitement here?  All getting ready for the tractor ride to the magic castle!

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Joy!

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Beyond excitement!

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And finally, inside for the hay fight fun:

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Phoebs needed very little instruction before she got stuck into the fun and games!

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Yes, palpable excitement:

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And, again, I did not escape the craziness.

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This may be why…

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And neither did Craig…

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And this may be why…

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Not everyone was happy with the results, though!  Straw down one’s back and in one’s pants is rather itchy….

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Taking a breather …

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Eventually it was time to leave the straw behind and begin the rest of the formulaic events.  Ah!  Predictability at its finest!  I love that the parties have not changed in all these years – even the jokes are the same and we love them all the same!

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Playing the marching band’s instruments is always a must…

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Such seriousness!

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Then, marching with the marching band around the field…  Look at those dirty feet!

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Ice-cream before dinner!  Essential Uncle Willy.  (Sam has taken to photobombing these days…. no words…)

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The Tubmans… I think there is a photo of me taking this photo floating around Facebook somewhere.

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Don’tcha be touching my ice-cream sandwhich, y’hear?

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Sam chatted away to Mr Plod most of the evening. 

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And what’s this?  TWO fizzy-drinks?  I don’t think so!

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Tubman madness!

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Carol singing time – love this time!

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Finally!  Father Christmas arrives with his presents for the children.  Such excitement from all the Hayes and Tubman kiddies… 

Holly…

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Ben…

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Jemma…

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Katie…

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Phoebe…

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Samuel…

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and Micah, who hugged and hugged and hugged the man.  Cuteness!

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Fun fun fun!  As usual, we traipsed copious amounts of hay back home and had four exhausted children collapse onto beds in crumpled heaps of sand, straw and satisfied smiles. 

DV, here’s to the next four years of Uncle Willy’s Parties!

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Some of our recorded previous years at Uncle Willy’s:

2011, 2010, 2008, 2007

Christmas Day 2011

Christmas Day begins on Christmas Eve for us.  After our Christmas Eve celebrations have come to an end, and the house is in relative order, the kids get to pop the gifts they bought their siblings into their stockings.  They live for this moment.  They save all year round – a percentage of their pocket money goes towards Christmas gifts – and then they hit the crazy store.  It was so cute (when I wasn’t having to pay for the store items that Micah broke) watching them carefully select gifts for the family.  Such sweetness!  Here Katie carefully pops in Micah’s pressie …

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… which was a huge hit as you can see from this image – yes that is a weapon in his hands.  Zorro perhaps?

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Kiera digging deep for the sweeties at the bottom.  Our Christmas gifts are not an expensive affair.  We like to keep it under R100 in total (excluding sibling gifts).  But it’s getting harder with our economy to do so!

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But Craig scored some lovely gifts from China Town for the boys – including lego-like sets that are pretty darn decent.

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As always, the Christmas Day service is a family service.  I love these services.  All the kids are together with moms, dads, big siblings, aunties, uncles, grannies and grandpas.  It’s noisy, for sure, but it’s warm and friendly and I love it.  Of course, the service itself is aimed straight at the kids and is always gospel focussed, interactive and short!  Scott led, as he has for the last few Christmasses.  And he did a fantastic job again.  This year he roped Ben into the on-stage antics.  We got a call in the morning asking if Katie wanted to take part – well, after much deliberation about the whole "standing in front of fifteen hundred people" thing, she decided to do it, along with cousin Jesse.  How’s that?  Come all the way from Australia for a visit and have to stand on stage on your second Sunday?  He handled it like a champ.   Scott looked at the "three kings" theme – pointing out that the Christmas Carol is a little off on the "3" and the "kings" bits – but that there were three kings represented that day: King Herod (sad face), The "kings"/magi (happy face) and the Real King: Jesus.  What is the right way to respond to the Real King?  Well, clearly not the King Herod route!  A great lesson – thanks Scott!

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After church the kids are treated to an ice lolly.  I always forget this – but the years are moving on now, and my kids are better at not sharing with their clothes!  Christmas lunch was beckoning, so we eventually headed home, but not before opening each of our tree gifts. 

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That’ll be Katie’s expression of utter joy!  We got the girls each a watch.  They’d been eyeing some in Mr Price Sports and had no idea that I had sneaked back a little later to get them. 

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Big beams here too – Kiera opened our family gift – a piano keyboard for the computer!  Along with the programme Piano Wizard this gift doubles as our piano curriculum for the kids.  It’s an ingenious programme that teaches kids to play the piano through a 4-step game set up.  The kids have no idea that they’re learning a song, but by the time they’ve progressed through the four steps they not only know how to play a piano piece, but they can read the music too.  Without ever having formally learnt piano notes before.  The kids are loving it so far!  I’ve let them mess around on it until school starts back up here at home, when we will probably schedule it in a little more formally.  But in the time they’ve "messed around", Kiera has learnt the first five songs on all four levels with 100% accuracy.  She’s even playing it on a regular keyboard.  Ah!  Music to my ears – literally!  And, what’s also music to my ears is the silence I hear when they’re playing it with their earphones in their ears!

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Lunch at the Hayes Snrs!  Lovely lovely lovely to see the Hayes family and all the cousies and 2nd cousies! 

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Gran Gran, who is 92 this year (!), joined us too.  Wow!

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As usual, Bev gave us a delicious spread! 

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The crackers brought lots of entertainment – and my kids dashed around the table looking for extra cracker gifts to add to their collection.  Things don’t really change from when we were kids, do they?  I remember doing the very same thing – although, our dash included collected all the silver coins my grandpa used to put in the Christmas pudd.  I didn’t care so much for the brandy-soaked fruit cake, but those shiny silver coins were a huge hit!

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The gorgeous Phoebe – almost two!

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I made hobby horses as Christmas gifts for the kids – guess what Phoebe apparently called hers?  Taryn!  Waha!  I am officially a name worthy of a horse!

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And of course – kids and pressies = fun times.

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We headed home exhausted after two amazing days with family, celebrating Christmas and the birth of our Saviour.  The depth of His death and sacrifice juxtaposed next to the beautiful picture of the nativity never ceases to amaze me.  Celebrating His birth holds a significance far greater than any other birth.  Thank you, Jesus!

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