Present-Palooza December Continues

Man, January is going to be a serious let-down for these little ones.  We have some crazy-generous friends and family, then we throw classroom Secret Santas into the mix?  Holiday fun overload.  Oh, and Elizabeth TURNS FIVE tomorrow!  We celebrated with a princess-themed soiree yesterday afternoon and the kids are still on a sugar high. Did I mention what's even better than the presents?  All of the h-u-g-s.  Lots of them. 

Get ready: this is another big share.  Twenty-seven photos today, I think. 

First up is Michael's classroom party.  His Secret Santa out-did him or herself.  He was already playing with his new LeapPad computer before I could get it out of the box for him.  I can only hope it was a duplicate re-gift or something because there's no way it fit within the dollar limit for the swap!  I don't even know who to send the thank you note to...since it was a secret and all.

Personally, I'm not sure he was a big fan of the hat.  But say "wear this hat and you get Chic-Fil-A nuggets and cake" and the dude is IN. 

That evening, we celebrated our "little Manning family" Christmas.  It's a sad attempt to meter out opening all of the gifts, but we do what we can to avoid burn-out. 

Wes helped Michael take his remote-control Thomas the Train for a test spin...into Mommy's ankle.

Sunday morning, we hit the ground running.  My two little sous chefs were more than happy to help me stir up some yellow icing and offered to taste-test repeatedly.  Somehow they lost interest when I started icing the second dozen cupcakes.

We took a cooking break to let Ella open her birthday gift from us, along with some companion gifts from Uncle Matt and Aunt Amy.  They came with the greatest homemade card from Kate and Drew - loved it!

Back in the kitchen, Belle is all iced and ready to party.

Despite Wes warning Ella that the Wizard of Oz would be scary, she insisted on watching.  I offered to skip through any scenes with the Wicked Witch but she declined.  When Michael climbed up to watch with her, she valiantly covered his eyes for him while the Witch was on the screen.  He sat there calmly for minutes on end until Ella deemed it safe for him to watch again.

Fighting his nap, Michael tries to keep playing with the new kitchen for just a few more minutes.

Decorations are up.  Craft table is set.  We forgot to line it with electricfied wire to keep the kids out until the party started. 

More Wizard of Oz watching after nap time.  It really is a classic, I guess.

The star of the show came sweeping in the door to her own princess-themed music track and didn't stop moving and entertaining until she swept back out the door.  Belle sang, danced, told stories (you know, from when she was making the movie with Gaston and the Beast, and how she was just talking to Ariel and Jasmine the other day), painted faces, made balloon animals and performed magic tricks.  The kids were mesmerized.

Ella climbed into bed this morning still holding the crown she received as the birthday girl.  "Remember Mommy?  This is the one that Belle got for me when she went shopping with all of the other princesses who are her good friends."   Side note, she made a snowman (snow-woman?) at camp today.  On the back, she wrote the snowman's name, "Bell."

Michael kept a safe distance and just watched from the kitchen most of the time.

My favorite part of this picture is Roman standing out front with Bob the Builder gear on, 'directing' the rest of the kids into their places.  Most of those on the stairs are busy yelling "Happy Birthday!"  Maybe there's a good reason photographers usually ask you to say "Cheese!"

Still coming down from their party high, Ella had some fun running around in my boots.  I do believe Michael is carrying around his 14th helping of M&Ms in his cup.  

Five years ago tonight, we were checking in at Northside and having one of the most nervous, scared, excited and surreal nights of our lives.  Armed with a shiny new camera and the over-packed hospital bag that all soon-to-be-new-parents bring along, we hoped for the best, secretly mourned for what we knew we'd never have again, and sent up little prayers that the rest would work itself out.  Little did we know what this little girl would bring into our lives and while everyone warned us nothing would ever be the same, no one really succeeded in telling us how words like 'love' and 'family' mean something so completely different after a night like that.  We're just blessed she found us.