The day after Christmas, Robbie and the girls and I took the train into New York City.  My brother Greg offered to go with us (not to lunch for some strange reason!), and we jumped at that!!  He did everything...bought our train tickets, told our cab where to go, met us after lunch, and led the way to Times Square.  We SO appreciate Greg!!

I made reservations to eat lunch at the American Girl store sometime in November.  Our lunch was at 11:30, which was perfect.  We got there just in time to check our coats, then we were seated.  The food isn't the best in the world, but that really didn't matter.  The experience was fun!
In the taxi with my companions for the day...Kanani and Samantha.
The girls in the taxi.  They loved it.  Robbie and I did not love that they kept changing the channel on the tv in the cab to inappropriate shows.  We remedied that by making them stay on the map screen.
In true Mary Claire fashion, we hit the bathrooms at the American Girl Doll Store first!  They are always intrigued with the Dyson hand-dryers.
 I tried really hard to get sweet pictures during our lunch, but the girls were not having it.  That was my cue to put up the camera and enjoy time with my chickies!!

This was about the tenth picture that our sweet waitress took!
After lunch we shopped with the girls so they could spend the gift cards we gave them.  Both dolls got their ears pierced.  Ellie was a little freaked about making such a commitment, but was okay once she saw how cute Kanani looks with her earrings.  MC chose a hair kit for her doll and Ellie got a cheer outfit and a book.
The AG store is right across the street from Rockefeller Center, so we met Greg and walked to see the tree.  Both girls wanted to ice skate, but once they saw how long it took to just get to the rink because of all of the crowds, they were fine just watching everyone else skate!
 Times Square is only a few blocks away, so we followed Greg there next.  I wanted to take the girls to Toys R Us, because they'd already been to FAO Schwarz when they were younger.  Next time we will skip Toys R Us altogether and go to the M&M store or even back to FAO.  Toys R Us was crowded and junky.  All three floors of it.
We loved seeing all of the signs and lights on Times Square.  Ellie was excited to see where they would drop the crystal ball on New Years Eve.
Their favorite was watching a breakdancing troupe that had hundreds of people gathered around.  I, personally, didn't see a thing because I didn't have anyone to pick me up!!
At this point both girls were thirsty and cold, so we knew it was time to call it a day.  Robbie got snacks and drinks for the train ride home, then we once again followed Greg down to the subway.  
The girls were so good about always holding our hands.  They never complained about walking (and we walked a lot!) or the crowds.  I was super-proud!!
We were all thankful to be on the train home with our coats and hats and gloves and scarves OFF for a little bit!
 Mom got us at the train station, so we didn't have to find our car or anything.  Mass transit really does rock!!
When we got back to Mom and Henry's house, Robert was waiting for us.  In one of the girls' tank tops.  Mom was worried that Robert would be cold, and she couldn't find any undershirts for him.  That would be because we live in Alabama, Robert is the third child, and we don't have undershirts.
Fun day with our girls, made possible by Mom and Uncle Nick!!


Merry Merry!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!  This Christmas season we went low-key at the Latham house.  I felt guilty for not hanging our Advent calendar with fun prizes for the girls.  Then the Lord told me that it was all okay.  Instead we could focus more on Him.  So we did.  And Christmas was wonderful.  I didn't get stressed (well, maybe a little once or twice), and the kids really enjoyed Christmas.  Not presents and candy and parties, but meaningful time with family and celebrating Jesus.
On Christmas morning we had a yummy breakfast before opening gifts.  We were all shocked that the kids wanted to eat first!!
Robert got all things transportation.  And he loved having Uncle Nick there to help him open it all and put it together ASAP!!

Robert's number one Christmas request was a big blue car.  Not as easy to find as you might think!
Mom and Henry continued the Hess truck tradition, and this year's model did not disappoint!
The girls were so sweet.  They would open each gift and really look at it and love it before moving on to the next one.
For their big gift, Robbie and I took them into New York City to the American Girl Doll store the next day!!  I'm not sure who was more excited...me or the girls!
We had the most fun with Greg's gifts.  He loves the show 'Big Bang Theory,' so Mom found him a couple of things for his stocking.  Things like a dickie.  And a glass urine collector bottle.  (Apparently the show is about someone working on the Space Station.  Greg is working in Las Vegas for a private company designing their own space station.)
 Of course we put the dickie on Robert!
Greg was not the only one who got interesting presents.  He gave Nick several little things that I could not figure out.  (Let me interject by saying that all of these boys are engineers.  Robbie fits right in.  I do not.)  Here's Nick opening two steel plates.  Um, thanks Greg.  Turns out Greg gave him all of the supplies needed to make thermite (burns through things).  Later that week all of the boys went outside and burned holes through these steel plates.  True story.

 Once we were finished with presents, it was time to get dressed and get ready for family.  Lots of family!
My mom's sisters, Mary and Kathy, and her brother, Alan all came!  So did Mary and Kathy's families!
Here are all of the cousins (and our kids) that were there.  I didn't bother to edit this picture, because Mom someone left out Robert.  Someone somewhere has this picture with ALL of us in it, but I can't find it!
 My kids adore my cousin Ellen.  I can't think of anyone better to be a pediatrician...so proud of her!!  (She also has a dog that the kids love, Watson.  Her husband Johnny is pretty great, too.)
Mary and her family.  My cousin Evan and his wife Missy are on the right.  Their dog Brody is a sweet one!!  (Evan and Missy are, too!)
 And here we all are!  Can you tell Mom was so happy to have all of us home?!
My Aunt Kathy's family left before we could get a group picture.  So Francie our elf was her family.
Greg's second calling is anything culinary.  He found avocados and made avocado mousse for one of our desserts.  Amazing! 
 We had a fantastic day!  Robert was pooped by the end of the end of the night.  So were we!!
But Mom wasn't going to bed until all of the silver was dried and put away.  Another true story.
Christmas was a month ago, but we are still talking about how wonderful it was.  We so appreciate Mom and Henry having us there for an entire week!  We always are so loved and taken care of at their house!!
Hope your Christmas was wonderful, too!


December || Before Christmas

Mary Claire showed off her blossoming ballet skills on a day where we all got to observe her class.  (It was also a day that her mommy had to be in charge of the Christmas Brunch at school and forgot this sweet ballerina's tights.)

And here is our girl with her best friend, Audrey.  These two went to preschool together for three years.  This year has been different not getting to see Audrey everyday, so we are thankful for ballet each Thursday!  
 Thursday is also Ellie's favorite day because Audrey's sister, Ella, is there and so is her friend Lily!!  They are silly and fun, and I love watching them!
This year, in addition to seeing Santa, we also saw Aubie Claus.  The kids may have liked him better...
 This picture makes everyone laugh because Robbie looks like he just happened upon a random family, stopped and smiled for a sec, then was on his merry way.
On the 21st we went to one of our church's Christmas services.  This year was extra-special because Grandmama, Miss Anna, AND Mr. Blake joined us!  (Mr. Blake is Miss Anna's friend that's a boy.  He plays football at the Naval Academy.  We are pretty much in awe of him!)
Exhausted after a fun night (and incredibly slow service at Cracker Barrel.  But mostly a fun night)!!
On the 23rd we flew to Pennsylvania to spend Christmas with my mom, stepdad, and two brothers.  Robbie was sick.  Like he had a fever and was completely miserable.  We had three kids and five suitcases.  I'm sure we looked like a hot mess.
 The girls got to sit across the aisle from us on one of the flights, and they thought they were hot stuff!!
 This is a great example of how we roll on trips.  Whatever anyone wants, they can have.  On our layover in Atlanta I'm pretty sure Robert had four Oreos for his lunch.  While sitting on the floor.  Survival mode.
The kids were super-excited to finally get to Grandmother and Grandpop's house.  Of course they had put up every light they could find outside and the Christmas tree was decked out.  
After so many fun festivities, Christmas is finally here!!