Our Core Crew Christmas 2019

Our Core Crew Christmas 2019.

I say it every year but our Core Crew Christmas is my FAVORITE day of the entire year!

In case you’re new here, we spend the night every year on Christmas Eve at my mother in laws house and wake up on Christmas morning there.

We have started a tradition of having our own little family Christmas on Dec 23rd.

We do a day of lots of traditions and I love it!

This year things were switched up a little bit as we are figuring out what works best for our family moving forward.

We are working on cutting back on the amount of gifts we give our kids and made the decision to give the majority of our gifts on the 23rd.

We decided our kids would open Santa gifts and three gifts from us at Zach’s parents and all the rest of their gifts at our house.

It went SO great this year!

My plan was to cut back to 10 presents each child (gift giving in a major love language for me and I grew up with hardcore carnival Christmases so this is a BIG DEAL for me to cut back).

I was NOT successful in the 10 gift plan. I made the mistake of allowing the kids to ask for 10 gifts each which was a rookie mistake because that didn’t leave me enough wiggle room for fun surprises.

So I went over the 10 gift plan but not by too much and I still got them half of what I did last year so I consider it a WIN. (The kids also opened gifts from my dad and stepmom on the 23rd too)

It was also an “ease me into cutting back year” and I think it all went really well.

Honest talk? I was nervous how I would FEEL about it all and I felt GOOD.

Totally content in having the majority of our little family holiday celebrating on the 23rd and giving the kids less in exchange for an awesome trip!

The kids also did GREAT with all the changes and were totally content too πŸ™‚

Yay for positive growth!

The 23rd fell on a Monday so we went to church Sunday and had a pizza night that night before going to look at lights.

We drive to a nearby neighborhood in our pjs and the kids all unbuckle (the COOLEST part of the night for them ha!) and we drive and look at lights.

The lights were pretty lame this year so CHRISTMAS SPIRIT DADDY won again by being down to look in our neighborhood which were way cooler πŸ™‚

We also opened one gift before heading to look at lights…new life changing blankets for everyone to snuggle in the car!

I told the kids that the ONLY thing I REALLY wanted for myself was ONE GOOD DANG PICTURE of them ALL together in front of our tree.

It sounds like a small request but it’s pretty major with four kids, esp a wild toddler.

But they were all so sweet and patient (as was Daddy) and they made it happen for me!

(Sidenote but they wear their Christmas pjs from the year prior for our 23rd celebration…I always buy a size up so they will fit the next year and it’s a great way to get use out of the pjs! I was smart last year and bought Spear an extra set in a bigger size since I knew he’d do the most growing)

A special treat in honor of our special celebration – the kids get to sleep with their room Christmas tree lights on for the night.

Kye opted out as he is particular about his sleep πŸ˜‰ But the girls were excited!

Once the kids were in bed Zach and I finished up all the last things we needed to get done for the big morning!

The upside of opening the majority of gifts at our house – waaayyyy less to take over to his parents (and bring back) but it did make for a bit later of a night for us to have everything 100 percent ready for the next morning!

I love all the gifts under the tree!

We made the decision to get the big kids up early and do ALL of their opening before getting Spear up.

At his age it’s just tough to be able to enjoy HIM and enjoy the other kids at the same time.

We’re always splitting up duties and we wanted to be able to both fully ENJOY ALL of the kids on our morning together.

I’m so glad we made this call…actual Christmas was more crazy since they were all awake and opening and we were both glad we had him sleep through the 23rd openings πŸ˜‰

The first thing we do when the kids get up is find the pickle!

I hide a pickle ornament (German tradition) in the tree and whoever finds it gets a present (it’s always a game that ALL the kids can enjoy).

Britt found it this year!

They also all found our elves hiding in the blinds πŸ˜‰

Zach’s family always passes out ALL the presents so we did that first and the kids loved all their piles and were so excited to open πŸ™‚

Growing up my family always took turns opening so that’s a big part of why I love the 23rd. It’s slow. We take turns. We take our time. We talk about the gifts as we open them.

I was so, so proud of all the attitudes this year.

We had a talk a few days prior about showing appreciation and gratitude as well as not saying “I knew it!” or expecting to receive things that were asked for.

Last Christmas Tess struggled pretty hard with her attitude and said “I don’t like this” about a lot of presents which made me super nervous about this year.

Honestly? I took the easy way out and a LOT of her gifts were ones that Britt was getting too. I knew she’d like whatever Britt got haha!

But she had SUCH a great attitude this year!!!

Britt is the most fun kids to get presents for and so I knew she’d also be awesome because she always is!

Kye surprised me the most though. I assumed he’d be the least into it and the least excited (he was the one that I was nervous would say “I knew it” about things) but so many times this Christmas he had AWESOME reactions that made my heart so happy!

He is also the one who is the most used to the “carnival Christmas” we’ve always had and he did GREAT with the transition and was just so joyful and appreciative!

I’ll do photo groupings of each big kid πŸ™‚ I loved too many!


A lot of what Kye asked for this year was video game related or nerf gun related.


It’s the Harry Potter year πŸ˜‰ She LOVES it and man there is so much fun Harry Potter merch! I had several surprises I was excited about for her!


The year of Barbie with Tessie! I love that she loves them!

Zach and I did not exchange gifts for all of 2019.

We talked about it and I didn’t mind not exchanging at Christmas because we usually go shopping for our gifts to each other anyway so it wasn’t missing anything.

I think the holiday I missed the gift giving the most was birthdays. It just feels weird not to give or receive at your birthday!

The kids still got us each something and we allowed the older kids to shop at their school store for us too.

They were so excited about their gifts and did a GREAT job in choosing for us.

Spear was sleeping solid so once they finished opening up the main gifts we went ahead and opened up one last special gift each.

My parents kept a TON of my stuff from childhood and I realized instead of just giving it to the girls I could totally make it a present haha

I have a HUGE tub FILLED to the brim with Barbies and had a box of American Girl Doll stuff (including a bunk bed).

It was the perfect year to gift them as Tess loves Barbies and Britt just got a new American Girl Doll for her birthday!

Zach also mentioned a couple weeks before Christmas that we really needed a new basketball goal.

I was like DUH Christmas present!

So that fit for a “gift from Daddy” to Kye to go with our little bonus gift theme πŸ˜‰

Zach and I both highly value experiences with our children and want to travel with them to experience new places together as a family.

However, four kids…makes travel super expensive.

When we discussed cutting back on Christmas we decided less gifts meant less spending which would help us afford experiences.

So our plan is to give the kids a trip each Christmas.

Sometimes they will be smaller trips, closer to home where we can drive (last year was Great Wolf Lodge) and sometimes they will be bigger trips.

We are trying to be very strategic in our trip plans.

Right now Spear is young enough not to take with us so we’re trying to do things that make sense to do without him for the next couple of years (at age 4 I feel like the youngest needs to start being included, we left Tess out of many things before she was 4 too).

So this year we decided to split up and do a boys trip and girls trip.

We did this for multiple reasons.

Kye LOVED skiing on our ski trip and is at the PERFECT age for a guys trip with Dad. While skiing is something Spear will probably also enjoy…it’ll be a LONG time until he’s old enough to go on a big ski trip so it made sense to do it at an age where he won’t be left out in staying home.

So Zach and Kye are spending 4 nights in Steamboat, Colorado!

Being Disney people we have also heard that Disney cruises are AMAZING.

However, Zach and I do not like cruising. And with a family as large as ours we’d require two staterooms on a cruise ship.

The girls are at perfect ages for a Disney cruise since they both LOVE characters and all things Disney and love being alike so they love doing things together and LOVE girls trips.

It made sense for the girls and I to test the waters (see what I did there…) on the Disney cruise to see if it’s something our whole family would enjoy at some point or if we’re a one time and done kinda family when it comes to cruising.

We’re just doing three nights so while it IS a bigger cost trip year, it’s also not an insane cost year. Zach scored a killer deal on an AirBNB for the ski trip and I can drive to the cruise port! Def cheaper than plane tickets for everyone to go somewhere!

The kids have been SO EXCITED all year to know where we are going and we did a great job throwing them off.

Kye got an iPad (he bought with his own money) and noticed his calendar syncs with mine and Zach’s and he said he could look on it and see where the trip was.

I was steps ahead of him and didn’t put the trips on the calendar just in case πŸ˜‰ But I used that moment to “slip up” and say “oh no I hope I didn’t put Arkansas (first place that popped in my head) on the calendar!”

Since then the kids have been SO SURE that our trip is to Arkansas. They’ve asked to google things to do there and were pretty interested to see why Mommy would plan a trip to a place where the only thing to really do is hike haha

Giving a gift of a trip is tricky b/c I wanted it to still be exciting and fun to open and easy for Tess to understand too.

So we wrapped two boxes labeled Arkansas Info Box 1 and Arkansas Info Box 2.

My ONLY regret was that we had Kye open his first. I did that b/c I worried he’d figure out it was going skiing if the girls went first or that he’d be jealous of the cruise.

It didn’t even cross my mind that the girls (mainly Britt) might be jealous of the skiing! They don’t really know what a cruise is but they HAVE gone skiing and Britt loved it so she was feeling a bit bummed at being left out.

I wrapped boxes within boxes with each one giving a bit more info about the trip.

I really LOVE how it all turned out and it was SO exciting for Zach and I leading up to them opening them.

We are already planning the trip gift for next year and it’s gonna be another epic one πŸ˜‰

A video should auto play in this post showing the big gift reveal!

In case the video doesn’t auto play you can also view it here:

It took the girls a bit to get super pumped but after watching some videos and having a better understanding of what a cruise is (they both thought it was a boat like the whale watching one we went on in Cali haha) they are super pumped!

I love that we started this tradition and it’s been a bonding experience for Zach and I too in planning and gave us something to really look forward to together as well!

Spear was awake by the time we got through with everything so we woke him up and he got to open all of his presents at the same time with ALL of us helping and giving him our full attention.

It was a bit overwhelming for him and he didn’t know what to think but once everything was open he was SO cute enjoying all his new toys and items and I think a fourth kid just gets excited to have their OWN stuff that is THEIRS πŸ˜‰

We opened all of our stockings next and the secret santa portion was super fun this year as we all tried to guess who bought us what.

I’m really proud of the kids and how well they did shopping on their own for items for everyone.

It was obvious that they truly thought about the gift recipient and what they’d enjoy receiving!

After the final gift was opened Daddy went to make a big breakfast/lunch while I helped the kids get everything opened and they played and played πŸ˜‰

We enjoyed the meal together chatting about everyone’s favorite gifts and sharing excitement over the upcoming trips.

Zach kept Spear for a bit and I went outside to have an epic nerf battle with the big kids.

Kye beat Britt and I…but only barely πŸ˜‰

Zach also put together the basketball goal for everyone to shoot some hoops!

While Spear napped we went ahead and decorated the majority of the Christmas cookies.

Again, this was just an activity that was easier and ran smoother with Spear out of the picture until the last minute.

Mamas with toddlers feel me! Icing…sprinkles…and a toddler? Not the best mix!

It was SO CHILL this year. The big kids are all at ages where they really are able to handle it pretty solid on their own and I was even able to decorate a few for a change!

It was also funny that Kye is the oldest but made the biggest mess…and of course Daddy was hardcore about his fancy icing skills whereas I’m team the more sprinkles the tastier πŸ˜‰

We left some cookies for Spear to be able to decorate and again…he had everyones full attention for the event.

It was ADORABLE how into it he was! He did GREAT with the sprinkles and was so excited and being able to really be hands on with him made me so glad we held off in having him decorate!

We all ate a cookie and I always keep some cookie dough for us all to eat together too (and yes I’ve eaten it literally every single year of my entire life and have never gotten sick so I let my kids eat it too #comeatmebro).

NONE of us were hungry at ALL for dinner…so we hung out by the fire pit and ate s’mores for dinner instead.

I mean it’s Christmas right? πŸ˜‰

We ended the night with Kye and Zach having their own epic nerf battle upstairs and the girls and I playing our new Disney Candyland downstairs (which randomly is a slightly different version of the original Candyland and it’s harder!).

Zach and I had some major post Christmas anticipation excitement chill time and started watching The Sopranos which neither of us have ever seen it it’s entirety and oh my word I’m straight up obsessed now!

We had SUCH a fun day. As usual, my favorite day of the year did NOT disappoint πŸ™‚

I just adore our family. I love moments together. I love traditions. I love surprising the kids with exciting things and trips and just seeing and sharing in their JOY.

It’s like all my favorite things combined in one day (ok well maybe if somehow we were also at Disney THEN it’d be ALL my favs but it’s pretty dang close πŸ˜‰ ).

I’m so thankful to Zach and his amazing Christmas spirit this year and love how it seems like every year Christmas just gets better and better!

The blog won’t let me auto load more than one video in a post so here is a video of other moments from our Core Crew Christmas (watch till the end to see Spear’s adorable cookie decorating):


  1. Lyndsay
    January 9, 2020 / 1:01 pm

    Have you thought about possibly having the core family Christmas day at your Disney rental? I’ve always thought it would be fun to rent a cabin in the wood and wake up on Christmas morning to the quiet and the pretty snow.

    • January 9, 2020 / 2:55 pm

      We did talk about it but Disney is SO crowded at Christmas and it’s also a high rental time so we decided against it! I think it’d be fun to go somewhere that it SNOWS one year as none of us have ever had a white Christmas πŸ™‚

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