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Merry Christmas from the Tonkin family 2011

Wow what a year. Even our two children Zach and Alexis are telling us this year went by too fast. It really does feel like we were just celebrating Christmas a few weeks ago and here it is again. Thankfully we love this time of year.

So here is our summary of 2011 – Not in order

The biggest news would have to be that Jeff finally got a new job. A new job that he loves and I believe will continue to enjoy!!! Since moving here in 2007 he was working in retail and retail management for Verizon Wireless. The money was good but the hours were many and the hours often 10 to 10, taking up the entire day. This did not match well for our family life and what we knew we wanted our life to look like. We understand things can’t be perfect but after a few years we saw that this was not going to change. To make a long story short – This past year, Jeff’s former Verizon manager told him about what he was doing and had him apply for Microsoft. A few months later Microsoft is his new job. We are so excited for the answered prayer. Finally a normal business workweek schedule. This means so much for us. We can now attend church together as a family, coach Zachary’s flag football team, hang out with friends on the nights they are free, and the list goes on. I almost forgot to mention… The kids and I love Jeff’s job because they are great about having family come by and when we visit we get to play. The kids get to play Xbox and Kinect games. I can hang out on the computers and relax. It is like chilling at Barnes & Noble but the kids have more to do. No we are not going to hang out at his work all the time, but it is nice to know we can drop by for lunch and to say hi for a bit. For those of you who have not yet tried the Microsoft Xbox Kinect, you really must. You will love it. It is everything I wanted the Wii to be.

We had the busiest spring in our photo business. It was truly such a blessing to have so much business. We could only take so much without neglecting everything else; so in a six month period we turned away 40 jobs. It was so hard constantly saying no to business but since Jeff has a full time job and I homeschool we still have to run the photography business on the side. We still really love it and are so thankful the Lord has blessed us with such a fun way to make money.

The kids are doing very well. Zachary and Alexis are both in gymnastics at Rowland Ballard. They both really love it! They also are both learning how to play the piano and really enjoy it also.

Zachary and Alexis both are doing well at school. Our homeschool days this year are a bit less structured and more relaxed. They love all the activities and extracurricular classes offered by Super Friday. This past year Zachary has been able to be part of karate, Lego mosaics, Lego robotics, drama, science, swing dance and cake decorating classes. He loves it. Alexis is in 1st grade class where she learns a lot also. She can do the classes like Zachary once she starts 2nd grade.

Well I would go on and on about everything this year has held, but since I blog it is all here. So if you would like to read more and in detail then please just browse through the TonkinHouse blog.

Have a blessed Christmas and may your Christmas be filled with joy of knowing Jesus!

Jeff , Christine, Zachary and Alexis





Sheri - December 5, 2011 - 8:33 pm

Love the card and the photos! I look more intently at the card design now….wondering if I could do that or not? Still a couple of things I need you to teach me. But I’m getting there!

admin - December 5, 2011 - 8:43 pm

Thank you! I would love to teach you somethings.

Santa visit gone wrong – poor Alexis

Funny Video of our Christmas Eve two years ago. Had to post again this year!
We love our kids so much we’ll go to great lengths to make them happy… and again, we’ll be mistaken be our own good intentions.

This is funny and a bit heartbreaking, Alexis just now is at the point where she is starting to laugh at it.

Angela Tompkins - December 6, 2011 - 8:03 pm

I was laughing so hard I was crying! What a precious video! You guys ROCK!

Our Countdown to Christmas calendar tradition

Every family celebrates Christmas differently.
What are your family’s traditions for celebrating Christmas?

When thinking back to my childhood memories, it isn’t so much the gifts I  remember most about the Christmas season, it’s the experiences.

It is so fun having children and developing Christmas traditions. With Zachary now 8 and Alexis 6  we now have lots of traditions in place. A few of our traditions include. Setting up the tree and getting all our Christmas music out two weeks before Thanksgiving. Alright last year it was the week after Halloween. We were so excited! We know that most people think this is a bit early but we just love the ambiance that the tree and music bring. Each year we purchase a new Christmas villiage set. The kids never get tired of these.  During Christmas one of our favorite traditions is called the “Countdown to  Christmas” calendar. The Calendar has a pocket for each day. We put a note in each pocket and each morning the kids pull the note and see what festive thing we have planned for that day. Below are a few photos to give an example of how we run our “Countdown to Christmas.” This is our 5th year doing it this way and boy do our kids love it. They have been waiting for it to start for over a month now. Each morning at or before breakfast the kids go to the “countdown calendar and pull a note from the corresponding day. The note reads what the special day will hold. Sometimes the festivity are big and sometimes it is very small but they are happy for them all. Each year I type up the little notes as seen below. Then I cut fold and place in the countdown calendar. If you do not have a countdown calendar then there are many ideas you can use. we first started with a special Christmas chest and each morning I would place the note it the chest. You could also wrap individual  jewelry paper boxes with notes in it, or hang little envelopes on a garland. Ideas are endless.

We also really want to focus on teaching our children that Christmas or life in general is not all about them and when they can get.  We so desire them to grow in blessing others and also focus one being thankful. We do this buy trying to bring a focus on serving others. Some ideas we have done to serve are; visiting assisted living homes, serving food at the Angel tree banquet, bring a meal to someone in need, make up lunch bags of food to hand out with hot coco and blankets to the homeless. We have also tried to notice the fantastic service of waitresses, grocery store checkers and any other service worker. When we get amazing service from someone we try and gift them with a small token gift, and a card. We like to do this sometimes without them knowing. We also like to do the same thing on the flip side. When we see a employee that is having a bad day, or bad attitude etc… Then we also try to gift them with a card and word of encouragement. We also try and think of things to do for friends, family members, and people who give to others and serve in the church or elsewhere.  If any of you have any other great ideas then please send them to us.

Below are 40 ideas to make this season fun for your family!
Read and see how they work for us at this link   or search for Christmas on my site

Fun ideas to do at Christmas time

  1. Have a Christmas countdown calendar that makes each day special! (this one is one of our favorites! Click on the categories Christmas to see how this works.)
  2. Make a Christmas castle or igloo with sugar cubes and cookie decorations! This one the kids will love!!!
  3. Make a few cute elf yourself videos or
  4. See a musical or a live theater production.
  5. Christmas caroling (to an assisted living home, children hospital, or your neighbors.)
  6. Go visit Santa Town WE love this one! They have added so much to it over the past two years!
  7. Sponsor a needy child, family, or elderly person for Christmas. Let your child help select the gifts.
  8. Game night: invite people over to play games and eat dessert (love gestures, moods, charades and catch phrase!)
  9. Each day start your morning by writing something you are thankful for and placing the note in a box. On Thanksgiving and on Christmas you can share what you and everyone wrote.
  10. Message from Santa – my kids don’t think Santa is real but they still have fun with this!
  11. Visit Moody Gardens to see lights and watch Polar Express on Imax!
  12. Ice Skating   $2.00 coupon –
  13. Have a Christmas movie night with Kettle popcorn. Watch your favorite Christmas movie together. My personal favorites are “ELF” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
  14. Go see the lighting of the Christmas Tree in downtown Houston or in The Woodlands. or
  15. Read a Christmas story to your kids.
  16. Make gingerbread houses with friends and family
  17. Make cookies and gifts for others and drop them off at people’s homes.
  18. Drive around your neighborhood to see houses decorated with lights for Christmas.
  19. Play Christmas music the whole month of December, or if you are like me, from November 1st on..
  20. Plan a Christmas party and gift exchange.
  21. Bake your favorite Christmas dessert with family and friends. Our is GORP – see our blog for details…
  22. Bring blankets and hot coco to the homeless.
  23. Christmas shopping and go out for donuts and hot coco and coffee or to your favorite cupcake shop. I love Gigi’s!
  24. PJ day! Give a new pair of PJ’s to the family and wear them early in the day or all day! Take a PJ photo.
  25. Eat dinner by the tree picnic style! We also like eating our morning cereal by the tree.
  26. If you like having a real Christmas tree, take your family to a tree farm and pick out that “perfect” tree together. this farm is in Spring Texas!
  27. Set aside a specific time each year to decorate the Christmas tree. Enjoy some hot chocolate while you string popcorn and cranberries and make gingerbread or sugar cookies to hang for an old fashioned look. Set aside a whole day of uninterrupted time for making memories.
  28. Make a special ornament each year for each child. Include somewhere on the ornament the child’s name and the year. These ornaments can be passed on to the children when they marry.
  29. Visit a church that has a live nativity.
  30. Have a snowball fight but with all the socks in your house. Roll them up in balls and get on two teams and have at it. It is fun and does not hurt.
  31. Serve hot cider or sparkling apple cider with dinner a few nights a week.
  32. Go visit Santa for a photo at Chick-fil-a
  33. Let your kids decorate their bedrooms with Christmas lights and a mini tree!
  34. Play video games with your kids.Wii Night!
  35. Give to others – Serve food at the Angel Tree banquet.
  36. Visit Old Town Spring – it is decorated so cute and with all the cute stores it creates a fun Christmas atmosphere for an afternoon.
  37. Wrap gifts WITH YOUR KIDS they love to help!
  38. See the Crazy Christmas show at Second Baptist – fun puppet show for kids of all ages! Free
  39. Visit The Chocolate Bar – Great lights in the same area!
  40. Have a Happy Birthday Jesus party for your kids, friends and neighborhood children.
  41. Just remember to make each day special and to truly remember that JESUS is the reason for this wonderful season.


Alexis broke her left wrist

So since Alexis started gymnastics I have had a slight worry that she would get hurt or break something. She just broke her wrist but it did NOT happen during gymnastics. It was at one of the safest parks around. Just goes to show you how a break can happen under the slightest misfall. Her wrist broke in one place and had a small fracture in another. The cast has to be on for three weeks.  She will get it off the first week in December. She is doing well but is a little itchy. One of her closest friends also broke her left wrist a week earlier. So they both are strutting hot pink casts. So cute!

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Our family road trip to Grapevine/Dallas

We have lived here in Texas for 4 years and outside of a trip to San Antonio we have not really visited this big beautiful state. Jeff had a few unexpected days off work so we decided to plan a small road trip. We had our music playlist, our road trip snacks and we were off to Grapevine Texas. We had such a great drive. I forgot how much I actually like to be in the car/truck on a road trips. I think the kids getting a bit older has helped me start to enjoy this again. It is a bit more difficult to enjoy long car rides if you have to constantly stop to nurse and change a baby or hourly potty breaks.

Our trip started with Lego Discovery center. We enjoyed a full evening of lego building and going on a few small rides. Zachary was extremely overjoyed when we surprised him with being able to choose a Lego set. The Next Day we spent the entire day at the hotel/resort. I must say that Wolf lodge is an amazing resort for a family to stay at. We enjoyed swimming in their wonderful water park.


The last day we headed to the American Girl Doll store. We kept this a surprise. So when we arrived at this store she was extremely excited.  She has been looking at the American girl catalog for some time now so she knew the exact doll she was hoping to get.  She was also surprised and overjoyed when we told her she could pic it today. She kept asking, “Will I have to save it for Christmas?”


When we got home Jeff had two more days off for us to relax together.




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