BRAKES, Baking, Braces, Family, & Festivities!
December started off as a festive month with the annual ladies’ ornament exchange at Phyllis’ house. This year, the creativity bar was raised once again…this time with make-your-own Christmas trees out of ice cream cones, icing, and cupcakes as well as chocolate shot glasses to fill with delicious liqueurs. Each person was greeted with a Fireball-filled Christmas light necklace to sip on throughout the evening. We had an awesome time exchanging gifts as always and the night was full of laughter. Alison visited us again on her way down to Atlanta one evening, and it’s always awesome to see her. We shopped for our Christmas tree and made a decision that this would be the last year we buy a real tree. The prices are just getting way too expensive and the needles shed everywhere. Plus we want to be more environmentally friendly and not be wasteful. We always enjoy decorating the tree and it is our tradition where we play Christmas music and go through all the ornaments, choosing our favorites. We had two holiday parties in one night so we bounced from Trent’s F3 get together to Samara & Mitchell’s holiday party. It was an awesome night full of overindulgence! The next day, I took Brayden to the BRAKES program at the Concord Dragway. This stands for “Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe”, a non-profit program created by a dad who lost two of his kids in a car crash. This program teaches teens how to be defensive drivers in situations that are not necessarily taught during driver’s ed, such as pedestrians jumping in front of vehicles, hydroplaning, and cars quickly changing lanes. At first, Brayden was a bit skeptical of the class, but by the time he left, she said it was very impressive and she learned a lot. Speaking of driving, she’s been doing a lot more of that lately and getting more experience. I decided to write up a safe driver contract for her to sign (I’ve never done anything like this before) just so all expectations are completely clear as to what her responsibilities are as a safe driver. This includes seatbelt usage, safety in parking lots, music volume, passenger capacity, going where she says she’s going, etc. We went through the contract together discussing each item to make sure she felt they were reasonable and the importance of each. On the school front, both girls continue to do incredible…straight As on their report cards. Brayden also just took the PSAT for the first time and scored an 1140, which is around the top 85%. Get it, girl!
In 2019, we went to Napa Valley with the Dunlaps and the Farrells and had an absolute blast at an annual music festival called Bottlerock. We swore we would go back again and so we bought VIP tickets for our trip to California this coming Memorial Day weekend. This time, it’s just us and the Dunlaps and we had a Teams meeting so we could buy the VIP tickets at the same time (they sell like hotcakes!)! Success! We are beyond excited as this music festival is super special. More to come on that in May! Trent accompanied Hanleigh for the Teen Cotillion parent dance and they had a blast, Alexis and Mila spent the night one evening, and I hosted my annual cookie bake for the neighborhood ladies. They were about 12 of us baking all kinds of tasty treats together and enjoying the Sunday afternoon before the chaos of the holidays. In other excitement, Hanleigh finally got braces! She could not wait to get them and now that she has them, I think she has realized that the allure of them is overrated. The outcome will be well worth it, though.
Charlie continued taking her dog training lessons and is doing pretty good. I think that we are the ones that need training, though. We need to be better about staying consistent and letting her know what is and is not acceptable. Terry and Fran watched the girls one evening: they had a slumber party, and took them Christmas shopping the next morning. I know they all really enjoy that. We enjoyed an afternoon taco party at our neighbors, the Nolins, and Hanleigh enjoyed spending time with Hunter at her birthday party at the Whitewater Center, which was followed by a slumber party. The same evening, Trent and I went to Julie and Tim’s house for a bit of pre-party and then headed over to our friend Mary’s house for her annual, extravagant Christmas party. And when I say extravagant, I mean over the top. She turns her entire formal living room into a candy wonderland where all guests are invited to grab their own to go box and fill it with delicious treats. She hires a bartender and everyone also gets to leave with a party favor. I love getting dressed up for holiday parties, so it was an awesome date night out! The next day, we had our annual Christmas luncheon and gift exchange at Mimi’s. Of course, this year was not the same with Dadaw’s passing, but he was 100% with us in spirit. She is so gracious to host the entire family a couple weeks before Christmas each year, so that we are all able to celebrate one another during this special time of year.
The kids got out of school for the Christmas holiday and didn’t go back until January 2nd. It was a very relaxing holiday, but at the same time very busy. I felt like we hosted something every single day. On the evening of December 22nd, we all hopped in the car and drove up to see the lights at McAdenville. It had been many years since we did this, so we braved the traffic to take in all the pretty lights. While it is gorgeous, I think we can all chalk that up to a “been there, done that” activity moving forward. Trent went to a going away party for his friend, Frehley, who is moving to Clemson. He is a huge fan and they built a house down there so they could be closer to the stadium. Talk about dedication! The girls had their annual checkups where Brayden is now 5’4″ (58th percentile) and 48th percentile for weight. Hanleigh is 5’2″ and is in the 37 percentile for weight. Our girls are growing up!
Once all four of us were off school and work, our house became a revolving door with a flur of activities! On the 23rd, we went to dinner at Terry and Fran’s house with my mom to celebrate and open gifts. The next day, Christmas Eve, Charlotte experienced extremely cold temperatures and Duke Energy instituted rolling blackouts, which meant that we only lost power for about two hours early that morning. Friends of ours, however, who were also hosting their 20th+ annual Christmas Eve party, didn’t get their power back until about an hour before it started! They had casseroles and other dishes scattered about in other neighbors’ kitchens and had other meals cooking on Sternos in their kitchen. When we arrived, you never would have known all the hustle and bustle that had taken place earlier in the day. That evening, we went to St. John’s Baptist, the church I attended growing up, for their Christmas Eve service and then we headed back to the house to make homemade pizzas that were absolutely delicious. The next morning, we woke up and in traditional Jones-family style, we went down the stairs first so that we could watch the girls come down and see what Santa had brought them. We all open our stockings first and then we pause for a tasty breakfast that always involves either cinnamon or orange rolls, fruit, sausage, and eggs. Then, we get back at it and open the rest of the gifts under the tree. That afternoon, the girls and I did a little bit of dancing, and then we had family over to our house for dinner. This included Mom, Dad, Christel, Trent’s parents, Kyle, and Cammy. We are all about doing non-traditional meals, so we whipped up one of our favorite dishes, a Korean beef and broccoli recipe with Jasmine rice. Before and after dinner, we played a bunch of really fun games, such as Beanboozled, which is where you eat one of two similar-looking jelly beans, one of which could be a really nasty flavor like barf, dog poop, dirty dishwater, liver and onions, Band-Aid, stinky socks, etc. and the other is a tasty flavor. It’s risky, but it is so hilarious and nerve-wracking not knowing which flavor you are going to get and everyone just laughs. We also played a game where you have a box tied to a belt that is wrapped around your waist behind you and the box has a hole cut out in it with little ping pong balls in it, then you have to shake your butt really fast to get them to fly out. The first person to get all the balls knocked out of the box wins. The video from this is hilarious!!! The next day, we had the Dodsons and EB and Bryson over for lunch. It was so great to see our cousins and we wanted to give Natalie some hand-me-downs from Brayden and Hanleigh. We can’t wait to see them again this summer for the family reunion. That night, we went over to the Whitcombs for a happy hour and had a blast, of course.
We are starting to plan a very exciting bucket list trip for this summer to Greece, so we met with our travel agent to get the gears turning on the planning. After that, I went over to Mom’s house so we could spend some quality time together. The next day, Erin and Cooper came over for a cousin hang out during the day and then spent the night. Erin and I went across the street to get manicures and pedicures. I think this was the third one she’s ever had in her life and I may have converted her to liking them now. Hanleigh enjoyed a fabulous birthday party for her friend Alexis at Great Wolf Lodge, I got a massage and Jason and Jack stayed with us the night before the Duke’s Mayo Bowl football game. We tailgated with them and the Bares and ate most delicious breakfast sandwiches ever! The game on the other hand, wasn’t the best. NC State played Maryland at Bank of America stadium and we got completely crushed. As Trent said, we may have lost the game, but we always win the tailgate! I love that expression. So true…tailgating is the best! We attended our new neighbors’, Nikki & Guarav, holiday party and wrapped up 2022 on New Year’s Eve with dinner at Juniper grill (the four of us), followed by a New Year’s Eve party at our house where the Farrells, Bartleys, McArdles, and Pierponts all joined us in ringing in the new year!!! Revolving door, for sure! Whew!