Welcome to the North Pole

Pour your coffee.  Put some Christmas tunes on.  Get a cozy sweater.  Go ahead, I won’t start this post until you come back.


I like to start my posts as if we’re already in the middle of a conversation.  I pretend that we’re the oldest and dearest friends — as opposed to what we actually are, people who don’t know each other.

Wait.  Kathleen Kelly already said that.  Nevermind.

I was so busy making reindeer collars, arranging fake snow blankets into mini sledding hills and practicing forging Santa’s name (no “e” in Claus!  no “e” in Claus!) on Friday that I never posted Friday faves.  I’ll throw it in some time this week.

On to the North Pole Party.  You guys. It was magical.  It had less to do with the details of the party and so much more to do with these precious kids.  To see the world through their eyes and to remember what it felt like to be that awake and delighted with cookies and lights and friends and an unbridled imagination.  Okay, I’m still delighted with cookies and lights and friends but sometimes I’d like my unbridled imagination back.

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Lainey was a little nervous about going to school this morning because of some current county wide testing going on. We talked among other things about how life isn’t always exactly what you want it to be–sometimes you have to go along with the system, and taking tests is part of it.  Not fun, I know.  But because I know that life is made up of a lot of challenges and “testing”, perhaps I love even more these opportunities to cushion the hard days, the tests, the real life system with storybook and magic. To teach my kids to create it.  They’re going to need it.  And indeed we can have both.

So Friday night was just that. Storybook and magic.  On a little street in the middle of Naples, Florida, we created the North Pole.

A Night at the North Pole:

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Santa called in (coughMYBROTHERcough).  That guy is hard to track down this time of year, but I’ve got connections–namely, an elf named Bubby (I forgot to cover the contacts ID on my phone as I held it up for all the kids to see) who weaseled his way into the Toy Factory.  With his hearty HOHOHO (seriously, it was amazing), Santa talked to the kids about his reindeer and his toy making and answered questions.  I loved their questions.  What does your Christmas tree look like?  What’s your favorite Christmas carol?  Do you know my elf, Snowflake?  Was I good?

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And this face of Lainey’s while listening?  I will never forget it.  I can’t even look at it without tearing up.

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Lainey’s little friend Mihiri wanted to ask a question but froze when it was her turn.  We fed her a question and she giggled through the entire thing.  Like I said, magic.

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It was a great year for Nella.  While last year she stayed pretty close to me, this year she wandered through the crowd eager to participate, found friends to help her make reindeer food and snuck off to the cookie table when we weren’t looking.

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Our elf made his annual appearance again on our scavenger hunt, and I overheard a few older kids hypothesizing an explanation of his appearance.  The window may slowly be closing for some of these kids and these imaginative stories, but new windows open.  And if all goes well, we’ll teach them they can have both.  Grow older, get smarter but never lose your sense of wonder and your ability to create a little bit of magic among the testing days.

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There will be leftover snowman cookies for an after school treat today.  And a reminder that on testing days, you simply do your best and know that how well you test has NOTHING to do with how much you are loved and the most important thing you have to offer the world…give it your imagination, your curiosity, your heart.


For past North Pole Parties, see NPP 2011 and NPP 2012.

And if you’d like to recreate the Reindeer Food Bar with your own kids (invite friends, get your grandkids together), I have a full D.I.Y. tutorial over at BabyZone this week (with a new free printable for all the reindeer food labels).

Last matters of business, promise:

*  Thank you for all of your #BeYourTee orders!  This is the last day you can get your Be the Change shirts–help us reach our goal of 1,000 shirts!  Youth and Adult sizes and many styles available HERE, and $5 of the sale of every shirt goes directly to the National Down Syndrome Society.

*  And an essay on savoring “the last baby” over at All Parenting this week.  I went there this morning–“this is the last “first Christmas” we’re going to enjoy.”  (cheek smack, cheek smack…pull it together, Kelle!)  We’re good now.

Merry merry, friends.


Leave a Comment
  1. Too funny. I saw that you had your North Pole post up. So I refilled my coffee and turned up my Christmas music and then began reading. 😉

    You have created this magical event that will forever be in the hearts and memories of countless children (and their parents). Thank you for sharing some of the magic with us. Your pictures capture the essence of joy, wonder and awe…Which is really what the Christmas season is all about. And finally, thank you for sharing your photos, sentiments and a snapshot of your world with so many of those of us who don’t “know” you per se. Your gifts are plentiful and the way you touch so many hearts…Simply awe-inspiring. Hugs.

  2. This is SO cute!! …Oh, and Thank You for the test day reminder…I have it written on a post it for next week’s finals :)

  3. So fun and magical. And I love the photo booth. I may just have to pull one of these together next year. Our window is getting smaller too, and this Mommy is not ready to let those imaginations go just yet!

  4. I love magic.
    I’m a 42 year old believer in Santa.
    Awesome North Pole!


  5. Inspired by you we are doing a party at the North Pole this weekend. Reindeer food and ornament making and cookies and hot cocoa and we cannot wait!!

  6. Magial. Never forget the most magical Christmas when we had a party to include 19 adults and 26 children, Santa made a special visit to the house and the comments, with two young adult children and a teen I still get the question, “who was he?” I’ll never tell!

    I have to say of all the pictures in this post, the one of you holding your phone with the littles around is sweet, even sweeter is the expression on your neighbors face (I can’t remember what your children call her, but remember she is a like a grandma to them)–she is truly a child at heart.

  7. Sweet kiddos! I love this! Loving Nella’s “O” face in that photo!

  8. Girl, you soo do this momma thing right! Can’t wait to have kids one day..(Lord willing), and do fun stuff like this. I’d have been in amazement at this when I was a kid. Love it!

  9. I so wish I would have thrown these kinds of shin digs together when my oldest was just starting in on all this magic. The funny thing is that my oldest is 10 and still believes in Santa (more my fault), but this year her brother’s class writes Santa letters and the fourth graders (her grade) actually are the ones that write back. I’m feeling a little silly because I’m so anxious as how to handle this situation. I know in my head that she’s maybe too old to really “believe” in Santa and that there should be a day where I write a letter in her Mama and Me book about believing in the magic of the season, and that her dad and I are the ones who put the presents under the tree, but that the season of wonder and magic still exists and it’s all how you make it, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I just can’t. Thanks for being a place I can go to continue being inspired to keep the wonder alive, even after this window closes.

    Oh and the test advice. Great great advice. I will use it on my children as well as my 3rd graders. Merry Christmas Hamptons!

  10. I love this so much. I am really glad you make childhood so magical for your family.

    I am sitting here crying my eyes out this morning as I read because I know that the moments of Christmas magic making are almost completely gone now that my baby is 13.

  11. The magic you create is so beautiful and real. So real in fact that I had to blink twice when I saw some of the moms in tank tops…really thought you were at the North Pole! You are creating the most beautiful of memories for your children and their friends..memories that will last a lifetime!

  12. I seriously cannot wait until my girl is old enough to find the wonder with a party like this! Hopefully next year! Also, I was blown away to see Glennon at your party! I read her blog and book religiously and LOVE you both. YAY!

  13. Your “last baby” post killed me!! in a good way :)

  14. Pure magic!!!

  15. I have been waiting all December for the NPP!!! I love reading about all the activities and I think you need to do a video of Nana Kate reading, apparently she is the best reader according to your IG feed!!!!! 😉

  16. This post made me so happy!!!!!

  17. I have been looking forward to this post and it definitely delivered again this year. I love seeing all those little kids so excited about Christmas. I don’t think you ever gave a link in past years to where you got those little chalkboards that are on the table. Please share if you have time.

  18. I totally love your imagination and your enthusiasm to make Christmas magical for your kids. I did my best to do the same when my children were young but definitely not to the extent that you do. I wish I could do it all over again but my children are no longer young kids but adults now.
    I may have to rent some kids. 😀

  19. Fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing.

  20. WOW!!! I just love it :))

  21. Geez I love your creative, life loving, happiness sharing self Kelle! I really want to have some similar NPPs at my place in the coming years! Thank you for sharing and happy festive month!!

  22. Kelley I can’t say how perfect this was! I am getting ready for a final at law school in a couple hours here and am so nervous. I decided to read your blog to help calm my nerves and your bit about testing (especially the last paragraph) was so perfect–exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you!

  23. This is one of my most favoritest posts that you do! I love reading about the North Pole party, and I always want to go!! I just ordered my #beyourtee shirt and I can’t wait to get it!!!

  24. I have been anticipating this post!!!! I look forward to it each year :). Love everything about your North Pole parties…you inspire me so much!!!!

  25. I love your North Pole party posts. (And I really did settle in with a cup of coffee before reading! :)

  26. I LOVE this post EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR!

  27. I love hearing about your North Pole parties.


  28. I often wonder when I read your posts what the memories are going to be when your children are older. They will certainly know they were /are loved :)

  29. Kelle….
    I love, love, love your new Header Picture!! 😉
    Before even reading this post, my eyes saw the name “Kathleen Kelly”, and I smiled big!! I “know” who that is!! I love, love, love “You’ve Got Mail”!! And I recognized her line!! Score!! ;-D
    I have my Christmas tunes on…. Let’s see. Right now, they are chanting this. “War is over. If you want it.”. Now. I am not “for” war. Who is? And no offense to John Lennon. Really. But that song is annoying!! However!! Earlier this morning, the radio played Bruce Springsteen’s version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”!! Loving it, loving it!! 😉
    I used to think that there was an “e” in Claus, as well!! It is Tim Allen’s fault, you know. For he starred in “The Santa Claus{e} films!! ;-D
    “To see the world through their eyes and to remember what it felt like to be that awake and delighted with cookies and lights and friends and an unbridled imagination. Okay, I’m still delighted with cookies and lights and friends but sometimes I’d like my unbridled imagination back.”. I still got it!! Perhaps that is how I can write children’s stories? Hmmm…. 😉
    “Grow older, get smarter but never lose your sense of wonder and your ability to create a little bit of magic among the testing days.”. Love that!! ;-D
    “And a reminder that on testing days, you simply do your best and know that how you well you test has NOTHING to do with how much you are loved and the most important thing you have to offer the world…give it your imagination, your curiosity, your heart.”. I so needed to read those words!! 😉
    Sorry. Long comment!! ;-}

  30. Pure magic, Kelle, just like years’ past. Great job!

    – Erin

  31. I know we shouldnt be jealous of one another…but…I am envious of this party every year. I know it could be recreated, but time. I feel like its hard to set aside time for things like this and people always have other commitments. I am glad I get to see yours and live vicariously through it each year :)

  32. you sure know how to do up the holidays girl. magic happens. that look on lainey’s face proves it. loved the kathleen kelly reference as well. i’m way overdue to see that movie again:)

  33. Always just so amazing!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  34. Always just so amazing!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  35. Always just so amazing!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  36. Kelle, you are such. a. good. momma. Thanks for sharing your family with us; you provide inspiration in a world that sorely needs it.

  37. Oh my gosh! That looks like SO much fun! Everything turned out beautiful! :)

  38. How fun everyone looked like they were having a great time.What awesome pictures.

  39. When I had my second son my aunt gave me a book called “Let Me Hold You Longer” by Karen Kingsbury. It’s about how we get so wrapped up in their firsts we usually miss their lasts. I cry every time I look at that book. I find myself being much more aware this time around because I know how quickly it goes. I’m hoping we have at least one more though :)

  40. I’m thinking of doing something like this for my girls next year (my youngest will be 2 1/2 by then so she might ‘get’ it. My oldest will be 5 1/2 and will for sure). We have a lot of little girls in their circle of cousins/family friends and it looks like a lot of fun.

  41. you know glennon from momastery!?!?! And got to invite her to your party?!?!?! so jealous! How did two of my most favorite people chance to be so close together, it’s amazing!

  42. Awe! What wonderful ideas.. Looks like everyone enjoyed themselves. I love that look on your daughters face when she was listening to the phone. PRICELESS!!

  43. I literally didn’t even finish reading the post before I came to comment because I had to come tell you that I also quoted Kathleen Kelly today! so weird. mine was “what will my NY152 say today I wonder?” I have no idea why it popped into my head this morning, but it’s one of my favorite movie quotes, solely because of the sing-songy rhythm.
    Anyway, this comment serves pretty much no purpose, but there it is. :) I’m going to go finish reading the post now…

  44. We did your reindeer food bar at my son’s birthday party to the North Pole last year. It’s Dec. 14. We have to combine our festivities to maximize holidays around here.

    My 3 favorite things about this post:
    1) That you forgot to change your brother’s contact name and Lainey and friends are old enough to notice. (How much they’ve grown!)

    2) Nella holding the bag of pretzels … those must be her party saltines.

    3) Dash’s sweet face looking at your M-I-L.

    Love getting to send this tradition play out at your house every year.

  45. Your North Pole parities just look the best – love that you make Christmas so magic for your kids. Laughed that I knew the Kathleen Kelly quote – we watch you’ve got mail every Christmas – must be time for it soon!

  46. Oops spell check above –
    Should say Parties !

  47. Looks magical, thank you for sharing!

  48. Glennon! At your house! An amazing party just went past the moon. :)

  49. LOVE your NP parties! Such wonderful memories you build for your children.
    Side note- what sugar cookie recipe do you use. I have tried several and they NEVER turn out (I also thought the heat of FL was affecting it, but you have proven that theory wrong!).

  50. You’ve Got mail. My all time favorite. I knew I liked you Kelle Hampton😊

  51. My husband thought, at 18, she should know the truth about Santa. He didn’t want her being broken hearted from someone spilling the beans. I told him she would ignore whoever spilled and I fought him on it for a year.

    She’s 19. Long story short, we told her back in September she was old enough to help the little ones believe, to keep the magic going…and the” truth”.

    My eldest daughter told me they had a conversation last week about where to stash the milk and cookies while we are at her house for Christmas…..I.LOVE.THAT.CHILD.

    Santa lives on…

  52. Good grief. My comment sounds like I have had too much coffee.
    Anyway, you get the gist of it!! My girl is 19 and wants to believe….

  53. My girls Kelle and Glennon! LOVE!

  54. This is so cool….although I was totally confused on what it was, what exactly it was for. I didn’t realize until the end that it was an annual thing. Very fun!

  55. I asked this before and you never got back to me…can I come live with you? :)

  56. Why do you placate Nella with food all the time? So she’ll perform for the camera?

  57. I was looking forward to this post. The North Pole party is magic :) I absolutely love that picture of Mihiri. I met my best friend, Deepa, when I was in first grade, and she had that same darling haircut! It took me right back 25 years. :)

  58. I’ve looked forward to this since last year’s post! *ha!* Love it!

  59. You have inspired me so much in this post, enough to attempt my own party next week!
    Now: quick questions:
    To cookies looked divine- especially the gingerbread and also the frosting, could you possibly share the recipe?
    Also, how long should I allow for the party?

  60. Love the You’ve Got Mail reference! My favorite movie ever! Not sure I have the time to create the North Pole party, but I’ve been reading about yours for 3 years now. I’ve taken bits and pieces to do with my own kiddos but haven’t ventured out to trying it on a group of their friends…I love it, and the magic of belief.

  61. You must (or can you?) detail how your hubs exes plays a role in your family. I think it’s great. I see her in pics. How do you, her and him do it?

  62. Oh Kelly, that picture of lainey made me tear up too. My oldest just turned 9 and know this will be our last year for Santa magic:-( he’s already asking the questions every parent dreads. Hug those babies tight and enjoy this time!

  63. I loved reading your last baby article. I’m struggling with these thoughts right now as well. Always love reading your writings!

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