Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmastime and Such

Well, I guess it's come to this. The monthly blog post. On the upside, it's easy for me to recall the past month because I've already documented a lot of it through Instagram, but I still feel impulsively drawn to the blog to fill in and expound. Guilt, perhaps. It's hard to believe I've been doing this blog for eight and a half years now!
Nora's little Joyschool group worked on a nativity play together. I think the idea was for them to perform for an old people home, but they eventually got a kindly older neighbor to watch them in the end. They are really cute together. Nora's the only one moving on to kindergarten next year from this group of girls, so I'm beginning to reconsider what my involvement in Joyschool teaching should look like. Come January, I'll probably tailor my part of the teaching a little more towards kindergarten readiness, instead of the traditional Joyschool lessons. There are generally good ideas in the lessons, but it's not really my style of teaching and just feels forced. 
I tried my hand at chalkboard lettering for fun. I've found with all this new (glorious) space to fill, our Christmas decorations were feeling a little sparse. I used a chalkboard that was given to us a few months ago, and turned it into one of my favorite Messianic verses. In my head, I always burst into the Handel's sing along version of this. :)
The girls and I haven't been going to the Magic House as much as we used to. Probably because it's twenty minutes away now instead of five. Our pass was about to expire, so I took them one last time. Lydia loved going back and forth over this balance beam. She's an adventurous little girl. Another funny (unrelated thing) that Lydia does these days is push her little stools around and climb up to get whatever it is she wants. She has been known to find the cereal she needs, bring it to the table, find her own bowl, get a spoon out of the drawer (using her stool) and then climb into her chair (again using her stool) to eat. Then she'll ask whoever's nearby for "Milk." Funny girl.
Back to the Magic House. Because it was December when we went, Santa showed up for story time. Nora and Lydia were both really resistant to going anywhere near him, but I finally got Nora to at least stand next to him for a picture. I think she told him that she wanted a Tinkerbelle tent. This (fairly typical) encounter with the strange, mystical man reaffirmed in my mind that I don't care to push Santa too much on my children. I'm glad to extend their belief in the magic of it all for as long as possible, but it's kind of a weird custom to try and coerce my kids to sit on a stranger's lap. The more I think about it, Santa is a creepy idea. Anyways...moving on.
Paul and Peter got to go to a Rams football game (LDS night, where they sat next to the Witchers)- the first pro football game either of them have ever been to. I think Benjamin was a little bummed at not being able to come, but we reminded him of the hockey and baseball games he's been to without his little brother. It's special to have Daddy all to yourself sometimes.
They ended up staying out REALLY late. It was funny to see little Peter, bouncing into the house around 11:15, totally wired. I expected him to sleep in the next day, and was prepared to bring him into school late, but he was up the next morning as if nothing had happened. I kept waiting for the crash after that, but he never did. I'm glad they went. I think they really did have fun together, despite the terrible game they watched.
We didn't do too much sweet treat baking this year. The kids really wanted to make gingerbread men though, so we at least did that- but with dinosaur cutters instead of men, since that's all I could find. We made them over three weeks ago, but they're still hanging out in our cookie jar, along with some brownies and toffee and other cookies that people have given us. We really don't eat that much sugar around here, which is so different from how I grew up. Gestational diabetes diet training for the win!
Another tradition that needed to be carried on this year was driving out to see the Christmas lights. There are two light shows that we alternate between each year. One is at Tilles Park- that one is all Santa and polar bears and candy canes and everything else that is secular and loosely related to Christmas. The other one is a little farther, but is at a Catholic compound, and is entirely focused on Christ's birth. It has signs with scriptures telling the account along the way, and has a really nice feel to it. We went there this time.
It was a really cold night, but we decided to get out and see the animals that were there. Nora loved this donkey.
So we let her take a ride on it. I think she enjoyed being "Mary" for a moment.
The boys smartly chose to ride the camel, because it's a CAMEL! It was pretty awesome.
They also had a children's room inside with activity tables and a really upbeat music video about "Emanuel" playing on repeat the entire time. And it was stuck in my head forever afterwards... I asked the kids if they'd like to go to primary where they sang songs like that and they quickly answered no- too crazy! I really like our church, but I'm grateful to others for putting on such beautiful, meaningful displays for the rest of us to enjoy!
Our ward had a nice Christmas program this year. All the primary kids were dressed up, and basically sat up on the stage while we sang along with a beautiful (unrehearsed) symphony of musical instruments. It was nice having the kids up there with a purpose, and being able to enjoy the wonderful music.
Afterwards, there was a nice dinner, and we enjoyed spending some time with a friend from Paul's work and his family who joined us for that.
The kids each had a sibling to get a present for this year. We don't keep it secret, but try to rotate it so they're not getting the same person every year. This time Benjamin had Lydia, Peter had Benjamin, Nora had Peter, and Lydia had Nora. The boys were old enough this time where we asked them to use their own money or be involved in making their presents. It was sweet to see them really think about what their person might like. Peter made a "creeper" patch (from Minecraft, Benjamin's favorite video game) to sew onto a snow hat he bought with his own money. He was really proud of how it turned out, and rightfully so. He did a great job!
Benjamin made a doll bed out of a Cuties orange box along with a mattress to fit inside. He also made a little pillow and blanket, and bought a small Elmo that fit perfectly. I gave him a few lessons on the sewing machine, but he really took charge of that present, and I was really proud of what he came up with. 
My sewing project of the season was Lydia's snowman stocking (only a year late!). During the last session of stitching around the edges, all I could think to myself was "how did I make FIVE of these in one season a few years ago?!?" I am so glad I made these, because I love them, but they are time consuming!
On Christmas Eve, we had our traditional family nativity play. Nora was excited to be Mary, Lydia played the angel (funny how she already showed signs of jealousy over not being Mary! We had to spruce up her costume with fairy wings and a halo crown), Paul was Joseph, Peter was our Wiseman, Benjamin was our shepherd, and I was the narrator. Peter got very into his role, and wanted to find gifts that actually looked like gold, frankincense and myrrh.
I also managed to surprise the kids with Christmas jammies. I had to give up on the idea of matching jammies, because it is close to impossible to find anything that matches from 18 months up through 8 years, but I think they were all happy in the end. The boys wanted footie jammies, which is what they got.
And the girls got matching Frozen jammies.
I think the girls were the only ones who cared about matching anyways.
Our Christmas Eve meal was delicious- basically ham and veggies. And a bottle of Sparkling grape juice, because we're fancy like that. We listened to Christmas music and read some Christmas stories, then everyone excitedly went to bed. This is the first year we have a decidedly non-Santa believer, but he was remarkably good at keeping the magic alive for his younger siblings this year. Peter has also been puzzling over some big questions about the guy, but remains on the fence. I think for now, he is happy to believe.
The next morning at exactly 6:30, the anxious quiet voices got a little louder, and the kids scurried into Lydia's room to wake her up. Then the four of them piled into our room to get the go-ahead. We all went down together, and had a magical morning emptying stockings and taking turns opening each gift. Lydia could not have been more delighted with the sippy cups that she found in her stocking. I love how easy to please toddlers are in the gift department.
Benjamin was delighted to get his video game and hockey/soccer nets that he wanted. He only asked for those two things this year, because "that way you'll at least get one." He's figured out how to get exactly what he wants. :)
Benjamin wanted Lydia to open his present first thing. It was really sweet.
And Benjamin loved the hat that Peter gave him.
Nora's "Tinkerbelle tent" from Santa ended up being a fun striped teepee with Tinkerbelle hanging out inside, which was so thoughtful of Santa because that way this thing can hang out in the family room all the time, and not constantly offend Mommy's retinas. ;) Actually, it turned out that Nora miraculously amended her wish list on her own, and wrote Santa a second letter in glorious four year old scrawl that said "Teepee. Not tent. (heart) Nora."
Christmas morning is always a magical time. I love watching the kids play together, delighted with their new things.
Peter had asked for a Playmobil castle for his birthday, but it didn't make it in time, so Santa brought it instead. That was his favorite present!
Another thing that we did this year was select and deliver presents to a family that actually lives near Ferguson (and you'd have to be living in a hole to not have heard of that place this season). They were really nice, and it was a blessing for us to get to know them a little bit and to share in the Christmas spirit together.
I am so grateful for everything that we have, but I am also grateful to know that these are all just things. If it was all taken away tomorrow, I honestly don't think I'd be crushed by it. I'm grateful for family- the people who I treasure most, who love me at my best and at my worst. I'm grateful for the gospel, and for the temple covenants that I've made that extend the promises I've made in this life into the life to come. And most importantly, I'm grateful for my Savior, who came to this life as vulnerable as any tiny infant, who lived His life perfectly, and who died for me. I am grateful to know that He lives, and that because He lives, I will also live again. I love the perfect, sweet message that His life brings. This is truly what it's all about. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


How is it already half-way through December?! We've had Christmas stuff up for a few weeks now, but it still feels like we just put down Thanksgiving. We had such a great time this year hosting a nice big Thanksgiving. Including the six in our family, there were twenty people staying in our house for a few days. I absolutely love that we have the space to be able to do that now. Thanksgiving is one holiday where I feel like the more, the merrier! I mean, you go to all that effort anyways, why not share it with tons of people you love?
Wednesday night, cousins started trickling in. Nora and Gloria could not have been any more excited to see each other again!
Paul was the master of the turkeys this year, and had fits of nervousness all morning that he was waiting too long to put them in. He did one in the oven, and one on the smoker- both "spatchcocked," which made them decidedly less Norman Rockwell-ish, but they cooked a lot faster, which was the goal. They were delicious!
 Everyone brought various dishes, making my job of hosting a breeze! I made rolls, creamed corn and a salad, and that was it. We had SO MUCH FOOD, all of it exquisite!
Paul's Aunt Gloria brought cute little turkey candles and napkin rings that they use in their family every year. They paired perfectly with what I had planned for the tables.
 These three were instant buddies, and disappeared together for hours at a time. At this table was Gloria, Nora, Ari and Lincoln.
 The boys bonded over Minecraft mostly. And I tried really hard to be ok with that. :) At this table, there was Cannon, Lydia, Peter, Benjamin and Henry.
 And at the main table, we had Adrea, Josh, Seth, Maddy, Paul, Tony, Gloria, Abby, Patrick and me. I think baby Elliot must have been just out of the shot.
As kids thinned out during the evenings, we played some really funny games together. We have a drawing game that tends to be a favorite among this group!
 Lincoln and Lydia got some fresh air the next day. We took a walk while the others went to go see Big Hero 6 and Interstellar. Then later we all swapped and a bunch of us went to see Mockingjay part 1.
 It was a low key evening of pizza and more games.
I got a picture of the six who are related in the group. Adrea and Maddy are sisters, and are Paul's cousins. Gloria is his aunt, and Cannon is her son- Paul's cousin. Then Abby is of course Paul's sister. Our house was about 4-6 hours for everyone, right in the middle.
 Saturday was gorgeous, so we got out and headed to the zoo.

 Then it was time for goodbyes. These two were comforted only by the fact that they'll see each other again in just over a month! Fun times ahead...

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fall Time Catch Up

This post is going to have to act as a catch-all for the past month- from about Halloween on. Later this week, we'll have twenty people stay at our house, which I'm sure will deserve a post all its own. Life has been full and good. 

One day after school, Benjamin and some neighbor kids all ran in, excitedly asking if they could go rake our elderly neighbors' yard. They spent a good hour or so out there, raking piles and bagging them up. I thought that was really sweet of them.
We've had a lot more leaves here than we're used to. It's been a constant battle to stay on top of raking, but luckily we have some good helpers. 
Nora's Joy School class has been a lot of fun. Those four girls are really cute together. For Halloween, they all got to dress up and they learned the "Mean Old Witch" song, which I still remember from my early childhood. 
We also met at the Butterfly House one morning. I had all the kids home with me because it was voting day and the schools were being used for the polls. 
 Nora acquiesced to my suggestion that she be Anna this year. She had wanted to be Elsa, but I thought this one would be warmer and cuter (and possibly a teensy bit less common). We found one of those dollar store hair extension headbands (which I braided) that perfectly matched her red hair, and paired it with this dress she got for her birthday and her black boots. I made the hat out of some old sweatpants. It certainly wasn't perfect, but I was pretty proud of it, considering I didn't have a pattern.
 Peter wanted to be a garden gnome, and he enjoyed running around telling people "Give me a treat or I'll make mischief in your garden!" His costume was pretty simple to make too. I made the hat out of felt and some fake fur, and reused our old Frodo coat (altered a few years ago, from Goodwill).
 Benjamin wanted to be a vampire, so I used some black velvet I already had on hand and some cheap red liner to make him a cape. He just wore his suit pants and white shirt, and we were good. Lydia's tiger costume was a Goodwill find, and absolutely perfect for her. She had her part down pat- saying "RAWR!" whenever someone asked what the tiger says. Cheap, easy costumes for the win!
I just realized that I have NO pictures of our ward's Halloween party, which Paul and I helped plan. That was a time consuming project, but it turned out pretty well. I headed up the decorations for it, and we had a fun trick or treat spook alley inside along one of the halls and a chili cook-off. It was a break from our traditional "trunk-or-treat," which caused a lot of grumbling- especially when the night turned out to be an unseasonably balmy 70 degrees. Oh, well. The past few years it has been all outdoors, and of course those nights were freezing, and people had coats on covering their costumes. Not to mention it was always really dark...and so that's over. ;)

 Peter lost another tooth this month! He no longer likes taking apples in his lunches...or anything crunchy. I remember feeling that way as a kid. Too much effort to eat. It would be really nice if his top teeth decided to come in soon, but I don't have much hope for them. It could be years if his genes are anything like Ben's.
 Peter had a cough for a while (much like Benjamin did at Disney World), that finally turned into pneumonia. We took him in to the doctor, and had flashbacks to this kid at 1 1/2 months old, when he had RSV and had to regularly do the nebulizer. The breathing treatment didn't do much for him this time, so it was strictly an antibiotic regimen, which he LOVED. (heavy sarcasm intended) ;)
He and I made a date to get frozen custard when it was all done. And just as a note of interest, raspberry is and always will be my favorite flavor. Pumpkin pie was just a waste. 
 Cub Scouts has been...going. I'm still finding it hard to really get into it. I've had so much on my plate with other things, that it's honestly kind of taken back seat. We have three boys. Two show up regularly. The one that we've planned it around comes about 50% of the time. We've got to get better at this.
 Earlier this month, some friends of ours invited us to help celebrate and commemorate 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. I got a great recipe from my sister who just spent the past three years in Germany, and brought it for our German themed dinner. It was SO good, I'm thinking of making it our traditional Christmas dinner.
The kids all got to help build and paint this wall...
 ...which eventually looked like this. It was a pretty great replica of the Berlin Wall.
 The kids then each took turns destroying it with a sledge hammer, then climbing through once the hole was big enough. It was a powerful lesson in history. I think my kids will have a better understanding of this moment in history than I did for most of my life. To help them understand the Berlin Wall, we also read a few books to them before we went- The Wall, by Peter Sis, and Christmas From Heaven, by Tom Brokaw. Both were excellent.
I snapped this picture at the Primary Program practice, the day before the actual program. The kids all did great with their parts, and Benjamin even sang a beautiful duet. I was really proud of each of them.
 Later that day, Paul came back from a five day business trip to Canada. It was so nice to have him back!
Snow came really early this year... It's gone now, but it was sure exciting for the kids. Benjamin's been really into Calvin and Hobbes lately, and was out there trying out all of Calvin's antics. I think he was out there at one point trying to saw some sticks to build himself a sled. :)
For weeks, I've been heavily involved in helping to plan our ward's Young Women in Excellence program. These things are a big deal, as in weekly 3-4 hour meetings for a month straight. Lots of planning and thought and preparation go into these nights, and this one was no exception!
We decided to go with a travel feel for this year's theme, which was "Come Unto Christ." We collected globes, postcards vintage suitcases, and had the girls make "postcards" highlighting where they'd been on their journey to Christ this year. I snapped these pictures after some of it had already been taken down after the program.

I made the poster, which was behind a decent sized Christus statue. It was already taken down by the time I had a chance to get any pictures. Of course. :) 
 I also prepared a short talk to explain the theme for the night, and I used President Uchtdorf's talk from the April 2013 Young Women's meeting about Journeys. It's a good one. Here's most of the gang. They all got up and spoke. Then there was a video of them each saying parts of The Living Christ. It was really powerful.
And finally, here's a fun project that I've been working on. A lady in our ward approached me a few months ago and asked if I'd be interested in designing a room for Haven House (like a Ronald McDonald House for families traveling from far distances to hospitals). Even though I knew my plate was pretty full, I couldn't turn the chance down. This was seriously FUN for me! Here's a few before shots of the room:
It has a queen bed and two twins. 
The bathroom was pretty bland too. 
 And here's where I went with it. These are more like In-Progress photos, to be fair. We painted the walls with Glidden Driftwood Grey, and got all new (donated) furniture. I made a bunch of art and hung them in old Goodwill frames. We were waiting on our handyman to hang the teal curtains here.
 I also spray painted the lamps and added some new lamp shades. The round mirror sitting behind the two red chairs is really pretty. It will go up on the wall right there.
 The bathroom got some minor tweaks. The wall color is Behr Aqua Smoke, and the art on the floor is just waiting to be hung by someone who can successfully drill into concrete. We're also waiting on some gorgeous track lighting to be hung. Hopefully I'll get some decent (not nighttime) photos once it's all done.
So that's been life this month! I'm grateful to have had so many good things to do and be a part of. And now hosting Thanksgiving is going to feel like a vacation! :)