Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sisters and Mom Getaway

My sister Charity captured the wonderful get-away we had last weekend so well that there seemed to be no reason to write my own version. So here's a re-post from Charity's blog (thanks, Char!). Most of the photos are ones I took but the words are all courtesy of Charity.

Eyre girls... and adore coming from four different states for a weekend together. 

...can throw down and eat about their body weight in deliciousness at a nice hotel breakfast buffet....can engage in active, excited, deep conversation for hours by a pool, in a hotel lobby, you name it....tend to go against the grain and appreciate challenges in many things, like walking/swimming against the current in a resort "lazy river"....are nature freaks that can't get over beautiful vistas, unique vegetations, or especially vibrant sunsets.

...absolutely relish delicious food, and usually end up talking about how good the food is for half of any meal conversation.
...lose their phones and keys multiple times a day. each other and talk each other through any brand of heartache.

...worship together and study god's will and god's love together, seeking to support each other in questions, doubts, and understanding. and adore daughters and nieces and want to instill in these precious girls' hearts a strong belief in the power of womanhood. 

...are night owls that stay up late talking, laughing, and eating cookie dough from the mixer. 

...tear up when touched by art or words or music that is miraculous and/or gorgeous and rings with truth and beauty, like this quote:
when god wants an important thing done in this world or a wrong righted, he goes about it in a very singular way. he doesn't release thunderbolts or stir up earthquakes. god simply has a tiny baby born, perhaps of a very humble home, perhaps of a very humble mother. and god puts the idea or purpose into the mother's heart. and she puts it in the baby's mind, and then-god waits. the great events of this world are not battles and elections and earthquakes and thunderbolts. the great events are babies, for each child comes with the message that god is not yet discouraged with humanity but is still expecting good-will to become incarnate in each human life. {edmond mcdonald}

...feel tremendously blessed and privileged and grateful in so, so many ways, and especially to have each other.

And here's Saydi's take on the weekend - she included some great stuff that isn't in Charity's post.

Saydi's post on our getaway

Monday, February 09, 2015

Update and Valentine's Ideas

Have you missed me? I've been keeping up really well on Instagram if you want to follow me there. My username is sarenloosli (clever, huh?). When it comes to recording all the little things - fun stuff the kids are doing, regular bits of my life that I want to remember, beauty that makes my heart happy, Instagram is just such a nice, immediate, easy way to do it. When I want to record my thoughts and feelings about things, this blog is the place to do it (as long as those thought and feelings aren't too personal to me or others they might involve - that stuff gets written down elsewhere as I process it...).

But I did want to share this post I updated from a couple years back - it contains a collection of really great ideas for simple and fun family activities and I think you'll like it:

7 Family Activities to Fill February with Love

Here's a collage of the latest stuff around here:

Click here to see explanations in the captions and a lot more photos.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Jared's big 4 - 0

Look at that cute kid on the right. That's Jared.

Jared turned 40 on New Year's Eve.

I wanted to make his birthday really special and thought through lots of different scenarios - A surprise party with lots of dear friends gathered from near and far including all his favorite games and treats? A lovely dinner party with just close friends? A get-away for just the two of us?

But New Year's Eve didn't turn out to be a good time for a party. Pretty much everyone I contacted already had New Year's plans and it would have been pretty darn difficult to get someone to watch the kids overnight if we were to try to do a get-away.

And in thinking about what Jared really loves, I realized he might really enjoy a special day with mostly just our family given that we've been with so much extended family and that Jared is away so many evenings with Bishop stuff.

So the kids and I planned out a fun day (at least for the parts of the day when he didn't have to work).

We made him a special breakfast (eggs benedict), gave him a few little gifts, and took him to lunch:

Then we gave him our big gift - a certificate for a new(er) car (just a homemade certificate with a pile of printed-out descriptions of possible cars from this used car place where we got our van - it has really good deals on low-mileage 2-3 year-old cars in great condition.

He's nursed along his 1997 Mountaineer (basically a Ford Explorer) for long enough. For about five years now, he's always been fixing something on that thing - or just living with the things that proved too hard or expensive to fix (the heat and A/C only came out of the defrost, making for some freezing toes in the winter and only slightly air conditioned heat in the summer, the driver's seat had mostly detatched itself from the floor and had something sticking up out of it that had ripped holes in most of Jared's pants, the back doors could only be opened from the outside since something went weird with the child locks, the radiator leaked, the engine made dubious it's a gas guzzler). And he has a 45 minute commute each way for work every day. So having a comfortable, fuel-efficent car just makes sense.

He's talked about different car options for a long time now (every time something new would go wrong with the Mountaineer) but he kept saying he could fix it and it would still serve him just fine. I couldn't tell whether he was emotionally attached (I think that's part of it even though he won't admit it) or whether he was just being his regular very unselfish self and sacrificing his driving comfort so we'd have money for other things (this was probably the main reason). But I figured that this big 4-0 birthday would be the perfect time to take action.

We planned to go do some test driving in the next couple days (we'd hoped to do it right on his birthday but the weather and timing didn't work out - we found too late that they were closing early for New Year's Eve and it was just above 0 degrees - not great weather for fun family car shopping). So we went car shopping a couple days later. As always, everything was more complicated than hoped, but he ended up with a much more comfortable, fuel-efficient car that he loves.

Ashton made him a great video full of fun old photos - I'll post it here when I get a chance.

The kids and I also gave him a fun table-top ping pong set that was an immediate hit.

I told him he'd need to take a little break from ping pong so that I could take him out to dinner and he was very pleasantly surprised to find some of our best friends there at the restaurant (they live in CA so he wasn't expecting that at all!). Plus they brought him his favorite dessert ever - pecan pie from Maddox (I'd tried in vain to get it myself, happy to drive the 30 mintues there to get it - but they said I hadn't ordered far enough in advance and were out of pies for that day - I was trying to pick it up the day before - and on the actual birthday, I thought we'd be car shopping in SLC so I wouldn't be able to drive up there and pick it up - but our friends were staying with relatives near Maddox so they were able to pick it up for us - perfect!). We had such a fun dinner and then headed home for pie and ice cream and games with our friends for a while then just with the kids when they had to head out to be with their own kids.

We played game after game until it was quite suddenly almost time to watch the ball drop. Then we brought in the new year with sparkling cidar and toasts and kisses.

I think Jared had a good day. He sure deserves it. And we were able to do a follow-up birthday celebration with one of his best friends from MIT and his family a couple weeks later - a whole day of hanging out and catching up with a great family we haven't seen in WAY too long.

Anyway, here's my birthday list of favorite things about this wonderful husband of mine - I was going to do a top 10 list but I just sort of kept going and before long, I had 40 - one for each year of this wonderful man's life.

1. He can build just about anything - and has a great time involving the kids and helping them learn and have fun with building projects. He's built a new back fence, a super-cool hill and tunnel and whole backyard, a pergola, our falling-apart front porch, shelves in many areas our our house, lots of furniture that came un-assembled, tons of Pinewood Derby cars, and so much more.

2. He can fix just about anything - he's fixed that Mountaineer countless times, the dishwasher, the furnace, the garbage disposal (lots of times), the stopped-up toilets (he's awfully good with a plunger). He's installed new outlets and lightswitches. He's stopped up the drafty gaps all over this old drafty house. And he's constantly fixing things on the Power of Moms website and helping me with all my computer and phone difficulties. Whenever there's something to be fixed, he's the man for the job.

3. He's the most selflessly helpful person I've ever met. He's always willing to help move someone's furniture or talk through a hard issue someone is going through or give a blessing even when he's got 100 things on his own plate and is super tired. And he does it in a way that makes people feel like he really enjoys helping them - because he does.

4. He is a great listener. He's always willing to listen to my problems and ideas and those of others.

5. He's got the best eyes. Hazel/brown with flecks of gold. I love seeing them full of concern as we talk about someone in the ward and seeing them well up with tears on rare occasions (that have become just a bit less rare over the years) when the kids do something really great or when there's a beautiful spiritual moment.

6. He is a great leader. I've loved seeing him lead our congregation at church with so much love and care this past year. I love how he gives people the information they need, sets them apart, then really trusts them to do a great job and come to him when they need help. He never micro-manages. He

7. He's so great with little kids, always making them feel special. I love seeing how he looks right at little kids and pays attention to them. They can feel his goodness and that he likes them. A couple tiny little kids at church want to sit with him more than their parents and it's pretty cute - especially when they go up on the stand where he's sitting as Bishop to sit on his lap.

8. He is probably the most un-moody person imaginable - but still accepts and weathers my emotional storms without judging me.

9. He's always up for adventure - and helping make adventures work.

10. He sees things in a beautifully simple and straight-forward way and doesn't waste time over-analyzing things.

11. He so good at helping the kids with their math homework - explains things so patiently.

12. He has a great laugh - almost a giggle sometimes - the kids love tickling him until he's laughing like a little girl.

13. He's a great teacher - he's taught the kids about so many things - from rock climbing to skiing to fixing things around the house to shoveling walks to being king and helpful to others. He's great at helping with homework and teaching the kids computer programming.

14. He's amazingly strong - he can lift an amazing amount of weight and can push himself well beyond what seems reasonable when it comes to running or biking.

15. He rolls with whatever comes without letting himself be stressed out at all.

16. He's got a strong stong body. He can lift just about anything. He can make himself run a marathon with very little training. He can mountain bike up and down crazy hard stuff.

17. He's got a strong mind. He can will himself to do things that others would shrink at. He gets himself right up in the morning (something I seriously need to work on). He can force himself to keep going and do what needs to be done when he's tired or sick. He doesn't shy away from challenges or hard things - he hits them head on with amazing stamina and fortitude.

18. He's got a strong spirit. He knows what he believes and has a firm and unshakeable testimony.

19. He's terribly handsome.

20. He's always willing to listen to me.

21.He's always totally respected anything that is important to me.

22. He's really good at Reverse Charades - he can act out anything with the best facial expressions and his team always wins. Plus he gets everyone laughing to tears.

23. He uses his hands a lot when he talks - very animated and sort of Italian-like. I love that.

24. He loves sports and shows full of action - but he also really involves "artsy" films and is happy to watch Downton Abbey with me as well as all the other British costume drama movies I tend to favor.

25. He appreciates art and classical music and ballet - he's always happy to go to cultural events and really enjoys them.

26. He's taught me to let out kids take reasonable physical risks - so they're some of the most kinesthetically aware and physically confident kids ever.

27. He is so patient and kind to everyone - even people who are being pretty crazy and rude and demanding and unappreciative when it comes to his office as a Bishop.

28. He's always able to fix all my technological difficuluties with my phone and computer and other things. Sometimes he'll just sit down to look at a problem I'm having on my computer and it'll magically stop doing whatever weird thing it was doing. It's like the computer respects him and is a little scared of him.

29. He makes great breakfasts - great homemade waffles and pancakes, amazing eggs with sauteed onions and tomatoes and cheese.

30. He really appreciates everything I cook and is always complimentary. He's not picky at all and is always complimentary of my cooking.

31. He never complains about anything - seriously. It's amazing.

32. He is such a helpful, loyal and kind son. He's always happy to help his mom with anything and plans to do some fixing and helping around her house whenever we visit her.

33. He's such a great brother. He'll do anything for any of his siblings - or mine - and just loves being with them.

34. He sets high standards for the kids and they know he means business. But they also know he loves them dearly and would do anything for them.

35. He is so great about reading scriptures with the kids before breakfast every day. I love listening to him explain things as I make breakfast and pipe up with my own comment once in a while. I love that they have that special time with their dad every day.

36. He drives Ashton to early morning seminary every day. Oh, how grateful I am that I don't have to do that!

37. He's thoroughly supported and helped with everything I do with Power of Moms. He built the website for us, watched the kids so I could go do Retreats, fixed everything that goes wrong with the website and helped us figure out what we can do to constantly improve our website's functionality.

38. He doesn't speak ill of others.

39. He has a remarkable ability to be both compassionate and tough at the same time. He totally listens with love as people tell him about their financial woes in his role as Bishop - but shows them that they can help themselves rather than just handing them things. He acknowledges the hardness of things that I'm going through or that the kids are dealing with - but helps us see that we can do what needs to be done rather than fixing everything for us.

40. He's so many things I'm not and I love how he completes me so wonderfully well. He's everything I never knew I needed - and I'm eternally grateful for this wonderful man of mine.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Keeping Kids Safe in a Sane Way

Did you see this Nationwide commercial during the Superbowl or in many of the articles that have been written about it?
Yep. Nationwide spent $6.75 million to put this ad smack-dab in the middle of the Super Bowl.
People have compained that the ad was a downer and cast a shadow on the fun they wanted to have watching the Super Bowl. When it came on as I was watching the Super Bowl with my family, it sure did change the feeling in the room.
But here's what really really bothered me about the ad (and I can't stop thinking about it so I'm writing about it here).
Parents already worry plenty about the safety of their children. Nationwide points out that preventable accidents are the #1 cause of death in children.  Isn't every accident ultimately preventable? If we didn't drive anywhere ever, could we get into a car accident? If we didn't walk down the stairs, would we ever fall down the stairs and get hurt? If we didn't eat anything, could we ever get food poisoning? But we all deem that the benefits of driving, walking down stairs and eating vastly outweigh the risks. It scares me that our society seems to be casting aside traditional joys of childhood because they are deemed too risky.  Things that were once viewed as something as normal as driving a car, walking down stairs and eating - like walking to school with your friends or climbing a tree or swinging on swings at the park - are now considered recklessly dangerous to some. So it seems like we're on a track towards bubble-wrapped kids sitting in front of screen in their child-proofed houses, missing out on so many of the joys of childhood that I think are totally worth the relatively small risks involved. 
I think it's so important that we allow our kids to do things that are a bit of a stretch for them so that they can have fun and learn limits. I'm OK with the bumps and bruises and scrapes - and even broken bones - they might get as they do this natural experimentation and stretch their abilities. 
And as far as in-home accidents, they are so very rarely a result of real negligence of a parent or caregiver. Bad things, terrible things, just happen sometimes - even with vigilant and caring people around.
No matter how hard we try, we simply cannot stand over our children every second of their lives and ensure their safety. We can secure bookcases to walls and stay with our children when they're in the bathtub and keep dangerous chemicals and medicines out of their reach and put a gate on the stairs when our crawling babies don't understand the danger and aren't ready to learn to get up and down stairs carefully. But even with every smart and reasonable precaution, bad things can happen. 
Our kids have needed stitches on several occasions from doing things like smacking their head on the floor when slipping on a little spilled water on the floor while dancing around and running into the exercise machine which doesn't even have sharp corners. And Isaac broke his arm when he was two by falling off a low chair onto the carpet at an odd angle. Were these accidents preventable? Sure. Isn't everything preventable if you could somehow think of every possible contingency and hold your child in your lap every moment of every day? Usually accidents happen in ways that we really couldn't have imagined (so there goes thinking of every coningency) and there is no reasonable way to keep our children safely in our arms all the time (they'd go crazy and so would we!).
I know of several very good parents who've had their toddlers somehow find and eat medications or cleaning fluids or stuff from an older child's chemistry set and have had to call poison control, sometimes finding it was OK and not to worry, and sometimes finding they'd better rush the child to the ER to get the stomach pumped. Luckily no serious harm was done. In each of these cases, they generally kept the poisonous substance in a very safe place but some odd thing had happened to make it accessible to the child. They felt horrible about the incident and were all the more vigilent after the accident, I'm sure. But is it really possible to keep every possible dangerous thing tucked away 100% of the time - especially when you have other children around who might not be as vigilent as you'd like? (i.e. the chemistry set).
I know of a mom whose 2-year-old died in the swimming pool in their backyard - while she thought her toddler was taking a nap and she was doing laundry, he snuck out of bed (the baby monitor didn't alert her - he was so quiet ), got out of the back door (which had an alarm that somehow didn't work and with the dryer running, she didn't hear the door open) and through the pool gate (which hadn't latched correctly) and fell through the pool cover (which had just one small tear in it that he happened to fall next to). By the time she realized he wasn't in his bed, it was too late. Could she have prevented this accident? Some would say they shouldn't have had a pool in their backyard. But they lived in a very hot place and that pool had been a source of great joy and exercise for their family for years. Should the tiny chance that a drowning could happen have prevented them from purchasing a home with a pool? The chances of great excercise and family fun seemed to greatly outweigh the risks. 
Bad things happen. But when we take away too many good and positive but potentially risky experiences from our children because of the small chance of something bad happening, we aren't really serving them well. 
I'm all for preventing tragedies if that were indeed possible. We all should be careful and smart about what we have in our homes and the supervision we give our kids. But we should also be careful and smart about not over-protecting our children and preventing them from having important childhood experiences. There's only so much we can do to keep them safe - and if we put keeping them safe ahead of helping them learn and grow, that's a problem. 
I'm OK with the 1% chance that my child might be hurt and the probably .00001% chance my child might be seriously injured or kidnapped or even killed doing something like skiing or walking to their friend's house down the block or climbing a tree because there's like a 99% chance they'll learn and grow and have fun through that experience.  
I thought this writer put it well:
"Today’s most-lamented style of childcare isn’t lax parenting; it’s helicopter parenting. Overparenting is the order of the day: too much fear and not enough risk, too much supervision and not enough independence, too much Purell and not enough germs. We ban swings on playgroundschapstick,sunscreen. We’re socialized to see danger in the most innocuous places...What we don’t really need is a reminder that gut-wrenching accidents happen every day. Everyone already knows that. "
 by Jessica Goldstein on the blog Think Progress

I think life is about more than simply preserving life. It's about learning and growing and having joy - even if that often involves some inherent risk.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Figuring Out How to Enjoy More With Less Guilt

Our Christmas and birthday season is now officially over. After the busyness and beauty of Christmas, most moms get to take a bit of a break as far as their job as the family coordinator of special occasions after they put away the Christmas decorations. But for me, the special occasion planning and execution just keeps on going! Jared's birthday is December 31st, then Ashton's is January 3rd, then the twins' birthday is January 14th. And this year, all four of these birthdays was a big birthday. Jared turned 40 and I wanted to make that extra special. Ashton turned 15 and his birthday was supposed to be sort of low-key with a nice day snowboarding with his dad followed by a simple party with some of his good friends - but he broke his arm while snowboarding and that made the day quite a bit more eventful! And the twins turned 10 which felt like a very big deal to them - double digits and all. Their birthday was on a Wednesday so we celebrated with lots of family stuff and then did their party on Friday evening since weekdays are hard for parties. So their birthday seemed to go on and on. But they were SO excited about it and it all turned out great.

I love all the celebrating. I really do. I love to really make birthdays special and feel like when you've got quite a few sibings, it's extra important to create a real "king (or queen) of the day" type of experience for the birthday person. They have to wait their turn and be patient and eat whatever is served every other day of the year so it's great just one day of the year to pretty much have everything be just the way THEY want it. But that adds up to a LOT of work for me and can feel sort of overwhelming when it comes right after all my big efforts to make Christmas special. I just wish it could all be spread out a bit more! (For a year or two, we tried celebrating 1/2 birthdays for Jared and Ashton since their birthdays are at such a tricky time, but it just didn't work out that way - we ended up needing to celebrate TWICE since they still needed something on their actual birthday...)

This year, right when we got doing with the twins' birthday celebrations, we went into a 4-day weekend which was great but which meant I had to put off some of my holiday/birthday catch-up even further. And then this weekend, we're off to a wedding for a nephew and that'll be another long weekend which I'm really excited about but which will put off catch-up even further.

But you know what? That's just how it is. I've contempted and tried doing things different ways but ultimately, it feels like the right thing to keep making these birthdays really special and to not work very much when the kids are out of school and I want to enjoy extra time with them and to go to this family wedding and enjoy a little family get-away as part of that. I accept the busyness and the overwhelmed moments as part of the life and priorities I have chosen.

I've got lots of blog posts to do to catch up (I really love writing out all my favorite things about each child on this blog for their birthday - makes a great motherhood journal and perhaps one day I'll gather all their birthday posts together into a special book for them - given that I don't scrapbook beyond some half-hearted baby books, I'm thinking this will be a great thing to give them when they head off to college one day).

I've got some exciting new projects for Power of Moms that I've been moving forward every chance I get.

I've got a house that needs to be cleaned and kids that need to be fed and laundry that never stops.

But rather than doing what I've done in the past - pushing my catch-up into afternoons when the kids could use help with homework and support from me on their chores or into time for quality tuck-in's or into the few evenings that Jared and I could spend together - I'm just going to do what I can do during the hours I can reasonably spend while the kids are at school or while we're driving to this wedding this weekend.

I need to be done with holding myself to a way higher standard of productivity than I would ever expect of anyone else and cut myself more slack. I need to spend more time prioritizing and praying about what is most important to do and saying "no" more often - rather than just rolling up my sleves and working super hard on whatever I've committed to (which is usually way too much). I need to commit to less deadline-driven work. I need to prioritize enjoying over getting things done more often. And I need to figure out how to feel less guilty about the "no's" I have to say to put relationships and enjoyment before accomplishment and productivity.

I certainly don't have all the answers. But I know some of what I need to work on. I accept that life will never be particularly simple for me. I've chosen paths that are essentially complicated and busy. I can stay  on the paths that feel right to me without driving myself forward at a break-neck pace anymore. I can put more focus on the paths that matter the most to me (the motherhood and wifehood paths) while still moving foward on the other paths ata slower pace.

So there are my thoughts for today.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Christmas 2015

We had SUCH a great Christmas Eve this year thanks to being able to spend it with family members that we dearly love.

So great to be with THREE of my siblings and their families for Christmas Eve!

My sister Shawni and family came directly from China to Utah on the 23rd and my brother Josh (who lives in Arizona and who we thought was doing Christmas elsewhere) decided to show up and suprise us so we were able to hang out with them and my parents all day on the 24th, sledding, playing in the snow, doing last minute shopping, catching up. Then at dinner time, we were joined by my brother Noah and family for a grand "Jerusalem Supper" and Nativity play.

Here's the story in photos (the best ones, of course, are courtesy of Shawni with her nice camera).

The kids were so excited to see snow at my parents' house at Park City since we didn't have any at all at our house. They headed right out with their cousins for big time fun in the snow.

Here's Max, Elle and Ashton heading out for some fun:

And here's Isaac and Grace in the typical mis-matched odd assortment of snow clothes my parents have on hand at their house:

Ashton played guitar and impressed his cousins by playing anything they requested:

Claire, Eliza and Lucy had big time fun together:

After lots of playing in the snow, we enjoyed our traditional "Jerusalem Supper" brought to new heights by my dear mom.

Ever since I was a little girl, it's somehow been my job to dress everyone up in something or other that looks sort of Bible-era-ish. So I brought my stock of stuff and did my best!

We ate figs and dates and grapes and pita bread and fish and goat cheese - foods they likely ate at the time of Christ - along with other Middle Eastern foods like falafel.

And while we ate, we talked to Mary and Joseph (played by Silas and Lucy) all about their upcoming journey to Bethlehem, about the prophesies we'd hear about, about their hopes and fears, about what this new baby would mean for all mankind.

And here are Joseph's parents who, of course, had to be there to see the couple off to Bethlehem:

The kids did a great job staying in character and my dad, as always, helped steer the conversation in meaningful ways. It was a very holy and lovely dinner.

Then it was time to arrive in Bethlehem and see the Nativity played out.

Silas and cousin Lyla made a great Mary and Joseph (had to keep it fair by having two girls get a chance to play Mary at different parts of the evening). And Jared, as always, did a great job as the donkey.

Eliza kept all the little angels organized. Isaac took care of the kings. And Oliver was the head shepherd.

Baby Shelby was the star of the show for sure as baby Jesus - lots of adoring going on. And she played the part perfectly:

Then my mom told the kids all about the symbolism of the sand dollars we'd always had on our Christmas tree growing up - and she gave them each a sand dollar to keep (google it - beautiful stuff).

After the Nativity, we opened a few gifts (my parents gave us some tennis raquets this year so we can be more ready than ever for the traditional Eyrealm tennis tournament at Bear Lake this summer) and took a few photos before saying our goodbyes for the night.

We got home and opened our traditional first present of PJ's and put them on:

Then the kids wrote their note to Santa and scrounged up some leftover banana pancakes to leave him as a treat since it was too late to make cookies (and, they reasoned, he's surely be sick of cookies when he got to our house and would appreciate something yummy but sort of healthy).

Then it was off to bed.

Jared woke up early because he was excited (and because he's just an early riser - can't help himself). Between him tiptoing around and the kids creaking around upstairs, we were both up before the kids officially woke us up with their singing on the stairs. And once I looked out the window, I got so excited!

Here's what I saw from our bedroom - a full-on winter wonderland with snow still falling like crazy!

Then the kids officially woke us up with their traditional singing on the stairs (accompanied by Ashton on guitar - their wake-up carols are sounding better every year!).

The kids showed us everything they got in their stockings:

Then we watched the snow fall for a while and admired the beautiful winter wonderland God had given us as a magical Christmas gift (it hadn't snowed really at all in December so this was so welcome and magical!).

The kids were nice about indulging my need to have us all listen to a bit of the music from the snow scene in the Nutcraker while we watched the snow fall - but they were so anxious to get downstairs!

Here's what each kid got from Santa:

We played with all our awesome new stuff for a while:

Then we had our traditional Eggs Benedict breakfast before jumping into more rounds of present opening.

And the snow kept falling:

Then we opened more presents:

New clothes are oh-so exciting (not) but the boys were very gracious and happy to try on their gifts for me.

The twins were really excited about these shirts that go with their music passion (and they've worn them like every day since receiving them - brief breaks for laundry):

There's something I just love about wrapping paper all over the floor on Christmas day. I like to leave it that way for a while. And apparently Eliza likes it too:

One of my favorite parts of the day was the kids giving their carefully saved-up-for and lovingly selected gifts to each other.

The twins were SO excited about this game they found at the thrift shop for just $3 - it had a price tag on it for $20 - and they were sure Eliza would love it. They were right!

The kids got great gifts from their cousins (all the Loosli cousins draw names and give gifts to each other)

In the afternoon, it stopped snowing just at the perfect time so that Shawni and family plus Josh and my parents could drive safely here to spend Christmas evening with us. We had a great dinner together (Cafe Rio-style salads that were pretty easy thanks to help from my mom and Shawni - tasted so good after all the candy and heavy stuff we'd been eating all day!). The kids had the greatest time sharing their new presents and playing games while some of us sat around the table having a great discussion about faith and works - love those sorts of deep and interesting discussions.

Then the kids got to open their presents from my parents.


And my parents opened their presents from me and Shawni (we decided to give them a bunch of our favorite games since they don't have many at their house and games are such a fun way to enjoy family time when we all come to visit!).

Then we played some music together (a tradition from when we were younger - fun for Eliza to be able to join in this year on her violin!)

Perfect day. Perfect, perfect, perfect.

So grateful for the chance to be with so many loved ones, for the gorgeous snow, for the abundance of love shown in presents from loved ones near and far and shown in laughter and togetherness, for the means to provide great food and good gifts.

Best Christmas ever!


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