Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Day

We all agreed that this was the best Christmas yet. All the kids were at the perfect ages to really understand and get excited about Christmas - and I'm not just talking about the getting presents part. They really "got" the idea of giving to each other as a way of giving to Jesus, the real reason for the season. They were SO excited about doing the "Children for Children" concert with their friends and raising so much money (see post about this for more details). We all loved visiting a huge display of nativity scenes from around the world and going to the Live Nativity play at Tuachan. The twins were enamored with anything about "Baby Jesus" and put on a Nativity play with their little Joy School friends for their parents (see photos in previous post). The kids were all SO excited to pick out presents for each other. Liza and Isaac insisted on spending quite a bit of their hard-earned money to buy a Rubiks cube for Ashton (which has proved to be his constant companion). Ashton and Isaac snuck away from me at the store to pick out some decadent dark chocolates for me (my favorite) and did the check out on their own to ensure I wouldn't see what they'd picked out. They were all so excited when it was time to GIVE their presents, not just get them.

The kids managed to sleep (or at least stay in their rooms) until 7am and then sang to us on the stairs to wake us up. We joined them to open their stockings and share in the glee over candy and toothbrushes and all that good stuff.

Ollie and Si got reindeer antlers in their stockings which gave them quite a thrill.

Then it was time to head into the living room so they all lined up:
The first big surprise of Christmas was SNOW. We actually had a white Christmas! Something we may never see again in St George! What a fun surprise for everyone to come into the living room and find not only their hoped-for prizes from Santa but also the world coated in white outside. Check out the scene as we entered the living room!
The kids had SO much fun with all their Santa gifts.

We all stayed in our new Christmas PJs all day long and played, played, played - with an occasional break for eating. Here they are with the traditional eggs benedict:
Ashton and Jared spend ALL day putting together Ashton's cherished "K'nex Motorized Madness Ball Machine." I have to say it's quite an impressive machine! Really fun to build, really fun to watch, REALLY lot of little parts (2000+)! I can see why it was the hot toy of the year and was being sold on ebay at 3x its regular sale price. Thanks to Jonah for helping Santa find an affordable one!
Isaac roller bladed with his new gear from Santa (and new roller blades courtesy of a great DI find by Jonah and Ana) in the garage thanks to the snow outside and had a great time helping the twins with their new airplane set and his own little set of K'nex that Santa gave him as a bonus.
Eliza used her new art set non-stop all day - and every day since then. She can't get enough of drawing and painting and using stickers and coloring. And she was thrilled that presents from her grandparents and cousins seemed to magically fit her art theme - playdough, coloring books, etc.

Ollie and Si absolutely loved their new Geotrax airplane set that connects to their beloved Geotrax train set from last year. All the boys had fun switching the tracks around and creating a whole Geotrax world. Then when they opened a huge new tub of Lincoln Logs from Grandma and Grandpa, they added in a town of log houses around the thing. So fun!
I think my favorite part of Christmas day was watching the kids give their presents to each other - great anticipation on the faces of both giver and receiver as the present is opened then big hugs and thanks once the wonderful object has emerged from the wrapping.
Silas so pleased about a slinky from Isaac in his favorite color - blue

Oliver excited about giving some pretty cool little airplanes to Ashton

The twins were so happy to find some puzzles to give Isaac -
he LOVES puzzles lately and they remembered that.

Liza thrilled about moon sand from Ashton and Isaac
(they were so excited when they saw it at the store - said they'd heard her talking all about it)

The number of gifts worked out just right this year. Every year, I think I'm being careful not to buy much but every year, the kids really seem to be done and happy after just a couple gifts and want to just play with a couple things. This year, I think we got it right. Each kid got one wish of their heart from Santa, a couple fun little dollar-store items and candy and oranges in their stockings, an item or two of clothing that they needed from me and Jared (not that thrilling - other than for Liza- but fun to open), a new game for the whole family (Connect 4), a present from their grandparents, a present from a cousin (all the Loosli cousins draw names), and a present from each of their siblings (but some kids went in together on things so they could get something better so that cut down on the # of gifts. So they got like 8 or 9 presents each which made for LOTS of stuff under the tree and felt like a LOT. The kids kept saying "wow - this is more presents than ever before!" Which actually wasn't true - but it felt that way to them since they got to really play with each thing after opening it rather than being urged to open the next thing. We were opening presents, playing with presents, opening presents, playing with presents until quite suddenly it was bedtime and we didn't even have time to play with the last round of presents until the next day!

Jared got some thrilling new clothes and much-needed running shoes plus a CD mix from me and a robotic arm like the one he used to have a kid (the kids loved using it with him) - you've got to get a toy for Christmas, even when you're an adult. Oh, and I think his favorite gift was a "Ped-Egg" - he's been gleefully showing me his newly smoothed out, once-cracked and horrible heels. He did get a little carried away with the thing and had to tiptoe around a bit (like the twins) after shaving off maybe a little TOO much skin on those heels.

I got exactly what I asked for - not that much. I just really didn't need anything or want much. Christmas is really about the kids for me. But Jared surprised me with some thoughtful items I really needed but didn't really know I needed and a marvelous list of 100 things he loves about me. That was my best gift. I love "made" gifts so much more than "bought" gifts.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Eve

I'll let the pictures do most of the talking here - this was the first time we've let the twins stay up and participate and they were so cute about it. With 7 people, we can put on a Nativity with a pretty complete cast! All the kids were so excited to dress up and use only candles for light so we could all imagine that we'd gone back in time to Jesus' day. We ate foods from the time of Christ as we discussed the journey Mary and Joseph (Liza and Oliver) were about to make to Bethlehem and Ashton stepped in as Mary's know-it-all big brother to explain a lot of the whys and hows of the events around Jesus' birth. I love seeing everyone in the candlelight in their Nativity garb and imagining together what events and feelings must have surrounded that Holy Night so long ago. So it was all quite holy and lovely - when it wasn't crazy and chaotic!

We finished the evening with new PJs for everyone and tucked some very excited kids into their beds and Jared and I actually retired before midnight - now that's a first!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Gingerbread House

We did our gingerbread house on the Monday before Christmas. The kids had been begging to get going on their gingerbread house since Thanksgiving and we finally made it happen. We just did a kit this year. Coming up with our own templates and making it all from scratch definitely proved NOT worth the bother last year. But even with the pre-made kit, it was crazy stuff with all these little kids and their little hands grabbing and knocking over walls that needed to set! Everyone had different opinions on what candy should go where and it sure makes your hand ache to squeeze out all that frosting and makes my brain ache to manage the hands and the excitement and the opinions. I began to wonder whether gingerbread houses are quite worth the trouble - I mean do they really MEAN anything related to the real meaning of Christmas? Maybe not, but the kids LOVE this tradition - there's something just so exciting about creating a little colorful house you can actually EAT. So I think this tradition will continue. And the whole process got a lot more enjoyable for me and for the kids once I gave up on trying to control the project much. It's their house - who cares if it appeals to my own sense of aesthetics! With me backing off a little and exercising more patience, they all did a good job and it was awfully cute seeing their pride at the finished product!

Monday, December 22, 2008


This is what I saw out my window when I woke up last Thursday morning.We woke up to a winter wonderland! After packing the lunches and loading up the kids, I called my friend to offer to pick up her little girl and found out that school was canceled. Snow day! Who would have guessed this would ever happen in St George! The kids played in them snow for hours - built snowmen and snow forts and sledded down the empty lot on a snow/ice/mud sledding run. What a fun day!

Check out Isaac's bread-bag boots and new smile with his newly lost tooth!

All over St George, front yards were sporting new snowmen and there was a sense of wonder and joy in the air. It's especially easy to love snow when it comes so seldom, doesn't really settle on roads or walkways, and doesn't last long!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Children for Children and Joy School Nativity

The finale of the concert - everyone who participated was in a Nativity scene
starring Ashton as the narrator, Isaac as Joseph, Liza as the angel
(who insisted on saying her part just as written in the Bible) and Ollie and Si as shepherds

On December 15th, we did our "2nd Annual Children for Children Concert" to raise money for orphans in Bulgaria (I went there on my mission and work with a non-profit that helps provide for destitute orphans there). The kids and their friends (with some help from me and two of my young women from church) practiced and prepared a nativity play, some Christmas songs played on chimes and some individual musical numbers to present to family and friends and we asked attendees to make a donation in the amount of their choice to help provide for the orphans. We raised $550 and that will go a long way to help so many sweet little orphans that I've personally met and held and that need so much! Our kids were SO excited as we counted up the money and we're all so happy to think of those little orphans having much more of what they need thanks to generous children and their generous friends and relatives.
We packed the downstairs with every chair we could find and filled them up!

Then a couple days later, Ollie and Si and their little Joy School friends put on a great little Nativity play for their parents. The kids really got into it, even though they're a really young group. Check out these cute pictures:

Asia and Oliver as Mary and Joseph (Baby Monkey as Jesus)

Silas (Shepherd), Asia (Mary), Georgia (Angel), Oliver (Joseph), Samuel (Wise Man)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Our Christmas Card and Letter

This humbling economy and the busyness of the holidays has led us to focus on what matters most this Christmas. One thing that really matters to us is keeping in touch with our precious friends and family members. So we decided to do a "virtual Christmas card" this year - posted here on our blog and emailed to those whose emails we had handy. We hope that you will understand and appreciate the simplicity and cost effectiveness of this approach!

Well, 2008 has certainly had its ups and downs. But we'll just share the good stuff here. We count our blessings for the many wonderful things we've been able to do and see and celebrate and are grateful for the chances we've had to learn and grow. The kids are all at great ages and having five kids so close in age is starting to seem like a really fun thing. Life is good. God is good.

Here are a few highlights from 2008:
  • San Diego: We took the kids to San Diego for spring break and had a great time at Balboa Park, the beach, Sea World and visiting the Getty Museum. Definitely a trip we'll have to repeat!
  • Caribbean Cruise: In April, Saren and two of her sisters got to join their parents on a Caribbean cruise (her parents were speakers on the cruise so they all got to go for free – can't beat that!). It was heavenly to enjoy gorgeous and interesting places (the Yukatan, Belize, Honduras), good food, and great conversation with some of her favorite people in all the world – and no kids.
  • Triathalons: Jared did a lot of training and completed two triathlons this year. He improved his times quite a bit from one triathlon to the next – especially in swimming which was huge considering that just keeping from drowning was his initial goal!
  • Bear Lake and Ashton, Idaho: As usual, we spent most of July in Idaho hanging out with family, playing in the water and escaping the heat of St George. Saren and Jared did a beautiful 50-mile bike ride around Bear Lake for Saren's birthday this year.
  • 10th Anniversary: Jared planned a wonderful celebration including partial reenactments of our engagement and wedding – he really outdid himself! We capped it off with a second honeymoon to Playa del Carmen Mexico where we had a wonderful time snorkeling, zip lining and repelling in the jungle, visiting ruins, and enjoying that amazing blue water and white sand without any kids in tow. What an amazing treat!
  • Brazil Fishing Trip: After buying new trucks this year from Freightliner, Jared was rewarded with an all-expenses-paid fishing trip to the Amazon. He spent a solid week catching crazy-big fish and hanging out in the wilds of Brazil. He loves fishing and seldom gets to go so this was a perfect get-away for him.
  • Biking and Hiking: Now that Eliza's a good little biker, we've been going on lots of family biking adventures with the twins in the bike trailer. And we usually do a hike every week. The beauty of this place blesses our lives so much.
Here's a quick run-down on each of us:
  • Ashton: got baptized this year, devours books, always researching stuff on the Internet, awesome roller blader, won the school storytelling festival as well as the film contest (made a movie staring his beloved pet snake)
  • Isaac: beloved by all small children, super hard-worker, has become a great writer and won a prize for a poem he wrote, excellent swimmer and biker
  • Eliza: adores Kindergarten, takes wonderful care of her dolls, stuffed animals and new glasses, loves riding her bike, works on her artistic skills in every spare moment
  • Oliver and Silas: love preschool and Joy School, are potty trained (yeah!), actually go to sleep when they're put to bed (yeah!), don't make disastrous messes nearly as often as they used to (yeah!), are growing up so fast (sort of sad), are hilarious to listen to as they chat with each other, are developing such fun and distinctive personalities
  • Saren: loves mothering these amazing kids but doesn't always love the chaos and mess involved, working on a new website for moms (launching in January –, works with the young women at church.
  • Jared: has found creative solutions to move Miller Gordon Trucklines towards profitability in uncertain times, still runs our rustic furniture website, is den leader for Ashton's Cub Scout group, involved with several local business leadership groups.

We wish you a Christmas full of love and joy and hope 2009 will bring you many good experiences!
Love, Jared, Saren, Ashton (almost 9), Isaac (7), Eliza (5), Oliver and Silas (almost 4)

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It's SNOWING. Seriously snowing and settling on all the red rock and the twins have been giving me an excited report on every new thing that now has snow on it every couple of minutes. I love living in a place where snow is not common. But I LOVE seeing the excitement and beauty that the odd snowstorm brings around here. It's coming down in soft big swirly flakes right now and I can just imagine the excitement at the big kids' school right now. I doubt those teacher are getting the attention they'd like from those kids!

We got our tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving - got a permit and chopped one down in the mountains above Cedar City and I have to say we got a really good one this year. We happened across the "Storybook Calvalcade" parade in Cedar City on our way to the "rain forest" (as the twins kept calling our destination - guess the most recent forests they've heard of are the rain forests of Brazil where Jared was) and stopped to watch for a while. The kids were so excited to see all their favorite princesses and superheroes and other characters march on by and give them five.
Once we got up in the mountains, we wandered somewhat dejectedly for a while amongst some trees that proved to be the kind you can't cut down (blue spruce) and finally, as it was starting to get cold and dark and the kids were crying and numb from playing in the snow with no real snow gear, we found a really beautiful tree. It was too tall - but at that point we didn't care. We chopped that sucker down and cut it to size and it's perfect. When Jared got to the car with the tree, cold soggy Silas (who was waiting in the warm car) called out - "Daddy - is that our tree?! I want to hug it!"
Driving up into the mountains - so pretty!

full view of the tree

So the tree is up and decorated (so fun to have kids old enough to really help and get excited about each ornament from our different travels and memories) and we've been busily getting a few gifts (trying to keep things simple and cheap this year!) and going to or hosting plenty of parties and events. My favorite thing so far has been reading Christmas stories each night with the kids by the lit Christmas tree. My favorites this year are "Great Joy" by Kate DiCamillo and "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" that tells of the kind little boy Nickolas who turned personal tragedy into giving and joy as he grew into the jolly old man we all love. There's nothing like seeing the kids' eyes shine as we talk of giving and loving in the midst of stories of the magic and mystery and real meaning of Christmas.


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