Monday, January 25, 2010

My Downer Day

OK, so I was having a downer of a day yesterday. I was reading my sister Shawni's blog where her husband and kids wrote all these sweet things about her for her birthday (all of which I agree with whole-heartedly) and I wondered if my husband and kids would ever be able to say such nice things about me. So I started feeling down about myself as a mother and wife. Then I looked at my week and felt overwhelmed by all the things I need to do for Joy School and The Power of Moms and the kids' school - and started wondering if all this "extra" stuff I'm always doing really matters or if I'm just sort of running on a treadmill, getting nowhere at all but tiring myself out like crazy. My poor husband got the brunt of all my overwhelmed and frustrated feelings that don't entirely make sense now that I look back on them (I don't know how he puts up with me sometimes). I know it's awfully easy to fall into the "Compare Snare" (read my friend Allyson's great article on this here if you want). I know it's not healthy to compare. I know I need to do what feels right and take things bit by bit and not look at the big end goal and get overwhelmed. But sometimes I'm weak and I fall into these traps.

Anyway, my husband consoled me as best he could but I had a counterpoint about how I really wasn't very good to go with every positive point he brought up - so he gave up after a while and left me to wallow in my negativity. I did ultimately listen to some of what he said and recognize the validity of his points - he's so good to me. And I went to bed feeling better about things. Then this morning, here's what I found in my email in-box:
  • a note from the local newspaper editor saying they would be running a story about the Power of Moms this week (so nice to see all the press releases and working to network with other mom websites starting to pay off)
  • a whole bunch of blog comments dating back to last September that somehow just showed up today - many of them where wonderfully kind comments about things I'd said on this blog that really made a difference to people (I'd been wondering whether all these things I keep throwing out there were actually helping anyone).
  • an email from "Ladies that Launch" with the title "Protect yourself from Negativity" - pretty clearly talking to me there.
  • an email from my friend April linking to a great new article she wrote about taking small steps and not getting overwhelmed - Just Begin.
  • an email from LDS "Daily Gems" offering this reminder: "I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" (2 Nephi 28:30)
OK. I got the message. I love how the Lord sends us messages in so many different ways. Today He used my email inbox - since He knows that's were I got first thing each morning. I'm sorry for allowing myself to spiral down into familiar old traps. I can move forward now. Those shots in the arm really helped. I'm so blessed with inspiration if I can just stay open to it!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Oliver and Silas's Birthday

How can it be that my babies are FIVE! It seems like it really couldn't be that long ago that I was holding my brand new tiny little guys in my arms (here they are at 2 days old with a wasted, swollen mama after a nasty emergency c-section).

And I can still hold them - but just barely!

They had a great birthday. We had their favorite egg burritos for breakfast, they got to go to preschool and I came to the end of preschool with them, we got them burgers and fries to eat at the park for lunch (they think the drive-through is pretty darn cool). We picked up the big kids a little early from school and took everyone swimming at this big indoor pool with a waterslide for their main birthday activity. It was great - we had the ENTIRE huge pool and waterslide to ourselves and we all had so much fun. Then we came home to open presents and have their favorite mac and cheese and cake and ice cream.

Here are all the kids first thing in the morning, getting ready to open presents. The big kids were SO excited about the twins birthday and helped me set everything up and decorate the night before. There really weren't that many presents but when they're wrapped up in big boxes and bags, it makes for a pretty exciting birthday display!

Ashton and Isaac used some of their hard-earned money to give the twins some Transformers. Do you think they were excited? The new Transformers became the perfect birthday cake decorations.
Here's their exciting Transformers birthday cake. My cake decorating skills are non-existant - but the twins were thrilled and what the cake lacked in beauty, it made up for in taste - we all love homemade dense chocolate cake (when the cake falls, it makes some more interesting Transformers terrain...and makes the cake extra yummy and dense...maybe when the kids get older they'll realize how pathetic I am at making decent looking cakes but for now, they think my cakes are pretty wonderful).
Jared and I gave the twins some new costumes (they're so into dressing up). They were thrilled.

We had several free passes to the pool, the costumes we gave the twins were $5 each (75% off at a post-Halloween sale), we splurged on $3 kid meals at Wendy's for lunch (usually the kids just get a burger off the dollar menu, a big fry to share and water - so a kid meal is very very exciting for them - keep the expectations low and you get some pretty excited kids when you go beyond expectations!). They got thoughtful little gifts from their siblings, great new construction vehicles from their wonderful Grandma Loosli and they got to go on a special mommy date to Walmart the next day to pick out some more Transformers with their birthday money from Grammie. All in all, I think we spent about $30 on a full day of birthday fun and birthday presents for two birthday kids. Pretty good, huh? Yes, I'm cheap - but seriously, I don't think the twins could have been happier with their birthday. And with 3 adoring big siblings and two doting parents showering them with love and attention all day plus swimming and Transformers, the twins really had a fun day.

I love my little guys so much. They are more and more fun every day. Those first several years of super hard times have really paid off. All the crazy messes they made, all the diapers, all the feedings, all the getting up again and again in the night, all the wildness of so many little kids with so many mutually exclusive needs at all hours of the day and night - it was all worth it - SO worth it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2009 Snapshot

OK, I'm going to blatantly copy my sister Shawni here (see her 2009 snapshot here - and see my sister Saydi's snapshot here). In the midst of capturing all the big events and trips and extra special moment and my musings about motherhood on this blog, I don't want to forget the little things that make up the fabric of our everyday life around here. There are so many random little parts of what we do around here that I don't want to forget - but that I probably will if I don't write them down. So here's my "word photo" of what our every-day life has been like in the last year:

When they wake up (usually at like 7am), the twins usually grab their pillows and head downstairs to hang out with their big brothers. It's turned into the boys' special snuggle and play time. When I tuck them in bed at night, they're always having to run downstairs to retrieve their pillows...

Eliza wants us to paint our nails together all the time and I think maybe I've gone along with the idea maybe once or twice. I've never been a nail painter but I realize Liza needs this special "girl" time with me so I should make time for it more.

Eliza does "art" all the time and loves doing her homework and writing stuff. She presents me with a special picture she's drawn or a sweet note that she's written for me at least once a day (it's often wrapped in wrapping paper with a bow and everything). She looks at me with a twinkle in her big deep blue eyes and says "mommy, I've got something for you!"

All the kids still call me "Mommy." I like it. Isaac toyed with calling me "mom" after a friend said "you call your mom mommy?" and he got self-conscious about it. I told Isaac it didn't matter what other kids called their moms, I still liked him to call me "mommy" because "mom" made me feel old. He happily switched back to "mommy" - it seems the "mom" thing didn't work really feel comfortable to him either.

Silas has learned to say his "L's" properly and makes a real point of enunciating them very clearly. I love how he says his name: SiLLLLas LLLoosLLLi. Oliver seems to have decided to stick with the "w" sound for the "l" and the "r" sounds for now. He's never one to be affected much by popular opinion.

Ashton finished all the Harry Potter books in about 10 days a couple months back, tore through several Narnia books and now he's on book three in the Lightening Thief series. The main thing he wants to talk about these days is Greek myths. He sneaks off to read all the time and reads under his covers when he's supposed to be sleeping.

I do all my kids' hair while they eat breakfast at the bar (didn't realize Shawni did the same thing until I read her 2009 Snapshot) - I just go down the line with a spray bottle and brush down the crazy sleeping hair. The kids cringe when the cold water hits their heads. The twins used to whine about it but a while back I pointed out that I was just doing their hair because I love them and want them to look nice so no one will laugh at them. Ever since then, Silas (and often Oliver) cringes when that water hits his head, then he says "thank you for doing my hair, mommy" in his sweetest little voice. What restraint!

The kids take lunch to school every day - a pb&j, an apple or pear, some carrots or snappeas or cucumbers, juice - pretty boring but they don't complain. Ashton puts the lunches together while Eliza empties the dishwasher and Isaac does the breakfast dishes.

The twins' hair is shaggy but I sort of like it that way. Ashton and Isaac fight off hair cuts like the plague. And I don't really mind putting off hair cuts because I'm the one who cuts their hair and cutting 5 heads of hair (I do Jared's too) isn't something I really look forward to - the whining, the hair everywhere. I still use the clippers we got for our wedding. I'm pretty good at cutting boy hair after 11 years. I'm a little more challenged with Eliza's hair.

We carpool with a little boy named Heath who lives in the next development. I try to plan ahead and get the kids to school on time but we're usually a few minutes late. Heath's a little kindergartener - but my kids love him and treat him like a little brother and Heath wants to play pretty much every day. But we usually only get in one play date a week with him. I love how my kids are so nice to younger kids.

We have pizza and movie night pretty much every Friday night. We've got the cheapest Netflix subscription (on DVD at a time) but it gives us unlimited instant movies (since Jared's got an old computer hooked up the the system in our downstairs movie room we can stream from the computer to the big screen - great for Hulu too - we don't have cable so we watch any TV shows via Hulu or Nexflix). Some favorite movies for this year: Bolt and Transformers (the twins' top picks), Romancing the Stone, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Pollyanna (even the big boys loved it). It's so fun having the kids old enough to enjoy watching some movies that aren't too little-kid-focused. Our favorite pizza for the past year or so is Papa Murphy's stuffed pizza with half meat lovers and half chicken and all the veggies (zuchinni, spinach, artichokes, onions, tomatoes, peppers) - one family size pizza is enough for all of us plus we have some leftovers. Yum yum yum.

We go for a hike every week - Saturday or Sunday after church (now that we've got morning church it's been the perfect way to keep the Sabbath Day holy as we commune with nature and enjoy being with each other on a laid-back beautiful hike/walk). Often we'll just walk the bike path in Snow Canyon or hike the great trails right behind our house. Sometimes we go to Zion National Park or other more adventurous places. This regular hiking means that the kids are excellent hikers and really never complain about the length or difficultly of a hike.

We bike a lot. I do quick bike rides to the nearest park with the twins when I need to break up my work and spend time with them. We bike to Bajio to get lunch on Saturdays sometimes (one of the kids' favorite things to do). We bike to near-by friends' houses. We all love to bike. Sometimes Ashton and Isaac and Jared roller blade and sometimes we throw some scooter riding in there - but we all love getting some wheels on and going. I used to pull the twins in the bike trailer and that became a more and more serious work-out as the twins got bigger and bigger. I'd huff and puff up big hills pulling about 100 lbs of weight behind me (twins' weight combined with the trailer weight). Now that the twins can ride their own bikes, riding my bike is so easy!

We love rainbows. Whenever there's a rainbow we all drop what we're doing and watch it and photograph it until it fades. I love when the kids come bursting in with "there's a rainbow!" And we love sunsets

We clean the house most Saturday mornings. The kids don't love it and neither do I but it has to be done. We're trying to make it more fun by giving smaller chunks of jobs and pumping up the music. Eliza usually cleans the baseboards and straightens the shoes in the mudroom. Isaac cleans the stools and chairs and ledges on doors and cupboards. Ashton does the downstairs bathroom and sometimes vacuums. Isaac folds laundry quite well. The twins get assigned to help various people. Jared and I vacuum and do bathrooms or oversee Ashton and Isaac doing bathrooms. I dust, dust, dust. This house gets so dusty! We try to do what we can do in an hour or so and call it good.

The kids go to bed at 8pm (Ashton and Isaac get to read until 8:30). I often read a chapter from a book with the kids at bedtime and we get into these great discussions about the events and ideas in the books we read. Favorite book for this year: Chasing Vermeer (I loved talking about art and coincidences with the kids...)

Jared does scriptures with the big kids at 7:45 while I do picture-story scriptures with the twins. We eat breakfast at 8am (oatmeal, cereal, eggs) and need to be in the car at 8:45 (although it's often 8:50 by the time we get out there) to go pick up Heath.

After school I try to have a snack out for the kids and we talk about their days. Eliza always has a lot to share - Ashton and Isaac, not so much.

Jared teaches Ashton guitar lessons and I teach Isaac piano and Eliza art. Our lessons are more sporadic than we'd like but they're great when we do them.

Ashton and Isaac do scouts one afternoon a week - that's all the official extra-curricular activities we've got right now - and all we can handle. There's so much I want to teach the kids myself - and so little time after school each day. And we don't have any extra money right now to pay for lessons.

The kids have some very nice friends - Ashton's best friend is Dallen, Isaac has Brett and Zack, Eliza has Olivia and Grayce, the twins have Samuel, Nickolas, Asia, Georgia, and Jack who we play with at the park most Wednesdays.

The twins go to a little co-op Joy School on Mondays (with Nickolas and Samuel) and go to Busy Bee Preschool (uses the Joy School curriculum) on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I do grocery shopping and errands Tuesday mornings while they're at school and volunteer in the big kids' classrooms on Thursday mornings.

I work out at least 3 times a week - sometimes I do the eliptical machine while reading for a mellow workout but mostly I do Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred workout - I sweat up a storm and mostly hate it but after 20 minutes, I've had a really serious workout and I'm getting stronger and less flabby and it feels great.

Jared turned the trucking company over to others and now he works from home. For all of 2009, he worked long hours and often on weekends and evenings as well (he often had trucks break down or issues that would arise at all hours of the day and night). It's quite a change to have him around a lot now. He's got an office set up in the guest room and he's off to meetings sometimes, but mostly he's around. He's helping me update lots of stuff on the Joy School and Power of Moms website and pursuing lots of promising leads. It's been so nice to have him around.

Oh, there's more but that's plenty for now.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Very Interesting New Website

One of my dear friends, Neylan McBaine, has just launched an exciting website that spotlights an array of wonderful Mormon women. I love how Neylan is using real stories of real women to help people inside and outside of our church see the depth and breadth of Mormon women and how their faith affects the choices they make and the way they live their lives.

Check this out - you'll love the interesting stories and inspiration!

The Mormon Women Project

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Birthday Tips

I grew up in a big family - a really big one - so I've been part of a lot more birthday celebrations than your average person. With Jared and Ashton's birthdays for this year under by belt now, Oliver and Silas's birthday this Thursday and an extended family birthday coming up pretty much every day from here until mid-February, I've been thinking about what makes a birthday good (both for the one having the birthday and the mom behind the celebrations). Here are a few tips that seem to work (I'm sure others have great ideas too but this is what I've figured out so far):
  • It's all in the presentation. You can put a birthday "spin" on just about anything. The most mundane things can be very special when they're presented the right way. And the most fabulously exciting things can be quite dull when presented the wrong way. Although Ashton wanted egg burritos for his birthday and we didn't have any eggs in the house after getting back late the night before from our road trip, he was pleased as punch with oatmeal (which actually is one of his favorite breakfasts) when I told him I'd put extra birthday sugar and birthday raisins (extra nice plump ones) and the birthday boy could even add chocolate chips if he wanted to.
  • The birthday kid is king or queen for the day - they to pick all activities and they get to choose all three meals. Pretty much anything they say goes all day. For one day a year, everyone should get to be royalty - especially in a big family where getting your own way doesn't happen all that often.
  • Have a birthday tradition (bowling or swimming or biking or whatever the kid really loves doing - it makes it easier to plan a fun birthday if there's at least one set activity - and it's so fun to have photos each year of the child growing older while doing the same activity. The tradition may evolve and that's OK. Ashton's birthday tradition has been bowling but after the fun party we had yesterday - see below - he's thinking of changing his tradition to eating his cake in an unusual place.)
  • Create some special time for just you, your husband and the birthday kid. Let them pick a game they want to play or activity they want to do with the two of you when the other kids aren't around. Giving them your undivided attention is a great birthday gift.
  • Keep presents simple. Most kids appreciate time and services as much or more than they want stuff. But if you're going to keep the expectations low on presents, you've got to start them out low or do some real explaining. If they get something really big one year and something small the next year, they need to understand why. I like to keep the expectations nice and low - then they're so excited and grateful for anything they get!
  • Sometime during the day (like at dinner), have everyone present share one thing they really appreciate about the birthday kid. My parents did this when we were growing up and now I think all my siblings have carried on this simple tradition with their kids. There's nothing like compliments to make you feel great. And it's a good thing for the other kids in your family to learn to think about what they like and appreciate about each other.
  • Take time to open gifts. Have the birthday kid really thank each gift giver when they open a gift. I've been to parties where the birthday kid just tears through the presents with hardly a thank you and not only does that seem sad for the giver, but the birthday kid doesn't get a chance to thoroughly appreciate and recognize what is great about each gift. As he or she takes the time to thank the person, maybe say what he/she is going to do with the gift or express how perfect the gift is, and maybe get a quick photo with the giver and the gift (to use on a thank-you note or thank-you email), the giver and receiver are learning a lot about gratitude...
  • That said, you really don't have to have kids bring gifts. And you really really don't need to do party favors - they usually end up in the trash in an hour or so - or if you do a bag of candy for a party favor, you're not only sending kids home sugared up on cake and ice cream but also equipped to keep pumping sugar into their systems. There's no real need to support the rampant consumerism that surrounds us just because of tradition. Can't we just have a fun party without gifts and favors being involved? The kids at Ashton's party yesterday had the time of their lives and we spent no money and had no favors.
What works for you???

Ashton's Birthday

Ashton is 10. I have a 10 year old. This is weird. I may be a tad biased, but I'm pretty sure I've got the greatest 10-year-old ever. Here's the top ten list I put together for his birthday (I'll spare you the great top-ten lists he got from many thoughtful relatives - he ate up all the emails people were kind enough to send his way):

  1. Ashton is so fun to talk to. He knows quite a bit about an amazingly lot of things and he's so interested in everything. He really listens and has great questions and forms his own opinions that he can explain really well. Talk to him about the economy or a moral issue and he's totally there.
  2. Ashton's great at wondering about things - and he knows how to find answers. He's always on the computer or reading Boys Life or National Geographic Kids to learn about something new that interests him.
  3. Ashton's got great musical talent. He's a natural on the guitar and can play almost anything by ear on the piano. I wish you could have seen him play in the school "Orffestra" Christmas concert. He was amazing on all those xylophones and other "orff" instruments!
  4. Ashton's definitely got his Dad's gift for understanding and using technology. He can do quite a bit of computer programming, find anything anyone might want in a few seconds flat on the Internet, help all his friends in computer class at school, help me get things going when I'm struggling with the theater system downstairs, you name it.
  5. Ashton is amazing with little kids. When we went trick-or-treating with some neighbors, Ashton took this little three-year-old under his wing and made sure the little guy had the time of his life. Ashton is now Dylan's hero. And he's the hero of a ton of other little kids as well (not to mention his own little brothers who think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread). He knows how to make everything fun and explain things in a way that totally works for little kids.
  6. Ashton is smart as a whip. He picks up on everything from how to spell hard words to how machines work to how to do origami in the blink of an eye. He just "gets" things.
  7. Ashton has a solid testimony. He has this notebook where he sometimes takes notes during sacrament meeting and today, when I glanced over to see what he was writing during Fast and Testimony meeting, he was writing out his testimony - and it was a good one.
  8. Ashton is funny. He picks up on little ironies and quirks about people and the world around him and points them out. Plus he has a whole collection of jokes that he keeps in an envelope in his room (and in his mind, ready to share when the occasion presents itself). I don't think there are that many 10 year old who are truly funny.
  9. Ashton's becoming a great babysitter. He's great at babysitting the twins for a short time when needed (as long as Isaac and Eliza aren't around - they don't respect his authority...). He's much more responsible than any of the babysitters we've tried around here.
  10. Ashton is fun. He's always up for just about anything from mountain biking to climbing any rock in sight to having a dance party to doing tricks on a bike or scooter to reading stories with lots of feeling in his voice to the twins to coming up with great imaginative adventures for friends and family in the wash behind our house. He can always think of something fun to do and he's always up for doing the fun things that others suggest.

Could I ask for a better son?! I feel so privileged to be Ashton's mother.

While up in Ashton visiting Jared's family, we went bowling (bowling is Ashton's birthday tradition) with lots of relatives for a pre-birthday party. Then we celebrated his actual birthday on Sunday the 3rd with all his very favorite meals (oatmeal with lots of toppings for breakfast, homemade mac and cheese for lunch, Jared's signature mashed potatoes and chicken and gravy and rolls for dinner - luckily these meals involved mostly pantry and freezer ingredients since we arrived home at midnight the night before and the fridge was quite empty after our trip). This sweet boy is pretty easy to please. I was worried that having a Sunday birthday hot on the heels of a road trip not to mention Christmas would be a bit of a let-down. But my non-hugger boy gave me at least 10 spontaneous hugs that day - "Thanks for making my birthday so awesome!" again and again. He didn't get much by way of gifts since he really just wanted money towards his Lego Mindstorm but he was thrilled with the meals he got and the money he received and his one present - a new book he can hardly put down - The Lightning Thief. We let him stay up late and play this new game we got for Christmas with me and Jared - it's so fun having a kid old enough to play really exciting games with us now!

Birthday dinner

favorite dessert - apple crisp

Since it's an even birthday for Ashton, he got to have a friend birthday party this year (we just do friend birthday parties every other year and do lots of fun family activities on the odd years). We did the friend party yesterday. Ashton's big idea for his party was for everyone to hike up to Scout Cave (about a mile from our house) and eat his birthday cake in the cave. Loved the idea - free, fun and easy. I so appreciate it when my kids' ideas fit so nicely within our budget of time and money! Five of Ashton's friends came and along with our family, it felt like a serious party. The weather was beautiful and no one got hurt or lost (for more than a few minutes). What a great party!

Ashton's pointing to the destination - see those cool caves in the hills? Ashton's with his three friends who are girls in this photo - Olivia, Corinne and Keisha.

Eating strawberry cheesecake in a cave - does it get much better than that???

Here's most of the group - serious personalities coming out! 10-year-olds are great.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Sweetest Little Boys

The twins are playing under the dining room table where I am working on my laptop on Power of Moms (it's time to really get going on marketing Learning Circles and updating the site). I love hearing snippets of their pretending. Here's what I just caught.

Si: Can I play with you? (in a high squeaky voice)
Ollie: No, you're a girl and only army truck boys can play.
Si: But I'm really nice and I'm tough. (high voice)
Ollie: Well, OK, I'll let you try but first I got to go potty. (then they ran off to the bathroom together)
Now they're sitting by me, counting the chapters in a book and finding the numbers on each page.

I was at the kids' school yesterday morning volunteering and had a couple teachers ask whether the twins would be at the school next year (I think they were calculating how many more volunteer hours they might get out of me if I had all my kids at the school...). When I told them they'd be starting next fall, I felt that little rise you get in your throat and that extra wetness in your eyes. My babies are turning FIVE next week. And they're going to Kindergarten in just a few months. I'll have big chunks of time every day to work on the many meaningful projects that are now crammed haphazardly into stolen moments. And I'll miss the background noise of these sweet boys as they imagine and play, breaking up my work with a quick smile. I'll miss having a warm body and cotton-top head wriggle onto my lap to sit with me while I type for a while. I'll miss the welcome interruptions of story time and I'll miss taking them for walks and bike rides when the weather's good and I've reached a good stopping place. I'll even miss the unwelcome interruptions of tattle-tailing and crying and needing something when I'm really on a roll with something that seems important at the time.

But rather than dwelling on what I'm going to miss before I even need to miss it, I'm going to savor this precious time I do have with the cutest, sweetest little boys ever.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Jared's Birthday and New Year's Eve

Jared's officially old now. Not as old as me, but I swear he's getting closer every year. And that distinguished gray hair of his helps me feel a little better about things.

Anyway, as usual, Jared's birthday ended up partially usurped by New Year's Eve festivities and travel as we went from Ashton, ID to SLC but it turned out to be a great day. We started with eggs benedict for breakfast (Jared's favorite and quite an ordeal - especially when you're not in your own kitchen - but worth it!) with Jared's sister Michelle at the farm. Then we threw everything in the car, had our last hour chatting with Michelle while taking her to the airport in Idaho Falls on our way to SLC. We listened to a fun book on tape (thanks Tal and Audible!) in the car and before we knew it we were at our destination in Centerville - Tony Burgers. My cousin opened this supposedly amazing burger place last year and we've all been anxious to try it (especially Jared who's quite a burger connoisseur). Tony Burgers was all that we'd hoped for and more - way to go Chris and Nicky! They've got this secret hamburger mix and such wonderful fresh everything. From there, we met up with a bunch of my cousins' kids and my Aunt Lena along with my parents and Josh, Charity, her new boyfriend and Eli and Julie at this bounce-house place called Kangaroo Zoo. After being in the car all day, the kids loved running around while all the adults chatted in relative peace. It was more of a birthday party place for a 5 year old than for a 35 year old, but Jared loved seeing the kids have so much fun.

Then the whole group migrated over to my other cousin's new restaurant - Arella Pizzaria (luckily for Jared my two cousins just happened to open up restaurants with his two favorite foods - burgers and Italian food - I'm sure they did it just for him...). Arella opened a few weeks ago. The decor was fabulous (no surprise coming from Lindsay) and the food was very tasty - they've got this authentic brick oven and have perfected their dough and sauce - they've really got it all right. My parents and Aunt Lena gave Jared the perfect birthday present by sitting with all the kids so that Jared and I could enjoy some great adult conversation with some of our favorite people and it was great to have my dear cousins all around - some eating, some serving, some cooking.

But wait, there's more. From Arella, we went up to my parents' place at Park City to play games by their massive Christmas tree and roaring fire and brought in the New Year with fake champagne and lots of hugs and kisses and little kids all over, giddy with excitement at staying up all the way until tomorrow.

I sure married me a great guy. He asks so little and gives so much. He's so capable but so humble. He's so tough but so kind. He's the most selfless, patient and generous person I've ever met. And he's pretty darn handsome - that always helps. Happy Birthday, Sweetheart!

Christmas Day

With my parents and sister Charity here, this was an extra fun Christmas. Plus all our kids are at such great ages right now - everyone's old enough to "get" Christmas but no one's jaded or too old to be thoroughly sucked into the magic of it all. I know the day will come when the kids will ask Santa for electronics or clothes but for now, their requests all involve fun toys that they can play with together all day on Christmas. There's nothing like playing all day long with your excited kids and their magical new toys.

Here's how the living room looked before the kids came in Christmas morning:

And here are the kids singing on the stairs to wake us up while checking out all the good stuff Santa put in their stockings (Santa puts their stockings in their rooms like he does in England).

The kids were thoroughly delighted with the treasures Santa brought (I love how little it takes to thoroughly delight young kids). We played and played with Santa's gifts, had our traditional eggs benedict breakfast, then gradually opened the rest of the presents throughout the day.

It's our tradition to stay in our PJ's all day long on Christmas and spread out the presents to last the whole day (we even had a few more presents to open the next morning!). We just open and play, open and play, eat candy and oranges, indulge in rich foods like eggs benedict and a big turkey dinner, and relax all day long - no where to go, no schedule to keep - it's heavenly. We did take a short walk around the neighborhood (in our PJ's) so that Isaac could properly try out his new PowerWing scooter. But other than that we were cozy by the fire, snuggling, playing, opening, feeling so grateful for thoughtful gifts from loved ones, feeling so joyful that we have such wonderful children and relatives to enjoy the day with.

Oliver and Silas were especially delighted with every single gift they received (even clothes). Oliver was the very most thankful for each gift. He'd let out a big "Ohhhhhhh!" as he'd open each gift, then gleefully cry out "This is JUST what I wanted!!!!!!" (whether the present was a shirt or a toy, it was always exactly what he had his heart set on apparently.) Ollie and Si couldn't get enough of their transformers and Bakugons and race car set and these fun "Ben 10" guys that you can put together different ways. They were thoroughly happy and cute and fun every second the whole day long.

Eliza was thoroughly thrilled with her new doll. Ever since she sent off her letter to Santa two months ago, requesting this particular doll, Eliza has been agonizing over the right name for this doll if she were to be lucky enough to really receive it from Santa. After oooing and ahing over the "most beautiful doll ever" on Christmas morning, she made her big announcement - "Her name is Tasha!" Tasha has been with Eliza pretty much every minute since. Eliza was also so happy with a bunch of clothes and a new tea set (she promptly hosted a tea party).

Isaac got the PowerWing scooter he'd been wanting. He's already mastered several pretty fancy tricks on that thing - it's really fun! He also got a couple little remote control cars and a bunch of fun HotWheels stuff - he can't get enough of little cars.

Ashton got an erector set that you can use to build actual remote control cars. He's had a little trouble making anything work so far, but he's happy and both his and Jared's eyes popped out with joy when Ashton opened the erector set and saw all the 100's of exciting little parts in there. What he really really wanted was a Lego Mindstorm but that was a little out of Santa's price range (the kids were informed this year that Santa has a LOT of kids all over the world to make gifts for so we need to be sensitive in asking for fairly modest gifts - while he does make everything with his elves, they do need to purchase or find the raw materials so we want to be sure not to ask for too much....) so he requested money from anyone who asked for his birthday and for Christmas and he's well on his way to the $300 he needs for that thing.

Jared wasn't supposed to get me anything but somehow I ended up with more presents than ever - some clothes, a gift certificate for detailing my car (it really needs the help!) and some other thoughtful things. My favorite was a nice wire basket for serving bread - Jared found one with a shape and size he liked, then refinished and painted the basket to match our house better. I love homemade gifts so much!

Jared's big gift was a bluray player - something he's wanted for a long time but something I just didn't think was very necessary since we've got a perfectly good (albeit very old) DVD player. I swallowed my practicality and frugality and found a good player for a good price. Jared was so excited. And now I'm a convert. That thing really shows off all that our theater room downstairs is really supposed to be - the sound is amazing, the picture is perfect. Since we love movies and have a family movie night each week, this will be so great to have. And Jared deserves something he doesn't absolutely NEED every so often, for sure!

As always, one of my very favorite parts of Christmas was seeing the kids open up the gifts they'd saved up and carefully selected for each other. The excitement of both the giver and the receiver is always so beautiful! The boys all chipped in to get Eliza the Barbie clothes they knew she wanted (Isaac: "that Barbie she has is always naked and it's embarrassing"). Isaac and Eliza got Ashton a set of pentominos (we read the book Chasing Vermeer together and they all got fascinated with these penotomino things - sort of a tetrus/tangram combination). They're all old enough now to really think about what each person would like so it was extra fun to see their excitement in giving gifts they just knew the receiver would love.

It was so fun to share everyone's glee with my parents and Charity who got right into the joy of it all with us. They pitched in to help with everything and made everything more fun. There's nothing like sharing your Christmas traditions and Christmas joy with those who enjoy everything as much as you do.

Here's our turkey dinner complete with Christmas crackers in honor of Charity who recently got back from her mission to England - and in honor of all the years I lived in England with my parents. Gotta have the Christmas crackers!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Christmas Eve

It's been a while now but I wanted to share some info and a few quick photos from our Christmas Eve. We enjoyed beautiful vistas, good chats and lots of climbing adventure for the kids at a great hiking place nearby, went to see "The Princess and the Frog" (we all loved it - old-school Disney at it's best), had our traditional Nazareth Supper (where we all dress as Mary's family having a feast of traditional middle eastern foods with her and Joseph before sending them off on their trek to Bethlehem) and topped it all off with our Nativity play.

This is Charity doing her signature jumping pose - great spot for it, huh?

The candlelight, the costumes, the really trying to imagine how Mary and Joseph and their family must have felt about all the miraculous and strange-seeming circumstances, the insightful comments offered by our kids as they play the part of holy characters from long ago - all this makes Christmas Eve sparkle as the most meaningful part of Christmas for us. It was so fun to share this with my parents who started this idea long long ago - and to remember all the great Christmas Eves of my youth when I used to get everyone dressed in dishcloth head-dresses and old bathrobes while my mom set out all the traditional foods and my dad got the discussion going about Mary and Joseph's upcoming mission.

After dinner, Mary and Joseph head to Bethlehem with their trusty donkey

And the baby Jesus was born
Angels gleefully told the shepherds the good news

Wise men came from the East bearing gifts (including a purse made of gold thanks to Grammie)
And everyone adored the baby who would change the world forever


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