Monday, January 05, 2015

December Happenings

December was different this year. It was warm - like in the upper 50's and even low 60's - right up until a few days before Christmas. Instead of skiing and sledding, we were jumping on the trampoline, going on hikes, and playing soccer in the park. It was really nice, in a way. We enjoyed the electric lights parade and Santa's village in Ogden and the Temple Square lights in Salt Lake without needing to bundle up. As we caroled from house to house during our neighborhood progressive party, it was pleasant weather. We made it to all our holiday events without worrying about scraping off the car or shoveling the driveway or encountering a snow storm.

But the yellow grass and balmy weather didn't make it feel like it was really December.

I'll write about Christmas in my next post - but here's a quick overview of the rest of December in photos:

We kicked off the Christmas season with bang right after Thanksgiving by watching Eliza ride on the Junior Junior League float in the Electric Light Parade and watching the fireworks at the opening of Santa's village:

Then going to an awesome Ryan Shupe Concert (they guy is SO talented and does amazing renditions of Christmas carols using mandolins, banjos, violins, guitars, drums, a big old bass - so fun!):

Then we came home and decorated like crazy and for once, we got the whole house decorated Thanksgiving weekend:

We did Christmas photos the first Sunday in December (one of the kids' least-favorite Christmas traditions - but they appease me - and Ashton claims this is just the way he smiles and I should just get used to it.):

The kids wanted to do a photo their way after doing it my way. Ashton said he wanted to be in front for once. And everyone added in their ideas. Their way was better in a lot of ways:

The ward Chistmas party was lovely - great food courtesy of our good friends who run a restaurant and are luckily in our ward, a beautiful program, and a great chance to catch up with a lot of great people. I helped decorate the morning of the party and had the interesting experience of finding some homeless people sleeping in one of the classrooms while looking for a table to use as part of the decor. The woman said they had to sleep in the church the night before because she was practicing for a big audition and needed to have access to a piano there at the church - but that she wasn't sure whether to go through with the audition or finish her disertation for her Masters Degree or accept the contract she'd just been offered to write a book. Very nice lady who was living in her own quite-lovely alternate reality. We wished them well and sent them off to a nice homeless shelter that would be a better place for them to stay.

I helped the Primary kids put on a lovely Nativity. They did such a great job. And one of the newest members of the ward starred as the Baby Jesus - having a real baby seems to really bring the spirit and help the kids be so reverent.

Eliza and her friend Hazel played a beautiful violin duet of Silent Night:

We visited the Christmas Village in downtown Ogden on a nice balmy night:

We went on a lot of nice walks and saw some beautiful sunsets:

We went to see the lights at Temple Square (again, so nice for it to be barely cold - but so weird to have no snow on the ground!)

Eliza made gorgeous Christmas cards (and we counted down the days until Christmas using the one crafty thing I've ever made - the wood tree with a wreath of counting beads - the kids' favorite Christmas decoration!)

Ashton and I went to a great concert at the Conference Center in SLC and had such a nice date together (it featured some amazing stuff on the organ, excellent singing and dancing, and the Sesame Street Muppets which brought back lots of great memories of Ashton as a little kid)

We did gingerbread houses and there wasn't much bickering over artistic differences - for once. Call me a Scrooge, but I'm not a fan of the mess and emotions and wastefulness of involved in gingerbread houses (Does anyone ever eat the gingerbread part? It's just not very good at all. And the candy gets all hard and dried out and has that yucky hardened frosting on it when the kids pick it off so we end up dumping most everything in the trash in the end). Plus I can't figure out anywhere to put the finished houses - they're just in the way on the dining table and result in crumbs everywhere and accusations galore about who ate what candy off whose house...  Every year, I tell the kids this is the LAST year we're doing gingerbread houses. But Jared's taken over on heading up this tradition and he does a much better job with it than I ever could. And I do love seeing them work with their dad.

My sweet mom took all the kids on special dates to different performances. She took Ashton to see the slapstick Bandito Christmas Carol, took Isaac to see the spectacular Piano Guys, and took me and Eliza to see the Nutcracker. It was SO wonderful to see the beautiful Ballet West rendition of that Christmas classic that I enjoyed when I was a little girl.

We hiked up to the waterfall when our friend Eric was in town visiting on a nice balmy Saturday:

See Ashton standing on that ledge? Gorgeous hike on a such a nice day.

There was one day it snowed up high and it was fun to enjoy some softly falling snow while doing my weekly hike with friends:

We did quite a bit of reading by the Christmas tree - group reading of favorite Christmas stories and individual reading. I found this many evenings after dinner:

(Looking back, I wish I'd have dropped more things to read with them more often - but I was so busy making dinner or doing other things...)

We read the whole of Dickens' Christmas Carol this year together. So nice to have all the kids old enough to really understand the story - and the lessons it teaches.

This year we started a new Christmas tradition. We had a special Family Home Evening where we invited a bunch of people from the ward who don't really have family to be with or special events to be part of at Christmas. It turned out to be SUCH a lovely evening and I so enjoyed getting to know some people better and seeing them get to know each other.

We played the chimes together (Jared held up the music and everyone had their own chime to strike when Jared pointed to the number of the chime they were holding - so fun to make beautiful music together - no talent required!).

Then the twins read everyone their favorite Christmas story - with lots of feeling - and showing each picture very nicely. The book is called "Great Joy" by Kate DiCamillo. And coincidence would have it, the story is about reaching out to those who don't have family or friends at Christmas time.

We ate nice appetizers and treats and then everyone shared a favorite Christmas memory which was a wonderful way to get to know each other a bit better. My favorite moment of the evening was when one sweet lady shared that her favorite Christmas memory was the one we were making together right then. No dry eyes in that room.

On the 23rd, we finally got to go skiing - it was raining like crazy for days down here which meant it was snowing like crazy up at Snow Basin. I'd taken the kids up for a couple quick trips to enjoy the bits of snow we'd received, but on the 23rd, we did our first full-day full-family ski day of the season. So beautiful up there!

I enjoyed sitting in the lodge and reading and writing Christmas cards while Jared and the kids skiied. This was my view all day:

And then we were ready for Christmas Eve and Christmas!

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