Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas 2015

The kids said this was the best Christmas ever. I'm so glad. I have to say this was a hard one for me. I just wasn't feeling it as much as I usually do and everything just felt sort of overwhelming. I guess it's just been a really busy year and Christmas is just a very intense job for moms. I had to summon up all my energy to get the decorations up and help plan the Children for Children concert and a couple of other events for friends and neighbors. And getting everything needed for all our special traditional holiday foods and meals just felt hard. Then there was the usual last-minute rush to get a few things we'd put off a bit too long and a couple packages didn't arrive on time which caused some stress. But I simplified wherever I could, let go of some expectations, and it all turned out beautifully in the end.

I recorded lots of stuff on Instagram throughout December - so go here to see lots of photos

In this post, I'm just sharing a list of highlights so I can remember some of the main events of December this year (some of which didn't make it on Instagram and some of which need more explanation than Instagram can easily offer).

We got our tree and started decorating the day after Thanksgiving - like I said above, it seemed to take extra energy this year but it sure felt good to get it done. I love talking about memories of vacations as we pull out and put up the ornaments from all our trips. I love seeing our staircase with lighted garland wrapped up the railing, I love putting out the Nativity scenes on our lovely new-ish mantles that help make our fireplaces so much better. I don't like putting the lights on the tree. I always end up with the most horrible back ache for a couple of days because of the position I have to be in for so long getting those lights on. I'm seriously contemplating getting a fake tree so I wouldn't have to put the lights on every year. But I do love the way a fresh tree looks and smells and I do love those soft needles in my hands as I string the lights.

Electric Light Parade
The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Eliza danced and rode on the Junior Junior League float in the Ogden electric light parade. She had a great time decorating the trailer they rode on, dancing, and being part of a fun evening. We watched. But it was cold and the kids thought the parade wasn't so great as no one threw candy - they're spoiled by the Ashton Idaho parades we go to where there is tons of candy thrown plus people give out t-shirts and chocolate milk and mugs from the Frost Top...

Eliza, Ashton and I went to the Nutcracker. Eliza and Ashton both had friends performing in a local production and wanted to support their friends. We waited too long to get tickets and they were gone. But the lady at the box office said we were welcome to show up right before the show started and see if there were any tickets that hadn't been picked up. There were! She handed us free tickets right down in front and we had a really nice evening enjoying the show. As we got our programs, the lady passing them out gave Ashton a special welcome - "It's is so nice of you to be here we really appreciate your coming." We thought that was nice but a bit odd - until we got inside and saw that 90% of the audience was 3-8 year old girls with their moms. I think Ashton was the only teenage boy there. But we all enjoyed the show a lot and it was great to see the kids' friends after the show and congratulate them on their performance.

We read stories many evenings in our peaceful living room with the Christmas tree lights on - this is always one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. Ashton complained a bit and tried to skip out once or twice but after me telling him how totally important this was to him and throwing out a strategic threat or two, he joined us somewhat happily for all story times from there on. Among other Christmas favorites, we read the chapter book, "The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause" and learned about the beauty of kindness in the face of hard times among other important lessons. 

Children for Children Concert
I felt really worn out about doing our Children for Children concert this year. While the kids have generally stepped up pretty well to run this event that they are supposed to "own", it's just harder to have my kids do things than to simply do them myself! I asked the kids if they really wanted to do the concert this year and they looked at me like I was a crazy person - of COURSE they had to do the concert - especially since they got a chance to actually go to the orphanages we support with the concert themselves this past year. I told them they'd need to seriously take leadership and do everything this year and while there was still some nudging along from me, they really did do pretty much everything themselves with less oversight and help from me. I just let go and let them do whatever. And it worked out nicely. Our first big snowstorm of the season came the day of the concert (Monday, Dec 14th) but we still had a nice group show up and it was simple but very pleasant and meaningful. I need to let go more and trust that things will work out. It's the need to make things so wonderful all the time that wears me out. I'm learning more and more to let go and let others do things and stop worrying about everything turning out just so. 

Isaac's Triathalon Party
We helped Isaac host a big party for his school triathalon group at our house - 20 kids from every walk of life showed up and had a wonderful evening playing Reverse Charades, doing a white elephant gift exchange, and having a wild and wonderful snowball fight in the backyard (so glad no one got seriously injured!). The kids all brought wonderful pot luck items to share (one girl brought the hugest bowl of the best ceviche I've ever tasted - my mouth still waters thinking about it) and they all helped clean up. Several of the girls made a point of finding me to say thanks and give me a hug before leaving. I like those kids. I'm so glad to know more of Isaac's friends.
We did quite a lot of skiing. We've done 3 full-family ski days at Snow Basin (two on our own, one with Jonah and family and my parents joining us - so fun to share with them!) plus Jared took a couple kids out of school for a special ski day one day when the fresh snow was just too much to resist. Plus Jared did a special ski day at Powder Mountain with Eliza and the twins and enjoyed some amazing powder.

Ward Leadership Party  
We had a really fun party for all the wonderful people who volunteer so much of their time and give their hearts to helping others through their callings in our ward. We invited all the presidencies of each of the organizations in our ward along with their spouses to join us for a night of food and games at our house. I haven't laughed so hard or had such a great time in ages. Everyone brought delicious things to share and we had a truly hilarious white elephant gift exchange plus we had everyone play Christmas carols on the chimes Jared made a few Christmases ago. We've got to do this every year. It was so fun to be with these great people in a purely social setting - usually we're just talking about needs of the ward. What excellent and fun people! 

Christmas Shopping
The kids' Christmas shopping was a bit spotty this year - we did a good trip to the DI and several of the kids found great stuff there to give to each other (games, t-shirts, books...) plus they picked out some cute gifts for our little friends Isaac and Abraham (Isaac is 2 and Baby Abe is 6 months - we watch them a lot as their mom has become a single mom and they're like extended family now). We meant to make it to the dollar store and Walmart for more gift-buying but somehow time got away from us. So there were quite a few coupons for batches of cookies and for back scratches and for doing favors that got given as gifts - probably better than dollar store junk anyway! I did have to get after Ashton and Isaac a couple times for not seeming to be really caring enough about the gifts they were giving and being too worried about the gifts they were getting - something I really thought we'd driven home since they were preschoolers. Isaac is still needing to give a gift or two but Ashton pulled through with some really thoughtful gifts (he gave me a great new laptop case - so nice!).

Family Home Evening with special guests
We had a nice Family Home Evening the Monday before Christmas with some people who needed a little extra holiday cheer and who don't really have family around to spend time with during the holidays (did this last year too). Ashton played some songs for them on the guitar, the twins read them Christmas stories (with lots of expression in their voices, being sure to show each picture before they went on to the next page - they did a great job!), and enjoyed some treats. We had two older couples come plus our friend Rachel with her boys, Isaac and Abe. They seemed to have a really nice time and it was good to have time with these good people. We came away counting our blessings that we have so many people to be with and so many fun events to enjoy during the holidays.

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, we spent the day sledding and playing in the snow and making gingerbread houses with Jonah and Aja and family (who just returned from 6 months in Europe) and my parents at my parents' house in Park City. Such a fun and beautiful day! We finished the day with our traditional Christmas Eve Nazareth Supper where we all dress as Mary's family and friends and have a special farewell supper for Mary and Joseph as we send them off to Bethlehem. We talk about all the wonderous signs Mary and Joseph have experienced, about how they feel about the forthcoming birth, about the prophecies of old. My dad always does such a great job leading the discussion and everyone, even the little kids, do a great job staying in character for the most part. It's amazing what candlelight and simple costumes will do for setting the tone.

Christmas Day:

Jared and I woke up to the kids singing on the stairs - with Ashton accompanying on the guitar. It sounded pretty darn good. Then the kids showed us what they got in their stockings in the TV room (toiletry items, candy orange slices, chocolates, an orange in the toe, Australian licorice, cinnamon santas, jelly beans, and a favorite food item - Isaac and Ashton got Nutella, Eliza got cookie butter, and the twins each got a jar of pickles). They were all SOOOO excited to head downstairs and see if Santa had brought the desires of their heart!!! Oh, how I love having kids so excited on Christmas morning! Even though gathering the desires of their heart can be pretty taxing, their joy on Christmas morning makes everything worthwhile.

Ashton had tried out a couple hover boards owned by family and friends and had immediately fallen in love. He sent Santa a letter detailing the best way to get the best board at the best price - and Santa delivered! (there were some iffy moments as we waited for the package to arrive from China....). He LOVES this thing so much and has been great about letting all of us learn to ride it. It's quite an amazing little machine.

As the hoverboard was pretty pricey, Ashton just got a few little gifts beyond that while the other kids got more. Worked out great.

Isaac and Eliza got phones. Their old phones were hand-me-downs from me and Jared that were like 5 years old that got progressively more cracked and more slow and were finally useless. They were thrilled!

They also got some great running clothes and shoes as did Jared (thanks to an amazing Soloman sample sale where everything was like 75% or more off).

The twins got new mountain bikes (which they've been needing badly for quite some time - their old bikes are so small and are really basic and heavy). It was tricky helping Santa find bikes that weren't too expensive (as they'll grow out of them in a couple years) but that will last nicely for the couple of years until they outgrow them. We finally found the ideal bike but there was only one - so there was a lot of running around trying to find a second bike that was the same (Jared took on the brunt of that, early in the morning on Christmas Eve, bless his heart.)

The bikes were a big hit!

The twins also got a kit to build their own robot from Grammie and Grandfather and they were over-the-moon excited about it.

Here are the thank you emails that the twins sent to their grandparents for their new robot - love seeing things through their eyes as they can now write their own thank you notes!

This is Silas:

Thank you so much for giving us this super cool robot, if you noticed that the eyes were blank right then, it was on very low power, so the lights were flashing yellow, so we caught it when it was blank, but don"t worry, we have more batteries. This robot is the best toy. It can do so many things, like dancing, telling you the time, and giving a high five and a handshake ( it can do much more than that.) This is the best present that you can touch. I love you so much and can not wait to see you again. You are the best. You  guys will always be the best grandfather and grammie ever.

This is Oliver:
Thank you for getting us this super awesome Meccanoid robot, it was everything that I have ever hoped for. It is so fun and funny, it only took 1 1/2 days to build and it and it has 660 pieces! It knows our names and everything. (Because we told it them) It can tell you the time and do kung fu, it also can record what you do to it. (L.I.M recording) (L.I.M is Learn Intelligent Movement) With the Meccanoid app, you can change the eyes' color and you can make it do what you're doing. It is SO cool! Thanks for getting that for us!

Jared gave me thoughtful gifts - as always - even when I say again and again that I really don't want or need anything other than really big things that don't really fit in a box under the tree (like a bigger kitchen - our tiny kitchen which is also the back entrance to the house/mud room is driving me crazy!). He gave me some nice sweaters (so I don't have to rotate between the two sweaters I wear constantly anymore). He gave me some awesome spikes that strap on my shoes so I can be safer when hiking i the winter (I've been using these cheapo ones that don't work so well). And he gave me a cool food processor/juicer thing and told me that it comes with a new kitchen as soon as it warms up enough to open up the back of the house and build on!

We had our traditional eggs benedict breakfast which was extra tasty (Jared made the Hollandaise sauce with extra lemon - yum) then we played games and opened presents and just had such a nice day together. We wore our PJ's all day as always and went on a little (freezing) walk so Ashton could test out what his hoverboard could do in the open and the twins could properly try out their bikes (trying them around the house resulted in a crash into the Christmas tree and a big chip knocked out of the molding around one of our doorways - super glue helped that).

Then later in the day, we did the kids' gift-exchange and it was great - love seeing those hugs and thanks and the joy on the face of the giver.

As always, we headed up to Ashton Idaho the day after Christmas to spend time at Grandma's house with lots of wonderful Looslis. And we got to open presents again! Grandma always gives the nicest gifts and cards and we had so much fun opening games from Loosli siblings (everyone draws names and the theme for this year was games so we all have awesome new games to play together while were up here in Ashton and to enjoy throughout the year - we were up until past midnight playing and laughing last night!).

It is FREEZING up here. Wow. Lows of almost -20 and highs of like 10 degrees. But the kids are out having the time of their lives with Jared - riding snow machines and building an epic snow fort. I'm trying to catch up on Power of Moms work a bit and I wanted to take the time to record this Christmas stuff before we move on to the next thing. But I've got to get out there and enjoy that beauty and fun - even if it's going to be so cold that I'm really having to psych myself up to get out there!


Laura Smith said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
charity said...

DO NOT GET A FAKE TREE!!! every time i put lights on the christmas tree i think of you, sar. yes, it's a backache, but it is worth it! you might need to take it down a notch from temple-square-style-wrapping-around-each-branch, but don't you dare sell out and get a fake tree! :)
sounds like it was a crazy and awesome season for you guys! love you!

ppp said...

I bet your kids are getting old enough to be assigned tree lighting duty. Maybe a rotation? Also have you seen these http://m.homedepot.com/p/GE-Pro-Line-Connect-6-150-Light-Clear-4-ft-x-6-ft-Net-Light-Set-81206HD/203267262. We used similar ones this year for our tree. Your Christmas does sound magical backache and all, though!!

kms said...

If the ward already has a holiday event that those people will be invited to why not do the leadership dinner during a different time of year that is less busy? Just a thought.

shawni said...

I liked your old hiking shoe trek thingies. So glad Jared gave you new ones so we could both use them:) Love you!


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