Monday, December 30, 2013

The Big Day

One of my favorite photos each year, is the photo we take of the children right before bed on Christmas Eve night. Wearing their new pajamas, and holding onto their stockings. I love the excitement that is in the air as the (younger) children feel rushed to get to bed and fall asleep before Santa comes. I loved that this year, Drew insisted on breaking from tradition and he and Joshua left their stockings on the family room floor, but the others laid theirs by their bedroom door.


Santa delivered all the full stockings by the bedroom doors as he has every year. Santa always left my stocking on my bed as a child, and my brother and I would spend the first hour of Christmas morning exploring our stocking contents to pass the time until we could wake up my parents. When telling Megan this randomly the other week, I was shocked to realize she never knew she was allowed to look at her stocking before coming into our room!!

Ellie and Megan woke up early and passed time in their room exploring their stockings. I was shocked that Mike and I didn't hear them.

Drew emptied his entire stocking out on our bedroom floor and in a heartbroken voice said, "Santa didn't bring me a fire engine." It wasn't bratty, or self-deserving, it was simply an expression of disappointment that the one thing he talked about all month long wasn't there on Christmas morning. I suggested that maybe Santa left a few things downstairs too.
Santa doesn't wrap presents at our house. He puts the gifts inside bags that I sewed a few years ago. As the children unfolded the bags on Christmas Eve, Luke took the one he claims each year and placed it in a specific spot. Other children began doing likewise. I suggested Santa might not remember whose bag was whose, and to be surprised with any bag. Apparently no one liked my idea, and the bags were laid out with a nametag placed on each one, and a note to Santa from Luke asking him to please read the tags and place the presents accordingly. (Why oh why didn't I take a photo of the tags/note?)

Typically, Santa leaves one small gift outside the bag to identify whose bag it belongs to. It didn't quite work out that way this year...too many over-sized gifts. But I was quite relieved that Drew's precious desire of a toy fire engine was the first thing he saw upon entering the family room.

He played with it for HOURS much to Mike's dismay. Drew hadn't even taken ownership of it for more than 5 minutes before Mike said, "Santa obviously doesn't know me very well, or he would not have brought such an annoying, loud toy." I, on the other hand, found myself smiling every single time those fire engine buttons elicited sirens and wails. I said aloud more than once, "Those sounds make me smile." Drew looked up at me and asked, "Do you love fire engines too?" "No!" I replied, "But I love little boys that love them."

I think my love of fire engine sounds was intensified as I looked at Megan and Luke enjoying their new Christmas surprises and realized how quickly they have moved on from toys on Christmas morning.

Joshua spent much of Christmas Day dressed like this. Joshua's wish of a Packers jersey was granted, and the bonus of a Packers helmet was thrilling to this little football lover.


Ellie's squeal and excitement over receiving a new American Girl doll was caught on video, but not the still camera. The doll bunk-bed serves her and her two American Girl dolls quite nicely. This is the second year in a row Ellie has opted to ask Santa for "a surprise" rather than a specific item. It seems Santa has not disappointed.
(Nice that my mother-in-law captured a photo of Ellie and her new doll. Oops that I didn't!)

Luke received a fair number of Packers items too, and I guess photographing him wearing them is more appealing than a photo of him holding a new power tool he received. (That elicited an exciting loud noise similar to the sound that came from Ellie.) Luke immediately organizes his Christmas things in a nice orderly fashion. He has done this every year for years. He always claims the exact same spot in the family room.
(Hooray again for my mother-in-law for taking photos.)

I'm not going to allow myself to feel guilty for there being very few photos of Megan on Christmas morning. She, the child with more photo albums of her first 3 years of life than the other 4 children combined, will turn out just fine despite the fact the only decent photo we have of her on Christmas day is courtesy of... my mother-in-law.
The children spent much of the day playing together, with the exception of Drew who tended to rarely be separated from that darn fire engine and its buttons.



As I laid in bed on Christmas Eve night trying to fall asleep, I had an overwhelming urge to go and kiss each of my sleeping children goodnight. I didn't want to risk awakening them, and instead stayed in bed tossing and turning. As I reflected on the stresses of secrecy and hiding of the previous days, I basked in the fact that for another year, my children are young, believing, and all at home.

It IS a wonderful time of year.
Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Just a Few December Highlights

I love the month of December. I could almost do without Christmas day and just enjoy the whole month as a celebration instead. Here's a few of our December highlights...

Temple Square with our (newish) friends, the Garr Family.

Megan, somewhat last minute able to go to the Piano Guys concert. The look on her face when she found out in a hot chocolate shop on Temple Square that she could go was priceless.
(She forgot to take a photo of herself there!)

No photos, but definite memories of...

  • The children going to the advent house each morning and securing a new piece of candy.
  • A caroling hayride with some friends and neighbors.
  • Watching Megan accompany the 8th grade choir at her school, and then perform with her 9th grade choir at their school Christmas concert.
  • The evening we gathered around the television as a family eating cheese and crackers and Ferrero Rochers, and drinking water from water bottles. It was all kum by yah and bliss until a point everyone became a little wild and Mike sent everyone to bed, and he and I finished watching The Sound of Music in our bedroom. For days after Joshua would ask, "Can we do like we did the other night and drink water from water bottles and have cheese and crackers sitting in the family room?" It's the little things....
  • Getting a washer/dryer set for my master bathroom! Now I have two sets to run. Laundry is my favorite chore, and when Mike took me out on Christmas Eve to buy them we were both a little surprised at my giddiness.
  • The kids all sleeping over at Mike's parents house, Mike home sick in bed, and me visiting my brothers and sis-in-laws at my parents house. Playing a game with them all and laughing lots.

Megan wondering why there is such a big deal about baby's first Christmases, so she made shirts for her and Mike exclaiming what Christmas it is for them.
(Mike's is incorrect. It is his 42nd Christmas.)


FINALLY going to the Messiah Sing-In that my friend is a part of each year.
(My dear friend Paula plays the cello, and I smiled every time I looked over at her playing. What talent! I wished I could have taken a photo of us together, but she was kind of popular after the event. )

 I kept this date open for weeks and turned down several obligations so I could finally attend. No children wanted to accompany us. Bliss. Bummer.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. The location was magnificent, and the ambiance of the old Kaysville LDS tabernacle, certainly lent itself to such an event.
Sitting in the building was easy to imagine we were sitting in a beautiful building in England a couple of centuries ago. Definitely putting it on my calendar for next year.

The children going to see Santa was a definite highlight of December, even though Mike went alone with Ellie, Joshua and Drew. I was sad Megan and Luke didn't want to go, and it wasn't so much they didn't want to, but the timing of it wasn't great.
I vacillate back and forth from the younger children and older ones, and Santa... But looking at these photos reminds me how temporary it all really is.

I will miss it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Traditional Dinner

At about 5pm on Christmas Eve, I was feeling frustrated and told my children to make sure and enjoy the evenings meal, as it could very well be the last time I do a formal Christmas Eve dinner.

It won't be the last time. My dad summed it up well as he left after dinner saying, "This is probably my favorite Christmas tradition." I heard the same thing from several others, and like I said last year, one day when we look back at Christmases past, Christmas Eve dinners around our dining room table will likely stand out. I need to remember that during late afternoon preparations on future Christmas Eves when my children are excited about it being Christmas, and I'm feeling tired and exhausted.

All in all, the kids and Mike were great to all work together to get ready for the dinner, and without being asked everyone knew to go put on their best dress clothes for dinner.

Even Drew! He looked so smartly dressed in his best clothes ready for everyone to arrive. He didn't fight once about having to "put on my church croffes?" Mike was still getting dressed upstairs while I did some food preparations downstairs. Apparently, Mike had instructed Drew to lay on our bed and relax, in an effort to keep children calm as the excitement of Christmas Eve waxed on. I didn't know of Mike's instructions and so thought nothing of it when Drew appeared in the family room and began listening to Ellie reading a Christmas book to Joshua. I'm not sure what exactly happened next, but the next thing I know Drew had a nosebleed unlike a nose bleed I have ever seen.

While the potatoes boiled over, and the timer beeped on the oven, I stood balancing blood in my hand, and trying to make sure Ellie and Joshua didn't step in the tracks of blood across the floor. I hollered for help, and Mike and Megan arrived promptly. Megan began getting queasy as soon as I asked her for some assistance, so she instead began cooking gravy while Mike took over with Drew, and I began cleaning up blood.

Fifteen minutes later, our guests began arriving and the only sign of a brotherly quarrel was Joshua upstairs trying not to cry, and Drew in his new pajamas-and his once ironed and pristine white shirt, and sweater vest soaking in a sink full of cold water upstairs.

It's a memory I told Joshua we'll always have, and even though he really shouldn't squeeze Drew so tight that he causes a nose bleed, all was well and at least it wasn't like the Christmas Eve in 1989 when my brother James had to go to the ER for stitches because of his older brother Casey.

Joshua's tender heart felt badly about the whole thing. Even though he was being mean and rough, he certainly didn't mean to hurt Drew. Joshua moved on from the incident fairly quickly, helped by the fact HE was the winner of the quarter in the dessert, and became the proud owner of the new, crisp $5.00 bill.

It made me smile. Joshua had announced earlier in the day, "Oh I hope I win the money tonight. Then I will have sixteen dollars."
(We warn the children ahead of time there may be a quarter in their dessert and so to eat it carefully. I think it concerned Joshua that he may actually swallow the quarter... looks to me like he dug around in his bowl to see if he had it. Thus the dirty hands.")

A good night was had by all.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Our Nativity Attempt

Grandma and Grandpa Sowby joined us for dinner one Sunday evening. I thought it would be fun to have the children act out the Nativity. It didn't quite go as spiritually, smoothly and calmly as I imagined. It didn't help that the 15 year old insisted on being a cow instead of the angel, but Grandma made a nice angel substitute. Which worked out nicely, I'm not sure Grandma would have accepted the assignment to have been a cow... not that a cow is needed in a Nativity play, but Megan insisted it was.





The donkey became more of the main focus than it should have been. But that's what happens when a 4 year old insists on being a donkey instead of Joseph. I wish we had practiced the Little Donkey song more, when he spontaneously decided to sing it.
All in all, it was a simple way to remind us what the real meaning of Christmas is.

What a wonderful time of year!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dinner Parties

This year as December crept in, for a variety of reasons I wasn't feeling very excited about the impending Christmas season. In my mind, I began creating all sorts of new scenarios instead of our familiar traditions. The first Sunday in December our Home Teachers (2 men assigned to us from our church congregation to visit with us each month or so to make sure we are doing well and share with us an important message) visited us. I can't even remember what their lesson/message was about, but I do remember one of them asking each of our family members in turn, "What is your favorite Christmas tradition?"

Luke's reply with no hesitation was, "All the dinner parties we have."

I changed my attitude right then and there and realized my personal feelings didn't have to spill out onto my children, especially my 12 year old's favorite tradition.

So...
Just like we do every year, we had our traditional dinner parties with families that we love and enjoy. (With one exception--our dinner with the Tingeys and their extended family wasn't able to happen this year. We were all very disappointed.)

I love that with each dinner party, the personalities and people differ so each activity and evening is varied and unique.

Love that.

Love that dinner with the Freys always includes a game, entertained children, and good conversation. Definitely some of my favorite people to come to dinner. It needs to be more than an annual event.
This year the evening included a candy cane relay that lasted about 10 seconds, but the candy canes were enjoyed for days later. Well, those that weren't immediately consumed that evening. Luke entertained us with a repeat of his match-NFL team names-with-the-right-picture-of-their-helmets game. Kari and Kellen were a good match for this. They know their NFL teams well.



Fun night!

Of course I love when the Wielands come to dinner. They are our only friends we "sing with." Although singing is a frequent event when we are together with these friends, it usually is impromptu and mainly the girls. But at Christmas, it is a more "formal" sit down and have a sing-a-long. I.LOVE.IT. I would incorporate it into more dinner parties, but I fear some friends wouldn't enjoy it.
 I wasn't too thrilled that Mike was laying down singing like this. But at least he was still singing.
 But then he began to do a little more of this. The flash awoke him enough to smile...
Luke on the other hand didn't sing at all. But that's okay. He sat quietly and respectfully observing.
Everyone else on the other hand participated well.

Our dinner party with my BFF's family didn't result in a single photo.
Oops.

What a wonderful time of year!
 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Going Hungry

Megan went on a science field trip the other day. The 9th graders were to leave the school about 9am and due to return about 2pm, when they would then eat lunch. Megan was worried she would get hungry. Duh! Yes, she likely would, so I suggested she take a snack to eat on the bus.

An hour or so after leaving home, I received this picture text from Megan:

Not only had she grabbed a couple of snacks from home, she made a visit to the school office to procure a couple of safety pins.

Despite the text coming through in the middle of the chaos of getting 3 other children out the door for school, I laughed out loud when I saw it. I responded simply, "You are your mother's daughter."

In the chaos of the morning I forgot to forward the text to my BFF. She too would have laughed out loud. You see, she and I made sure we never went hungry while in high school/college.

We have recollections of snacks pinned to our gowns during high school graduation.
We have memories of warm brownies smuggled into the Salt Lake Tabernacle for a fireside. (Our dates were quite embarrassed when the brownies emerged from our pockets and heads started to turn, wondering how and why the smell of fresh brownies was suddenly permeating the air.)

We took a loaf of French bread into a concert.

Ben and Jerry's ice cream was often a must-have at the movie theatre.

And a loaf of left-over bread from Spaghetti Factory was consumed while studying at the Marriott Library at the University of Utah.

Far be it from me to question Megan's need to have food pinned to the inside of her coat for a field trip during 9th grade.

Although, I'm quite certain had I known for the rest of the day she was carrying around an empty plastic sandwich bag filled only with the sugar remains from the Sour Patch candies pinned to the inside of her coat, I may have asked her to remove it. It looked mildly suspicious when I picked her up from school that afternoon.

Love Megan
Love Me
Love food.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Megan's Christmas Choir

Last Saturday my kitchen/family room was full of 25+ people singing Christmas songs. There are few things I love more about Christmas than joining in singing songs of the season. I was overcome by the spirit of Christmas as adults and children sang together some of the traditional songs of the season...

All a result of Megan and her hard work accomplishing a project for her Young Women Personal Progress. (A program in our church that helps teenage girls set goals and work to accomplish them.)

Megan put together a "Children's Choir." With the exception of me sitting on the couch looking 'threatening' during a couple of practices (After a full day at school, 15 children age 4-11 weren't always thrilled to be 'obeying' a teenage girl.), and Mike helping rearrange furniture on concert day, and me baking some cookies, Megan set this goal and accomplished it entirely on her own.

It was so fun during the practices to see Megan perched up on a stool playing the piano and leading/instructing the children at the same time. She doesn't get her musical talent from me. But her talent for being able to be in charge and boss children around? Yes. That would come from me.
Starting in mid-November, she held 4 after-school practices, and a couple of individual practice sessions.
Based off of the practices, I wondered how the final results at the concert would be. I should never have doubted anything. The concert was fabulous!

It was a joyous occasion watching sweet children sing songs of the season, with all the innocence of children.


I loved that Megan held "auditions" for the children to try out for solo parts, after ascertaining which children were even interested in participating in a solo, duet, or small group part. I was proud of Megan for her ability to help children stretch themselves and do hard things. A couple of the soloists were so nervous to participate, but oh boy, did they all do a perfect job!
(Every time this little boy stayed after choir practice to practice his solo, I would stop what I was doing to listen. Such a sweet song, and such a sweet little voice singing. One of the definite highlights of the concert.)
(Ellie sang the first verse of 'Silent Night', before the choir joined in for the 2nd and 3rd verse. Of course it made me cry. )

I had so many favorite moments from this short Christmas concert. With the exception of a few photos, most of my memories were captured with my heart.

For 25 minutes, it felt like a little bit of heaven touched down in my home on a snowy December afternoon.
Kudos to Megan.

"...and a little child shall lead them."
Isaiah 11:6

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