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Thursday, January 31, 2013

A (kind of) white Christmas

A few days before Christmas, the weather men/apps/websites began predicting snow. While this may not mean much to our northern neighbors, we were pretty excited about the idea of a white Christmas. As the day drew closer, they were predicting as much as 6 inches, which would be a huge snowfall for these parts. We were warned to avoid leaving our homes because the roads would likely be very dangerous. (I know, it sounds silly over a few inches of snow, but our city is not equipped for snowfall so it doesn't take much for roads to become slick and icy.)

Well, the anticipated snowfall was a little bit of a disappointment, but Christmas itself was not. We did get some snow, but I'd be stretching to say it was more than a half inch. Jeff and I (well, mostly me) thought long and hard about how we wanted this Christmas to be. When we are sharing Christmas with our parents and siblings, we usually let everyone else call the plays in terms of traditions and schedule. Since it was just us this year, we had to plan everything ourselves. In the end, we borrowed some things from each side of the family and then added a few of our own.


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Christmas Eve we made beds for the kids on our floor so we could all sleep in the same room. Halfway through the night Savannah was so uncomfortable that we let her go sleep in her own room. (I think the little stinker just wanted to peek at the presents.) In the morning, Savannah came back into our room, passing by the living room on her way in. Her reaction was priceless. She could not impress on Logan enough how BIG one present was by the tree. (Size is everything at this age!)

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Funny side story about the snow shovel. Santa brought us a shovel since he heard we were supposed to be getting snow. Well, after it was all over and we hadn't needed it, I explained to the kids that sometimes Santa gets his gifts at local stores which is why we were able to return our shovel to Sam's Club. :)

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The initial reaction.
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Opening presents.
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Logan and Savannah each got a bottle of root beer in their stockings. Way better than an orange.
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Izzy has an obsession with penguins (thanks to Mr. Popper's Penguins) so she was pretty excited to get a stuffed penguin, even if it was unstuffed at the moment. (My kids LOVE Build-a-Bear so I didn't want to take away the experience of going and getting it stuffed.)
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And the HUGE present Savannah couldn't get enough of... a trampoline! Already I am seeing the benefits of this investment. I can't wait for summertime when we can stick a sprinkler underneath it.
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Santa brought each kid a bell from his sleigh.
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This is a Pendleton tradition. Santa brings treats and sets them up on the table.
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Also from the Pendleton side: Christmas coffee cake. So so yummy.
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Logan with his loot.
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Likewise, here's Savannah.
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Isabelle wouldn't pose with hers, but here it is.
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The rest of the day was spent Skyping with family and entertaining the missionaries for dinner. We had developed such a good relationship with our missionaries. It was especially fun to have them on Christmas because they were relaxed and more like kids instead of missionaries.

Now that we have our first solo Christmas under our belt, I am excited about future Christmases. We weren't as lonely as I thought we'd be, thanks to Skype, and we had a good time spending the day inside, enjoying each other's company.

Joy to the World

Last summer we were presented with an incredible opportunity. Four stakes in our area were combining to form a 300-member choir and a full orchestra to put together a choral Christmas concert directed by former Mormon Tabernacle Choir director Craig Jessop. Rehearsals would begin in late August and be held weekly until the concert in late December. Jeff and I considered the challenges the time commitment would pose on our family, but decided this was something we couldn't say no to.

So while the weather was still stifling and our thoughts were of swimming and school starting, we began rehearsing Christmas songs. We learned 14 songs, all from the Mormon Tabenacle Choir's library. We rehearsed in our smaller stake groups, then came together towards the end as a full choir. The first rehearsal with all 300 voices was incredible. Then we added the orchestra and I felt a new state of elation.

The week of the performances, we finally met with Craig Jessop for the first time. Wow. I never have worked, and probably never again will work, with someone as talented and inspired and Brother Jessop. Although we were a choir of amateurs, he made us something more. He was efficient and effective, yet kind and loving. After 9 hours of rehearsals in 2 days, we were finally ready for the performances.

My view during rehearsals.

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The entire concert was organized as a gift to the community, as most of those in attendance were not of our faith. We performed in the OKC Civic Center, a beautiful venue that I never dreamed I would be on the stage of. I will be the first to admit our performances were not up to MoTab standards, but considering what we started as I think we did pretty well. The spirit was so strong that day. It was the perfect way to usher in Christmas.

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Jeff is in the back row, third from the right.
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I am in the upper right, next to the man with white hair.
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My dear friend, Allie, who has been my saving grace here in Oklahoma. I'm so glad we got to share this experience together.
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We were blessed in so many ways as we prepared for and performed in this concert. Our children were taken care of every step of the way, often without us even having to ask. When we moved two months before the concert, a family in our new ward, who hardly knew us, immediately asked if they could watch our children the day of the performances. At each rehearsal, teenage children or spouses of those in the choir would stay and play with our children in the nursery. We were blessed with health when we needed it and I absolutely believe everyone in the choir was blessed with greater vocal abilities than they would have any other time. I love my Savior and feel so privileged to have been able to celebrate his birth and share our testimony of Him with others in our city.

Friday, January 25, 2013

December activities

We aren't used to being alone around the holidays. After our family-filled trip over Thanksgiving, we braced ourselves for a long and lonely December. To not feel sad over the holidays, we decided to create lots of fun, new traditions. I planned out our month of December in advance, and filled our advent activity calendar with lots of fun things. In retrospect, it was a little exhausting doing so MUCH in 25 short days, but we had such a blast and after a year to recover, who's to say I wouldn't do it again?

Dec. 1 - Go see the Nutcracker. This one was a special date for Savannah and I. We went with our friends to see a local production of the nutcracker. The girls did so well and were captivated--although not necessarily still--through the entire ballet. 

Savannah and Sydney. I haven't had to deal with red eye in ages. I guess there are some cases where my iPhone camera just doesn't quite cut it.
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Dec. 2 - Unwrap a Christmas book. We actually did this a lot throughout December. I fleshed out our collection with a few from the library and we got through the whole month without every reading the same book twice.

Dec. 3 - Go to the science museum. Not very Christmassy, but we bought annual passes in October and hadn't had a chance to go yet.

Dec. 4 - Color a Christmas picture.

Dec. 5 - Write letters to Santa.

Dec. 6 - Make the house smell like Christmas. We used a scented candle.

Dec. 7 - Make rice crispie treat gingerbread houses. I found this idea online and loved it. So much easier and tastier.

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Dec. 8 - Ward Christmas party and visit downtown. Oklahoma City has lots of fun activities in December, including free water taxi rides and kids activities in the newly constructed Devon Tower.

Meeting Santa at the ward party.
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Logan wanted to ask Santa for a bucket to put his coal in. This kid cracks me up. For the record, Santa did not bring any buckets or coal.
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I don't know if this sets any records, but this is definitely the biggest ornament I have ever seen.
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Isabelle would have nothing to do with Santa, but warmed up a little to Mrs. Claus.
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A small splash pad turned overprice ice rink. We didn't skate, but we had fun watching.
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Riding the water taxis and looking at the lights.
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Dec. 9 - Make paper snowflakes.

Dec. 10 - I forget what we did this day. Probably nothing. I didn't do it intentionally, but some days we just didn't get around to doing anything.

Dec. 11 - Listen to Christmas music. (As though we didn't do this every day.)

Dec. 12 - Eat hot chocolate with candy canes. Funny story about this one: a while ago my mother-in-law gave my a big can of hot chocolate mix. I figured this was the perfect occasion to use it. We made a big batch, and the kids sat down to drink theirs. They didn't like it very much, and mostly just played with the candy canes. Eventually I sat down to drink mine. I took one sip and spit it back out. Turns out, the hot chocolate mix was actually straight cocoa! I remember now my mother-in-law telling me that's what it was, but I had forgotten. I sent Jeff straight to the store to buy hot chocolate mix (yes, I know, we could have just added sugar, but I was too traumatized to try again). Nasty!

Dec. 13 - Another nothing day.

Dec. 14 - Go see the Christmas lights in Chickashaw.

Dec. 15 - Sang with a small choir at the mall.

Dec. 16 - Go to a Stake musical and nativity presentation.

Dec. 17 - Deliver gifts to neighbors and friends.

Dec 18. - Read the story of Jesus' birth.

Dec. 19 - Drive around and look at Christmas lights.

Dec. 20 - Take gifts to teachers.

Dec. 21 - Write about our favorite Christmas memories.

Dec. 22 - Sing in "Joy to the World."

Dec. 23 - Call/Skype Grandma and Grandpa and sing Christmas carols.

Dec. 24 - Eat a Bethlehem dinner and deliver cookies to nurses working at the hospital.

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Our very authentic Bethlehem dinner: bananas, grapes, oranges, chicken on skewers, olives, carrots, cheese, crackers, hummus, hard boiled eggs, and "wine" (sparkling grape juice).
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Thursday, January 10, 2013

November in iPhone photos

In November, our stake held "Days of Thanksgiving." It is a tradition that started back when the closest temple was in Dallas, and has continued now that we have a temple just minutes away. Each temple-worthy member is encouraged to attend the temple 3-4 times during the month. I realized that this would be next to impossible to do with kids at home, so I picked a day and opened up my house as a day care for all those who wanted to go to the temple. We had such a blast that day with all the kids that came by, and I loved feeling like I had helped so many people get to the temple. I think I might have to try it again sometime!

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I know these sleeping-in-the-highchair pictures are a dime a dozen, but Izzy never used to do this, and now it seems like she always is falling asleep in funny positions. I guess that's what happens when you fight naps.

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Pizza bagels are a new family favorite in our house. The kids love them because they're tasty, and I love them because they can make their own. Logan and Savannah (especially Nana) have turned into such good helpers in the kitchen. They enjoy cooking with me and lately it seems they actually help more than they hurt. They are also pretty good at unloading the dishwasher. This week Logan folded and put away an entire load of laundry, and asked if he could do all his own laundry from now on (for a price, of course). It sure is nice to be able to share some of the housework with these cute little munchkins.

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Family pictures

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I roped my unsuspecting sister-in-law into taking our family photos while we were in Wyoming for Thanksgiving. I love taking photos when we travel so we have a variety of backdrops throughout the years. The kids were surprisingly cooperative (hooray for growing up!) and Katy did a great job despite me turning off the auto-focus and forgetting to tell her about it. (Whoops.) I was hoping for a totally goofy, candid shot for our Christmas card, which I got, but we actually got a decent posed shot as well. Not bad for a spur of the moment photo shoot!

I couldn't believe how cooperative my kids were being. Even Logan was giving me genuine smiles, which almost never happens these days. Poor Savannah had fallen and scraped up her face the day before, but it was nothing a little Photoshop can't help. And Izzy--oh goodness. She needs a post of her own sometime soon. This girl is all sweetness, until her sass kicks in. Love these kiddos!

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As an added bonus, we saw this guy on our way home just hanging out on a street corner. Pretty cool.

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Must be MY child

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Notice the upper right hand corner. Leave it to my kid to create extra homework for himself. Sadly, I don't think he was trying to be clever.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thanksgiving in Sheridan

Several months ago our families started making holiday plans. At first we stayed out of the planning, knowing it was unlikely we'd be able to travel so far. But the week before Thanksgiving, we couldn't stand the thought of missing all the fun. So we made arrangements and piled in the car for the 16 hour drive to Wyoming. Jeff's sister, Amy, lives there and took us all in to their new home. They were (as always) amazing hosts and we had a wonderful week. We were sad to miss Thanksgiving with my family, especially since all 5 of my siblings were together, but were happy to not be alone. We had lots of activities to fill our time, but every gap in the schedule was quickly filled with game playing.

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Logan loved spending time with his cousin, Taylor. We only get boys once every 4 years in the Pendleton line, so these two get along really well despite the age difference. Taylor is such a good cousin to take Logan under his wing, and Logan has already picked up on many of Taylor's interests, including dry science documentaries. :)

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Amy had this cute idea to let the kids decorate their Thanksgiving plates. Unfortunately, something didn't set up right and the marker started bleeding into their food, so we ended up swapping them out at the last minute.

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I wanted to start a new tradition to help us remember our family and past Thanksgiving memories, so I brought a tablecloth for everyone to sign and tell what they are thankful for. The idea is that we'll be able to add to it every year and one day have years' worth of memories every time we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner.

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Amy bought all the girls stick on nails to try out. They lasted about 10 minutes, even with the help of superglue. Oh well, it was fun nonetheless and they sure looked cute for those 10 minutes!

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As usually happens with family vacations, naps were virtually nonexistent, which leads to some very interesting crash positions.

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To top off the trip, we went to downtown Sheridan for a "Christmas Stroll" the night after Thanksgiving. It was small town America at it's finest: lights, carriage rides, hot chocolate, chili, boutiques, caroling, and running into people you know on almost every corner.

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And of course we can't forget the trip to Uncle Joe's optometry office for eye check-ups all around. Many thanks, Joseph, for the bill of good health and my stylish new glasses!

Thank you Amy and Joe for a wonderful week! We were especially grateful to have those memories going into our first Christmas alone. We truly have so much to be thankful for.