Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Date with my Best (Little) Man

When we bought passes to our brand new children's museum, I anticipated many cold and dreary winter mornings spent there with my younger kidlets. Little did I know "cold" was not a term that we would use much of this winter! Consequently, we haven't taken advantage of the Amazeum like I had thought we would. So when the opportunity presented itself in the middle of a hectic pre-Christmas week, I jumped at the chance to step away from the planning and play for an hour or two. Isabelle was at preschool that day, so it was just Sawyer and me. It's amazing how different an outing can feel when you have just one child to keep track of! Instead of spending all my time counting heads and diffusing fights, I could actually play with my baby, appreciating all his little discoveries and witnessing his pure joy.

Sawyer's buddy, Soren, met us there. They made a great team, sending these blocks up and down the conveyor system over and over and over (and over) again.

This might make me a mean mom, but Sawyer was probably like this for a solid minute saying, "Stuck! Help!" while I dug out my camera and got a picture before un-sticking him.

There is a new temporary exhibit centered around dinosaurs, so of course my little "rar-rar" fan was in heaven. Especially when he found the dinosaur eggs, which perfectly combines two of his favorite things.

Thanks for the date, Sawyer! Once again I was reminded how grateful I am for his fall birthday that barely misses the school deadline. I don't want these days to end any sooner than they have to!

2nd Grade Christmas Program

The last week of school before Christmas, the 2nd graders put on a winter music program. Once again, the Reagan music teacher, Mr. Garcia, did a great job and put on quite the show. That morning, Savannah was frantic trying to come up with a Christmas outfit to wear for the program. Her closet is surprisingly void of all red and green, so we finally settled on her white dress with a new bow courtesy of my gift wrapping supplies.

The program songs included:

Christmas Makes Me Sing
Hip Hop Elves
Celebramos Juntos
A Hawaiian Christmas
We Will Jingle
Rock the Holly
Santa Claus is on his Way
Must Be Santa
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Hip Hop Elves was my favorite. They had all sorts of rap-style moves to go with it, and there was even an interlude where a couple kids break danced in front. I think Savannah enjoyed this song, too.

My two tag-a-longs were good audience members. They especially loved that we snagged two chair with wheels. I spent most of the program trying to keep them from rolling away.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Silver Dollar Lights

All year long I have been waiting for this final trip to Silver Dollar City before our passes expire. I have been hearing about how amazing the park is at Christmas and couldn't wait to see it myself. Our November and December filled up quickly, barely leaving time, but we jumped all over an empty Saturday and drove out to Branson.

I mostly wanted to see the decorations, the lights, the shows and the humongous Christmas store, but we have bred thrill seekers so we couldn't leave without a few rides. It was busier than I have ever seen it, but Jeff must be sucking up for Santa 'cause he waited in line to squish himself into this strange looking butterfly.

His face in these next two says it all.

The lights were impressive. Every single board of every single building in the entire place had lights on it. It was amazing and exhausting thinking about the work that had gone into it. But the crowds! I thought it was busy before sunset, but once it got dark people started pouring in from everywhere! We had a party to get home for, so we left before the parade or any other nighttime festivities, but not before I'd had a chance to sample the food I've been smelling for a year! I finally got to try a skillet dinner and a cup of loaded hot chocolate (marshmallows, chocolate chips, candy canes, and whipped cream).

We also got to see one of their Christmas shows, It's a Wonderful Life. It was a quirky review of showtunes mixed in to the traditional Frank Capra plot. Highlights included Spirit of the Season, Taylor (Georgie) the Latte Boy, Journey to the Past, and the grand finale: a southern revival version of From a Distance. Such awesomeness.

For Sale

It's time to make this announcement blog official: We are moving! The decision was made over a month ago, but I've been in denial that we are leaving this place that has become so dear to me. I think I have finally found my heaven on earth in the foothills of the Ozarks. Northwest Arkansas is one of the most beautiful places I have ever lived. Trees everywhere, beautiful lakes, peaceful meadows, trails (both paved and dirt), small town charm with (most) big city conveniences... what's there not to love? And I haven't even started on the people! It's the perfect mix of southern hospitality and midwestern easy living. And that's true of pretty much everybody. Our neighborhood, our ward, our school, the Chick-fil-a employees -- everyone I meet is over the top kind and thoughtful. And the friends and family we will be leaving behind.... well, I'm not sure I'm ready to talk about that yet.

The reason for the move is that Jeff received a promotion at work. He doesn't like me to call it that, but I'm going to brag a little bit here because it's my blog and I can. He has been working for a company that is based in Utah the whole time we've lived out here in Oklahoma and Arkansas. For the past four years he has been the APM (Area Partnership Manager) over this territory. Lately he has started to feel a bit restless. He's turned this area from a blip on the company map to one of the most successful areas in the company. But the work had become less challenging and more routine, and he was ready for a change.

Enter: an opportunity. Incidentally, it was the day after I had told Jeff that I could live in Arkansas forever that he received a phone call from the CEO. At first it was just a, "would you be interested?" phone call. But over the course of a month, the job officially became his. Now he is the director of field support and manages of team of about 70 employees. It is the perfect change of pace for him and will hopefully take his career in the direction he wants it to go. He has been working in the new position for a month now and LOVES it. So now it is just a matter of selling our house and moving our family back to Utah.

I try to document each of our homes on this blog, and this seems like as good a time as any to take some notes about this home. Although it is not perfect (what house is?), we have loved this house. All the space is allocated exactly where we need it. We looked at bigger houses that seemed less suited to our needs. This was a near perfect fit.

One of the first (and only) projects we did in this house was to build bookshelves around our fireplace. I adore these built-ins and would love to see them filled wall to wall with books. From here on out, I will always try to find ways to incorporate built-in bookshelves in every house we live in.

The kitchen is one of my favorite parts of this house. I didn't love the cabinets and counters at first (I had been hoping for a white kitchen), they grew on me and I've come to appreciate how well they hide dirt and grime. I have TONS of cupboard and counter space and rarely does it feel crowded in here. And I have my first gas range since childhood!

I have a love/hate relationship with the formal dining. There are many days I wish the dining table was in the kitchen, but others when I am so glad we can sit down to dinner without the mess in the kitchen staring us down.

It's always a challenge finding a house that can accommodate our piano, but this room is perfect.

You can't tell very well, but this shows one of my biggest pet peeves: the door opens right into the stairs. Like, RIGHT into it. It just barely clears the first step. It's so awkward when you greet people at the door. I will not miss that. And another thorn in my side-- the trim is yellow. It's the most difficult color ever to work with. But the thought of painting it all gives me hives so I've basically left the walls and trim untouched.

Teeny laundry room. Won't miss that.

Our house has a crazy steep front yard (with accompanying driveway), but the trade-off is we get a nice flat backyard. We have many fun memories from this yard.

Well, there it is. Our Arkansas home. I will miss you, house... friends... city... state.

Winter Piano Recital

This year's winter piano recital for my piano students started out as a comedy of errors. For a while I thought it was going to be a total disaster. The muffins I made the night before didn't turn out. The other piano teacher in the recital had one of her daughters come down with a stomach bug last minute. Half my students got lost. Another had the wrong time. I had left our house a disaster, then found out just before the recital started that someone wanted to come see it (we are in the middle of selling it) before we'd be home. I was a teensy bit panicked.

But before the recital started, we met with all our students in a separate room and had a quick prayer. It was intended to help the students, but it was just what I needed to calm down, collect myself, and prepare to enjoy one of my favorite days of the year. We led the children to the recital room and into their seats, and the recital began.

I have been teaching my small group of piano students for two years now, and they have become very dear to me. I've watched them grow and learn, progress and struggle, and ultimately achieve. Their accomplishments are my accomplishments; their challenges, my challenges. I was as proud as any mother hen watching them play their pieces in front of an audience. They all did such a wonderful job!

Of course I have a sweet spot for my students that double as my offspring. Savannah played "A Friend Like You" and "The 12 Days of Christmas." The latter was supposed to be a duet, but she just jumped in and started without me. I crept up and whispered in her ear, asking if she wanted me to play with her. She didn't miss a beat, just gave me a quick shake and smile, then kept right on playing. Savannah has turned a corner with the piano and is really starting to fly through her songs. I know music will be a big part of her life and am grateful to play this small role in developing her love and talents.

Logan played "Concert Time" and "Joy to the World." The arrangement of "Joy to the World" was a little ambitious, and I was concerned that he wasn't going to be able to pull it off in time, but he proved me wrong! He played it perfectly and with gusto.

All my students. I love these kids so much!

The Willardson crew. I love my hour each week with these three. There's no better way to get to know your friends' kids than by teaching them something. I have a special spot in my heart for these cuties and all they have accomplished this year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Thanksgiving in Sheridan

We spent Thanksgiving this year in Wyoming, but drove there via Utah so we could be at our nephew, Kai's, blessing. My parents had come up for the blessing, too, so we got to spend a few days with them before heading up to Wyoming. Kai is pretty much the sweetest thing I've ever seen and laughed the whole time I was holding him. I'm so glad we were able to see him while he was still itty bitty.

Although Utah felt cold to us, it was nothing compared to the temps in Wyoming. We pulled in just ahead of a storm that left us with fresh snowfall for the next few days. The kids were in heaven since we haven't been much acquainted with snow since that record breaking winter 2 years ago. The Katschke's dog, Shadow and their brand new puppy, and the plethora of cousins may also have contributed to their happiness. Sawyer especially loved Shadow, and spent the majority of the week glued to the glass door calling for him.

Thanksgiving day was a treat. While the boys and big kids were playing basketball, I sneaked out for a run in the snow. It turns out that fresh snow is great for absorbing the impact of running, and my joints felt better than they have in ages! Dinner was fabulous, although I can take absolutely no credit for it. As always, Amy hosted a beautiful holiday and thought of everything.

Since we wouldn't be together for Christmas, we tied our Christmas gift exchange into Thanksgiving. Grandpa read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (or rather, he lip-read to his own recording) and Grandma and Grandpa gave each grandchild their own nativity.

The cousins did their gift exchange, where each was spoiled royally. We almost nixed this gift exchange this year in lieu of an outing or other memory that would be more meaningful than "stuff," but the kids love shopping for and thinking of each other so much that we couldn't bear to take that away from them.

We had a couple of extra "presents" in the mix.

What holiday would be complete without crashing at some point?

Whenever in Sheridan for Thanksgiving, one must attend the annual Christmas stroll. It will undoubtably be freezing, but do it anyway. The small town charm makes up for it 10 fold. Hay rides, carolers, lights, hot chocolate, cookies, shopping... it doesn't get much better than this!

Isabelle was not having it after an hour or so. It really was freezing, and (as she always does) she had refused to wear socks. Maybe it was a cruel parenting move to let her out of the house without socks, but the lesson has been learned and she is much more agreeable when I suggest it now!

As the grand finale to our fun, we took over the church gym for a rousing game of human Hungry Hungry Hippos. Aside from a few minor casualties, it was so much fun and a great way to burn off those extra Thanksgiving calories! Jeff joked that he understood now why this activity is so popular among the youth when things got a little friendly as he pushed me out into the middle during our couples round. ;)

Other (not pictured) highlights included a Hunger Games marathon, Black Friday shopping with our entire group (11 adults and 13 children -- we must be mad!), board games around the clock, an awkward viewing of Big Bang Theory with too many tweens in the room, and sledding in the fresh snow. Love you, Pendleton family! Thank you for giving us so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!