Monday, December 26, 2016

Winter Concerts

December means Christmas music, and Christmas music means Christmas concerts. We started off the month with a double date (Jeff and I and Logan and Savannah) to Salt Lake to see the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas concert. I was so excited to experience this favorite of mine with my eldest children, but it was sadly a disappointment for all. We hit terrible traffic driving up causing us to miss out on our floor seats. We barely made it into the balcony, but were made to wait outside until after the opening number had finished and missed the dancers big number. The kids were bored silly, Jeff and I were unimpressed by the soloist (although he had a great personality!), and there was a spotlight shining right in our eyes the whole time. All that could have been redeemed if the song selection had been on par with previous years, but even that fell short. It was a bummer, but even unfortunate experiences make for good memories!

Two days later, we took the whole family down to Ephraim to hear Sam sing with her institute choir at Snow College. Smaller venue, smaller choir, but everyone agreed it was a much better experience than Salt Lake had been! I loved their song choices, and some were even pretty funny, which were all the kids' favorites. Sam did a great job and I am so glad we got to go see her. Afterwards we went to dinner with her and her roommates at one of the 10 restaurants in Ephraim. It was a treat of an evening and we couldn't ask for better company or entertainment!

The next week was full of our children's choirs performances. Logan has been participating in a chime choir at school, and they put on a Christmas performance that was impressive for such a young bunch after such a short amount of time. He has really enjoyed chime choir and I love that it reinforces the music theory he has been learning on the piano.

To finish off our holiday concert series, Savannah's children's choir, Hobble Creek Singers, performed at the Springville Art Museum. They were a small group, but pulled off several two part songs with conflicting parts. Next year she will graduate to the older choir, but this year it was all about having fun. Singing should always be fun, if you ask me.

These choir robes were the cutest, so I had to get some post concert pictures, but of course it wouldn't be Savannah if she didn't ham it up.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Tree Shopping

A few years ago we replaced our artificial tree with a new one. At the same time, I bought myself a new set of decorations, and the tree officially became "Mom's tree." This left us a small problem in that we didn't have a tree for all the collected and crafted family ornaments we'd acquired over the years. Not so much of a problem to me, though. It just means we get a fake tree and a real tree every year!

Tree shopping had to be quick and simple this year. Jeff's travel schedule and my work schedule demanded that. But a trip to our local hardware store's parking lot was all it took. We found a cute little five foot tree that was perfect for our family room. I loved that Logan and Savannah could reach the very top so that the kids could decorate the whole thing themselves! Another perk of a small tree - it fit perfectly in our trunk with the back seat down and was easy to pick up and carry into the house. Not the case for our neighbors that put a 17-foot live tree in their living room!


While cleaning out my list app on my phone, I found this bucket list I wrote on a roadtrip in March 2014. It was fun to see how many of the things I had checked off without even realizing I was doing it. Some of them are not as important to me anymore, others I still really want to do, and there are at least 50 more I need to add. But I think accomplishing 27/51 in less than three years is not too bad.

1. Go to NYC with Jeff. ✓
2. See the Mona Lisa. ✓
3. Run a marathon. ✓
4. Run in a Ragnar (or other 12-man relay).
5. Read A Christmas Carol.
6. Read The Screwtape Letters.
7. Volunteer in the community.
8. Ice skate with the family. ✓
9. Go on a tour at Crystal Bridges.
10. Mine diamonds.
11. Reconnect with an old friend.
12. Read Isaiah.
13. Catch up on printing my blog.
14. Go to Niagara Falls. ✓
15. Be a room mom.
16. Go on a family bike ride. ✓
17. Get my concealed carry permit.
18. Try a new food. ✓
19. Bake soft pretzels. ✓
20. Update our will.
21. Finish backing up my pictures online. ✓
22. Read a bedtime story every night for a week.
23. Help Logan memorize at least 8 articles of faith before his baptism. ✓
24. Go paragliding or parasailing.
25. Finish a 5K in under 25 minutes. ✓
26. Join a book group. ✓
27. Plant a garden. ✓
28. Raise chickens. ✓
29. Start a business.
30. Read a series as a family.
31. Grind wheat. ✓
32. Make something from scratch that I normally buy. ✓
33. Read a non-fiction book. ✓
34. Give away a Book of Mormon.
35. Surprise Jeff. ✓
36. Have a no spend month.
37. Play an April Fool's joke. ✓
38. Frame pictures of my grandparents and parents. ✓
39. Take someone dinner for no special reason. ✓
40. Be 5 minutes early to everything for a week.
41. Take Savannah to get a pedicure. ✓
42. Drive 4-wheelers in sand dunes.
43. Vacation on a lake. ✓
44. Have a movie/tv show marathon.
45. Make sourdough bread.
46. Golf with Jeff.
47. Take an online class.
48. Have an unplugged weekend. ✓
49. Pick blueberries. ✓
50. Carve a pumpkin. ✓
51. Hike in Arches. ✓

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

The first big snowfall hit Utah in late November. It wasn't a lot - just a couple inches - but it was thick, wet snow. Perfect for snowmen.

The kids could not wait to go out and play in it after school. The neighbor girls joined them and before we knew it, they had three HUGE snowballs in the backyard. They were so big, we couldn't find a way to stack them, so they ended up with a sleeping snowman. I thought when winter hit, we'd spend more time inside, but snow is the best playground of all! Now I find myself excited when I see snow in the forecast. We also have a perfect small sledding hill right in our yard, so I can watch everyone playing happily without having to leave my kitchen window. It's a winter paradise.

Miniature snowmen are fun, too, and have the extra cuteness factor.

I was worried how the chickens would fare in the cold and snow, but they are doing great. I covered their run with a tarp, put a heated base under their water, and close their coop door at night to protect them from the elements. Everybody seems to be just peachy in their winter cabin. Just one more month until we should start seeing eggs!

Guinea Bunnies

I am not an animal person. For years we have considered getting a dog, but when it comes right down to it, I know that pets and I aren't a great combination. Livestock I can do. I love my chickens. But animals that live in my house, that I have to smell and hear all the time... not my cup of tea. So I really don't know what came over me when a friend said she has some guinea pigs to give away and I said I'd take them. I had a momentary lapse of judgement. Jeff tried to talk me out of it, but I did it anyway. And you know what? They're actually ok.

Sawyer loves them. He could sit there and play with them all day long. He called them "guinea bunnies" for the first bit, which I found endearing and didn't correct. They are minimal work, but they make a royal mess of their wood shavings. I'm researching ways to keep their bedding contained. I didn't know anything about guinea pigs before we got these, but I'm learning all sorts of things about them. For instance, did you know they squeak? When they are trying to get your attention, they make this high pitched squealing noise that I thought was an electronic device at first. It's really something you just have to hear because it's unlike any other noise I've heard an animal make before.

Moral of the story: Rodents aren't a bad first pet, but I've realized I like animals that work for their keep better than those that are lazy freeloaders.

Logan's Patriotic Program

Logan is having a great fifth grade year so far. He adores his teacher (who we just found out will be leaving in January), is involved in an early morning chime choir, and seems to really enjoy everything he is learning. (Except for math. He says it's boring. I'm working on showing him the light...)

On Veteran's Day, he had three special events at school. The first was an early morning devotional and flag raising ceremony where he was chosen to perform the National Anthem with a small group. He was the only boy in the group and I was proud of him for being willing to sing in front of all his peers.

As part of the program, a dad (and veteran) of one of the students at their school talked about his time oversees. He told about a time they had been filling bomb holes in the road and a bobcat ran over his leg. A medic came immediately to help, but almost as soon as they got to him, they found themselves under enemy fire. He blacked out and when he came to, he was in a hospital in the US and had lost his leg and members of his team. The whole school was silent listening to his story. I definitely gained a deeper appreciation for our armed forces that day, and I think the kids did, too.

The fifth graders learned a series of patriotic songs as part of the "Hope of America" program and performed them that morning as well. Coming on the heels of an emotional election, it was inspiring to hear a group of 10-year-olds sing about how they are the hope of America. I may have cried a little lot.

On top of all that, the fifth grade also used Veteran's day to showcase their Hall of History. Each student picked a historical figure to research, write a report on, and then create a living museum dressed as that person. Logan chose Benedict Arnold, the Revolutionary war general turned traitor. We threw together his costume at the last minute thanks to DI and some fabric scraps. He did a great job reciting his sound byte about Benedict in the Hall of History every time a new visitor walked by.

Thanksgiving in San Diego

We spent Thanksgiving in California this year. My entire family was there-- all six kids with their families, bringing the total to 26 people. Isabelle pointed out that we have one person for each letter of the alphabet, which is when it dawned on me what a big bunch we have become! We had Thanksgiving dinner at the SDSU institute building since we really don't fit in anyone's house.

With so many coming from out of town, we opted to stay in a hotel rather than bunk up with my parents this time. We found a hotel within walking distance to both my parents and the beach. Thanksgiving morning we couldn't resist being so close to the ocean, so we hit the sand before breakfast to burn off some energy and pre-meal calories. We all were in Pacific heaven running down the coastline, exploring caves, hunting for shells, and chasing the waves. It is, to date, my favorite Thanksgiving morning workout I've ever done!

I was feeling crafty this Thanksgiving so I came prepared with two projects to share. The first were these wood boxes made from cedar fence posts. They came together so easily (thanks to my new miter saw), and my mom had the idea to fill them with mason jars and flowers as our Thanksgiving meal centerpieces. They were beautiful and fit the bill perfectly. At the end of the day, each family who wanted one had a box to take home. I have plans to stain mine dark, but I love the natural wood look, too.

We also made these Mayflower place cards for the table. Savannah helped me hand stitch them as we drove to California, and she and Izzy stamped everybody's name on the sails. We filled them with candy and done! They were a hit with the kids (especially the candy) and sure made the table feel festive.

Our dinner was amazing. I am blessed with wonderful cooks on both sides of our family, so Thanksgiving dinner is always a work of art. After eating ourselves silly, the boys rearranged the lounge chairs to watch some Turkey football while the kids played in the various institute classrooms. It was such a relaxed, open setting and perfect for our big family.

Later that night, while breaking into the pies, we played the saran wrap game with the whole bunch. I'm not sure what was more fun-- making the game or playing it!

Another highlight of Thanksgiving was a gender reveal for Curtis and Katie's baby due in May. They chose pie smashing as their reveal method of choice. These pictures speak for themselves.

We are all so excited for them and their new little BOY! We were thrilled to share this moment in person with them.

The rest of the week was spent trying to find places that could accommodate our whole group with all it's varying interests and ages. It was no easy feat, but we successfully took all the kids to the Mormon Battalion Center and Old Town one afternoon while the boys, Grandma, and Grandpa golfed.

By the third day, the coughs and colds that we had brought with us had spread around and escalated into croup for Sawyer. He was one miserable little guy and I ended up at the Urgent Care getting him a steroid shot on our last day there. It also poured that day like I've never seen the likes of in arid southern California. So we opted to stay inside and crowded into my parents house for some pizza, lip sync battles, and gift exchanges.

We thought our adventure was over when we started the drive home, but it was not to be. After making great time through Vegas and Cedar City, we got stopped just outside of Scipio less than 2 hours from home. We saw the traffic jam and tried to take side roads, but got stopped on those, too, for over an hour. Finally we learned that a semi had tipped on it's side and was blocking the freeway. On the busiest travel day of the year. Go figure. So we turned around, took a country highway detour way out of the way, and eventually made our way home. It was a long day on the road that involved two roadside bathroom stops (there are no gas stations to stop at when you are taking backroads!), but we made it safe and sound.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Halloween Costumes