Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Big Day Finally Arrived....

Christmas 2010...we spent it in Utah. Ryan, Brittany, and Brittany's sister Mellany met us at the home of my parents. Six stockings were hung by the chimney with care.

Before I write more, I want to give the smallest bit of background.

Since my children were small, they always slept in the same room together on Christmas Eve. This tradition goes back to my own family with my brothers and sisters. I remember straining to hear any possible jingle bell or boot on the roof...and then trying to convince younger siblings that I had heard something. It was always a long night, but very exciting.

Anyway, a few years ago my own kids started making up strange songs to go with Christmas morning, while they waited for the long night to pass. The one that immediately comes to mind is, "Gotta get up, gotta get going...I'm gonna see some presents of mine."  This is from an old Winnie the Pooh cartoon theme.  The kids would come into our room, and surround our bed and sing the song they made up in the night.  Of course they were anxious to get into the living room.  They weren't allowed to go in until we were up.  I know there were other songs, but I can't remember any of them right this minute.

In recent years, my mother in law has spent most Christmas Eves sleeping at our house.  Did they have to surround her bed and wake her up?  No, she would come in with them to wake us up!  She even took pictures of us as we were just waking up sometimes.  Those are really attractive.  We invited her to come to Utah with us this year, but she turned us down.  I guess she has had enough cold weather Christmases.

Christmas morning 2010, the kids did not wake us up.  I was up.  I was excited for the day.  Jeff and I were sleeping upstairs.  I started texting Kaitie before 6:00 am to see if the kids were up and ready to run up the stairs.  They were having a hard time convincing Ryan and Brittany to get up.  Funny!  The girls couldn't believe that their brother who used to make up the songs and wake everyone up wasn't anxious to get into his stocking in the predawn.

Ryan did come up with a song for them.  "You're a mean one, Ryan Snow......I wanna smack you with a 39 1/2 foot pole....etc."  Awesome!

Before 6:30, the kids were all at the bottom of the basement stairs ready to run up.


They were not all excited for their pictures to be taken!  This is so much cuter than the ones that have been taken of me when I wasn't ready to get up though....





And they're off!
We had such a nice time checking stockings and opening gifts.  Riley was the "elf" who handed out the gifts, and we actually opened one at a time, while every one else watched.  We always mean to do that, but it doesn't always work out that way. 

And then, I had to pace, stew and be distracted by others until it came.  Until what came, you ask?  The phone call from Ally, of course.  We didn't have a prearranged time.  We knew she had arrived in California on the 21st, but we didn't know much that was going on with her.  We were anxious to hear details.  This was her first Christmas away from home. 

Finally about 2:00 in the afternoon my cell phone rang.  We put her on speaker for a little while, and then passed the phone for everyone to have a short conversation with her.  We only spent about a total of 40 minutes.  It was so good to speak to her.  She sounded good, and that was the most important thing.

After The Call, we headed for the snow.  Emilee had been so anxious for some snow and there wasn't any in town.  My dad was determined to find some for her.



We found some.  My mom took this picture of the rest of us.  I was wearing my first beanie.  I don't like beanies on anyone, especially myself.  Ally got us scarves, beanies and mittens for Christmas before she left and made me promise to wear mine and take a picture.  I had no choice.



Here is my cute mom and dad.  They took such good care of us on this trip.  I told them I especially enjoy visiting them, because it is the only time I still feel like a kid.  

The next picture is pretty scary, but I am putting it in to illustrate the point I just made.  I was cold.  My dad took his beanie off, and put it on my head.  He took his extra vest off, and put it on me.  I felt so taken care of......


....and I looked like a gnome.  

That tall beanie, and that vest that made me look like I had no neck.....not a beautiful combination.  But I felt warm inside and out.



The kids played a lot.




You knew this had to happen.....


Aren't these two just the cutest?




And these two think they are cute too.  Even when my mom, dad, Ryan and Brittany had left, and the rest of us were wet and freezing in the car, Jeff and Emilee kept playing.  They built a snowman, and posed in this their traditional triumphant pose.





The kids were still in good spirits on Monday when we drove home.  This is not always the prevailing car mood.  The girls played Riley's new game of Hedbanz (as seen on ICarly.)  I played too, part of the time, until my neck hurt from turning around too much.

Ryan, Brittany and Mellany left the same day we did.  They were glad for the short trip back to their new place in Utah.  I thought my mom and dad would sleep for a couple of days after the long holiday weekend with company, but they got on the road too.  They keep pretty busy.  We all appreciate those two so much for all they do for us!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

'Twas the Night Before Christmas....

Months ago, Ryan called and asked if we would be able to have Christmas in Utah.  My Mom Brain went to all the reasons why it would be difficult.  I didn't let my Mom Brain speak though.  I answered him that I would talk to my mom and dad about it.  They have a summer home in Utah.  I didn't know if they would really want to go to their summer home in the winter.

Ryan and Brittany knew they were going to be moving to Utah from Idaho right before Christmas.  Brittany would be graduating from BYU-I, on December 18.  (Yay Brittany!)  Then they needed to move to Utah so Ryan could do his student teaching which would complete his last semester.  (Yay Ryan!)  It was going to be much more convenient for them to take a short trip for Christmas than a long trip.  I thought that as I spoke to my parents, Jeff and my daughters that I might get a negative response.  I was quite wrong.  They all liked the idea, and they won my Mom Brain over.

I am so glad that Ryan came up with this.  It turned out well for all of us.  A bonus was, that Brittany's sister Mellany (a year older than Kaitie) went to Brittany's graduation, and stayed on to have the holiday with us.


One thing we always do when we go visit my parents is feed the deer.  Can you see all that are in the background?  They weren't bold as this one here.  He is playing it cool for the picture, isn't he?  But he ended up eating that apple...and many more.






It was awesome that this guy had some good antlers on him.  He reminded us of a reindeer, although there are definite differences.  It was fun calling him Dasher and saying we were helping him get some energy for the big job he had coming up that evening.  Although even Riley knows what does and does not fly at Christmas time, it was still so great!






Ryan and Riley really get back into the teasing and playing thing when we are all together.  I like it. 


I liked this too.  I had gone and bought six silly stockings at Target.  I didn't want to bring the ones we always use, because I wanted Ryan, Brittany and Mellany just to be able to take theirs with.  I hoped they weren't too old to get excited about stockings.  I hoped that they would easily be able to decide which stocking was for which person.  I loved watching the stocking negotiation.  When the important decisions were made, they wrote names on them.


Riley was thrilled to hang them up on the fireplace!

After this, we each opened one present, read from Luke 2, and had a short concert down stairs.  I really missed Ally, but other than that it felt so perfect.  

Emilee desperately wanted snow, but that just didn't happen.  Ryan and Brittany wanted to sleep in the next day, but that just didn't happen.  The getting up in the morning negotiation was a little more difficult than the stocking negotiation.  We finally agreed we would get up at 6:00......

The adults went to bed upstairs and the kids went to bed downstairs.  (Okay, I am calling Ryan and Brittany kids, because they are to me.  I know that they are also adults.  They had their own room downstairs.  The rest of the girls had a big room together.)  So two thirds of the kids were excited to run up the stairs the next morning....

Friday, January 21, 2011

Choir

In my last post, I wrote about Kaitie being in a play.  That was not all she was involved in, in the month of December.  She is in Performing Choir, in high school.  (I wrote a little about that in October.)  I am so grateful for the program she gets to be a part of there.  The director is ambitious, and creative.  He has these kids singing music most of them would never learn to appreciate unless being a part of this choir.  The variety of music reaches across many different cultures and time periods.  

Here is a sample from the December concert.  This number is pretty traditional for Christmas.  At about 4:50 in the video, they start a new song, "Carol of the Bells."  It was one of my favorite of the concert, but there is just a tiny bit of it on this clip.  You will notice there isn't applause at the end of the first song.  That is because the audience has been instructed to wait until the end.

Can you see Kaitie all the way to the left?




Now this next one has a little more of the cultural diversity I was talking about!


(Thanks for the clips, Ericka!)






Here is Kaitie after the show. 

Now, Emilee was in also that show..  She is in Beginning Choir.  She enjoyed it as well.  The reason I don't have a picture of her, is because she doesn't have one.  I helped myself to this one of Kaitie from her Facebook page.  (I have been doing that lately.)  Like I said, Em didn't have one for me to borrow.
 
 
Kaitie also sang in a community performance of The Messiah.  It was really great!  



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

White Christmas

I am still catching up with my December posts.  Think I will finish before Valentine's Day?

Kaitie joined the local cast of White Christmas a little late. She was recruited to be in the chorus. She loves to sing. I don't think it was a huge challenge for her to catch up in the singing department.

As we all know, the chorus also dances. She doesn't love that as much. It put her out of her comfort zone a little to catch up in the dancing department. I loved watching that so much. It is awesome to be outside of the comfort zone sometimes.

It wasn't just that outside-the-comfort-zone thing that made me enjoy the dancing.  She would get this look on her face that reminded me of Kaitie when she was a little girl. It was some sort of combination of worry, and determination combined with pure joy. Glimpses of that expression made the whole thing for me. Okay, I also didn't mind that the rest of the cast was very talented and fun. It made the show enjoyable for me, and a good experience for her.

The show ran for the first two weekends in December.


(In case you don't spot her right off, she is the tallest one in the group on the left. I snatched this out of her  facebook pictures, so I know it isn't amazing quality.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Farewell to Ally.....

I have been writing about the early Christmas we had with Ally before she left for her mission. I wrote about November 26th and 27th.

November 28th was Sunday. Ally spoke in church that day. I was so happy to have many family members join with us to hear her speak. Riley, Emilee and Kaitie were planning to sing "I Believe in Christ," that day as well. I packed tissues galore because I thought I would cry and cry.

The musical number turned out nicely. It was sad that it had to go on without Emilee. She had been so sick over the weekend that her voice was shot. My sister Natalie sang alto in her place. Riley sang her solo part clearly. I was so pleased. She was reluctant when we first started to practice. Kaitie sang the soprano beautifully. I am not bragging...just stating.

I was proud of Ally as she gave her talk. She spoke with grace and confidence. I wondered how she became this amazing young woman. I was nothing like that at her age. She seemed so ready to go and take on all the challenges of a mission.

As it turned out, I only cried once during the meeting. It was during the blessing of a baby, who is unrelated to my family. Strange? Yes. Well, but it took me back. A little baby girl was being blessed. This little girl is the second child in her family. The first child is a sweet little blond boy. Like I said, it took me back. When Ally was blessed, 23 years ago, that is what my family looked like. I can't even describe the emotion involved. It's not like I want Ally to be a baby again.

After church, the family group gathered again at our house. It was time for food, and then some goodbyes...

Here are just a few of the pictures of family members who were here with us:









There will be a new cousin for Ally to meet when she comes home.
Speaking of cousins....



Ally wanted a picture with all the kids.  Here she is with her sisters and cousins.  This is not all the grandchildren in the family, but nearly....



Monday and part of Tuesday, we packed and packed some more.  It was hard to fit everything she needed into her suitcases.  We ended up shopping for bigger suitcases.  

Tuesday afternoon, Jeff, Ally, Emilee, Riley and I took off for Phoenix.  Kaitie stayed home because she was in a play that was opening that weekend.  

First stop for us on Tuesday evening was the home of Ally's stake president in the Phoenix area.  He was the church leader Ally worked with to prepare for this mission.  They met off and on for months.  It was our first time to meet him.  He was everything she had told us.  He was warm and kind, and seemed so genuinely happy to see her again.  While we were at his home, he gave her a blessing....we call that being set apart.  It was so beautiful and comforting.  At that time, Ally was considered officially to be a missionary.  (I regret not taking a picture that evening.)

After Ally was set apart, we headed for a hotel near the airport.  Ally's flight was leaving at 7:00 the next morning.  While the rest of us tried to get some rest, Ally visited with a friend....one of her very best ones.


These two have known and loved each other for a long time, and certainly always will.



Here are the girls in the lobby of the hotel in the predawn.  I was trying to be cheerful, and wondering how I was going to hold it together.  Airports are terrible.  Saying goodbye is terrible. 

Doing all this in the predawn is terrible...and you are uglier than usual while you are doing it.  Well, that was the case for me anyway.  We took a few pictures, and they are well....terrible/unsharable.

At the airport we saw other families with LDS missionaries, but they were all boys.  They were so easy to spot.  A young man in a suit, parents close by, lots of tired kids, and lots of pictures being taken. 

We said goodbye at security and watched her until we couldn't see her anymore.  We held it together pretty well.  I didn't want to burden Ally by being over emotional.  Riley handled that area all by herself.  After we said goodbye, Jeff and I took the girls to the airport Starbucks for hot chocolate.  Riley was smiling soon.  I texted Ally a picture of Riley smiling and it made her feel a lot better.  Yes, Ally still had her phone at that time.  Missionaries don't carry personal cell phones, but she kept hers for the trip, so we were in contact until she actually entered the Missionary Training Center. 

 


We figured out which plane was Ally's, and we watched it until it was completely out of sight.  Since we were texting, we knew which window to wave to...





In Utah, Ally was picked up by another one of her very best friends.  Her friend delivered her to the MTC, and then mailed Ally's cell phone to me. 


Here is Ally as a missionary.  They travel in twos, you know.  This was her companion in the MTC.  

Now, Ally is in California.  You can follow her adventures at http://allyinarcadia.blogspot.com/

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Our Pretend Christmas Day for Ally.......and....Lots of Little Cousins

The morning of November 27, was Christmas morning at our house.  Santa even came the night before.  Well, he only came for Ally.  Apparently she was good enough all year to receive this extra trip on his part.  Each Christmas morning, our kids line up in the hallway in age order before they run into the living room to see their gifts. 

Here is Ally....lined up in age order.



We had a joke about her possibly getting band aids and Advil for Christmas, because those things were included on a list of suggestions for parents to send to missionaries for Christmas.  Sure enough, Santa brought those things.



We all got to open our presents from Ally.  She got us each mittens, scarves and beanies for the trip she knew we would be taking when the real December 25 rolled around.  (We really missed Ryan and Brittany at this whole early celebration, but they got to be with us on that real December 25....I will write about that soon.)



Ally particularly liked this gift from her dad, which reads Property of the California Arcadia Mission.



After our fun morning at home, we moved on to the big party, at my parents' house.  We kept with our traditions of eating tamales, and having a pinata.



Here is Riley, taking a crack at it!



Soon after Riley, came Emilee.  It was so nice having Em join the party, as she had been so sick the previous day.  Almost the whole time people were over for Thanksgiving dinner, she was in bed in my room.  Poor girl! 



Kaitie hit the pinata so hard, she broke the stick! 



Soon the pinata followed the stick and was broken into pieces all over the ground.  The kids were like a flock of seagulls on bread crumbs....quick and thorough.

 

Even the babies got into the act.  (Look down a couple of pictures, and check out these two having a little cupcake fest.)


Then, came was the traditional wearing of the dead pinata pieces....






And then there was a little party celebrating the pretty close first birthdays of these two cuties.




We had the cousin gift exchange.  (We drew names previously.)



We had our usual adult white elephant gift exchange, where my sister received these exciting pajamas.  (She didn't even end up with them....someone actually took them from her in the game!  That is a whole other story....)



Then we had a little game of charades, in which I was trying to let my parents know that we were all taking a trip to Big Bear this summer to celebrate their anniversary.  Don't you think I look like a big bear?  My mother was guessing gorilla. I don't know exactly how to take that.  Also, how should I take Jeff here?  See him in the right hand corner looking so proud to be my husband?

I am  grateful for this big, crazy family.  I love their willingness to move things around for us and celebrate our early Christmas with Ally.