Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Reminder from Five Years Ago....

Christmas went by for me very quickly this year. It feels almost like a dream. I know we had it, but I just want more. I don't mean I want more gifts, and I really don't want more cookies. I am just trying to stay in that Christmas feeling. Some years I am anxious to move on. At times, I have had everything put away on December 26. This year, I am trying to hang onto it just a little longer.

I remember feeling like this a few years ago, so I looked up this old journal entry from five years ago:

January 1, 2004
I put away the Christmas things carefully and lovingly this year. Sometimes I have put them away in a mad rush, anxious to move get out of the joyous season as fast as I can. But I was afraid this year. I was afraid that I wanted to move past everything too quickly. I was fearful that in my speeding by that I would miss some important stops to take along the way.

I put each ornament away carefully. I glued pieces together that needed mending. Then I realized I didn't have to memorize each smiling face on my picture ornaments. I had been trying to take in every last detail. I don't have to do that....they will still be here. Next year when I unwrap the tissue paper, my children will smile back at me from ornaments shaped like snowflakes and wreaths. I guess they will look younger to me each time I open them again. The pictures will still be here, but the children themselves will have grown and changed. It is not the ornaments I need to savor, but I better hug these children very tightly. If I need to take in every detail of something, it is of the children themselves....their thoughts and their cares. The day will come when their plans differ from mine. I will be left with the ornaments and the memories.

I want those memories to be good ones, for me and for them. I want my children to remember making cookie bars together, while singing songs, or whispering of stories and secrets and love. I want them to remember what we have done for each other, and for other people to make our season feel wonderful. I want to remember our talks, and our plans together...not the mad dash to get everything done "just right." The kids are in a rush....already telling me how many days it is until the next Christmas. My goal for this new year is to remember not to rush, but to have time to be with them, listen, and pay attention to their important details.

When I wrote that entry five years ago, I was really feeling how much my family was growing up. Ryan was going to graduate from high school in a few months. I knew we would be spending some holidays apart. That is normal, and I love to see my children maturing and making good progress in their lives. I don't wish for them to be small again. I do however, seem to be trying to stretch the present holiday out just as long as I can. I need to remind myself, as I did five years ago that it is not the holiday itself that I am trying to hang onto, but the good relationships that spring out of the time we have together.

Happy 2009!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sort of a Christmas Miracle....

Look...all of my children are smiling at the same time....and at 6:00 am!

(That was Christmas morning, of course.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 24, 2008

Every year on Christmas Eve, we have a reading of the Christmas story from Luke 2. The words and message are always the same. The accompanying depiction varies quite a lot.

This year, my mom read from the bible.

Mary actually got to ride a donkey this year. (The angel is there her pink pajamas.)

There was no one sweeter than Joseph. He was very serious about his role. He was soft and sweet with Baby Jesus.

Look, the donkey has miraculously changed into the shepherd on the left. Here are all the shepherds, rejoicing about the message they have received from the angel....but where did she go?

Oh, there is the angel! She accompanied her favorite shepherd to the stable.

We Three Kings....

Here is the whole group. Well, I'm sure the angel is hovering nearby....

(I appreciate the shepherds and wise men for being such good sports. It made the evening so nice for everyone.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Some things have really changed. I used to be taller than Ryan. I used to tell him what to do in the kitchen. Last night, we made Zuivan. Ryan said this was one of his favorite foods in Mongolia. He has been back from his mission in Mongolia more than a year and a half, but this was his first time to make food for us from there. Anyway, last night he was in charge in the kitchen, and I followed his instructions. Can you believe it was my first time to ever make noodles from flour and water? It was kind of fun....:)

Switching gears.....I have written before that Jeff is trying to keep our new pool up and going through the year. He really wants to swim on Christmas Day. There is rain in the forecast. I usually love some rain around here, but I am hoping it just kind of blows over this time. I guess it will be a Blue Christmas. A pool-blue Christmas, or a sad-blue Christmas.....;) Either way I should decorate the pool noodles like this, to get into the proper mood:

And now, something from Kaitie's childhood, The Noodle Dance. Since I have been writing about noodles, I can't get the Noodle Dance song out of my head. It is from that cartoon PB and J Otter. I don't think they have it anymore. Do you even know what I am talking about?

Every episode, the otters find themselves faced with a problem and have to brainstorm to come up with a solution. The call this the "Noodle Dance," which is a 30-second dance number with bizarre matte paintings of abstract pots and pans and other kitchen implements in the background.

Noodle, use your noodle
Noodle, do the noodle dance

Solve a problem, it's no strain
Use your noodle that's your brain

Noodle, use your noodle
Noodle, do the noodle dance

There's an answer you can find
Use your noodle, that's your mind

In a bind, just use your mind
Use your noodle!

Maybe if I do The Noodle Dance, I will figure out how to get everything done before tonight!

Have a Very Merry Christmas!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Friday Night

On Friday night, I kicked all the kids except Ally out of the main living area of the house. Ally needed to take one last final on line. I told everyone that they had to be in their room, in my room or gone from the house. While I was in my room, this arrived:

It was an invitation, made by Emilee, to a graduation ceremony for Ally. It was to be held as soon as she completed that final, final.

Emilee dressed in her old Hermione robe. Three years ago, when it was her Halloween costume, it was full length. Now, she is full length, and the robe hits her knee. Emilee named herself, Horatio Gold, who is the principal on "She's the Man." Em can be so hilarious, and so fun! She invited us each to dress up, to properly celebrate Ally's completion of school.

This chair was one of my favorite parts of the graduation. The sign said, "Reserved for the Class of 2008." Emilee had the other couches pushed back, so the graduate could sit in this prominent spot.

Em found a pianist, to play a homemade version of Pomp and Circumstance.

Upon completion of the final, the graduate was announced:

As Valedictorian of this important, up and coming class of one, she gave a speech:

Then it was time for Ally to receive her diploma from Horatio:

Of course, the important pictures with the family came next. Oh, and don't forget to notice the banner Emilee made:

Will you please join me in congratulating this up and coming, class of one!!
(I believe she will do a graduation with a bigger class this April.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

This Might Really Be Him!

I have made my own list of things left to do, and checked it twice. My mom says I just may have to remove some things from the list instead of going crazy at this point. She is probably right.

One thing that I finally crossed off my list was Riley's trip to see Santa. She was pleased with this visit. She told me this might be the real Santa. I told her to ask where the reindeer were parked, but she wouldn't.

Riley has informed me when past Santas did not pass the test. The earliest time I remember that was when a Santa at a church party was not wearing gloves. She told me that it couldn't be Santa, because he just had normal hands. She looks carefully each time to check gloves, beard appearance, voice, etc.

All she asked for was a doll, and some candy. I asked her what kind of doll she wanted, and she informed me that Santa will know. No pressure! Well, there shouldn't be, if in fact he IS the real Santa....

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Reality

The Plan:

Well, the plan was, that my parents would pick me up on Monday morning at 6:00 am, and drive me to Phoenix. From there, I was going to get on a plane to Salt Lake City. In Salt Lake, I would take a shuttle to Ally's apartment in Provo. Once there, I would get into Ally's fully packed car and head for home. I thought we might go part of the way Monday, and finish the trip on Tuesday. Ally said she thought I would be too tired to start driving Monday, and she thought we would just drive all the way home on Tuesday.

The Reality:

My parents picked me up, and once again I was a passenger in their car. They are so great! When we got to the border patrol check point, we were asked to pull over so they could search our car. My parents have traveled across that stretch of desert a zillion times, and well beyond many borders, and that has never happened to them before. It was surreal standing between my parents in the cold morning. My jacket was in the car, but we had to leave everything in the car. My dad got into trouble for having his hands in his pockets. "It's just cold," I said to the agent.
The agent only answered with a glare, and I decided to be quiet. My mom didn't decide to be quiet. She was saying all kinds of things that were so innocent, but sounded suspicious. I think when you are as sweet as my mom is, you just don't know what sounds shady.

Of course, there was nothing to be found in their car. The stop made me anxious though. Not that I thought we would be detained at all, but I didn't want to be late for my flight.

When we were almost to the airport, Ryan called from Chile. I still marvel at the fact that he could call me from Chile, when I was in the car on my way to the airport. I know I should just be used to that stuff by now, but it is amazing. It was my last call from Chile. He had six hours until his flight back to the United States.

Thankfully the lines were short at the airport, and I was there in plenty of time for my flight. I did get the seat in the very back of the plane. That's what I get for making a late reservation followed by an almost late arrival. I didn't enjoy the seat much, but it got me to my destination.

I was shocked by the cold in Utah. I don't enjoy the snow and cold. I was kind of prepared for it....and kind of not. It was warm in the shuttle though. It took me straight to Ally's apartment. That was great. There were three other passengers in the van, but I was the first stop. I was so happy to hug my girl! It had only been a few weeks since my last visit, but I had missed her so much.

At Ally's apartment I learned that she had done the majority of her packing and cleaning. She had also said most of her goodbyes. She still had a test to take though, and a paper to finish. I realized we would be in Provo for a night.

It was snowing a lot, so when we went to campus, I decided to park in faculty parking and just pay the ticket. I didn't want to walk far in the winter wonderland. It was beautiful. I can't deny that. I just wanted to sit in a warm house and look at it all through a large window.

(We didn't actually GET a ticket!)

While Ally did her work, I read a book and shopped. I was surrounded by anxious students trying to finish their finals. I felt like I was in the eye of a storm. I was in a calm place, with the storm swirling all around me.

Ally took her test on Tuesday, but was still having trouble with the paper. Since the paper was to be submitted by email, we decided to get on the road even though it wasn't finished yet. Ally really wanted to see Provo in the rear view mirror.
We didn't really take this picture, of course. I wish we had thought to do that. This is Provo, but in a different month. If this had been our picture, the white would have continued to the bottom, instead of stopping on the mountain.

We caught quite a bit of snow by Cedar City, but I didn't want to stop driving. I figured if we just made it to St. George, we would be putting the white winter behind us.

Wednesday morning, Ally got on a roll doing her paper. She was relieved about noon to hit "send" so we could get on the road and get home. Ryan had already arrived home on Tuesday night, and we wanted to get there too. (Thanks goes out to my parents who picked him up in Phoenix, and brought him home on Tuesday.)

When we hit the beginning of Las Vegas, it started to rain. The traffic slowed considerably and we were going maybe 10 miles an hour. When we finally got going again, that rain started to look a little slushy to me. Ally didn't believe me that it was turning to snow, but soon the fat flakes were undeniable. I told Ally I didn't want to stop in Las Vegas, because I was afraid we would get stuck there. I was sure that they didn't have much snow removal equipment.

We took this boring picture of the side of the road with my cell phone.

I didn't want to stop anywhere and get a good picture like this one:

I was determined not to get stuck there, you see.

When we got to Railroad pass, and the exit to Searchlight, we were sadly out of luck. I thought we would get there in time, but no. They had closed it. We had to keep driving. Luckily Boulder City is very close. We stopped there for gas, and everything was crazy. They closed the roads there too. We found a place to stay that looked a little suspect from the outside, but was nice, clean and warm inside. That place filled up with people quickly. So much for leaving the white winter behind us!

The nice man there was trying to control the snow with a push broom. They didn't have shovels. Old men in the nearby diner, drank hot coffee and speculated about how many palm trees might die in this storm. The waitress said it was a "once in a lifetime" event for them....

This tree was outside the diner. I wish we could have captured it better. It was such a sight. I don't think it will die though. It looked pretty tough to me.

And here's Ally, who was a great partner in adventure. She should have had Emilee with her, so they could have had a great snow fight or something.

After we filled up on hot chocolate and chicken noodle soup, we decided to watch movies. We watched "She's the Man," and "Step Up," on Ally's computer. If you know what those two movies have in common then you might see where Ally was going with that....;)

In the morning, our usual road was still not open, so we went the long way around...over Hoover Dam. It was so beautiful. The brilliant blue of the water was accented perfectly with all the snow that had not yet melted away.

We were so happy to get home last night. It was such a fun time for us. I kept telling her that although the circumstances were a pain, the whole thing was actually fun. We had extra time to spend together, and talk on our own.

She still has a final to take online today, and she will be officially finished with her undergraduate degree. I am so pleased, and happy for her! There isn't an official graduation in December, but if she wants to return in April to "walk," that's what we will do. That's what I did 21 years ago, when she was a tiny baby. Jeff and I left BYU in December 1987. I, with my bachelor's, and he was much cooler, having completed graduate school. We went back for the April graduation, just so I could have the pictures.

Now, I am going to go enjoy what I have been looking forward to for months. I am going to spend time with all of my children....:)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Tree......

The other day, when I posted the entry about Riley in 2004, I typed another entry from the past into my drafts. I knew I wanted to use it sometime soon.

When I went and read Sabra's post about her fun tree, I was amused that I had just typed this entry about my tree and our traditions. I love to look at the beautiful trees that people decorate, but I have never really done it that way myself.

This entry is from 2003. Back then, all five kids were home, and ranging in age from 1-17.

Since my son Ryan got a job, our family routine has been more difficult than ever. I like family time. I want the children to feel that we are a unit. Well, of course they are individuals, but I want each to have that family feeling as part of his or her foundation. Every year we have decorated our Christmas tree as a family. Until this year, it was a real tree. My husband got frustrated last year with the rusty carpet stain created by too much water spilling over onto the tree stand. He bought me a nice nine foot, prelit tree. It's nice, but I'm still adjusting. He bought that last Saturday. This Saturday we are having a family Christmas party at our home, and so I needed the tree to be decorated by then. The calendar showed a full week in which there was no evening we would all be here. Not one.

I warned everyone on Monday that breakfast would be earlier than usual today, and that we would be decorating the tree together before school. Kaitie and Emilee thought that was a great idea. There is no time that would be bad for them. Ryan and Ally, my teens, were not as sure. I knew I would have to make it good.

For breakfast I made waffles and bacon. I never make bacon...well, hardly ever. Ryan and Ally used to call it, "that stuff we eat on Father's Day." I also made hot chocolate. The kitchen smelled great. I put on fun Christmas music. I had everyone in a good mood in just a few minutes. I don't do a "designer" tree. Our tree is a history of our family. We have the ornaments the kids have made in school, and many with their pictures. I still have this ugly gold star with macaroni glued on it that Ryan made when he was about five. I kept hearing, "I remember this...."
I can tell you who gave me the lace candy canes, crocheted the snowflakes, and painted wooden stars. Nothing matches, but that's not the point here. It is a history of my children, who used to be so small, and now are headed for adulthood with frightening speed. It also reminds us of many other people who we know and love. It was still that this morning. The only problem was, it was too short. They had school and work to go to. So they left, going in all different directions....but from one foundation.

Back to 2008...Last night I even had Emilee take some pictures of our ornaments. I want to write about some of them, but it's not going to happen this morning. I need to go watch the sunrise....over the Wal Mart parking lot.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Sweet, The Aftermath, and My Other Big Wish

This morning, the girls left with gifts for friends and teachers.

They were also armed with cookies for class parties....aww, isn't that so sweet?

I, however, am in the aftermath....and there will be no picture involved. It shouldn't take much imagination to visualize paper and fabric scraps, flour, and quite a few dirty dishes. This is not how I imagined the day before a family dinner at my house.

Tomorrow is our annual Christmas party we have with my mom's side of the family. I have to plow through this aftermath, and get everything back to normal, so I can put on a nice dinner for about 40 people.

This dinner is not all that is on my mind today. My mind is filled with travel plans, some shopping yet undone, and the need to practice the piano a bit. I am really excited that in a few days I will have all my kids home. That is really my main thought.

My other big wish for myself, and for all of you, is for emails that are filled with warmth, love and/or this phrase:

Your order has been shipped.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is That for Me?

This is Riley, in 2004. It wasn't actually Christmas yet. It was one of our pretend, pre Christmas celebrations. She was soooo sleepy, because of all the family craziness, but she had a pretty good grip on that stocking.

This picture of Riley making cookies with her daddy is one of my favorite pictures of Christmas 2004.

This is something I wrote about her that year:

Life with a two year old is challenging. I love it, though. Sure, she makes messes faster than I can clean them, has crazy tantrums that make no sense, and does physical stunts that are positively scary. That's all pretty normal, right? The thing that has been the most enjoyable for me lately is her language development, and thought process. She says things regularly that surprise and delight all of us.

Riley is really learning to "categorize." Let me explain. When the news is on tv, she says, "That is for my dad." She knows that is what he watches. Of course, Dora the Explorer is for her. Sometimes when a commercial comes on, she will ask, "Is that for you?" The other day, we were watching a shampoo commercial, and the model was very beautiful. I asked, "Is that for me?" She answered, "No, that's for Ally."

This kind of "categorization" comes in handy sometimes. I took my makeup away from her the other day and stated, "This is not for you." She didn't get back into it. That made enough sense for her little mind. If we are out, and I order a big drink and a small drink, she knows the big drink is for me and the little drink is for her. If I tried to give her the big one, she would probably give it back. Riley tries to make it come in handy for herself too. At dinner the other day, she said that green beans were for daddies. It was pretty funny.

A couple of days ago at the store, she looked at the colorful gumball machines on the way out. She pointed and said, "I want that." I answered, "Oh those are bad for your teeth, and for your tummy. They are yucky if they get stuck in your hair." She looked at me and said, "Those are for you." I laughed! I get it though....yucky things are for parents. Another time when we were shopping, I was thinking of getting a certain outfit until she said, "That is for grandma." ;)

Like I said, small things are for her, and big ones are for me. She saw my two foot Christmas tree the other day, in the stuff I haven't put up yet. She was fascinated with the small tree and stated confidently, "This is for me!"

Riley has been having fun playing with all the decorations around here. I have the breakable things out of her reach, and the things that I don't mind her playing with down low. She loves the nativity scene with one inch people. She rearranges them, and has them "talk" to each other. She is starting to be able to tell me who each piece represents.

Yesterday, she held up Baby Jesus, and exclaimed, "Baby Jesus is for me!" "Yes honey," I answered softly, "He really is."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Concert, a Program, and a Very White Candy Cane

Last night was Kaitie's Christmas choir concert at school. She really enjoys her choir, and seemed pleased with how things went. She should be was well done.

Monday night we went to Riley's Christmas program. I was in a room full of parents of 5-7 year olds, and I am pretty sure I was the only one who didn't take any pictures. The program was well done though. You will just have to take my word for it, because I don't have any photographic evidence.

After the program, I told Riley we could celebrate. She didn't choose to go out anywhere. She just wanted to have hot chocolate with a candy cane in it. She was excited to stir the hot chocolate until the stripes of her candy cane melted off into the chocolate...and that's exactly what she did. I love it when simple things are so satisfying....

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Really? I'm Still Writing About This?

I didn't get up early Thanksgiving morning to put a turkey into the oven. I hadn't been making rolls and pies for days. We got into the car and drove for three hours to my brother David's house. I told his wife Cari that the three hour drive was the good end of the deal. She and her sister spent a couple of days making us an amazing dinner. When I say amazing, I mean it. Be jealous.

After dinner, the lightsabers came out:

Don't let that worried look fool you. He is having the time of his life being cornered like that. I think it is not as much of a "worried" look as an in-character-dramatic-look.

The kids definitely had more energy after dinner than I had! (In a house with two young boys...and a might expect to find two or three lightsabers, right? There were maybe eight of them!)

I did play a funny game with Ava, and that ball and the little Diego she is holding. I can't remember how it went anymore, but we had fun. The adults also played a crazy game of "Would You Rather?" in which we discussed whether we would rather have vertical eyes or a horizontal nose. That was maybe the tamest thing we discussed in the game!

On Friday, we went to the Phoenix zoo:

It was a perfect zoo day. Well, Kaitie and Emilee didn't want to be there, so it wasn't perfect for them. It improved when my brother Jon, and his wife Lisa came and took them out to eat....down the street from the zoo.

Riley, on the other hand, loved the zoo, and had a great time with her cousins. Well, there were a couple of times Riley didn't like the zoo either. She didn't like the places where she felt like we were IN with the animals. We never really were, of course. She liked the times where she felt like she was observing from a very safe distance. (I took this picture with my cell phone, so it isn't great, but it is all I had at the time.)

Last, but not least....
Ally didn't come home for Thanksgiving, but she had a really great time with her friends. She has only one week left of school....not just in the semester, but until graduation! I am so proud of her. She has worked hard and finished in 3 1/2 years. I am excited to get her home next week!

Whew! I can come into December now....and wonder with Riley what exciting things it will bring:

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ryan's New Groove

Ryan is Chile, that is. He spent the last week in Peru at Machu Picchu. Here are a couple of his pictures:

When Ryan first got to Peru, and called from Cuzco, I said something to him about "Ryan's New Groove." He had no idea what I was talking about. Our lives have been very different the last few years! (If you are not familiar with "The Emperor's New Groove" and its influence from Peru, you don't know what I am talking about either.)

A month ago, I meant to include pictures from his weekend in Argentina. He went with three of his friends (girls) to Mendoza for that weekend. He said he was pretty much along as the spider killer on that trip. He managed to do some sightseeing as well:

Some things will never change. If there is a Subway to be found, Ryan will find it!
(When he was in the airport in Seoul Korea, where did he eat? Subway!)

Next week, when I say Ryan is back, he will really be back home! Merry Christmas to me...:)