Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Relief Society Dinner

Today was my decorating deadline, and we made it. With green walls, it's pretty easy to just add a little red and be done. The outside lights are up, the tree is decorated, and the table was festive. I was rushing to take this as everyone was arriving, so it's not quite focused, but it was pretty. I should have taken a photo of poor disappointed Ainsley, who asked when she would be in the Relief Society so she could come to the party.

Usually we meet at the church for an annual Christmas dinner, but this year it was hosted in various homes. As a hostess, it was a lot of work—in addition to cleaning my house I fixed the main meal (honey baked ham, au gratin potatoes, garlic beans and hot rolls)—but it was worth it. It's nice to have my home decorated and clean already. The house assignments were random, which was a great way to mix things up and get to know sisters I didn't know as well in a more intimate setting. After dinner, we all met at the ward for dessert, carols, an awesome slideshow and visiting.

The best part is that I returned home to find all the kids in bed, the food put away and the dishes done (by hand, even, since I used my china, crystal and silver):

I really do have the best husband ever.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Goodbye Thanksgiving, Hello Christmas

"Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God’s love."
~Thomas S. Monson (full talk here)

We've done a few things to encourage the kids to feel and express gratitude for the things we normally take for granted. We made a gratitude tree, and the kids filled in some of the things they appreciate.

Here are some of the things they wrote, in random order (I left their spelling):

Holladays * Books * Leafs * Friends * Soil * Candy * Parents * Clothes * Love * Jesus Crist * My dog * Presents * The Book of Mormon * Grandparents * Santa * Cars * Cousins * Computers * Food * Mom * Video Games * Trees * Christmas * My family * The air * Shoes * Piano * Dad * TV * Heavenly Father * School * My bed * Mommy & Daddy * DS * Home * Trips * My dog * Water * Pets * Music * Earth * Education * Turkey

Grandma Judy brought each of the kids a gratitude journal, and we encouraged them to make a list there too. Here's Ellie's:

I was pretty impressed that she knew who Ester was, until I got to #47 and realized she meant Easter.

And Ainsley's list:

She has prayer, music, scripture, lesson, treat and activity listed, because she was writing at my desk, right where she could copy the family home evening chart. :)

Rob told the kids whoever made it to 100 first could play Yahtzee on his iPad, which is a new family favorite. The boys didn't even start their lists, but here they are anyway at the end of the day, discovering the "battle" version of Yahtzee. So fun—you can download the app here.

Okay, and finally, November 26th seems WAY too early to start the Christmas season, but since I'm hosting a dinner group for our RS Christmas party next Tuesday, I figured I'd better get the decorating out of the way. Couldn't bring myself the play Christmas music like we usually do—we had everything from Bob Marley to U2 for this year's tree trimming.

I forgot my camera tonight when we went out to dinner with friends, but I am grateful for them. They, I'm sure, are grateful that I didn't embarrass them by taking a photo at the restaurant.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Very Thankful This Thanksgiving

I simply have too many blessing to enumerate. So this is just a recap.

This was our first year hosting the big dinner. We had sixteen: my mom and dad, my grandma, Chris, Christine & Mikey, and Cara and her kids. Cara took my favorite photo of the day—check out the view in the goblet.

Although I love this photo too, my favorite grandma with my favorite Thanksgiving food, candied yams. They have to be her candied yams though.

We couldn't all fit around the table, but the boys didn't seem to mind.

The food was amazing, and could easily be the focus of this post. But the gathering of family is what really makes this day. And there is no way I'd ever go to this much effort to eat a meal in solitude.

Here's Ainsley, attacking the poor turkey carcass after the meal.

She clearly gets her carnivore instincts from her dad.

#97 on my list of things to be grateful for today is a fridge full of yummy leftovers.

We went to Davy and Emma's for pie—I made a Tollhouse Pie and Pioneer Woman's Apple Pie, and they were both worth the hours of working out it'll take to erase.

Here we are in our post-feast comas.

I love this holiday. I am blessed and am truly grateful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

St. George Marathon

The marathon was actually the easy part. Getting there was the challenge this year. My back went out four times in the six weeks prior to October 2nd. So I missed my longest training runs. And I was bummed when my friend Julie called me the Monday before the race to say she probably wouldn't be able to run because of her knee injuries.

When she called back on Wednesday to tell me she was in, my back had just gone out again. As soon as it did, I took four ibuprofen and drove myself to the chiropractor. I went back on Thursday and Friday for several hours of electrical, ultrasound, heat and massage therapy. My goal was just to make it to the starting line at that point.

And I did make it. Here I am with Julie, running her first marathon, and her sister Jenna, also running her fifth. The starting line was the only time all day that we were cold. It got very warm, and since Julie and I were going slow, by the time we finished, the heat was brutal.

But we had a great time and Julie's knee injury was a blessing to me, because it kept her running at my much slower pace right to the finish line. Rob, Ellie and Ainsley were there to cheer us on and document what is probably my last marathon. Because we ran so slowly, I actually recovered really quickly, and went for a run just a few days after. Then my back went out again, and I was back to square one.

I had an MRI, which showed multiple herniated discs, as suspected. I mustered up my courage and went to the masters swimming at Olympus, only to injure my shoulder, because I hadn't been swimming. Yeah, I'm pretty much falling apart.

On the bright side, I did not throw up, or need an IV at the end of my race. Shawn still wins the willpower award.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ellie's Birthday Party

Ellie's friend party was put on hold for almost a month while I was dealing with back issues and getting through Lotoja and marathon training. We repeated the movie/frozen yogurt party almost exactly, although she invited a few more friends and we saw Ramona and Beezus. She's been reading the Ramona books, so it was perfect timing.

She had to trim her guest list considerably—she wanted to invite 26 girls! I'm just not that nice a mom. Seven, plus Ainsley, was just right.

Ainsley did not have a friend party this year, so we may break with the odd-year tradition and let her have one next year, when she turns six.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Feast Day

Ainsley has been looking forward to her preschool "feast day" for weeks. Especially since this was my turn to come in and help. Unfortunately my camera battery died before the feast began, but here's what was on Ainsley's plate: deli-sliced turkey, Bugle chips, canned mandarin oranges, bananas, apples, grapes, string cheese, cheddar cheese, bread, baby carrots, mini-marshmallows and candy corn. She said "no thank you" to olives, pickles and pineapple. She told me it was the best day ever. If only I were serving a group of 4-5 year olds on Thursday, the menu would be easy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Joey's birthday

Still catching up—Joey's birthday was September 22nd, back in the black hole months.

It fell on a Wednesday, so we didn't have time for a nice breakfast before school, but we did let Joey open one present.

And he got Dunford's chocolate doughnuts for his class treat.

He picked crepes for his birthday dinner, and then we opened the rest of his presents. He has been telling us that he wants to be a chemist when he grows up for a couple of years now, so he got a book on experiments, and another book on the periodic table.

But he was most excited about his latest Wii game.

We decided years ago that friend parties would only happen on the kids' odd years, up to age nine. Last year I bribed offered Joey $100 to forego his friend party, and he did. I felt a little guilty this year, and offered him a downsized version. The day after his birthday was an early-out school day, so we took his three best friends, Cole, Stephen and Max, to a movie and frozen yogurt. Robbie got to come too.

We saw The Sorcerer's Apprentice at the dollar theater, and then walked across the street to have frozen yogurt at TCBY. I didn't have to clean my house or make anything, and they all thought it was great.

Ten things about our ten year-old:
1. He is creative. He's got a book full of illustrated stories.
2. He is good at figuring out solutions to problems, math and otherwise.
3. In spite of the fact that he hates to practice, he is a talented pianist.
4. He is intense. He lives with passion, and will never be found sitting
on the wall.
5. He is smart, and is in the top math and reading classes.
6. Although he is hesitant to try new things (food, activities), he usually
likes whatever he tries (even sushi).
7. He is an extrovert. We're not sure how this happened, with two
introverts as parents, but he is very social. He makes friends easily
and loves to spend time with them.
8. He is active and athletic. He hasn't fallen in love with any one sport,
but if he does, he'll have the energy and ability to excel.
9. He is not afraid to be himself, even if it means non-conformity.
10. He sometimes accuses his parents of "hating him." Nothing could be
further from the truth. We love and appreciate Joey more than
he'll ever know.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Today's Notes

1. I'm thankful for Rob, who mowed and trimmed the yard one last time today.

2. Never go to Costco the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

3. These girls are posers. And they haven't given up on the Utes.

4. Also, we dissembled the bunk beds a couple of weeks ago, and they've been pretty good about making their beds. I love to see their elaborate arrangements of stuffed animals and blankets.

5. We are definitely in our "off season." Evidence here:

6. Mmmm, banana splits.

7. Notice how hair combing just doesn't happen when we don't have to go anywhere.

Friday, November 19, 2010

New Toy

Yes, they are noisy and obnoxious, but we couldn't get the leaves out of the rocks without our new leaf blower. The boys were pretty happy about it and did their job with minimal whining.

I guess we're sort of ready (but not willing) for winter.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Still Swimming

The kids miss being able to go to swimming in nothing but their suits and flip-flops, but they are glad to still be able to swim. They especially love their new coach: Uncle Shawn.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ode to Lois Banks

This is Robbie's Scouting Advancement Chairperson. She is amazing. She's been doing this for 26 years, and has helped hundreds of boys achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. Each merit badge earned equals a treat from her—the favorite is an extra-large homemade slurpee. She told me she goes through 15 pounds of sugar each month for these. When they earn a rank advancement the boys get an entire cake or pie. Or they can save up and request one of her famous four-pound cheesecakes as a reward for 2 rank advancements. Robbie did just that, and Lois reluctantly posed with said cheesecake. It was the best we've ever tasted. I'm hoping to get the recipe and I'll post it here. It's not for the calorie-conscious. She told me it takes 8 packages of cream cheese and a pound of sugar. If any of us keel over, you'll know why. Totally worth it. Her treats are a microcosm of her life philosophy, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing 110%."

Here are a few more inspiring things I've learned about Lois: She was once secretary to President David O. McKay, and to Gordon B. Hinckley, but quit because she wanted to raise a large family. In addition to her own kids (six?), she has raised over 120 kids in her home daycare. She wakes up at 4:00 a.m. every day so she has time for her callings, job and family. She uses a constitution with all her kids and they each take part as prosecuting and defending attorneys or members of the jury when one of the rules is broken. They also do homework, learn to garden and to cook at her school. After visiting, I really thought my kids would be better off if I worked and sent them there.

At her funeral (hopefully not for a very long time) I imagine there will be hundreds, maybe even thousands of people there to pay tribute to her. She will not be loved and remembered for having a perfect body, great wealth or multiple college degrees. She is, and will be loved and remembered for giving service, even when it was incredibly inconvenient, and always going the extra mile. She loves people, and has changed so many lives for the better, including mine and Robbie's. I'd love to be a Lois Banks when I grow up. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

First Class

When I read Rachel's post I could relate to her mixed feelings about scouting. It has definitely been time-consuming, especially since I've been a den leader for both Robbie and Joey. I hate sewing on badges, and wonder about some of the awards (did you know there's a belt loop for video games now?!) But the boys enjoy it, and I am proud of them. At tonight's Court of Honor, Robbie earned his scholarship, swimming, dog care, pets and communications merit badges, as well as his Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class rank advancements. I really appreciate his scout leaders, and special thanks to Shawn for helping him with the maps, compass, orienteering and knife/saw/ax care requirements.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday Morning Matinee

This week was family week at school, with a special screening of Megamind this morning. Rob didn't realize that the movie was at 10:00 a.m., conflicting with his church leadership meeting, so we gave his ticket to Jonas and traded Ainsley for Samantha. The movie got twelve thumbs up from our group, and it was way more fun than our usual Saturday morning jobs!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Let Me Count the Ways...

Yes, I know I've posted many times about my love of books and book groups. I can't say it enough. Tonight it was at my house, so reason #157 I love book group is that it gives me a great reason to clean my house. :)

I served homemade orange rolls, which I've never made before, so now I've got a new skill too. This month we discussed Opening Skinner's Box, Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century by Lauren Slater. This is the third book group I've been in that has covered this book, and each time it's been a great discussion. I found the entire book online, so if you want to read it, click here.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Joey's Doppelgangers

It's not just the hair either. :)