Saturday, February 4, 2017

Front Room Make-Over

I've been meaning to do a post about our front room makeover for so long that I forgot if we painted last year or in 2015. How could I forget something like that?! I know it was a week at the beginning of summer and that I spent a lot of time sitting in the driveway to be out of the way. We hired painters and they did all the upstairs living areas, the hallway, and the upstairs bathroom. (I painted the entire basement, master bedroom and both kids rooms by. my. self. so I knew I couldn't take on vaulted ceilings with three little kids running circles around my ladder for a month.) We chose the same paint I used for the master bedroom "Natural Choice" with "Dover White" on all the trim and white on the ceiling. Behind our cabinets in the kitchen we used "Revere Pewter," which is the shade just darker than "Natural Choice." The metamorphosis in the kitchen isn't complete, so I'll save that for another post.
 We were almost done breaking down the room before I thought to take "before" pictures. I had family photos on those ledges and a big photo of my immediate family over the piano.The photos are pretty much the only thing I liked in the room. That couch. We bought it because we needed something in our guest room in our first house. It is a fold-out single bed. We got it second-hand and I hated it from the first, but thought it would be a place-holder until we got something we really wanted in the room. Thirteen and a half years later...
I had a nice lady paint the piano blue (with chalk paint) and I got those shelves from Ballard Designs (marked down 50%!). My goal in this teeny, tiny room (11' x 11.5') was to make the furniture seem less imposing. Painting the piano a light color makes it take up less space, see. (Not really, it's an illusion.) The corners of the room were useless space before and now we have storage for our favorite books and games. I had the big canvas print of the family photo Melissa took last year made at Costco for pretty cheap. The baskets under that couch have my piano books in them.
I did have curtains up, but they started under the "eyebrow" of the window. Not great. The chairs were another purchase I made because they were cheap and we needed something to sit on in the front room. When the home teachers came, our whole family of five would cram into the chair and a half and the home teachers took the chairs. Elbows! The file cabinet was part of my brilliant plan to store my piano books for my students in file folders. When I got the drawers home I discovered they do not fit standard hanging files. The Worst.
I researched couches for a year before we bought these. They had to fit width-wise, but I didn't want them coming into the room too much, so they had to be shallow too. I wanted couches that didn't invite lounging. Sitting only. These are from Crate & Barrel and they are 33" deep (most couches are at least 36" deep). We went back and forth for a long time, then decided on one couch and one love seat in the same fabric (platinum). The curtains are from Ballard Designs and we placed the curtain rod above the window "eyebrow" to make the room seem taller/bigger. I put the same crown molding ledges up and the same photographs are in the room as well, with a few added.

I'm in this room a lot because I teach piano in here. Before we redecorated, the room made me grumpy. Now I love to be in it. All my favorite books and pictures are in the room. (I thought it would take pressure off the other bookshelves in the house, but somehow they're still full too. I may need a support group for people who buy pretty books.) Here are some of my favorite views of our front room:
Aren't those the most gorgeous books?! On the wall is a photo of my Grandpa Furniss as a baby with his parents.
This corner has my favorite pictures of Brian and me and my favorite books.
Looking out of the room you can see whichever quilt I have hanging up and a photo of my Grandma Furniss when she was a toddler (the bottom photo), and a photo of my Grandpa Furniss and his sister, Lola as toddlers. Lola introduced my Grandparents to each other. :)

That concludes our make-over tour for today. :)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

January 2017 Book Reports

That's right! I'm going to do book reports monthly again. They're for me. I love going back and reminding myself of the great, terrible, and in-between books I've read. It's happening. I'm including stand-out books I read with Emil and Colin (they are six years-old) and Bridget (she is 10 years-old).

1. Scandinavian Gatherings: From Afternoon Fika to Midsummer feast: 70 Simple Recipes and Crafts for Everyday Celebrations by Melissa Bahen
This is a cookbook, but it's also a tribute to family history. I cannot get enough of it. I have Swedish ancestors (on my maternal grandfather's side) and I have read a few Scandinavian novels. I'm fascinated by the style, the art and colors, and the connection to the ocean.

Bahen goes through uniquely Scandinavian celebrations and describes her Norwegian family gatherings, includes recipes and directions for crafts to make. I bought this book a few weeks before Christmas and right in time to have a St. Lucia celebration on December 13th. I had Bridget wear a white dress with a red sash, we decorated the table with a white tablecloth and green wreath and lots of sparkly votive candles. I made Swedish Meatballs (even though that wasn't part of St. Lucia in particular) and we had gingerbread cookies. It was fun to talk about traditions our ancestors had and the meatball recipe was so good.

I noticed after reading the book that my Christmas decorations and the colors I've used in my house (blue piano, red and white in almost every room) fit right in with the Scandinavian decor in the book. Strong vibes from my Swedish ancestors? I think so. :)

2. Me...Jane by Patrick McDonnell
This is the true story of Jane Goodall. The illustrations are very sweet. At the end of the book there is a cute photo of little Jane with her stuffed chimpanzee. Since Goodall went on to fight to keep chimpanzees from becoming extinct, this book made me take a hard look at the boys' stuffed toys; Scooby-Doo, a T-Rex, a couple of bears, and Mike Razowski. What seeds am I planting, you guys?!

The book shows Jane's normal yard and home transforming into a jungle in her imagination. She was never afraid and she wanted to learn everything. That reminds me of Emil. :) At a book store a few weeks ago Colin was too afraid to ask one of the employees where the Pokemon books were. Emil walked right up to a guy and said, "My brother wants to know where the Pokemon books are." They have such different gifts! Anyway, Me...Jane is really great. The boys loved that it was a true story, too.

3. The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
I can't remember why I bought this. I think it was super cheap somewhere and I'd heard of Kate Grenville. I usually enjoy Man Booker Prize-winners, too. (I didn't realize when I got it that she'd won the prize for a different book.) The Lieutenant is about a young man, Daniel Rooke, who is very smart, but mostly awkward. He gets a very good education, but ends up going to war (navy) for the British during the American Revolution. (I couldn't think of a book I've read about the American Revolution that wasn't from the American perspective. Hmmm.) Rooke sees terrible things. He comes home injured and very shaken up.

One of Rooke's navy buddies, Silk, tells him about a ship headed for New South Wales, on the east side of Australia, to colonize. Rooke decides to go on this voyage as the astronomer. His mentor had predicted a comet even bigger than Halley's Comet and this would be a great place for an observatory.

Once the ships get to New South Wales, it's pretty grim. Rooke manages to convince the captain that he should build an observatory (i.e. get away from all the other people) farther inland so that he can watch for the comet. Rooke is also trained in linguistics, but he doesn't really think it will be part of his assignment. But of course, that is exactly what his calling turns out to be. The regiment doesn't see the native Aboriginal people living in their soon-to-be colony as human. Rooke begins communicating with a young Aboriginal woman - he teaches her English words and she teaches him her language.

"But language was more than a list of words, more than a collection of fragments all jumbled together like a box of nuts and bolts. Language was a machine. To make it work, each part had to be understood in relation to all the other parts."

When Rooke and the girl start understanding each other, he has a moment of joy and clarity. He recognizes that it is his calling to record this language, to understand them. Of course his captain is not on board, nor is anyone else. Rooke comes to a crossroads - he finds himself part of a "hunting" party with other soldiers to drive the natives off their land. There is a terrible moment when he has to choose between doing the job he was hired to do, or quitting and getting hanged. Reminds me of a scripture I read recently where in a lists of opposites was "joy and remorse of conscience." So the opposite of joy is regret. That spoke to me.

4. Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton by Meghan McCarthy
Betty Skelton rode motorcycles, raced cars, jumped out of airplanes, flew jets and helicopters. And she was a LADY in the 1930s! What is the meaning of this?! The illustrations in the book are great - lots of red and white, very whimsical. The writing isn't the best. I didn't like that McCarthy kept pointing out that Betty was fired BECAUSE SHE WAS A WOMAN. Or Betty couldn't be a pilot BECAUSE SHE WAS A WOMAN. I think I would have had a much better discussion with Emil and Colin if they'd had to ask the question, "Why was she fired?" or "Why couldn't she be a pilot?" Nothing to explore or talk about when the reason was stated so flatly on every other page.

I want to know more about Betty Skelton! I'm interested in interesting people. :) There were a few places where I thought more explanation was required. On one page Betty is shown as a 7 year-old kid "flying" an airplane while her Dad kept a lookout so she wouldn't get in trouble. I think she just sat in the cockpit of the plane, but the book made it sound like she actually flew the plane. When none of the other experiences were imaginary, it was odd to have that one thrown in without explaining that she got to pretend to fly. Again, though, the boys always like hearing true stories.

5. The Great Bicycle Experiment:The Army's Historic Black Bicycle Corps, 1896-97 by Kay Moore
In 1896 Lt. James Moss tried to get the Army to use bicycles instead of horses. He led an infantry of Buffalo Soldiers in Missoula, Montana and this all-black regiment made several experimental bicycle rides to see if bicycles were a viable option.

This is one of the books for Battle of the Books this year. Bridget is her team captain! She and I are reading some of the books on the list together. I found this story so fascinating, but Bridget and I agree that it is one of the most boring books we've ever read together. The writing is not up to the story.

The Bicycle Corp. rode to Yellowstone (fun pictures) and from Missoula to St. Louis, 2000 miles! It's truly an amazing story. They had to be in amazing physical condition. The Army ended up passing on using bicycles for the main transportation, though.

6. The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough
I'm a huge David McCullough fan and I'm visiting New York City for the first time in a few months. One of our activities is walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, so I wanted to do some research. (The other day Bridget commented that Brian and I sure are doing a lot of studying for our vacation. Hahahahaha! I want to have an immersive experience, what can I say?) I listened to this book and I probably should have read a hard copy. I need to see pictures of a caisson. I don't get it.

Every time McCullough was recounting the human parts, the political machinations behind getting the bridge built, the absolute decency of Washington Roebling, the role Emily Roebling played, the con artists who tried to make a buck... that's when I was so interested that everything else in life took a backseat. A guy won the bid for the cables that would hold up the bridge and he went to very great pains to deliver inferior cables that hadn't passed the inspection. WHY?! Why on earth would you risk killing or injuring hundreds of people? Of toppling a work of art that had already taken 12 years to get this far? People who work so hard to deceive and make a quick dollar are the dumbest.

I heard a lot about caissons and Caisson Disease (The Bends). I think I might have it. I shouldn't joke. It was interesting to see the doctors and Roebling and the other engineers trying to figure out what was going on with workers who were having paralysis, headaches, memory loss - all hours and sometimes days after they'd been working dozens of feet underwater in the caissons. They'd get "this close" to figuring it out, but never all the way. Washington Roebling was one of the most tragic victims of Caisson Disease (several guys died from it - including his father, John Roebling, who was the original architect of the Brooklyn Bridge, but he didn't live to see even the first pillar coming out of the water). He still had everything in his head, though. And Emily Roebling became an engineer and ambassador for her husband as a result of his disease. Theirs was a pretty inspiring marriage. It's my favorite to read about and know couples who become better because they are together. The Roeblings weren't competing for attention or recognition, they were trying to build a bridge that would stand the test of time and elements. Emily did what she had to do to help her husband execute his vision.

I'm so excited to see the Brooklyn Bridge in person! McCullough is the master at conveying the emotion of historical events. One of my favorite parts of the book was his chapter on the ceremony for the official opening of the bridge. They had no microphones, so people (of which there were thousands) who were sitting more than 50 feet away couldn't hear a word. Back in that day, speeches would go on for HOURS. (We got a taste of that at the Golden Spike reenactment a few years ago. The humanity! Stop talking!!) The crowd got very restless because all these old guys were going on and on and finally a trumpet player got up and played the Star Spangled Banner. He was cheered and cheered (people could hear him!). The guy played an encore. More cheering! The next speaker pulled the guy off stage before a third song and the smiling trumpet player started playing a song off stage, which delighted President Chester Arthur and many people in the audience. Ha! Fun.

Truly, the Brooklyn Bridge is a triumph.

7. Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett illustrated by Jon Klassen
I bought this book for Emil for Christmas in 2015. (I always get the kids a book for Christmas.) The story of boys digging a hole speaks to Emil. :) Sam and Dave vow to not stop digging until they find something "spectacular." Every time they decide to start digging in a different direction, we pan out to see that they are a few shovels-full of dirt away from a huge jewel. Emil and Colin both go crazy when they see that jewel! The three of us end up laughing hysterically every time we read it. Then Emil talks about digging holes every day for a week. :)

Year of the Rooster

I had a story assignment at the Community Chinese New Year Celebration at Skyridge High School last weekend. There was so much to do and the kids were INTO it. I took a lot of photos. I've already wrung 300 words out of this, so I don't have much to add, but I would like to write that I love taking my kids to do stuff and see stuff. They are always interested and "all in" when we are having an adventure. I saw and heard many kids screeching at their parents that they wanted to go home and mine were busy planning what we were going to do first, second and third. I really love Bridget, Emil, and Colin, but I also like them and being with them. To the photos!
This one ended up on the front page of the paper. Someday their grandchildren will be looking through the archives of the Lehi Free Press from 2016 to 2017 and be able to find a photo of grandma or grandpa in almost every issue. Ha!
Emil insisted on going back to try on the smaller lion since he couldn't carry the bigger one.
Painting terra cotta soldiers. Bridget and Colin were super careful and Emil was done first. :)
Bridget chose the Chinese characters for "Brave." We think. It probably says "Girl with Freckles."
I took a video of them learning a fan dance and I watched it 100 times. I was sitting in front of the mirror they're looking into and they forgot I was there. Best time to observe. :)
So cute. Skyridge is the biggest high school I've ever been in. I enjoyed high school, but I think I would have retreated way into my shell if I'd gone to a school as big as Skyridge. I can feel the anxiety of many young people every time I'm there. They do have a very clean, very nice building, though.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ski Weekend

Brian's Christmas present for the boys was ski lessons. He scheduled the first two lessons on the first Friday and Saturday in January thinking they were still on Winter Break from school. Instead, we had to take the kids out of school, BUT it was totally worth it.

I do not ski. I carried the bags, took the pictures and cried the Olympic happy tears. It took a lot to get the boys situated the first day, but then Bridget and Brian went off to the lift and I went to the Alta Grill to watch out the windows. My first view of Brian and Bridget coming back in was this:
I knew they weren't talking to each other, and yet they were communicating. Something about watching them skiing together made me teary. They've been going together for five years. Bridget is a good little skier now - she doesn't care to go fast, she wants to make the turns and learn how to do everything. Brian patiently follows her. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Then they get on the lift where Bridget can open her chatterbox until they get to the top. They went down a few Black Diamond runs together - Bridget has complete trust in her Dad. I do too.

I went to see what the boys were up to over at the Magic Carpet for a minute.

They'd ski down on either side of that conveyor belt (the "Magic Carpet"), then get back on it to the top.
Their instructors are giving them snowballs to hold as they ski down. For balance, maybe? I know nothing.
It was only in the single digits while we were there the first day, so Brian and Bridget came in to warm up.
After a very expensive lunch at the Alta Grill (we are such amateurs), Brian and the kids got bundled back up and we all went to the tow rope. (I inadvertently ended Colin's lesson early when I called to him and waved from the balcony 10 minutes before he was supposed to finish. He saw me, waved excitedly, took off his skis and left them where he was standing and ran into the building to get me. Ha!)
Skiing is a bit like bowling for Colin.
Emil struggled a lot that first day - he fell and fell and fell. Colin seemed to pick it right up. Emil always got up when he fell, though, and he couldn't wait to try again. It's his best "feature," as Bridget says. :)
Brian is the World's Best Backward Skier. :)
My favorite. 

We got to our hotel at about 3:00 and all three of the kids were laughing and bouncing around with happiness. Our room was on the top floor, so we had a great view. We hurried and dressed for the pool. Because it's always Go Time.
The pizza we ordered (after a few hours at the pool) took forever and I think we could have eaten another pizza. (I did have carrot sticks and string cheese too, but they'd all worked so hard that they couldn't stop eating.)

Our second day at Alta was a lot like the first, but there were more people at the resort. Emil used all his experience from the first day to ROCK the second day. He made it onto the Red Team. I think Colin was still tired from the day before because he fell down more the second day. Even though they were both tired from their lessons, they were happy to go to the tow rope with Brian and Bridget again. 

We're already planning our ski trip for next year. It's our Thing. :) 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Christmas Day 2016

Our family had a very successful Christmas. I made good on my promise not to have noisy toys this year. Except Bridget's pink ukulele. On Christmas Eve they all opened their new pajamas; Bridget and Analy got matching American Girl pajamas, Emil got Darth Vader pajamas and Colin got BB8 pajamas (remember, he can't be on the Dark Side).

Bridget claims she was up for HOURS Christmas morning before she finally came into our room at 6:20 and asked if we could open presents. I was going to make her wait until 7:00, but Brian was weak. They woke up the brothers while I plugged in the tree and got the camera ready.
Poor Colin. He'd rather keep sleeping, I think. All the presents from Santa were arranged by the kids' stockings, as usual.
Santa realized on December 20th that the Radio Flyer wagon Emil asked for was a lot more money than he thought, so Emil got the mini version. I'm sure Emil had a 100 thoughts cross his mind when he saw that tiny wagon, but he chose, "I guess I really didn't say what size the wagon needed to be..." Whew! He's been perfectly happy with it. Colin got his favorite movie, "Kubo and the Two Strings" in his stocking. Fist pump.
I think that's Bridget noticing she got the skateboard she asked for. I see now that I've put these photos out of order.
Magnet Checkers (regular and Chinese) for the boys, smelly markers for Bridget. Stocking gifts are so fun! The present on the couch is Lego Mind Storm for the whole family... mostly Dad. We opened the rest of the gifts after I put the camera down.
Brian is helping Bridget figure out the lava lamp I gave her. He's wearing the neck cozy from Grandma Peggy and he's got the T-shirt quilt I made him covering his legs. Now that I've had a chance to take a nap with that quilt, I officially need one for myself. Also, the boys are busy studying their Pokemon cards. (They had to memorize them because they knew the cards would be in the wind in a few hours.)
I had the kids pose with as many of their presents as they could. Bridget got a ski helmet and a balaclava from Dad, the skateboard and ukulele from Santa, a necklace from her birth mother, fake nails from Colin, sparkly clay from Emil, the lava lamp and Princess in Black books from me, a pretty jacket from Grandma and Grandpa Lee, and a hammock from the Boney family.
Emil wasn't as cooperative for a present photo. He got a wagon and a bucket of Legos from Santa, ski lessons and a balaclava from Dad, the illustrated Harry Potter book and piano books (with lessons) from me (there was a little drama when he saw the piano books and loudly said he didn't want them), a truck with a trailer and side-by-side from Bridget, a scratch art dinosaur book from Colin, hoodie and book from Grandma and Grandpa Lee (and the neck cozy), markers and case from Mom and Dad, and a hammock from the Boney family. (I'm writing all of this down because we are getting the Thank You cards out this year if it KILLS me.)
Colin got a Lego 3 in 1 house set (Santa didn't think Power Ranger Legos existed), Mini Pixel Art (which he LOVED and finished quickly), and the Charmander Pokemon figures he's been dreaming about from Santa. Colin got ski lessons and a balaclava from Dad, an illustrated Harry Potter book and piano books with lessons from Mom, markers and case from Mom and Dad, paints and paper from Bridget, a stuffed T-Rex from Emil, a hoodie and book from Grandma and Grandpa Lee, and a hammock from the Boneys.
I can't stand how much I love this photo. He told Grandpa Harold later that he got to page four in Harry Potter. :)
Analy got a dog! She was pretty stoked.

We went to church, which is really my favorite about Christmas on Sunday. What better way to remember what it's all about? I accompanied a violin duet on the piano and had a harrowing moment when the last page of the piece floated off the piano and out of my reach while I was on the second page. I had to choose a spot to stop playing, stand up and get the last page, sit down and figure out where the violins were and start playing again. It all worked out, of course. Some people didn't even notice me stand up. An advantage of being so short. ;)

After church we went to Brian's parents house to open presents from them, show off the kids' favorite gifts, eat, and visit.
Bridget brought her ukulele to show Grandma and Grandma sang and played a little song. 
The kids got mini drones from Grandma and Grandpa. Yay!
Daddy was behind this gift, I think. :)
Colin brought his pixel art (so many little pieces!!!) and Grandpa set up a card table for him. 
We got to see and talk to Cousin Janessa on her mission in Peru! She and her companion sang us a Christmas song in Spanish. 
Even though we were exhausted, I had to finish this house before Christmas Day was over. Colin would help me when his drone was charging, then run downstairs and fly it with Dad and Bridget and Emil. Emil's box of Legos has the most possible wheels and he likes to do his own thing, so it was just right for him. Emil asked Colin to build the house with the garage first so he could park his yellow car in it. :)

I got a waffle iron from the boys! We had waffles with raspberry syrup for Christmas breakfast. Brian gave me a Wonder Woman suitcase and Bridget gave me an electric pencil sharpener (nailed it!). It was the best - no one was sick this year, my favorite gift of all.

Monday, December 26, 2016

December is Our Favorite

We've made so many lovely memories this December and they will all be forgotten if I don't write some of it down.

On December 1, we all went to the Festival of Trees where the kids sang in the elementary choir and I directed the choir. There are about 120 kids in choir. The morning of December 1st we had our first practice with everyone together (the senior choir sang three songs, the junior choir sang three songs, and they all sang one song together). My hands hurt for the rest of that day because I clapped "Shave and a Haircut" so many times trying to get their attention. We passed out the new music T-shirt at that rehearsal, too. The last time I sweat that much was during a hot yoga workout. Kids be crazy, y'all.

We got to the South Town Expo Center in plenty of time, but I had no idea where to go because we were on the South Stage and we've only ever been on the North Stage. The adult volunteers hurried to get a bow tie on all the kids (except for the girl who wore the sparkly red dress - for the love) and then we led a line of 120 kids through the back stage area to sit next to the big stage. Depending on where you were standing in the audience, they sounded great or strange. Ha! It was a blast to see the kids waving at their parents and especially to see my own kids singing. Bridget was half of the duet accompaniment for one of the junior choir songs, "Fum, Fum, Fum." She messed up a little bit and she was a bundle of tears afterward. Poor thing! It was a big stage and a big audience and no one noticed because there were so many crazy kids dancing and acting weird, but she took it pretty hard. I have no photos of this event because I was already doing a job. ;)

The first Saturday in December we went to This Is the Place Monument Park for their authentic German Christmas Market. We thought we'd spend an hour or so, but it was so fun and amazing that we were there most of the day. Brian went to a Christmas Market in Germany three or four years ago and he said it was very similar. We visited a petting zoo, shopped at the cute little booths, ate bratwurst and sauerkraut, went on a train ride, and bought Daddy a cool hat. It was magical. (And Brian and the kids saw President Uchtdorf and his wife all dressed up in traditional German clothes for the parade.)
I would totally do this one again. Next time maybe we should go on Thursday or Friday instead of the busiest time on Saturday. Other than the crowd, it was wonderful.

A sampling of the 120 kids in choir.

The choirs performed for an assembly on Monday the 5th and then at an evening concert on Thursday the 8th. I will be losing my voice (and my mind) trying to keep all those kids quiet in Mrs. Jones's room while we wait to go on. The senior choir always went first at the performances and I had them do Pat-a-pan for the first number every time. It's a tricky song and too hard for them, so I have to pay close attention to the music and bringing them in at the right times. At the last two pages of the song, I flipped my page over to see that they were missing and the song just kind of ended because no one knew what to do. Fail. But! The final number, Once Upon a December, was a huge hit. The kids did dynamics without me prompting them (I got to the point where I was happy if they were singing words at the same time) and we had the Chime Choir do a beautiful solo in the middle of the song. It was everyone's favorite.

Next, the boys were invited to Pierce's house to make gingerbread houses. For some reason, that's been Emil's dream for a few months. With all the stuff going on, I couldn't wrap my brain around making gingerbread houses, so Pierce's mom, Janeen, kinda saved my life. All of Emil and Colin's kindergarten friends were there and Janeen had the gingerbread (graham cracker) houses all ready, the icing in mini Zip-lock bags, and the candy in bowls. What?! A Christmas Miracle for sure.
After doing the houses and playing frantically, all the kids went to the same bus stop to wait for the bus.
Here's Colin flirting with Lydia.

We celebrated St. Lucia Day on the 13th by having Swedish meatballs, molasses cookies, lots of candlelight and Bridget dressed in white with a red sash. There was a lot happening that night, Brian had meetings and it was the night of our neighborhood party. For the neighborhood party this year we donated stuffed toys to Project Teddy Bear through Bank of American Fork. I did a story on it for the paper, so I got to take a fun picture of neighborhood kids.
Back row: Cooper, Henry, Jace, Ryder, Aleah, JD (TJ?), Jackson. Middle row: Flossy, Bridget, Millie, Natalie, Freddy, Quinn. Front row: Archer, Isaak, Emil, Jett, and Colin. And this is only from six families in our neighborhood! So many kids. 

The boys had their first ski lesson on the 16th, the day of a huge blizzard. We let them skip school and Brian took them to Park City with Bridget. From 9:00AM until about 1:00PM, Bridget and Brian skied and the boys were learning how to ski. Then they had to close everything down because the blizzard was awful.

On Saturday the 17th, we had our Christmas party with Brian's side of the family. 
It was a pretty sunset and I thought I'd get a shot of Grandma and Grandpa's house as it looks in December before it got too dark.
Of course we had the fishing pond right after dinner. There's Nate with a triumphant catch.
Emil loves fishing in all forms.
Brighton and I bonded when I went to pick her up earlier in the day. She'd been in the van with me for several minutes when she asked sweetly, "Do I know you?" :)
This is fun for me. Grandpa, Brian, and Hal fixing the hook. Grandpa set up the blue blanket this year for the fishing pond. Much more realistic.
Aunt Dena told the kids a story about the candy cane. I loved the sight of Emil's toes here, so I had to get a picture.
Denise is snuggling her great granddaughter, Olivia. (Olivia is a Good Baby.)
Bridget and Abby.
Grandma and Grandpa opened their present from their kids. New phones!
We celebrated December birthdays with cake and the Birthday Song. I stole this off my Instagram account because I was having an Exceptional Hair Day and this is the only proof.
Santa came and Colin was Jonny-on-the-spot going to sit on his lap and ask him for Pokemon cards and Power Ranger Legos (they do not exist).
Emil asked for a wagon and a drone. (He looks green because Colin is sitting out of the frame with his new green mini light saber from Santa.)
Bridget wins at Christmas every year because she is SPECIFIC about what she wants, she doesn't change her mind and she asks for things that exist. Who knew that was so hard?! She asked for a skateboard and a pink ukulele.
It seems like there were more of them. Perhaps it's the four little boys being super loud? Maybe.

On Monday the 19th we celebrated the boys 6th birthday! The Sunday before was rough for me. I stood behind the island counter in our kitchen and made food, served food, cleaned up food, refereed fights, answered the same questions every five minutes, then lost my mind. Monday was a new day and I decided to be Yes Mom no matter what happened. The boys asked to go to the Natural Curiosity Museum and I said, "YES." They were so happy. In the van on the way over Colin said, "Mom! Let's only do fun stuff today!" So we did. :) I arranged with both of their teachers to read a book to the combined classes (I read Snowflake Bentley) and I brought fruit roll-ups for all the kids. I'm their teachers' favorite now because I brought an easy snack. Brian came home a little early and the boys opened presents.
Colin got Emil a mini Pac-Man game. I'd taken 1000 trips to Teton Toys over the last few weeks, each time with a different kid or by myself. When I went with Colin to buy for Emil's birthday and Christmas he spent a lot of time looking at Pokemon stuff that Emil is just kinda interested in, unlike Colin. When we found this Pac-Man game, Colin knew he had a winner. "I hope he shares," Colin said on the way out. Ha! Colin also tried to buy Emil "homework." When I showed him stuff I knew Emil liked, Colin checked the price tag and exclaimed, "$12.99?! No way." 
The coveted Pokemon cards. They're for the floor, it turns out.
And there's Emil hoping Colin will share.

The boys requested Pizza Pie Cafe for dinner and we got there long before the rush, so all the running around wasn't bothering too many people. After dinner we came home and got bundled up for Luminaria at Thanksgiving Point. They stopped doing the drive-through lights and created this walking tour of lights in Ashton Gardens to take the place of the drive-through. It was amazing. We saw the luminaries filling the big green first and that was pretty spectacular, but then we walked through the Peppermint Forest or something and there were red and white lights shaped like candy canes. Brian and I looked at each other at the same time and asked, "Do you smell peppermint?" That's when it became amazing! We all got tired and it was cold, but no one broke down or cried (unlike many young kids we saw). Success!

On the 21st, my 43rd birthday, I didn't plan anything big. I went to the Provo City Center Temple with Brian to do sealings after dropping the boys off at the bus stop. That's always nice - we do it all the time, so I know how long it's going to take and where to go now. Brian had to get back to work, so I ate lunch by myself (my secret favorite thing to do) and went to Pioneer Book on Center Street in Provo. They had this tree on display and I thought it made my day:
Yes! I browsed for a little while and bought a couple of pretty, hard-bound classics. When I got to the register the guy told me I had a $10 credit for being a frequent customer and my total came to $2. Happy birthday to ME. I opened presents from the kids when I got home (socks from Colin, water bottle from Emil, a scarf from Bridget) with Brian listening on the phone. (Brian got me new couches for the front room. I've been researching it for months, so I hope it turns out. They'll be here tomorrow!) I went to get my hair cut and my stylist (what DO you call them?) was 40 minutes late so she wouldn't let me pay her for the haircut. What she doesn't know is that I'm fine sitting by myself and reading without being interrupted for 40 minutes so she gave me two presents for my birthday. ;) 

I'm thinking Christmas Day needs a separate post. Whew! My fingers are tired from typing.