Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas Eve 2016


I love (to receive) Christmas cards a lot. 
Here's the one we came up with this year. 
My Dad took these cute pictures of our family. 
Thank you, Dad!

Christmas Day is somewhat busy for our family.
We do our best to see both sides of our family; 
which means the time we spend at home is limited.
Christmas fell on a Sunday this year which also meant that part of our morning
 was spent celebrating at Church.
Personally, I love when Christmas falls on a Sunday!
This is not a complaint. I am just explaining how it was.

What I realized this year is that Christmas Eve 
has unofficially been designated as a day that is just about our little family. 
We definitely invited both of our parents to join us on our outings, 
but sadly, they had plans of their own.
So, Andrew and I did our best to be selfish and soak in our kids all day.

 We actually went and saw Moana on the 23rd and my Mom was with us!
If Eliza looks slightly uncomfortable, 
it's because she thinks she might have left her glasses in the theater.
She was about to go check with her Dad but had to stop for a picture first.
Spoiler alert: they were actually in her purse.
Her coat, however, was indeed left behind!

And in case you are wondering, we loved Moana. 
Andrew mentioned how happy it made him 
that we could take our entire family to a movie and enjoy it. 
Forrest, however, would require two bathroom breaks during the movie.
We are not quite to that place of seeing a movie uninterrupted,but so, so close!

The morning of Christmas Eve, Andrew set up a BB gun shooting range in our basement. 
Andrew, Henry and Lottie took turns shooting the bb gun 
and marking their shots on the targets Andrew prepared. 
You might be surprised to learn that Lottie won each of the rounds...
and not just by a little... but by a healthy margin!
She creamed the boys!
Oh, I am so proud of her.

 We also got busy making sugar cookies for Santa.
Usually, I try to have this done a day or two before Christmas Eve.
But I let it slip! So there we were, making cookies. 
It always makes a mess, but I am glad we made it happen. 

 Forrest was mostly involved in making the cookie dough. 
I feel bad that he wasn't around to decorate the cookies... 
I can't remember what he was off doing. All I know is that I feel bad about it
and hope to involve him more next year!

For dinner we went to Chili's. 
After the mess we made with the cookies 
and knowing that I had a Christmas casserole to prepare later that night,
it was nice to get away from the kitchen and go out to eat.

Coming home, the kid's opened their new jammies. 
Eliza is amazing. 
Last July I asked her to sew Christmas pants for her and her siblings.
It took her five, long months to complete them all, but she did it! 
If I had known in advance how long it would take her,
I wouldn't have asked.
Clearly, I have no idea about anything.
But I am glad she persevered through the tedium of it all.
It was not her favorite project to work on (because it took so long)
but we were all so happy with the result of her hard work. 
 Forrest asks to wear them every night.
The kids did a great job expressing their gratitude.
It was a special memory; and probably one that won't happen again!

We had a little time before the kids needed to go to sleep.
After they opened their ornaments and set out cookies and milk for Santa,
we watched the movie, "A Christmas Story"...
they weren't able to finish it, but it was there first time seeing it.
I could tell they liked it. 

I loved spending this day with our family. 
It was a wonderful prelude to this year's Christmas!

Holiday Merry Making

This photo deserves to be featured first (obviously):

We Wash you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, friends!!

As I sit down to begin this post, we are two hours away from 2017! Andrew will be ringing in the New Year with his Dad down at our family cabin. With my babes in bed, I figure that it would be a good time to see how much blogging I can sneak in before the new year arrives! It would be great to resolve that next year I will blog more often so that I can share what is on my mind and in my heart when I sit down to write; rather than play "catch-up." If my fingers truly had their way, I would be reflecting on the happenings of our 2016 and expressing gratitude for God's goodness in our lives. However, memories were made that need a spot here first before time darts ahead too far forward. Time is a giant stinker. It's gaining momentum and I wish I could get a better handle on it! 

The early weeks of December were dotted with illness. Each of my Fleglets had a version of the same thing. It began with Henry and then slowly swept through each child. It hit Lottie and Forrest the hardest. It was a virus, nothing serious, but it lingered with my two youngest. School was missed and other activities were placed on hold. My nerves and maternal anxiety didn't escalate terribly because we no longer have a tiny baby in the house (... we can cry about that fact in another post, okay?!). Even so, sickness is never fun. 

I am grateful that it arrived early. We were well before Christmas and were able to create some great memories in between those fever spells and coughing fits. 

The Sunday before Christmas we were at my Mom's for dinner. The kids participated in the Nativity. It was nice because the older girls helped get the younger kids ready. Papa read from the script and the kid's took their roles seriously-ish. My favorite part was when a pregnant Lottie who was playing the role of Mary danced into the room saying, "Daddy! Look, I am pregnant!" I mean no disrespect to the Mother of our Savior, I promise. We honor and revere her. But that sweet little pretend belly combined with Lottie's darling mannerisms was a sight! I loved it. 

The Monday before Christmas, Forrest participated in his preschool's Christmas program. It was combined with an older class and boy, was it a full house at the library! I thought there was about a 50% chance that Forrest would participate. He told me in the car that he was not interested at all in sitting up on the stage. However, when he got there he went right to his chair and sat quietly until it began. He is growing up and it is the most bittersweet experience of my life. This sweet baby of mine, who is QUICK to remind that he is not a baby, is becoming like the big kids and it makes my heart so, so sad.
 I will be honest... he didn't sing much. But he did do some of the actions. I was still very proud of him for doing his best and for being brave enough to sit up there with his friends. He was likely one of the youngest kids on the stage. After his performance, I said, "Forrest! You did such a good job! Mama is so proud of you." His reply, "I know!" He is so enthusiastic about life these days. His reaction to good news is always big and so rewarding. He isn't shy about telling people that he loves them. There is a good chance that his love language is "words of affirmation" like his Mama. Whatever the case may be, he does a great job of articulating his love for us and it makes my heart soar.

When of the first outings this year was to Christmas Village. Forrest was feeling under the weather that night so he mostly sat in his stroller.
 We went with our good friends the Barretts! It was fun enjoying the night with them! Watching the kids on the train was a highlight for me.

Random (and sad), but Henry slipped on ice and hit his face on the blacktop at recess. It was a big surprise to me that his glasses didn't break! I sure hope we can avoid accidents like this in the future! Ouch!

One of the BEST memories from this season was taking the kids to ride the Polar Express and meet Santa! It cost an arm and a leg to do it, but I am already mustering the courage to ask Andrew if we can do this again in 2017! What a night it was! We had a small window between Forrest's sickness and Lottie's. I am really grateful it worked out and that our kids were well enough to enjoy the experience.
 I went back and forth on whether or not to buy these jammies. When I found them on sale for seven dollars, I went ahead and got them. It was a good call because I sure thought they looked cute, cozy and cuddly in them!

Memories from that night that I want to remember include Lottie singing along to Frozen's "Do you want to build a snowman"... Her expression and dance moves were too cute. When I imagined how that night would go, I had anticipated that it would be magical primarily for Forrest. I was wrong. Henry was ecstatic when he spotted Santa on the train car just behind ours! "It's Santa!" he hollered! Eliza let her guard down and danced in the aisle with the other kids to Christmas music. Also, they asked her to figure out how long the railroad had been open in Heber. After providing her with a few dates, she burst out, "117 years!" in record time! She is so smart. Forrest LOVED the magic bells that were gifted to the children. As we sang Jingle Bells, his hands and legs both kicked in time to the music. Lottie's fever arrived in the early hours the following morning. I was so happy that we were able to enjoy our trip to the Polar Express before that happened.
Eliza had a Christmas piano recital. She did such a wonderful job.  She played two songs: "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" and a duet with her teacher, "Silver Bells." It was neat that my parent's were able to come and support her. After her recital, they came by and gifted my kids with a new ornament. My Mom does this every year. They also like to come "oooh" and "awww" over our decorated homes (my siblings and mine). It is something I look forward to every year.
A quick Forrest funny: Andrew was tucking him in bed the other night and reached his arms under his pillow to pull him up for a hug.When he did that, Andrew discovered the key to our four wheeler there. Who knows how long Forrest had been sleeping with it. He sure loves riding that four wheeler. It still makes me laugh as I imagine him sneaking that key up into his room and quietly hiding it under his pillow!
I was able to sneak away and have dinner with some of my favorite gals this past month. I look up to each one of these ladies and feel so grateful to have these friendships in my life.
 My "power of Mom" friends...
We meet monthly and to discuss a different article pertaining to Motherhood
(and eat delicious treats and laugh and cry...depending on the night)

 My junior high and high school friends...
I wish I saw these ladies more often. 
Because MAN! I love them!

Here are a few pictures from the ward Christmas party! It was so well done this year. I love our ward family and hope to be apart of it for many, many years. 

 And finally, here are a few videos that tie into this post.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Bears for Nepal: Year Two!

Eliza Grace is quite the mighty girl!  I have to thank her for helping our family find more meaning this Christmas season as we committed to another year of sewing and selling bears. Before I give her all the credit, I have to say that this labor of love is something our entire family takes part in. I had the idea to ask the young women in our ward to help sew with us one night. That idea expanded to including the relief society, sister missionaries and activity day girls. Prior to this activity, Eliza and I collected donations of fabric, stuffing and ribbon. We were so touched by people's willingness to give and help us sew. 

Here's a look at our set up the night of our activity. It was pretty basic but that's because my ideas are pretty basic! Ha! 
Andrew helped cut out lots of bear patterns. He also made sure we were ready to have six machines plugged in, etc. I bought additional supplies and made sure we had a stack of bears to work on at each of the stations prior to the activity. .

We were so grateful for the awesome turn out. Some people who wanted to stay but couldn't dropped off treats for us to enjoy.
Our Bishop even stopped by to help!

That night we completed 25 bears 
and had a head start on several more!
Our family finished up 25 more!

My friend Jill had the idea to sell the bears in front of a grocery store.
We were so grateful for Fresh Market for happily agreeing to our request!
After setting up shop,
Dad took the boys home who were both getting over an illness.
Lottie and Eliza helped sell the entire time.

We were there less than an hour and a half. 
They went fast!
A woman who works at the school for the Deaf and Blind bought ten bears!
She also gifted us with Santa hats so that we looked more festive as we sold the bears. 

We had a sweet group of carolers stop by near the end. 

We raised enough money to send 11 girls to school! Adding to that achievement is my sister in law Liz who lives in New York. Her activity day girls saw what Eliza did and wanted to help! They did a service project and ended up earning $400.00!! That means we will be sending 19 kids to school in Nepal next year!

Eliza will be delivering the two checks to Choice Humanitarian in person the week following Christmas! Sitting on that blue couch in our basement, while watching a Christmas show as the kids stuffed bears is a memory I hope they someday cherish as much as I do.

This project coincided with the height of Henry's violin performance schedule and the beginning of an illness that would slowly cycle through each one of my kids. The timing was brutal and my stress level was high. But! With Heavenly Father's help, we received the right type of donations at the right time. The weather cooperated. The volunteers showed up and generously gave of their time and supplies. We sold the right amount of bears and were able to surpass our goal with donations that came in after we sold out of bears. When our cause is one that will help others, Heavenly Father will help us.

This year our Church has encouraged everyone to #LightTheWorld. We've been asked to serve others the way that the Savior did. Doing our best to participate has made the holiday season more meaningful. Sewing bears and seeing Henry share Christ's light through music are two of the ways that we did this. However, I have to add that the small acts of kindness that I see in my home are equally important. Here's an example: Forrest is given two skittles at the end of preschool each day for good behavior. The other day, when I picked him up, he was holding tightly to an orange skittle. His sweaty palm helped that orange coloring spread all over his hand.

"Why don't you hurry and eat that so I can hold your hand while we cross the street." I said to him.

"No, Mom! This is for Lottie! I am saving it for her!" It was darling. He had held fast to that little skittle for a long time so that he could share with his sister who was super appreciative. As much as Forrest "takes" he is certainly learning how good it feels to share and give. And that makes me so happy.

And finally, a video: