Tuesday, January 5, 2016

EVE - A Great Tradition

We are attempting to make New Years a family holiday!  In that attempt we have created the tradition of going to Salt Lake City for a few days and for the past few years we have participated in the EVE Celebration.  This year we were lucky enough to spend the first couple days of the celebration with family. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express across the street from the Salt Palace.  It has a huge swimming pool, which is where the kids spent a lot of time!   

The museums are fantastic! This is an infinity mirror in the Leonardo. 

 We may or may not have gone to Paris.  Or we may have been playing with a green screen.  You decide. 

The kids love the "Ball Room" at the Salt Palace most of all, but it was dark so I couldn't get any good pictures.  Although it is hard to go wrong with a room full of bounce houses and very few lines. 

On News Eve we had a wonderful dinner and enjoyed some time on Temple Square.  

Then we rode Trax to the Jazz Game. 

Watched the Jazz win from our nose bleed seats.

And then we brought in 2016 at a ninja new years party with the Coombs and their other cousins.  This was the final ninja challenge, standing on eggs.  Believe it or not - it is possible, and Cara did it. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The most wonderful time of the year

I really do love Christmas!  I think it is the most wonderful time of the year with the giving, loving and family togetherness.  I love that people have Christ on their minds.  I love the lights, the decorations and the trees.  I love the food and the extra hustle and bustle.  This year was no exception!

There was a "talent" show at this years ward party.  It might be one that is talked about for years to come.  Josh did an epic "Kenny J." performance of White Christmas on a borrowed soprano sax.  I don't have a good picture, but he came out in long hair, mullet wig and played surprisingly well.  It has been almost a month and I'm still getting 2-3 comments a week at church.  Of course it is traditional to have the primary children sing. (As a side note, for the next 8 weeks I have FIVE children in primary.  It is really hard to believe that Johnny is now a sunbeam.)

Our neighborhood has an annual Christmas social and encourages contributions to charity rather than neighbor gifts.  I love the idea!  I'm trying to get used to doing it, but I think it is fantastic to fundraise for charity.  The couple who hosted the party this year planed some fun games!  Of course moving the oreo down the face, to the mouth, without touching, it is always a fun one.  Possibly funner to watch than to play!

Here the kids are pictured staking as many doughnuts as possible on their heads in a one minute time period.  It was more challenging than you might think.  Gratefully eating the doughnuts was not required in this game. 

One of my favorite traditions has become allowing the kids to sleep under the lights of the Christmas tree. We always do it on the night that Josh and I go to the Low couples Christmas party (and usually a few other Friday nights in December as well.)  I think it is fun for them to have time together, next to the Christmas tree, having a slumber party, without parents telling them what to do. 

This year we fed the missionaries on December 23rd. It was a miracle that the kids all sat and respectfully listened to the missionaries teach even with a few friends over.  

Cara got  puzzle from one of her friends for Christmas so she and Caleb stayed up very late one night doing it.  I love when they happily enjoy time together.  I also love that they are growing up and can do more mature activities together.  Josh was sure that they wouldn't be able to put together this difficult puzzle, but to his surprise they did it!!

Another favorite tradition has become doing the 12 days of CHRISTmas to count down to Christmas day.  We focus on a gift Christ has given us each day. We have a short Christ centered discussion before we open a gift that helps the children remember what Christ has given them.  Here is the basic outline I use.  Each year I switch up the gifts a bit, but attached are the gifts I gave and brainstormed this year. 

Sunday, December 13
On the first day of Christmas, Jesus Christ gave sight to the blind.
Gift: Peach Rings (WATCH New Nativity Video through Peach Ring Glasses)
Challenge: Read John 9:1-11
Today, open your eyes to truly see the needs around you, and help someone you wouldn't normally help.

Monday, December 14
On the second day of Christmas Jesus Christ was the light of the world.
Gift: Glow Sticks or flashlights or night lights
Challenge: Read John 8:12 and Matthew 5:16
Let your light shine today and use your talents and spiritual gifts to lift someone's burdens and brighten their day.

Tuesday, December 15
On the third day of Christmas Jesus Christ healed the sick.
Gift: Cute Band Aids (Boy and Girl Ones)
Challenge: Read Matthew 4:23
We cannot always heal another physically as Christ did, but we can help to heal the spirit. Today do one thing to help heal a relationship or a person in need.

Wednesday, December 16
On the fourth day of Christmas Jesus Christ gave the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ.
Gift: Peppermint Chocolate Pretzels to make and give away
Challenge: Read Moroni 7:47 and 1 Corinthians 13:1-8
Try to treat everyone you encounter today with Christ-like love. Show those closest around you how much you truly love them.

Thursday, December 17
On the fifth day of Christmas Jesus Christ made the deaf to hear.
Gift: Tickets to American Authors Concert or Head Phones 
Challenge: Read Mark 7: 32-37
Sometimes the voice of the Lord is drowned out by everyday life and we are deaf to his teachings. Take a moment to listen to the Lord and to truly listen to the needs of those around you. Listen with your heart, and act upon those feelings to do good for someone else, today.

Friday, December 18
On the sixth day of Christmas Jesus Christ fed 5,000 with 2 loaves of bread and fish.
Gift: Swedish Fish/ Bread to give away
Challenge: Read Mark 6:34-44 and John 6:35
Today give of your physical or spiritual sustenance. You could make your favorite Christmas treat and deliver it to a special person, volunteer at a food bank or you could share with someone something that spiritually sustains you in times of need. You could even write a note to someone who has sustained you during a difficult time in your life.

Saturday, December 19
On the seventh day of Christmas Jesus Christ gave the gift of selflessness.
Gift: Wrap presents and/or shop for our Christmas eve family
Challenge: Read Mark 10:43-45
Minister to someone who may feel lonely or forgotten, and give something to someone that only you can give. Remember that Jesus Christ was always concerned for the one on a personal level and try to emulate this today.

Sunday, December 20
On the eighth day of Christmas Jesus Christ gave the gift of baptism.
Gift: Dove chocolate
Challenge: Read Matthew 3:13-17
Reflect on what it means to be baptized. Today commit to change one thing in your life that will help you come closer to the Savior, be reborn, make amends if needed, and immerse yourself in goodness.

Monday, December 21
On the ninth day of Christmas Jesus Christ gave the gift of the Holy Ghost, the comforter.
Gift: Hot Chocolate maker and treats or blankets or warm cloths
Challenge: Read John 14:26
Many times the Lord blesses the lives of his children through us. Be a comforter to someone today.

Tuesday, December 22
On the tenth day of Christmas Jesus Christ made the lame to walk.
Gift: Socks
Challenge: Read Acts 3:2-8
Walk in someone else's shoes today, and try to see this person as God sees them.

Wednesday, December 23
On the eleventh day of Christmas Jesus Christ clothed those in need.
Gift: Clothes for our Christmas eve family
Challenge: Read Matthew 25:34-40
Donate some old clothes to goodwill or DI, make a blanket or article of clothing for someone in need or for the homeless, or donate your time sorting clothes or other items at a clothing charity.

Thursday, December 24
On the twelfth day of Christmas Jesus Christ gave his life for us so we can live with him again.
Gift: Forms to write “My Gift To Jesus” and cool new pens
Challenge: Read Matthew 26:36-75, 27, 28
Commit to become more like our Savior, Jesus Christ and to remember the sacrifice that he gave for us that we might live. Write your testimony of the Savior and share it with a family member or friend, or write your testimony in your journal.

This year my family didn't get together on Christmas eve so we had the unique experience of being home with just our family.  It was nice.  We had some friends over in the day and then in the evening my mom and Josh's parents came for dinner.  We gave the kids a gift of going go EVE the new years eve celebration in Salt Lake along with some goggles for the trip.  They were SO EXCITED! 

One of the highlights of Christmas is shopping for a family who is struggling in one way or another and then delivering Christmas to them on Christmas eve.  The kids know that Josh and I get them very little for Christmas and that we don't help Santa as much as other parents do because we spend that budget on another family who has more needs than we do.  The kids LOVE delivering Christmas to the family.  It really is one of the highlights of Christmas for all of us.  I love taking them shopping and having them pick out things they would love to have and then buying it for them to give away.  I think it is a fantastic experience for all of us!!

As you can see my children get plenty for Christmas!!  This year they got seven gifts each to be exact. The were so grateful and excited!  Their excitement was so fun to take in!

Not all of the seven gifts were big.  It was some of the smallest gifts that were the favorites!

The tree looked extra full since the children each received a bean bag chair.  

Ali's favorite present was this microphone.  She has been serenading us and dancing ever since she got it.  She sang all through Christmas dinner and LOVES to show off her skills!

Cara wanted a girls Nurf Rebel Gun.  She might not look like a warier, but she is!

The girls also scored some awesome Barbie dresses!

The boys made a hall on lego guys.  They may have more lego super hero's and guys than they will ever play with.

Andy was most excited about these remote control battling robots. When they punch each other their heads pop off.  What more could boys want!

Caleb got his first iPhone.  We will see if we still like the idea in a few weeks, but he has been thrilled with it!  Texting his friends and now not only begging me for things in person, now begging via text message. 

Ali can no longer sleep without her new big eye pet Roxie!  Yes, it is the little things!

The day after Christmas my family got together for our big celebration.  My mom TOTALLY spoiled everyone as always.  She goes all out with gifts, games and food.  She planned some really fun minute-to-win-it games.  Andy is wearing the ring toss hat.  I wish I'd taken more pictures, but it was a little wild with 16 grandkids under age 12!  Plus my cousin Lampee and his family always comes.  It is a madhouse of pure Christmas crazy!  I loved celebrating with my family the day after Christmas.  It made the holiday last three full days! We are so fortunate!!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A rare opportunity to have season passes to ski

Cache Valley's new ski resort Cherry Peak opened up in December and we have season passes.  I've been so excited about this!!  We were supposed to have them last year, but the resort didn't open so we got them this year, which is actually better since the kids are a year older.  I grew up skiing a few times each year so having a season pass is like a dream come true for me.  It is also a dream for me to have a skiing family and to ski with each of my children.  I've been excited as I've gathered gear and made sure everyone was set for the season.

It has been interesting to measure up my kids to prep their bindings and get their gear.  I learned that Johnny weighs five pounds more than Ali and they have the exact same shoe size.  Yes, Ali is more than two years older than Johnny.  Cara is two and a half years older than Andy and they are also about the same size.  Andy is size 4 shoe and Cara is size 2.  As if gearing up five children to ski isn't complicated enough their sizes could really throw me.

We went to Cherry Peak on their opening day, which also happened to be the first day the kids were out of school for Christmas.  Caleb lined up everyone gear in the living room so they could get dressed before we left.  They were all excited.

Ali and Johnny were skiing for the first time.  Ali caught on and was almost independently skiing on the bunny hill by the end of the day.  Johnny didn't catch on as quickly, but he still seemed to like it.

Andy and Cara were super skiers zipping up and down the bunny hill.  The crazy thing is that they REFUSED to get on the lift and ski a "real" hill.  It almost makes me crazy.  They just want to stay in their comfort zone.  

The first day skiing went so well and we stayed up there pretty much all day.  It was just as I'd hoped. Of course it probably helped that is was a warm day with beautiful fresh snow! Shots of Johnny, Ali, and Josh even made it on the Channel 13 News.

We went up again a couple days later and the kids were mostly interested in tubing.  They again REFUSED to go on a "real" lift.  They did a little skiing, but mostly tubed.  

My mom even joined us for some tubing. Personally I'd rather ski.  I feel like I at least have some control with skies on. 

The most unfortunate thing is that Caleb refuses to snow board.  He hasn't been on his board since the first day (when he only went on the bunny hill).  We went one more time over Christmas with the Coombs, so we have been a total of three times now, and all he will do is tube and hang out in the lodge.  Andy and Cara have stopped making progress as well.  I feel like my dream of having a skiing family is slipping between my fingers. There were at least three other days over Christmas break that I would have loved to take the kids skiing, but they just weren't interested.  They'd rater stay home and play with friends.  On the positive side, if they aren't interested in skiing it is going to save me A LOT of money!  And if all Caleb will do this year is tube at least maybe we will get to see this happy smile on his face a few times.

Signs that winter is coming

I know winter is coming when our Saturday's start to be filled with basketball.  I really love basketball.  I like watching the fast paced games, even when it is 1st graders who don't make many baskets, and I love that it is indoors so the weather isn't an issue.  I love that my boys are getting exercise in the winter when they aren't running the neighborhood. I love that my boys are tall and therefore have one small advantage, to help with their not so athletic genetics.

It was fun to see the improvements that Andy made with basketball this year.  We could also see him improve from one game to the next.  In his last game it felt like he stole the ball almost every time the other team passed, and he made almost half of his team's points with 4 or 5 baskets.

Caleb had a great experience with his Jr. Mustang team this year too.  His coach was really proactive with practices and his team was quite athletic.  Caleb kept up with them and had the advantage of his height.  It is amazing how much the boys improve each year!

Another sign that winter is on its way is music recitals.  Andy had a piano recital and is making great progress with piano.  It is refreshing to have him play the piano and not fight me each day when it is time to practice.  Unfortunately we didn't take a picture a his recital.  Whoops.  In contrast I lost the piano war with Caleb.  He quit this fall.  He stopped making any progress.  He was on the same songs for months because he refused to practice them correctly.  I could make him practice every day, but I couldn't make him play the correct notes our play "musically."  It was such a fight every day that I finally gave up, even though he was beginning to play hymns, which was my ultimate goal for him.  I guess he gets to choose. It is sad for me to see him make a decision I know he will regret. 

Cara had her first cello recital.  The stage was packed with 4th and 5th grade orchestra students from 10 elementary schools (I think.)  Most parents couldn't see their student, but Cara was placed on the floor and we were lucky enough to sit right in front of her.  I love the cello, but I laugh a little when I hear her reason for choosing to switch to cello after taking violin lessons for two years.  It boils down to the fact that she wants to sit when she plays rather than stand.  So there it is, we have a cello player. 

Ali was so excited to start music lessons this year.  I tried to convince her to take dance as well, but she ONLY wanted violin and piano.  She seems to really enjoy it.  She is taking with our cute neighbor Charles so they walk to and from music lessons together twice each week.  She is sitting by him on the piano for their duet of Tucka Tucka and Joy Old Saint Nicholas at one of a few care center performances they did this December. 

It is hard to believe they make violins as tiny as the one that Ali uses.  Of course the little Kindergarteners with their tiny violins were the highlight of the performances.  So cute!!