27 December 2020

Epic Christmas 2020


Magical! Absolutely magical! Best Christmas ever! It was a good Christmas this year with our "little" family and friends. Last Sunday night Josie sat at the coffee table for an hour writing Santa a letter, the best part, she was narrating her letter. I heard cute whispered phrases like, "please invite me to your workshop, I want an LOL like Evelyn, please send me a delicious Kinder egg, I want to boop Rudolph on the nose, I love you Santa, and your bells are so cute." Throughout the week the mail man probably discovered an extra 4-5 letters from her. Santa can read scribbles so her little wishes were heard. She even scored a kinder egg and LOL surprise still frozen from the North Pole on Thursday. 

Monday I woke the kids up early to accompany me to the gym. They swam while Mia and I exercised. Josie was the only one thrilled to swim. That evening we went tubing with the Ostlers after dinner at the Gateway parks in Eagle Island State Park. The park is only a mile from Justin's work so he met us there after work! All the snow there was manufactured so it was perfectly slick for tubing. Part of the hill was specialized for snowboarders and skiers wanting to practice without going to the slopes. A conveyor belt helped us tow our heavy tubes up the hill. Our best run was definitely when 10 of us hooked up for a speedy trip down the middle hill. It was a whopping 58 degrees that day so we were almost hot from all the trips up and down the hill. Once I caught the highest lip with my head and almost flipped us over, talk about breathtaking. We took several minutes to admire the Christmas star configuration of Jupiter and Saturn an hour after sunset. That was a significant moment in my life! 

Tuesday was my grocery shopping day, took me several hours since the store was packed to the gills with other shoppers. Everett threw me for a loop by asking Santa for a secret gift, one that was not on my gift list. Santa made sure that particular gift was delivered in time. I was so tired that the remaining pile of gifts still remained unwrapped. We joined the Ostlers and the Finch family to go Christmas Caroling around our neighborhood. Three of our neighbors had tears in their eyes while we sang, melted us as well. Two homes said that was first time carolers ever visited their homes. The men hung back trying to direct the women who scattered around the streets without much of a plan. The kids ran helter skelter ringing bells before the rest of the group arrived. Ya know, typical caroling scene. Sara provided hot chocolate or cider afterward to warm up our bones. 

Wednesday morning Amelia helped me wrap the last piles of gifts. She let the little ones help her wrap my gifts. I made the deadline an entire 24 hours early! Ha ha ha. Towards the afternoon we made a last moment trip to Costco in hopes of finding a large squishmallow, no luck. Target had the dorky fairy squishmallows. Our last hope was Fred Meyer, they had small ones so that had to suffice. Can't have a holiday now without new squishmallows. Josie was with us so knew everyone got a new one. She completely surprised me by keeping the secret for two days. Sara and Eliza stopped by with a large gift bucket for Phillip who attended his last few days of Primary. He felt so special! The Nelves rang bells like 4-5 times after lights out, the boys were chatting quite loudly, took a while for the boys to notice! 

Thursday Evelyn raced into our room saying the Nelves left a surprise on the dining table! Fun piles of crafts and candy waited for the kids. Josie was especially into the crafts. She used entire tubes of glitter glue on her penguin craft. The boys did not touch their crafts but quite enjoyed the candy. The Ostlers invited us over for a Fondue lunch! I brought a cheese fondue and a chocolate fondue with fun things to dip. We had hot oil to fry cubes of fancy steak fondue style. Dusty made a delicious sour cream and beau monde spice sauce to dip the steak in. That was a divine meal! The kids snuggled their sweet kitten Astrid before and after lunch. I had a sudden errand come up so left for 30 minutes to get that taken care before the stores closed. We took a chilly walk to the school park while the sun was shining. We hosted dinner at our home. Made the kids clean the entire house on Wednesday and Thursday. Our traditional clam chowder was magical as usual. Justin and I worried over the bacon because it was not crisping up, it finally crisped after I divided the bacon up into two pans. We ate nearly the entire two batches of clam chowder and lots of sour dough bread! That was epic. After dinner the kids chose costumes for the Nativity play. Ambree made the cutest sheep I've ever seen. Justin read the story while the kids played out the story. It was so fun to have enough players! The kids were going wild, Justin put on Phineas and Ferb's Christmas, things went from 100+ to manageable in a few seconds. Our Nelves knocked on the door a little while after the Ostlers left for home. They were sneaky and hid the Christmas PJs on the back patio while knocking on the front door. So much yelling! Josie made for a preciously cute koala, Evelyn was a fuzzy llama, Everett a derpy shark, Phillip a Hogwarts student, and Amelia a cozy dog. After things settled down we watched about Christ's visit to America before heading to bed. We got the parental gifts settled under the tree before heading to bed. 

Santa decided to place his gifts under the tree in the standing room! Mia said she heard tinkling bells sometime in the night! The kids woke us up around 7 am, under strict orders to not wake up up earlier! We enjoyed some stocking time. Josie was so thrilled with everything she pulled out of her stocking. The older kids loved the Roblox gift cards and cute Minecraft power ups. Evelyn and Josie scored makeup, consequently sported wild eye makeup for the day. We headed downstairs after stockings were enjoyed. Everett completely missed the hoverboard in front of his Santa gifts. He went for the pink one near Mia's pile. Lots of fun squeals over their Santa gifts. He moved the cute squishmallows from the living room to the Santa tree and added bows to everything. Mia found a Santa letter near the cookie plate. We took a break to read Santa's silly letter. Then...the family gift opening extravaganza. Grandpa Lane happened to video call right as the kids ripped open their second gifts. It was a mad-house! Grandpa wished us a hurried Merry Christmas then signed off, he he he. Josie won an award for the best expressions and reactions! She was down right hilarious. Everett was thrilled about his snap circuits set. Evelyn made out like a bandit, it's easy to buy for little girls! The rest of the day we wallowed in mountains of boxes, paper, and plastic. The neighbors came over with their 2 new hoverboards, we had a parade of kids on hoverboards for most of the afternoon. The best part was watching the kids figure out how to mount their boards without falling. Quite a few pictures have popped off the wall and furniture slammed out of the way as kids maneuver around the gift remains. That was fabulous. Justin grilled a delicious skirt steak I marinated for carne asada tacos. Yum and double yum. We ate way too many cherry-chocolate cookies for dessert. Mia spent an hour tracing things on her tracing board. Towards evening Josie started whining about starting Christmas again for tomorrow and needing more gifts: she was either tired or spoiled...both?! Justin watched copious amounts of the Mandalorian all day long. Another highlight was video chatting with all our family scattered across the US and world. It was hard to think of Jeff driving truck, Dad eating his tuna sandwich, and Jared pestered by his 4 childish roommates while sequestered in lockdown in Poland. I'm happy we could bring them a spot of Christmas joy.  

Saturday we woke to a smattering of snow. Made for perfect hibernating weather. We played with toys, tried new games, and made tracks all over the house for another day at home. Josie entertained Justin and I with her toy that repeats the last 3 seconds of what is loudest. She had the most hilarious things coming out of her mouth, like you "merping wiggy waggy wormy". So many fights over the two hoverboards, one is mostly Everett's but sharing is hard when you have to share. Everett took his hoverboard outside, he learned that water and electronics don't mix. Justin took apart the board before the battery died. After it dried out the board started working again. Before dinner I instigated a cleaning sessions so we could welcome the Sabbath with a clean house. Everett and Evelyn dissolved into tantrums rather than help. Everett was banned to his room, Evelyn was banned from playing with Ambree for two days. Everett later snapped out of it enough to do all the dishes. We somehow fit all the trash into the bin, thank goodness trash day is Monday! The girls used "wody bash" to take a bubble bath with their new Barbie's. Somehow Evelyn managed to form a perfect duckie out of bubbles...on her head. 

Today we tuned into Charity's ward to listen as Mason gave his farewell talk in church! He takes out his endowments on Wednesday and starts his service mission in January. He will be serving at the DI for a time. Our new church time is 9 am! AND we get to meet all together starting next week for a 2 hour block! The littles are so excited for Primary. Phillip will be ordained sometime in the next couple weeks. Evelyn saved most of her toys opening one at a time and enjoying that toy for quite a few hours! She still has 8 toys left to play with. We opened her Santa gift after church, that was fun to play with her. The boys and I tried playing Here to Slay, I am so not talented at playing complicated games. Everett latches on right away to the rules he enjoys then forgets the technicalities, Phillip just does whatever. That mix of game personalities makes for a bit of yelling and revenge. Jack Frost decorated outside last night, we woke up to a wonderland of lacy frost on all the trees. 

I feel so grateful for this year in spite of all the COVID and political messes. It's been magical to study the Book of Mormon as a family. I've felt like this Christmas was the last of Christmas' like the past. The feeling that things are changing are only getting stronger. I have no idea what next Christmas will be like. Maybe more humble than this year? Maybe the same? Maybe completely different. Regardless, we have each other and the gospel as our base.  

20 December 2020

Piano Recital

Our school week was quite short! The boys only had a couple assignments but spaced throughout the week, Phillip completed a STEM project on Thursday and Everett finished his projects by Thursday as well. We did a short unit studying about Christmas around the world. All the kids chose a country and presented about the country, showed where it was on the map, and highlighted traditions. Evelyn chose Sweden, she dressed up as St Lucia in a white dress and red sash. We made a fun candle crown with construction paper. It was fun to learn about Christmas in France, New Zealand, Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, Russia, etc. School vacation started for us on Thursday after I finished our school submissions. Hooray! 

The kids played outside in the melting snow most of Monday. Josie was the most insistent about playing outside. She would come in every hour or so for dry gloves and a snack! The kids shoveled our neighbor's driveway since she is a widow. They left her a note "We wanted to light the world for you today! Enjoy your clean driveway!" The Ostlers started making a snow ramp, it was enough to take a bitty ride on with the snow saucers. I was not too fond of the mountain of wet snow clothes left to moulder in the garage or laundry room. We had a serious chat about putting their wet things into the dryer and starting the dryer. Towards evening we drove to deliver cookies to my Uncle Darrel and Aunt Fawn. It was fun to do a spot of Christmas caroling at their door. At 9 pm we practiced "The Natavity" song with the Ostlers at Sister Miner's home. It sounds so fun to have us all singing together. 

Tuesday and Thursday the younger kids had gymnastics. I picked up the sourdough bread bowls during the girl's class. They were excited when I came in to watch them after my errand. Josie surprised us all by getting up on the high beam after swearing she would not do that again. She earned a candy and lots of high fives for braving the beam again. Thursday I sat out in the van with the bum warmer on to keep warm. It sucked the battery dry...had to beg a jump from someone since my back up battery jumper thing was also out of juice. We made it home...I was hoping the boys would not tell Justin about the battery, it's embarrassing. 

Wednesday was busy with piano lessons and activity day girls. We made fun pop-tart houses and decorated them with lots of candy. Esther gave me a huge bag of leftover candy to decorate with, there were 18 different kinds of loose candy to play with! I had Pandora radio going and a smidgen of snow falling outside for a very festive feeling. My girls joined in the fun since there were plenty of leftover pop-tarts. The boys were able to make their own after their activity. This was the last week of Primary for Phillip and Ambree! Those two are headed for the youth program. 

Friday I was helping Josie clean up their room and put away laundry. I noticed a pile of undies shoved between her bed and Evelyn's dresser. I asked her about that, she replied: "I hate dragon underwears! Those stupid undies have dragons. I put them in timeout!!!!" Silly girl. The kids really banded together and got the house cleaned upstairs and down for our recital. I took the little girls to grab doughuts as a recital treat. We met Justin for lunch at JJ's as a special girl date treat. The littles were especially delighted with some one on one time. This year I have 7 students, three are my own kids. In January I am getting 3 new student while their teacher is on maternity leave. Busy, busy. The kids performed so well! It was fun to watch them bop along to their songs. Phillip and I had quite a challenge staying on beat, he's got his own internal rhythm. Amelia is miss speedy keys! She tailored her song and added some creative license. That was a very nice evening. 

Saturday Justin took the kids for an adventure so I could knuckle down and wrap gifts. I wrapped for 6 hours straight, I only have Evelyn and Justin's gifts to wrap plus some gift stuffer items. Justin took the kids ice skating and then came home to grab the dog for a jaunt to the dog park. The girls helped me wrap the boy's gifts. My back is aching something fierce from sitting on the ground for so long. 

We attended church in person today so we could sing for zoom. The whining about mask wearing and the length of church wore down my patience. When did a 35 minute meeting become too long? Yikes. We enjoyed several musical numbers and the narration. 

Like usual I made a blunder out of organizing a short trip to Utah. Mason is taking out his endowments on the 30th, we wanted to support him in that as he leaves for his service mission. Well, he is staying at home but serving locally. I texted that we were coming, but did not text the Lances first to see if we could stay. I miscommunicated Jana's willingness to let us stay in her basement, put my foot in my mouth inviting ourselves over during James' Christmas vacation, etc, and etc. Too much drama. We shortened our trip to Wednesday-Saturday. The kids are enjoying a sleepover with Aunt Chi-chi on Wednesday so Justin and I can celebrate our 16th anniversary at the Anniversary Inn. Woot, woot. Then we see the Greats, the grands, Shawn, and Jana on our way to Eagle Mt. Spend New Years with the Lances then jiggity jig back home. Apologies that I stepped on toes. I really felt awful. 

16 December 2020

Full Steam in Holiday Mode


We tried very hard this week to get schoolwork done so the next week the kids could start Christmas Break early. The boys really strapped down and got their workbooks done, their math, and finished their research papers! Whoop, whoop! Evelyn is improving with her reading skills everyday. It's a relief to make some progress. 

My main goal was to get all my Christmas cards mailed out last week. I was joined by Josie, Everett, and Amelia. We put on a Christmas Pandora station while we stuffed, licked, closed, and stickered through a pile of 165 cards. We need to stop moving, my list gets longer with each move. All the letters made it to the post office by Wednesday afternoon! Amelia wrote Santa a letter because I told her Santa won't bring ornery 13 year olds gifts without a written letter. Santa wrote her back! LOL! I'm still laughing. The kids all got a fun letter from Santa's workshop. Josie stuffed random stapled pieces of paper with scribbles outlining her Christmas list in the mailbox for a week straight. The Nelves finally got the hint and put a treat in the box for her. She was thrilled. 

Friday we had PE at the church gym for a couple hours. Sara set up stations the kids rotated through like soccer, jump rope, yoga, jumping jacks, etc. We did that long enough to satisfy the requirements for homeschool submissions (aka take photos as proof). The next hour we played basketball and pacman chase. Josie opted out of chase to channel her inner yogi. That was a really fun morning. We cleaned up the house before the PE activity so it would be ready for our painting class. To keep the inside tidy I treated the kids to McDonald's for lunch. The boys were absolutely giddy to try the McRib, they voted a unanimous yes. Mia texted Justin so he also had a McRib for lunch out in Eagle, ID. Blech. Aunt Fawn taught us how to paint the cutest snowman. She was so efficient! Got here early, set everything up in a jiffy and had the kids painting like little angels. Phillip's inner Van Gogh emerged once he started painting the carrot nose. He went for a split nose effect with half the face going south and the other half north. We all agreed his snowman would not be the one we wanted to meet late at night. He got quite a laugh over how creepy his creation turned out. Josie loved using the hair dryer more than painting. Everett and Evelyn were so careful to follow all the directions and each painted cute versions. Amelia had Clare and Fallon over to join in the fun.  

Justin and I took the evening off for Christmas shopping. I had a hankering for Indian food, I found a place in Boise to try out. Good Indian food is the best comfort food! Yum. We literally ran to the mall in order to shop at Maurices in the 30 minutes we had before closing. I ripped through the store and found a couple cute shirts! I like this clothes shopping tradition, second year in the making. We wandered around Macys then Kohls since those stores had longer hours. Justin found some comfy work-at-home apparel. I found a couple more shirts. We had a good talk about a book Garrett wanted us to read called Attached. Basically, the book takes child attachment theory and links it to adults. Pretty much we all have attachments that are stable...and plastic. I am not feeling very confident in the book's premise. Doesn't leave much room for change, basically we have to fight against our natural attachments or end our current relationships (if a couple is having troubles). Still, it does explain quite plainly how the attachment styles Justin and I have (anxious, avoidant) are difficult in relationships.   

Everett experimented with making the strongest bridge he could using popsicle sticks. His final version could hold about 30 pounds! He was thrilled about that. The boys are also learning to knit on a circular loom. Phillip got to use the loom first but was kind enough to let Everett try. I got another loom. I am working on crocheting winter hats. I can't get the dang pattern sizing correct, had to rework the same hat like 5 times. The boys wanted to make their own hats, thus the loom. 

Our Nelves keep surprising the kids with knocks, jingle bells, door rings, little gifts, and even candy on occasion. The Nelves left the kids cute baby Yoda figures to decorate their computers this week. Over the weekend the Nelves left a shrinky dink kit and nail art kit! 

Sunday afternoon it started to snow. The kids were outside before the snow even piled up .25th of an inch! Josie made her own snow angel version on her belly! Before long, piles of wet snow clothes haunted the doorways in and out of the house. Enough snow collected by 4:30 the kids could sled a little bit down the culvert and steep street near our home. So much fun. I had a nasty migraine and felt out of sorts. I finally found a spot of time to make our (my) favorite holiday cookies. It's taken years to find a gingerbread cookie recipe that was not overly spiced and fluffy soft. These are to die for with a smatter of white chocolate and crunchy sprinkles on top. The white chocolate cherry cookies went fast, I'm training my kids to have a developed palate. Josie is excluded, give her everything plain with sugar on top.  Our family and the Ostlers are singing "The Nativity Song" in church next week. We sounded amazing packed into our front room! We're not trying to repeat the experience we had 4 years ago singing that song again...

Christmas 2016 "Our family was asked to sing "The Nativity" from pg. 52 of children's song book for Sacrament Meeting today. We nailed the first verse. During the second verse we put our stamp on it. Evelyn was finally able to reach the microphone and growl into it. While pulling her away and prying her hand off the mic, Jenni inadvertently induced some feedback into mic setting off that horrible squeal. During the third verse, Everett seeing the smiles from the congregation and small giggles decided it was his turn. He randomly leaned over into the microphone and blurted "blaaah" into the mic. He looked like he was going to back for a second round so I grabbed him by the neck and straightened him up until he started to whine. Here are some wardrobe notes. We didn't notice Everett's pants were too small until we were already at church. So he went up to sing with his pants unbuttoned and unzipped. Evelyn got play makeup for Christmas (not my idea). She painted her face before church with green and blue eye shadow so she looked a lady of the night who had possibly been punched in the eye."

06 December 2020

Switching into Christmas Mode


Back to the grind after a week off, back to fractions and research papers. It was a little tough! Phillip spent 2 hours writing 3 sentences. Seriously?! Everett went the extra mile and busted out half his paper without help. Evelyn worked hard on her writing this week composing several letters to Santa and our Nelf Nitsuj. I finally heard that our application for Idaho Strong Families was finished processing. I am hoping we are awarded enough money to replace our iPad. One of the kids stepped on it or dropped it last week. It is completely busted and so out of date it won't work with most apps. I'm praying we will get at least enough to cover the end of the year school expenses. It's been quite frosty in the mornings! The van windshield was covered in pretty ice. The boys moved away the large boxes and stacked the kayaks on Tuesday so I could park in the garage. Brrrrrr. 

The Nelves knocked on the door Sunday night and left 3 Santa squishmallows! Somehow they knew that Amelia and Evelyn got squishmallows already, all the kids were quite content with their fun new toys. We even got a fun treat of Rolo's to go with our Temple Table discussion. The Nelves made several appearances this week with bell rings, knocks on windows/doors, and several crafts to work on. Josie even found three little Princess dolls tucked in the tree, one was a new Ariel doll replacing the doll we had whose tail broke two weeks ago at the swimming pool! Those Nelves know everything.  Tuesday the little girls and I took our Santa letters to the Post Office for delivery. The clerk was a real stinker, couldn't even play along for the kid's sake. She threw them away under the desk...perked up when I purchased several books of stamps.  

Wednesday I hosted activity day girls at my home. I wanted to do a fun activity on Friday but the other ladies were quite adverse to that idea. In the end the other ladies did not come to help out, Sarah had to come over as the second adult. We watched the #lighttheworld initiative and the new Nativity video then had a nice discussion. The girls ate cookies while decorating cute puppy ornaments. Directly after the activity we scarfed down some sandwiches for dinner before heading to Caldwell. There is a fun outdoor ice skating ribbon in the downtown area. We parked a bit away just to enjoy the walk through a fun light show, including a water dragon that breathed fire every 5 minutes. Justin picked up Clare and Fallon Palmer along the way in his car to enjoy the evening with Mia. The kids took about 5 minutes to get the basics of ice skating down. Everett, Mia, and Evelyn all skated around the ribbon area. In the middle of the ribbon was a decent sized circle for those learning to skate. There was a collection of skating "walkers" and stacks of buckets. The buckets turned out to be quite the fun tool. Josie was zooming around the circle gliding along on the top of her bucket stack. The ice skates really pinched Phillip's feet even after sizing up. I tried on Mia's skates for a few turns around the rink. Yep! Those skates really hurt, my feet were painfully numb after 5 minutes. At one point I noticed Phillip sitting on a bucket holding onto a walker thing with Everett pushing him about the rink! Those two are so funny. The ambiance was so perfect with thousands of pretty lights and Christmas music. Justin got us all some hot chocolate to warm up our bones. We walked around the lights when the rink closed at 9. Mia can't wait to go again, she's already planning on purchasing her own skates. The kids all earned some magnificent bruises on knees and shins. Everett counted 11 large, deep bruises on his knees alone.

I did some major shopping this week! I finished Christmas shopping already! Hooray! Christmas cards are due for delivery tomorrow. Christmas candles burning pine scents into the air. Lots of fun Christmas music filling the air this year. 

Saturday we worked hard in the morning to clean up the garage. The boys broke down their box fort that they were done playing with. They also carried the new kayaks out to the side of the house for storage. Amelia cleaned out and vacuumed the van for me. I worked on organizing the rest while Justin and the boys cleaned up the last of the fall leaves. Amelia spent a fun afternoon with Jocelyn Finch. I hear they made some figurines and are planning on making a house this week. Good friends make life so much better! I dropped off quite a few library books and videos after getting an email saying I owed $90 dollars. All the items are in quarantine so the fines won't be waved for 5-7 more days. I really hope I found all the missing items. I am searching for a thrifted baby doll for my manger...no luck. Instead I found an Olaf tsum-tsum bag Josie is now obsessed over. Saturday night I made reservations to see Santa at Cabela's for the 11th year in a row. Last year we waited in long lines for our reservation, this year no one was in line. We walked up and had quite a few minutes with Santa to ourselves. The little girls were especially happy for some "one-on-one" time. We picked up a couple new sleds and gloves for the littles, can't forget my cute Gnome named Jeremy. That experience only took 15 minutes, we had to do more since the drive was 30 minutes. So we grabbed a sweet treat at DQ then went to find Christmas lights. The Expo center was fun, just drove by the area instead of paying $30 per vehicle. On the drive home I noticed a festive neighborhood called Bayhill Springs. Talk about a massive effort for 150+ homes. Josie sat on my lap, the boys and Evelyn took turns hanging their heads out the sunroof! That was really fun and quite impressive. Hooray for free fun. 

We got dressed up to attend church today! Justin had a talk to give and Mia and I performed "Come Unto Christ" by Shawna Edwards. It was so nice to be in the chapel instead of watching via zoom. Mia sang beautifully! Justin talked about the topic of the song, coming unto Christ though the Book of Mormon. Masks required of course.