Monday, December 28, 2009

Home For Christmas

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has meant traveling.  As a kid I would go with my family to LaVerkin, Utah, to be with my paternal grandparents, and whatever assortment of aunts, uncles, and cousins showed up.  The trip from Blythe was seven hours long if I remember right, but worth every minute.  We all looked forward to eating Grandma's amazing cooking, running around on the farm, taking flights in Grandpa's small plane, and watching movies all the livelong day.  Sometime after my marriage, the torch was passed and I looked forward to going to my parents' house, now also in Southern Utah.  I loved rekindling best friendships with my parents and siblings, showing off my own adorable kids, and taking part in family music. 

As my kids grew, though, a strange desire grew in me to be at home with TJ and the kids on Christmas day.  I began to be jealous of time TJ spent with extended family, since his time with the kids and me was so precious and scarce.  I started daydreaming about Norman Rockwell Christmases with snow on the ground, our stockings hung by the fireplace, and plenty of quality time with just TJ and the munchkins. 

This year I got my wish, right down to the fresh blanket of snow and a clear blue sky.  For the first time in our marriage, we stayed put for Christmas Day. 

Christmas Eve, we surprised the kids with their first TRAX ride into Salt Lake City to see the lights on Temple Square.

They loved it! 

Here is our traditional Temple Square picture with my traditional glowing ski jacket.

It was bone-cracking cold that night, eleven degrees.  After we saw the lights we popped into Shoney's and had hot chocolate and (what else?) ice cream.  Thus fortified, we headed home and cleaned the house so Santa wouldn't be shocked into passing us over.  Then the kids opened their pajamas and put them on.  We had a short and sweet Christmas devotional, and the kids fell asleep around ten. TJ and I had a blast setting everything up for the morning.  It was magical.  TJ wondered aloud, "Why does this feel like the first Christmas we've spent with the kids?"

Um, ya, when your gift is bigger than the Christmas tree, you know you've gone overboard. Don't worry, though, Santa went through KSL, so he didn't break the bank. Christmas morning was magical, too. I loved being able to focus on our brood without the pleasant distractions that come from an extended family celebration. It was fun to watch the kids as they gave and received. They were so generous and really enjoyed surprising each other and us with their gifts. We had a great time playing with their new toys--TJ with the Legos, and I with the dollhouse.

Sans guests, we decided to skip the Christmas bird and do seafood, a rare delicacy in our house.  We enjoyed smoked oysters on crackers, crudite with Grandma's clam dip, and shrimp with tartar sauce for lunch.  Later we dined on baked salmon and mashed potatoes.  Paul got to suck on a wrapped candy cane.

Of course, there were serious drawbacks to spending Christmas at home. Missing caroling with the Monnetts is a big one. Paying for stocking stuffers ourselves, instead of relying on our parents. And my consternation on finding that I basically polished off a whole tub of clam dip by myself, since none of my siblings were there to compete with me. I miss my family, and TJ's, too.  But I'm glad we did it.  After all, there's no place like home for the holidays.

Friday, December 25, 2009

(Very) Living Nativity

A few days before Christmas, TJ's brothers Tony and Jonathan came over with their families for a party.  It was wonderful to spend time with them.  We had a gift exchange of books for the kids, and a white elephant exchange for the grownups.  TJ and I scored a tin of popcorn and a Sons of Provo DVD.  Guess which one will make it back into the exchange next year?

The highlight of the evening was the living nativity.  Paul obviously scored the leading role.  Some of the kids were more excited than others about dressing up.  One the guys read the story out of Luke while I snapped pictures and the other parents shepherded cast members.  Jonathan held Angel Jane up in the air during her bit.  And the characters did have a tendancy to wander on and off the set at random during the production. 

It was wonderful.

Monday, December 21, 2009

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Every Christmas I'm astonished by how a few simple decorations warm and brighten my home.  Christmas is a wonderful excuse to indulge in sparkles, elegant texture, and bright color.

But first, here's the disaster that always ensues when I haul out the decorations!

Notice our displaced person, Mr. Talkee, in the bottom left.  He was ousted from the fireplace because he just didn't match the decor. 

And because one of my prized ornaments wanted repair this year, I have decided to preserve all my favs here--just in case:

Handmade plastic canvas-stitched ornaments of me, made by my mom in 1981.

Three Kings carved in olive wood from the Holy Land, from my ninth grade seminary teacher, LeAnn Loveland.

"Stained glass" plastic and steel ornament made with my best friend Katie at her house, when we were kids.  Do you still have yours, Katie?

Two things that I thought would be fun this year: above, ornaments stacked in a shadow box; below, original works I commissioned of our artists-in-residence.

Georgia gave this to me a few years ago, and I make it up a little differently every year.  Thanks, George, it's perfect!

And here are our new stockings, bought last year on clearance at Target.  I bought two extra, just in case.  When TJ asked me what would happen if we had three more kids, I had my answer all ready:  "If I give birth three more times, I think I deserve to buy a new set of stockings!"  The Santa cap on the vase was Ezra's idea, and I love it.

Ah, there's just nothing like Christmas decorations.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Messiah Drive-In

TJ and I had trouble deciding what to do on Sunday night.  There was a free Messiah Sing-In being hosted at Murray High.  If you've ever had the privilege of singing Handel's Messiah, you know that Christmas just isn't the same without it.  Messiah sing-ins are a wonderful custom for folks like ourselves who would rather not attend months of practices, but who just love being a part of the Handel magic every Chrstmas.  You show up with your score and get to sing along with other Messiah enthusiasts and if you're lucky, an orchestra.  The only problem was that TJ's uncle Richard and aunt Colleen had invited us over for the same evening.  We thought about squeezing both in, but in the end our favorite uncle and aunt won out.  Then I had a brilliant idea.

The drive to Alpine from here is about forty minutes, and that turned out to be exactly the right timing to do a Messiah sing-in of our own, as we drove.  I drove and let TJ read the score since I have most of the choruses memorized.  We belted those babies out in full voice, enjoying the close quarters and being able so hear ourselves so well.  The kids weren't such big fans, admitedly.  They kept shouting at us to turn it down, but finally gave up and endured it as best they could.  I entertained visions of future Messiah Drive-Ins in years to come, with a whole van full of enthusiastic participants.  I sense a tradition in the making.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Dad, I've been having really hard days."

"Really, what's wrong? "

"My gingerbread man eraser lost his arm.  And I have sting on my tongue and water won't get it off. And at school I've been getting snow in my boots.  And getting wrong answers in school, and my Christmas lights are dying. And it's really early tonight."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Clean kids

C Jane hit the nail on the head this time.  It's true.  Well-groomed kids are just easier to love.  Even by their parents.  I've often wondered why I really would rather hug and kiss my kids when they're clean and have their hair combed, and this is the only conclusion I've reached:  Kids deserve to have their inner light reflected by tidy countenances.  When they look well cared-for, they're just easier to love.  Anyone else with me on this?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Saturday, November 28, 2009

John Jones

Today TJ and I attended John Jones' memorial service in Stansbury Park.  Our sister-in-law, Cherie, is his big sister, and we were there to support her.  As soon as the service began, though, I felt that Cherie and her family were there to feed us spiritually. 

They spoke about John's exemplary life and the gospel he was so devoted to.  Cherie and her sister listed many of John's Christlike attributes, continually referencing the scriptures.  They encouraged each of us to honor John's legacy by choosing one gospel principle to live better.  His wife, Emily, has chosen to read the scriptures every day in memory of his tireless efforts to do so, even in the thick of med school.  I felt impressed to commit to speaking softly and with love toward everyone in my home, every day.  I have decided that this will be one of my defining characteristics from now on. 

I was especially touched by how apparently uplifted and supported by the spirit Cherie's family has been these past few days since John died.  John's wife Emily, Cherie, and her dad Leon all gave powerful testimonies of the Savior and of a loving Father in Heaven.  They are sure that the Plan of Salvation applies to John.  They are sure that they are sealed to him for eternity and that they will see him again.  Their suffering is being swallowed up in the joy of Christ. 

It was inspiring to witness the Jones family's mindfulness toward the rescuers in attendance.  They thanked them for their efforts and more than once assured   them that they were not in vain.  They were more than gracious--their attitude was one of pure charity for everyone in attendance there today.  It was a powerful example of selflessness that these family members gathered not to be comforted, but to impart comfort to each other and all who came to mourn with them. 

TJ and I never knew John, but at the end of this service we had shed more than a few tears for his loss.  Ths world will not be the same without him--the next world surely received him with joy.  I feel grateful for the time he had on this earth, and for the many lives he touched.  I feel grateful to have been inspired by his example today. 

We love you, Cherie.  Thank you for touching our hearts today.  Our prayers are with you and your family.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


The journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step, but I'm here to tell you that the last mile is the hardest.  So much so, that the notion of quitting within sight of one's destination, so unfathomable at the beginning of the journey, seems logical and overwhelmingly desirable.

Consider my hair, for instance.  It used to be lovely, long, and blonde.  Now it's long-ish, somewhat coarse, and mousy brown.  After my last short cut about three years ago, I determined that I was going to get it back to its full length and enjoy my youth while I still had it.  The trouble is, of course, that youth is relative--and my hair seems to think it's old.  It just doesn't seem to grow like it used to.  Maybe it's my flat iron.  Maybe it's those crazy mothering hormones.  But a picture of me a year ago proves that, despite my self-control at the salon, it's not getting any longer.

And so, although I'm within six inches of all my hair dreams coming true, I've spent the last two weeks seriously considering getting a pixie cut.  Thinking about the prolonged agony of growing it out from that length has deterred me, however, and I've decided to go for the gold.  No more half-hearted measures--I'm going to follow every hair-care rule in the book and make this happen. 

My stylist sold me some lovely shampoo that actually has already made a difference:  Sexy Silky Hair.  Seriously, even TJ has noticed, and that's big, since he usually adheres to the time-honored male tradition of failing to notice any changes short of a buzz cut.  I'm washing and rinsing in cooler (cooler than my usual scalding hot) water.  I'm picking out tangles while the conditioner is still in.  I'm going to get a new blow dryer with a cool heat setting.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Eliza has learned how to whistle really well.

TJ was observed last week by Brother Valinga, the CES guy in charge of hiring, and it went well.  A truly stressful experience, preparing for that! 

Naomi is still the whole family's sweetheart.  Every time someone does her a favor, she gasps dramatically and exclaims at the top of her voice, "You're the BEST MOM (or insert other family relationship here) EVER!"  Who can resist that?  She's also getting over her tendancy to get upset when people call her silly.  She used to say, "I'm not silly, I'm beautiful!"  And now she says, "Yes.  I'm silly, and beautiful and marbelous."  She also likes to describe my list of qualities for me, always ending with a resounding, "marbelous!"

Nana visited us last week on a spur-of-the-moment trip North with a friend for a wedding.  She popped by for about an hour, and we loved having her.

Ezra is just like his father, has a one-track mind.  Currently he's obsessed with planning the Thanksgiving program he conceived for our family celebration at Georgia's in St. George.  I'm all for it, since he seems to be excited to sing in public for once. 

Paul is smiling and gurgling and cooing up a storm.  It is such a source of joy to me.  He sits in his bouncer by my seat at dinner, staring at me and waiting for me to glance down.  When I do, he rewards me with a stunner of a smile like this one.

Breakfast in Bed

During my shower this morning Eliza and Naomi took it upon themselves to make me "breakfast in bed"-- under the disapproving glance of their big brother, who was pretty sure they were going to be in trouble.  Note the cereal box toy and the unsweetened yoghurt.  How cute is that!

Monday, November 16, 2009


The National Geographic magazine arrived today.  I groan and stick it on the shelf with thirty or so past issues, only half of which I have even perused for a few minutes.  I love the magazine, really.  But I just don't seem to have the time to read it anymore.
I did, however have two hours to read archives of The Meanest Mom today.  And I do have time to check my email about a million times a day.  Lame!

So much for Supergirl.  What bad habits have you gotten into lately?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I'm Supergirl

In the past 24 hours I did all the laundry*,
baked gluten-free bread,
cooked and served three decent meals,
ate those meals with the kids (quality time),
cleaned the kitchen,
vacuumed the living room and family room,
nursed the baby nine times,
and more or less kept everybody happy**

And I did it all without the assistance of Superman,
who was off working a thirteen-hour day in the snow.

*not counting the laundry generated in said 24 hours.

**minus a few temper tantrums, only a few of which were mine.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Of course, I never really doubted that Spring will always be my favorite.  That's because, while Spring marks the end of Seasonal Affective Disorder "season", Fall marks its beginning.  As daylight hours wane, my mind becomes a haze of inadequacy, fear, sadness, and anger.  My temper is short and the world seems to conspire against me. 

That's when I haul my sad little buns to the gym, where with a little sweat I wash away the old Kari and walk out feeling sparkly new.  The house is still messy, but it's not the end of the world.  My life is still busy, but I'm grateful to be who and where I am.  Everything that was driving me crazy just a few hours ago rolls right off me and I'm able to own my power again.

So grateful for the experiences that have taught me to take care of myself before it's too late.

So grateful for a husband who supports me as I do so.

So grateful for my gym membership.

So grateful for a sickness that demands I look after my mortal body.

So grateful for an immortal spirit that can never be touched by any of this.

So grateful for a loving Heavenly Father who trusts me enough to bless me with trials, and who has held my hand through every hard day.

Life is so very good.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I'm a Super Saturday dropout.  I struggle to put together even the most basic crafts, so usually I don't even try.  This October turned out to be a notable exception, however, so I wanted to share what I've been up to!

These necklaces are made of ordinary washers and craft paper.  I did one for each of my friends who signed up for the Pay it Forward giveaway last February.

As my love affair with fall continues, I've been so inspired by the bold colors and textures all around.  I did this pumpkin bouqet and these pumpkin candle holders right before Halloween.  Thanks, mormonchic, for the great idea!

My backyard is full of these pyrocantha berries and leaves, just begging for a special project.  Eliza and I put this wreath together in just about an hour.

So there you have it.  If I can craft, you can fly.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Whenever there's a camera in the vicinity, this little girl sprints to be included in the picture. 

And when she's being lovey-dovey with Paul, or when she's creating something cool, she says,
 "Mom, you should take a picture of me!" 

I can't say I blame the girl.  If I were this cute, I'd be the same way!

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

This year TJ and I hosted a Halloween costume party here at the house.  Our guests were the Holmbergs, Childs, Carlsons, and Jones.  I dressed as an illegal alien and TJ was a Homeland Security officer.  We played Ligretto, and later on put on "Earth Vs. the Spider" and did our own Mystery Science Theater 2000.  It was so much fun!

The next night was Halloween proper, and the kids had a great time.  Paul, our chili pepper, slept on TJ's chest as we trick-or-treated around the neighborhood.  Naomi was a clown, which was sooo fitting.  Eliza was a poodle.  She based that decision on the fact that it was the only presentable costume in the color pink that Kid to Kid had to offer that day.  Ezra was our mad scientist.  When the buckets got too heavy and the kids realized they could be eating it, we all headed home and watched Peanuts.
All in all, a great Halloween.  Better than poor Charlie Brown's, anyway!