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