Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Catch-All

After Thanksgiving each year, I have the kids write their letters to Santa, and then I forbid them to think about their own gifts any more.  Here is what they came up with this year.  Isaiah was a little unclear on whether he would be giving Santa something or receiving something.  Super cute!

Eliza has long wanted to craft with polymer clay, which bakes hard in the oven, and at the beginning of December, she finally saved up enough and bought a big package of it so she could do a nativity set.  This is the first one she did, and I loved it so much that she gave it to me for Christmas.  She spent the rest of the month crafting little gifts for siblings, cousins, grandparents, everyone.  I wish I had pictures of them all, they're amazing.  She spent hours every day for weeks on end.  

And here is the adorable little elephant she sculpted for Paul's present.  


Here is a picture of the gift she sewed for TJ's parents, front and back.

All the Monnett siblings minus Kendall were in town before Christmas, and we had a couple of really great game nights, besides the mandatory caroling night.  This is us all out to lunch with Mom and Dad at Olive Garden.  I especially loved getting to know Tana's darling baby Desmond, and getting reacquainted with Nikki's sweet Palmer.  My sisters' babies are perfect, adorable boys and I miss them already!  And no, I'm not baby hungry.  

TJ's parents with their friend Nikki, and also Jonathan's family were able to join us for Christmas, and we had so much fun with them.

Christmas Eve we had our traditional reading of Luke and the kids dressed up and did a musical nativity scene.  Since we had Jonathan and Cherie's kids, our nativity this year reminded me of the one we did together in 2009:

We were just missing Tony's kids this year, but Cherie and I have done our best to keep numbers up:

Looks like Spiderman put in appearance at both nativities, so we didn't win any prizes for authenticity.

Christmas morning was just beautiful.  I have been asking myself some serious questions about gift-giving as it relates to Christmas and materialism.  But watching the giving and receiving that went on Christmas morning was a very sweet experience.  I loved all the well-planned and well-thought out gifts.  I loved that the cousins had spent weeks and even months preparing special surprises for each other.  And yes, Paul did get a block of pepperjack cheese from Santa.  I was so absorbed that I didn't really take any pictures except this priceless gem of Eliza's face when she saw that Santa had put a mustard packet in her stocking.  

Two days after Christmas we took the kids to see the moki marbles in Snow Canyon.  Then Grandpa and Grandma treated us to dinner at Chuck-o-Rama.  The kids thought they had died and gone to heaven.

They might have stuffed themselves a little silly.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fum, Fum, Fum!

Quick, ask me what the best part about Christmas is.  It's the music!  Some people overdo it on the treats, but I overdo it on the music.  Okay, I overdo it on the treats, too.

This year as Christmas approached I told myself that I just couldn't do all the fun musical experiences that were available.  I would have to choose my favorites, so I could have enough time with TJ and the kids.  And then I did what I also do with Christmas treats, which is to cheerfully ignore all my elevated resolutions and just go hog wild.  

My first opportunity was a gig to sing at Boulevard Home Furnishings on black Friday.  As in, getting paid to sing!!!  We already had a quartet put together for Art on Main, and the Boulevard was paying more, so we were stoked. Then I spent Thanksgiving night puking my guts out.  So I missed that one.  (The others carried on without me.) Let it be recorded that all my Christmas wishes did not come true.

But just a few days later I got to sing in the Messiah with the Southwest Symphony.  This is my friend, Kavarrah Corr and I before the show.  We've sat together three years in a row now, and it's the best music of the season.  

Next came caroling with Art on Main.  That's TJ, my sister Georgia, and my brother Taylor.  It was not as cold as the previous year, so we had more people to sing to.

The highlight for me this year was singing with Lieto.  This community choir gives two Christmas concerts.  One is in the St. George Tabernacle, and the other is in the Catholic Church.  I was asked to do a solo or ensemble for both concerts, and since we already had the quartet together and were working on the most beautiful Christmas song in the history of beautiful Christmas songs, it was a no-brainer.  "The Star Carol" has an optional descant on the third verse, which becomes less optional when you hear how gorgeous it is, so we invited my choir buddy Brianne Navarrette to help fill out the middle voices.  Singing in the acoustically divine Catholic Church was the crowning joy of my entire musical life.  The song was written for just such a space, my fellow singers were amazing, and I felt so lucky to be a part of it.    I wish we had a recording!  But maybe I'd prefer to remember it more beautiful than it actually was.  :)

The Sunday before Christmas, TJ, Naomi and I participated in the ward choir's Christmas Sacrament Meeting Program.  Arranged by our amazing music chair and choir conductor, Kay Hinton, it was such a spiritual feast.  I was not as well-prepared as I should have been (see above shenanigans) and was very worried about my flute obligato and my vocal duet.  I prayed mightily for help, and help was granted.  My vocal duet with my friend Anna Woods, "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear," was arranged by Rachel P. Mohlman, and is the best arrangement of the song I've ever seen.  I never thought very deeply about the meaning of the lyrics until we sang for the congregation.  The spirit was so strong, and we sang with conviction.  It was just like bearing my testimony.  The narration for the program was straight out of the scriptures, with testimonies from modern prophets woven throughout.  My favorite part was that Sister Hinton had the whole congregation sing two or three of the hymns together, and this was a joyful, powerful experience.  I loved it so much.

Christmas caroling as a family is always my favorite part of Chistmas.  TJ and I took the kids around to the neighbors.  The kids are getting old enough that Ezra can take alto with me, TJ takes tenor, and the girls and little boys carry the melody alone.  It's beautiful and LOUD!   Dear Sister McCleave across the street always looks forward to it and makes us feel like celebrities when we come.  "Santa Clause is Coming to Town" was Isaiah's and Paul's awesome duet.  What they lacked in memorization they made up for in gusto.

Going caroling with the whole Monnett clan two or three nights prior to Christmas is much the same tradition, only bigger and LOUDER.  Some of the homes we visit we really have to squeeze to get inside.  But it is such a joy to sing together, just like the old days.  We even had a reprise of "The Star Carol."

So I sang more in the month of December than the whole rest of the year put together, and it was totally worth it.  Christmas music is better than all other music, anyway.  Do I feel a teensy bit guilty for being away from home so much?  Um, yes.  But it was so much fun.  And the kids earned a lot of Christmas spending money, so they didn't suffer too much.

Sunday, November 30, 2014


Thanksgiving deserves a big, meaty post, because it was awesome.  But it's been a few months, and since I hosted my mind was centered on food and not photography.  So, here is what I've been able to come up with.  

This Thanksgiving Tree was just getting started when I took the picture.  This is my absolute favorite Thanksgiving tradition.  I love it even more than turkey.  (But if you know me well, you know I don't really love turkey, just stuffing, so I'm going to dive right in and just say it: I love it more than stuffing!)
 Working up and appetite!
We had relatively few guests for dinner considering that we're Monnetts: Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Harley, Mom, Dad, Taylor, Lawson, Nikki, Derek, Palmer, Kendall, and Rob Marshall, who is TJ's scouting assistant and friend.
  Eliza and I went for a pre-dinner walk and found the Mayoroses playing with their new puppies in their back yard.  Eliza fell in love!
 Georgia and I tried our hands at matchmaking by arranging this climbing outing and inviting Rob and Georgia's friend, Melissa Sevy.  We climb better than we make matches.
 On the other hand, my selfies are improving.  At least both of us are in the frame!
Oh!  And most of us spent the 24 hours following Thanksgiving throwing up.  Don't want to forget that.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Fall Wrapup

 As a family we read 10,000 pages this summer, and when this chart was full, the kids got to go camping with TJ.  They went to Pine Valley with other home school families in the area.
 Shoulder angels or shoulder devils?

  The boys' favorite hairdo after a bath is spiky.  Apparently, it makes them feel tough, because this is the pose I got when I took their pictures.

 Fishing at Razor Ridge for family night.
 Eliza's favorite picture from a photoshoot she did of Isaiah.  Cute!
 One of our scouting missions to find good places for the scouts to go, now that TJ is scoutmaster.  This hike was out by the gap.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fall Fun

When there was a perfect number of leaves in the back yard, my kids started saying, "we've got to get the cousins over here!"  I was a little bemused at all the ceremony, and when I mentioned it to Georgia (after the invitation had been sent via text) she said that her girls have often mentioned how much fun they had here last fall, and how they hoped they could do it again.  I sense a tradition in the making.  

 The rakes are self-explanatory, but why did the invitation mention stretchy jackets?  So they could do this!