I received so many wonderful comments via blog, email, Facebook, and The Power of Moms website for the "favorite traditions/memories" posts on Deseret News. I now have two lengthy articles up compiling all of them. (You can read them here and here. ) Martin wins for the funniest comment that didn't make the article. (Only because it was too late. Seriously. . .) And Lindsay wins for the most influential on our own traditions. Honestly, I really think we're going to go on a trip next year for Christmas instead of buying a bunch of toys and stuff! I LOVE that! (And I'm sorry that comment came in too late too . . .) Seriously good stuff. If you want some great ideas for next year's holiday season, click on over and read those posts.
What can I say? Is anyone out there really blogging through the holidays? It's been a wee bit busy around here. But now that the "deadline" has come and gone I have nothing to do for the rest of this evening but sit here in my jammies and new slippers surrounded by remnants of unabashed Christmas joy (children drinking Skittles straight from the plastic candy cane) and blog about the going ons of the last two weeks. I did rouse myself for about an hour earlier in the evening to make some Italian meatball soup which I truly felt healed me from the building effects of sugar overdose. (This homemade Cinnabon recipe is something to try! I've been making them every Christmas morning for some years now.)
I'm only posting today because my poor mother is going through withdrawal (hence, the third title option) and I'm happy to do it because there is so much to remember!
Two weeks ago today the little 'uns sang in church. It's not really appropriate to snap photos in our church services, so I took this horrid picture covertly with my iphone:
The following week (the last one before school let out) was a flurry of concerts, recitals, parties, and preparations. These next two pictures are from the elementary school Christmas program and are even worse than the last (kind of like "Where's Waldo?") since I forgot my telephoto lens and couldn't get a very good shot:
I have no pics whatsoever of Kate's choir concert, my presentation for Elizabeth's class on New Year's in Japan, helping out at her class party, Brandon's office party at Thanksgiving Point's Harvest Restaurant (or the hospital party the week before . . .), the church party with an adorable hot cocoa bar/horse and carriage rides/cinnamon rolls/performance by Octapella (8 man a capella group), or Rachael in her PJ's for Polar Express day at pre-school--but that's what was going on that last week of school. Once school let out I felt I could breathe a little bit more and really focus on wrapping up last minute Christmas preparations as well as enjoy the season at a slower pace.
On Saturday night, Brandon and I were lucky enough to attend a Christmas concert performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The performance we attended was actually the taping of the annual MoTab PBS special. The guest stars this year were Jane Seymor and Nathan Gunn. (Great photo essay here.) What a concert! I didn't know this, but the MoTab's Christmas concert is the most watched Christmas concert on PBS every year and I can see why. It was absolutely stunning in every way! (An unexpected treat this year was "snow" falling from the ceiling during Jane Seymor's telling of the story of Good King Wenceslas set to music and dance.) The church holds a lottery each year for free tickets--every last seat--and I don't know how many people submit their names, but it's more than 4 shows worth of over 25,000 seats. We actually didn't get the tickets ourselves--Brandon's receptionist's extended family got lucky and "won" more than they needed since each person can request up to 4 tickets. No pictures were allowed, so the only pic I came home with is this one of the lobby from my iphone:
In every non-existent spare moment of the last several weeks I've been working on a DVD set to music of the pictures from the girls trip we took to Florida for my sister with cancer in hope of getting it to her by Christmas. No such luck. Never having used iMovie or iDVD before, there was a bit of a learning curve, and then I found out my burner was broken and had to take my computer in for a few days to get it fixed. Coincidentally, on the same day I already had an appointment to take my computer in, I dropped my iphone in a sink of soapy dish water while baking cookies (I read recipes off my phone all the time) and ended up needing an appointment for that little fiasco as well. It wasn't pretty. Needless to say, I didn't get the DVD done on time, though it made it onto a UPS truck on Christmas Eve!
While I was working on that DVD, baking my brains out, and otherwise wrapping up last minute Christmas stuff, the kids kept busy with all kinds of shenanigans. There were over 10 signs like this all over the house:
Usually I like to plan a bunch of outings for the kids and "live like a tourist" during a break like this, but with all my last minute STUFF and Brandon working until Thursday, we ended up staying home most of the time. I was surprised at how much fun the kids had! The following is what happens when a mother says no to screens and yes to mess. Will and Elizabeth turned our unfinished basement into two elaborate forts using the moving boxes and paper we've been hanging onto for our eventual move this late winter/spring/summer. (Who knows . . .) All of our holiday decorations are stored down there, so the following is Elizabeth's masterpiece. Welcome to "Fort Holiday":
Next is Will's "Fort Platypus". I don't even know what to say about this:
This was the real kicker. Before I knew what was going on, Will and his buddy Cayden (partner in crime) had created this flyer and distributed it all over the neighborhood:
After seeing Santa, we went to get some treats at the cafe and ran into who else but a few of the guys from Vocal Point! After watching them for weeks on NBC's "The Sing-Off" it was pretty cool for the kids to meet them in person. Elizabeth and I were the most transparent in our groupie like behavior--me being the most offensive BY FAR in the eyes of Kate. I have no shame or inhibitions in situations like these whatsoever. (I once chased down Nicholas Cage in an airport.) I was just gushing and asking them all sorts of questions, going so far as to arrange a group picture. Kate and Will were mortified. (But secretly happy.) Why does this just make me laugh?
My favorite new decoration. It even plays the Peanuts theme song:
A great recipe shared by my mother-in-law, but she makes cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream--it's the BEST!) Cayden kind of lived at our house this past week. It was so fun:
Making the Cinnabon cinnamon roll dough in advance:
Sleeping under the tree on the 23rd:
After a really really really really busy month at work, Brandon has been enjoying quiet moments to work on the annual puzzle. This one is a James Christensen painting. I got him this table last year as a Christmas present:
(I don't think I've ever used "plum" like that in my life.)
Last night (Christmas Eve) we gathered with some neighborhood families across the street at Jen's house. (Cayden's mom.) Earlier in the week I was feeling sorry for myself since it seems like we are the only people who don't have local family to gather with during the holidays, but when I started asking around it turned out there were quite a few people wanting to get together for Christmas Eve:
"funeral potatoes", shrimp cocktail, enchiladas, and of course the traditional Reynolds' oyster stew. There were also many scrumptious side dishes--it was a feast!
Santa sure is one lucky guy! Hope he took some Emergen-C before his rounds:
Kate was busy drawing this adorable nativity:
(oops, I didn't get a picture of their family, darn it!)
Last but not least, the kids did a simple nativity before we all headed home:
this simple script online and just used my iphone to narrate:
Domo, Elizabeth--Hello Kitty, and Rachael--little puppies) and talking about the gifts we were able to give this Christmas season (our kids especially like choosing things like farm animals or school supplies through the World Vision organization, but we also did some more simple things close to home) and what our gifts to Jesus will be this coming year. Each family member (including parents) comes up with their own thing like being more of a peacemaker in the home, etc. and then each night in the coming year during our family prayer we include these "gifts" in our prayer to help us remember these offerings of our hearts. It's probably my favorite thing we do all season long!
And of course we left some treats for Santa and his reindeer:
My kids are crazy for pomegranats, so I put one in the bottom of each of their stockings this year:
We stick to a strict regimen on Christmas morning: stockings, the tradtional breakfast of homemade Cinnabon rolls/breakfast casserole/grapefruit, get ready for the day, THEN do wrapped presents. One at a time. We figure after all the time and trouble spent thoughtfully choosing, buying, and wrapping gifts that we should really appreciate each and every one. It takes forever and we love it! But today was a little different since we not only had church, but Brandon, Kate and I were all performing in the all music program. So after stockings and breakfast it was time to get ready and haul the behemouth of a harp to the church by 11am for one last rehearsal before the 12:00 meeting. I was on the piano for most of the program, Kate accompanied the choir on one song and also did "Greensleeves" by herself, and Brandon sang in the choir as well giving the final remarks. They both did a fantastic job and I couldn't have been more proud. One mom came up to me afterward and said her favorite part of the program was the look on my face when Kate finished her solo. I snapped this picture of her after the meeting was over:
We all immediately changed back into our pajamas when we got home and haven't changed since:
One of Will's favorite gifts of the day-- a hexbug. He was making it crawl through Rachael's legs:
Kate mostly wanted books, music, and movies. Here she is already absorbing the Bronte sisters:
We have been so obscenely indulgent this afternoon/evening/night lying around in our jammies not lifting a finger except to drink more egg nog or eat a leftover cinnamon roll. But for Brandon and I, this is the sign of a great Christmas day and we won't touch anything until tomorrow:
Hope you enjoyed this Mom! I'm sure you're the last man standing. Merry Christmas!
Bonus Feature: Top 5 Christmas Songs That Are Constantly On the Radio That I Never Want To Hear Again In My Entire Lifetime:
1) All I Want For Christmas Is You (Mariah Carey)
2) So This Is Christmas, What Have You Done . . . (Happy Xmas, John Lennon)
3) We Waited All Through the Night . . . (Title anyone? The one by Bryan Adams.)
4) Wonderful Christmas Time (Paul McCartney)
5) Do They Know It's Christmas Time? (Band Aid)
Brandon would add:
1) Where Are You Christmas?
What's your vote?