Monday, January 28, 2013

*the night before the night before weekend*

Last year we started a tradition that I totally stole from one of my dear friends. The night before the night before. It is perfect. It is one night that belongs to our little family to unwind and have fun together.

The night before the night before was on a Sunday this year so we added another "the night before" so we could celebrate on Saturday. Since we hadn't made it up to Candlelight Christmas yet, we decided that we would ditch the regular plan of dinner and a movie and spend the evening up at This is the Place.

We will definitely be doing dinner and a movie next year.

I was in need of a quiet, spiritual evening. An evening free of crowds and chaos. I had been pretending, going through the motions, masking my true emotions this month just trying to make it enjoyable for the boys and for everyone around me. I wanted my cup to be filled and to know that my Heavenly Father loved me during this time that my heart was breaking.

I don't know if it was because it was the Saturday before Christmas or if everyone knows how wonderful this place is but it was insanely overcrowded. I am hoping it is the former because we are planning to go next year but earlier in the season on a weeknight to hopefully avoid the mobs of people.

We did have fun. Well, the boys did. I was being negative and begrudgingly participating. In my mind everything was too loud and I was annoyed that we had to navigate through swarms of people to get anywhere and I was even more annoyed that the swarms of people were enjoying themselves.

Once we decided to go see Father Christmas, that is when I lost it. There was a line a mile long and it was noisy and obnoxious and commercial. I could stand in line to see Santa at the mall. We waited for less than five minutes and I decided that it wasn't worth it. I was so disappointed. In my mind, the evening was a complete waste. A joke. I hate to admit it, but I was a spoiled little brat and I started crying and stomped out of the building.

Luckily the only ones who noticed the tears were Justin and Nick. Nick just ignored me but Justin came over to me and said: "Hey. I know it's busy and I know that it is different that what we are used to but don't let the moment make you. It is how you make the moment."

He was right. I was immediately contrite and decided that we would make the most of the rest of the evening.

I don't know what Luke was writing here but apparently it was super private.

We wanted to get a treat and waited for a while for some homemade donuts. To pass the time I tried to get a picture without one of the boys making a crazy face right before I snapped the photo.

This one came pretty close.

By this time, I had stopped being such a selfish baby and was enjoying myself. I did, however, still want to take some little moment of peace and love home with me. My last chance was the nativity and I was hoping that it would be just as reverent and peaceful as I remembered. I also had to remember to take it all in stride and not let it get to me if it wasn't perfect.

Well, it was. It was beautiful and stinky and as sacred as it ever had been. And just as if on cue, the carolers arrived and sang Silent Night in that tight, smelly little stable.

And then a sheep farted right by Nick and before peals of laughter broke the silence, we ushered out our boys and went home.

The next night we celebrated Christmas with my family at my parent's home. We had a great time enjoying on another's company.

A wonderful night before the night before.

Friday, January 25, 2013

*just a minute*

Getting together with my darling aunt and uncle and cousins and their families does not happen often enough. Every time we hang out, which is usually our annual Christmas party and the random baby blessing, we always say we need to see each other more. But we just can't get it together enough to make it happen so I cherish the time we get to spend together at Christmas.

There was discussion last year about whether or not the kids--meaning first cousins once removed--would continue to exchange gifts since because the kids were getting older, the presents were getting more expensive and pocketbooks were tight. We decided against gifts and my aunt was worried that because there weren't any gifts, no one would want to come. Unanimously, we told her that absolutely wasn't true. The party would still continue because we don't come for the presents, we gather because of the good company and the fun and love we share together. And just as if to put a great big exclamation point on that statement, the kids never even noticed there wasn't anything to open.

We ate dinner and visited for a while.

Then to the entertainment. My sister and I were in charge of coming up with Minute to Win it games for the party. I had never watched the game show but the internet is innundated with different ideas and we planned eight different ones.

We didn't really have teams or a set amount of people who could play each game. Basically, whoever wanted to play, could. There were some adults who needed to be gently coerced into participating, but had fun once they got going.

We didn't even get around to all eight games. A minute is a long time! And after playing at least two or three rounds of each game time really flew by.

We first started with who could blow the most bubble gum bubbles in a minute. I don't have any pictures of this one. It was fun but not everyone could play because not everyone knows how to blow bubbles with bubblegum.

So we moved onto a more versatile activity. Moving a cookie from your forehead to your mouth without using your hands. This was a huge hit. All the facial expressions and different techniques people used to move the cookie were hilarious.

I love these pictures of my dad.

Then we tested how many marshmellows could be thrown into a bucket in a minute. Sarah won this game by a landslide. And then all the marshmellows were used as ammunition and thrown all over the place. We literally just found one last week in my mom's couch.

The next game was how many nuts can you stack in a tower in a minute. We had the bigger nuts and put them on the end of a candy cane so they could slide off and be stacked that way. No hands allowed.

Stacking cups also was a favorite.

Once all the games were over, people got creative and stacked the cups in different ways. This occupied the "older kids" meaning Matt, Zach, and Nick for quite a while.

Then the final game of the night. Have you ever tried to knock over water bottles with orange filled pantyhose that are attached to your head? No? It is harder than it looks. But at least we looked super fashionable while we tried.

Seriously some of the most fun I have ever had.

There was more visiting and laughing and love after the games were over and we settled in and ate dessert.

Luke sabatoged my camera and took quite a few candid pictures. Some of them were incredibly unflattering and there were about fifty of them (thank goodness for digital cameras) so I will only be posting a few just to get an idea.

At least half of the pictures were of Andrew doing crazy poses.

I love that there was a random perfect picture of the nativity.

Thank you for the fun night everyone. Let's do it again soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


The Nutcracker.

I look forward to this night all year. This year was especially special because all four boys are old enough to join us. It made it all the more, well, special.

This year Justin was able to make it out of work a little early so we could eat at the Garden. We got to the top and to the windows just as they were turning on the lights.

We had a great time just being together. There was great conversation and what I loved the most is that there was no electronics used while we were there. That is huge, especially with a 14 year old. One of my favorite discussions was when the boys were trying to figure out the best place to put a zip line from the top of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. You never may happen one day.

I was scrolling through pictures and came across this one from last year. It caught my eye because I noticed that the boys were standing pretty much in the same place in front of the nutcracker this year and I realized how much they have grown.

Especially Nick and Andrew.

Andrew is now almost to the top of the nutcracker's shoulder and last year, Nick was well below the mustache. Now, it looks like he has a hat on or a super fancy hairdo.

The Highland High strings were there performing for the guests waiting for the ballet to start. Liam loved it and gave himself a front row seat by plopping his booster cushion on the floor and listening to the beautiful music.

We sat in our favorite seats and were able to move into the "expensive" seats just down the row from us since it wasn't too crowded. Before the curtains opened, Luke was cute and was explaining to Liam about what to expect during the story, just like he was an old pro.

Liam seemed pretty interested in it. At one point, he was moving up and down a lot and it looked like he was trying to see the stage better. Justin leaned over to see if he was okay and needed to be propped up more but Liam just said: "I am trying to get my underwear out of my bum." But he liked the story and didn't complain one time...not even during the pas de deux. (Which was even more beautiful this year than I remember...maybe it was because I was able to sit and enjoy it and not be bugged by little ones wondering when it is going to be over.)

We also had a great time walking to and from the theater. There is something magical being downtown at Christmas time and there is most certainly something magical about experiencing it with the ones I most dearly and deeply love.

I also wanted to share this post from one of my favorite blogs. This really has nothing to do with Christmas but I have been feeling like I have been struggling lately in being the type of mother that is doing all she can to help her precious children return home to Heavenly Father. Being a parent is a big job. I read this yesterday. It helped me and gave me the courage and determiation to keep trying. And pray harder. For myself and my boys.