Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Days Before Christmas

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. On Christmas morning, Talia prayed, "Bless that Jesus will have a good birthday." While I can't be certain that our Lord enjoyed his special day, we certainly loved being together and celebrating family.

Before I delve into the mounds of holiday photos, permit me to catch up on a few pre-holiday happenings.

Our Final Days with Chloe:
Since fall, Eli and I have been hanging out with adorable Chloe most days. When we lived in Illinois, a wonderful family watched Brooklyn while I worked. I've often thought of them and how grateful I am for the loving care they gave Brooklyn as we've welcomed Chloe into our home. While there have admittedly been a few stretching moments, it's been a delight to have Chloe join our family. Eli especially has relished having a playmate to love while his sisters are away at school. However, with the imminent arrival of our new baby, Chloe will be joining a preschool program in January. And so, it was with genuine sadness that we bid farewell to our long play days with Chloe.

Holiday Baking:
Every Christmas, there are so many people that we want to thank for all the ways they bless our family all year round. We bake a bit, send out cards, purchase some gifts, and try to express our appreciation as best we can during this chaotic time of year. Even so, I usually feel like it's too little for those who have given so much. Even if we can't repay, we pray will feel of our handcrafted love.

Family and Music:
In early December, we traveled north to Hyde Park to spend a few days with Jason's parents. While there, Susie performed in a beautiful Christmas concert with the American Festival Chorus, under the direction of Craig Jessop. Joined by Jenny Oaks Baker, the music was absolutely delightful. Just as special as the concert was the chance to meet up briefly with so many aunts and uncles.
Grandma and Grandpa Hansen were staying with Charles and Susie for a few days on their way back from Las Vegas, so we fortunately had plenty of time to talk.

When it was time to go, nobody could find cousin Kelly. We eventually discovered her bonding with Eli. So sweet!
Christmas Creativity:
While I occasionally supervise specific Christmas crafts, it's the kids' imagined creations that I love the very best. Here's a nativity they designed out of some paper scraps and tape--Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, a sheep, and of course, the stable.
Traditions New and Old: Santa Lucia Day
On December 12th, Brooklyn read a book about how they celebrate Saint Lucia day in Sweden. Intrigued, she begged to celebrate the tradition with our family the next morning. And so, before dawn broke, she donned a white dress, red sash, homemade crown with candles, and served buns to our family.
While this tradition was new to her, I had to smile because as a girl I likewise became enamored with Saint Lucia day, thanks to the American Girl books about Kirsten. More than once, I remember dressing up and serving breakfast to my own family. And thus the circle turns and an old memory becomes new once more.
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Great to be Eight

Yesterday our Brooklyn McCall turned eight years old. There's something bitter-sweet about watching your oldest grow up. Every time the Christmas season approaches, I remember the tiny babe who slept under our tree in a stocking. She was beautiful then, but I am even more fascinated by the creative, intelligent, inquisitive young woman who graces our home today.

In honor of Brooklyn's birthday, we went to a Saturday matinee performance of The Nutcracker. Brooklyn's piano studio has focused on learning Tschaikovsky's Nutcracker suite over the past several months, so it seemed an appropriate reward for all of her hard work. (By the way, many thanks to NomiAnn and Papa Kay for the gorgeous Christmas dresses!)
We even splurged and attended Clara's Celebration following the show. Here are the girls playing London Bridge with some of the dancers.
We met most of the cast...
...and rested well knowing that the Mouse King was most certainly defeated.
Our princesses even got to try on their own tiaras in the costume studio.
Of course, their favorite part of the celebration was naturally decorating sugar cookies. Yum!
The next day (Brooklyn's actual birthday) found us trekking along Kolob Reservoir Road toward Cave Valley to have dinner with one of Jason's colleagues. We initially weren't sure if we'd be able to make the trip because of a recent storm. Once we safely made it to our destination, Brooklyn discovered the snow made a fantastic birthday backdrop.
Jason and Eli with Rob. What a spectacular place to call home!
Rob's wife, Nina, introduces us to the neighbor's friendly horse.
Jason and Eli enjoyed the mares...
...but not nearly as much as our animal lover, Talia. Of course, the horses seemed particularly interested in her as well. I wonder if she had some chocolate chip cookie remnants on her face.
Some more photos, just for our family record. Winter scenes are rare for us in St. George.

Our eventual destination was a small cave. While the entrance was plenty wide farther up... get in you actually had to shimmy through this super-narrow slit.
Everyone made it in but me. For once, I exercised some better judgment and decided that baby might appreciate it if I sat this adventure out.
Still, it was an absolutely lovely afternoon, made perfect by the birthday girl's goofy smile.
Of course, no birthday is complete without a cake and candles. Jason made a delicious angel food cake, and Brooklyn told us that her wish had already come true.
Ours too.
Happy Birthday, Buttermilk.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Despite the fact that Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays, it tends to get skimmed over on the blog because of its proximity to Christmas.  I'm guessing that like mine, your homes are already buzzing with holiday madness.  If not, may I please drop by and bask in your sanity?

Thanksgiving 2012, on the other hand, was marvelous in its simplicity.  We stayed in St. George and gratefully welcomed family that traveled from afar.  Here's Callie, having come all the way from Washington to manicure the girls' nails.  (By the way, you can look for Callie's masculine alter-ego as a scale double for the dwarf Oin when The Hobbit comes out in just a few more days.)
And here's Adam, looking quite content with Zoe in his arms. Adam just landed a great new job close to their Puyallup home. Congrats!

Naturally, the kids were all delighted to see their pug cousin once more. Here's a candid shot of Talia with her Zoe purse.

With many chefs to help, Thanksgiving meal preparations went smoothly. Here's Callie working on the rolls while NomiAnn checks recipe details from her iPad. Looking back to Thanksgivings from my childhood, it's amazing how much and how little everything has changed!

The turkey cooked perfectly on the barbecue.

Of course, the kids liked these candy turkeys best.

The weather was so lovely that we ate outdoors on the patio. I knew there was a reason we suffer through St. George summers. (If you look closely, you'll notice Brooklyn savagely removing her poor turkey's beak.)
This picture shows Papa Kay and NomiAnn, having flown from Nebraska for the occasion. (NomiAnn's turkey appears to be kissing Eli's.)
The real turkeys, Callie and Adam, close in for a more authentic smooch.
Does every Grandpa act like this, or is ours just special?
After an entire day of preparation, the meal was polished off in 45 minutes. Time for a jump on the trampoline to aid digestion...
On Black Friday, we skipped the stores and headed for a hike at Red Cliffs instead. Apparently we weren't the only ones to have this brilliant idea. Talk about crowded! At least we still managed to get a family photo.
Aww, my hubby's cute, even if he can't really grow a Movember mustache.
Here's Callie helping Eli cross the stream. Good memories, even if I forgot to take many pictures.
All too soon, Callie and Adam had to catch their flight back to Seattle. Mom and Dad stayed an extra day, so they got to meet the cute little redhead I watch. As you can see, she and Eli are doing much better at getting along.
Here we are hiking to Johnson's arch in Snow Canyon. Talia joined us since kindergarten had the day off school.
Testing out what it will be like to have another girl in the family... Feels good. :)
Papa Kay can always be counted upon for some rocket balloon fun.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to be smothered by loving family.
Something about the beautiful outdoors brings the kid out in everyone.
Thanks to all for making this Thanksgiving so special. We feel blessed to have wonderful family that we genuinely enjoy being around--and look forward to the time we can hang out some more.