Wednesday, December 17, 2008

9 year stats

7 Addresses
4 States Inhabited
1 House
3 Cars
39 States traveled to together (airports do NOT count!)
5 trips to Florida
*16 trips to DC
Approx. $18 K spent visiting family alone!
5 foreign countries visited
6 jobs
2 graduations (mine from BYU, Mark's from HBS)
4 children
About 2735 nights of interrupted sleep (rough estimate)
*212 trips to the laundromat
*32 parking tickets
38 birthdays
8 birthday parties
About 4080 pancakes made on our pancake griddle, not counting moonlighting at ward breakfasts
4 trips sans enfants
25 callings
countless hugs, kisses, smiles
* approximated

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Best Christmas Pageant & Pork Shoulder Ever

My sister Heidi has requested that I blog about the best Christmas in Alabama and the best one in UT. This will be our tenth Christmas together, and we have traveled for every single one of them (during the Christmas season counts, if not there on the actual day), except for 2002, when Katrina was 6 weeks old. Traveling during the holidays stinks, but Mark and I are both incredibly sentimental, so we put up with lots of headache to be with loved ones.

My favorite Christmas in Alabama was Christmas 2000. I was pregnant with Felicity, so it was just Mark and I and his immediate family: his mom, dad, and sister. Rewa had not yet remarried, so she was there with lots of free time. Christmas Eve was on a Sunday, which I love, because it forces us to enjoy that day too, since Mark won't shop on a Christmas Eve Sunday. I also like going to church on Christmas Eve. Mark's aunts and cousins were there, and we all had Sunday dinner at MaDeah's house. The next morning Rewa got up and opened her presents by herself and then Mark and I opened our gifts with Mama Arcola. Everyone came over for the traditional pork shoulder with biscuits, rice, and hot sauce breakfast they have every Christmas morning. Then we watched X Men on video with Terrance, who has actually read the comix so he was chock full of info. That night we went to Arcola's old family house where she grew up and had the turkey and dressing, ham, greens and sweet potato pie. I couldn't remember anybody's name or keep up with the conversations but we still had a great time. I think I picked up a lot of southern expressions that trip.

Alabama Christmas 2005 was also pretty good. We instigated a Christmas Pageant that year, and Kel, Rewa's son, participated. Mark and I did stockings for everyone, which was really fun to plan. The next day, we asked the family if we could open presents together and we were so busy watching the kids get into their Santa gifts and setting up the 4 video cameras that we didn't finish opening presents until 4 pm! Mark's parents got new carpet 2 days later, which was a lot of work, and then we all went to Panama City, Florida for a few days and stayed in a nice condo on the beach. It was a great break from the Boston winter we were about to return to.

My favorite Christmas in UT was probably last year... or Christmas 2004. Both Christmases I was expecting a new baby boy in the next month, so I was huge and uncomfortable, but it was good to see so many members of my family. We did a lot of family get-togethers last year, which was so nice because we got to be with everybody so much of the time. The children always have a great time with their cousins. The only lament is that Craig & Holly and Kurt & Alice were gone last year. The girls' reaction over their gifts in 2004 was awesome and Matthew's over his tools was great last year.

On Christmas Eve, the Hansens have their traditional turkey dinner, followed by the kids' production of the Nativity. It's not terribly reverent, but always entertaining and rather a huge production with so many kids. Then we sing Christmas songs for hours, hang up stockings, and the water game ensues. Water UNO is a tradition from Craig's mission- it starts out a huge game with a monster deck. We play "SuperUNO," meaning that you pile on Draw 4's, pass your cards to your neighbor when a zero is played, etc etc. Losers drink a huge -huge!- cupful of water. You're out of the game when you excuse yourself to the bathroom. (Yes, this sounds like a game from elders... ) Mom and Dad play the Messiah into the night and the Santas get a few precious hours of sleep before we dress up and line up to go see stockings and then presents under the tree. Dad hands out the gifts one by one in an agonizingly slow fashion until the room resembles a packing peanuts factory (one year I gave Tyler an incredibly fragile electric blanket) and we laze around and read comic books from the stockings for the rest of the day. Lunch is leftovers from the night before and it's a nice lazy day playing with toys, games, and the movies. And eating candy.

So there you have it, almost like it was straight from the Ghost of Christmases Past. We are going to Alabama this year, but since we're driving, we get to leave when we want and hopefully it will ease the stress somewhat on packing gifts. Better than last year, when the suitcase of presents got left at home and I called my heroic neighbor in a panic. She sped it to the airport and then the nice guys at Security did not throw a fit about the large bottles of cologne going through the belt. I think they were afraid to mess with a stressed pregnant lady. Very wise.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Matthew's house

Every kid loves to build stuff out of pillows and blankets, and it helps if your mom lets you have a go at the furniture pieces as well. This is Matthew's favorite activity lately- making a house, rocket ship, roller coaster or a train out of household objects. There are intricate details at times, like that upside-down laundry basket, which serves as a transporter into the house, because the door was eliminated. Hard to make a fuss about the mess when he's using his imagination and playing independently so well. (Besides, let's be honest, it's a mess anyway.)

It also makes me question certain Christmas requests. Why is it that the actual toys, lusted after for months on end, become less fun than the wrapping paper or the box it came in? What's more, Mom and Dad's regular things are even more exciting. I guess that's why they invent things like E-Z bake ovens (which turn out to be more of a hassle for parents. Just a piece of unsolicited advice for any of you contemplating buying one)!

Cousins, cousins, everywhere

"Cheers, chaps"- toasting each other at Thanksgiving dinner. 8 kids at that table, the babies at the other.

The 6 "Kansan Kids," as Felicity and Katrina have dubbed them, came down for a quick visit for Thanksgiving, escorted by their parents of course. It was great- the children all play very well together and the older girls are super helpful with the younger kids. Plus it's always nice to see Neil and Kristie.

Raining bubbles. Felicity got a bubble machine last March and was saving it for this moment.

Felicity and Maria on the swingset. These girls have been buddies since birth- Maria was there to welcome Felicity home from the hospital.

We loved having them, and it's always hard for Felicity to say goodbye. Even though we are about a 7 and 1/2 hours' drive away, it feels like they're not so far since we usually get up there and they down here every few months. Either that or we meet up in UT.

Then my dad came for a conference in Dallas the next week. He stayed over and we got to see him the morning of his 65th birthday. This was Dad's first visit to our house, and we were happy to have him. I put him to work helping with homework and babysitting, reading to/feeding children, before Mark returned from a week in DC. Matthew has prayed for his return, I think he likes Grandpa's laid-back style of babysitting... lots of freedom and tv.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Misconceptions

We went and bought a Christmas tree and decorated it a couple weekends back. Matthew wanted to know on Monday morning, "Why didn't Santa come?"

One of my friends from the neighborhood stopped by and recommended I buy decorations after Christmas. We've always had smallish artificial trees in apartment living, so now that we have a bigger space, our decorations to tend to get lost on the bigger tree. However, I sort of like the "less is more" approach with decorating- simpler. I would, however, like to find the rest of the ribbon and lights.

The children drew names out of a hat to see which sibling to whom they would be giving a Christmas present. Katrina drew Felicity. She promptly went to the tree, retrieved the present Grandma sent for Felicity, and handed it to her sister. She's so generous.

Funny how we automatically assume children are going to get all the traditions, customs, and procedures around Christmas, since it's a holiday they enjoy so much. Max seems to be enjoying himself, though.What, you don't eat your presents? What's wrong with you?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"You'd better not... or else!" stories

In the last post, I asked my cousin Holly to remind me of the story of when she got her finger chopped off as a little girl. I was remembering the story because I was trying to get my kids to be careful around sharp knives. (I asked Holly's permission to publish it for the blogosphere):

The story goes that Uncle Lowell was trying to remove a stump and gave it a go with an axe, but that wasn't working, so he went for a rope and truck while leaving Holly, aged 6, with Darren, aged 4, warned them not to touch. Darren was playing at Paul Bunyan while Holly was making homes for grubs out of wood chips, and as Holly put it, "We sort of collided in those separate plans, and voila! When Dad says don't touch, he means it." (Thankfully, her big sister Joy had the presence of mind to hold the remains and it was successfully sewn back on.)

I've always been a sucker for a good story, and it seems to help my children remember why they're not supposed to do that naughty whatever. Besides, although this sounds strange, my kids seem to like them- even the stories told with the intention of scaring them into obedience. One time, (ONE TIME!) I told the girls a story about a little boy named Lincoln (whom our family didn't even know personally- my sister told it), who was scalded by hot bathwater, and suddenly they wanted to hear it at bedtime for weeks.

Serious backfire, folks. I actually hate these kinds of stories, but I also want safety and immediate compliance to safety rules. I'm the type of girl who HATES watching the ten o'clock news because I start worrying about the people on Highway 114 who got hit-n-run by the guy going 90 in a 55 and will they get their deductible back??? (So you can imagine how it felt to watch the NYC news every night and hear about the crazy murders happening in that hood, Jersey City. Which is, in fact, where we were living.)

Some scare-ya-into-obedience stories are not so bad. There are a few components of a good story:
  • Obviously, it needs to be applicable to the situation (Holly's story isn't going to help motivate them put on their helmets.)
  • Needs to have an unhappy/painful outcome, but not so unhappy that it causes other phobias or nightmares.
  • Needs to not scare me- I loathe those times when moms sit around and tell freakish horrible stories about that child molester or this car accident that happened in the 2 seconds when they took off a seat belt.
  • Stories like this should be rarely told, or they run the risk of making your child paranoid or to ignore all parent tales.
My mother is not afraid of anything, so she rarely passed these along. My dad told one- his uncle was resting his elbow on the rolled-down window while driving, when a trailer came bumping by and smack! that was the end of his arm. Didn't really work with any of us, though. We still let our arms out the windows. Just like Tyler and the warts- nothing could stop that finger sucking.

But I'm curious. Do you or your parents have a good story? Bad one? Did it work?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ack! Tagged again!

Oh Holly. I am terrible at tags! But I do lack for ideas, so hopefully this will help get me to 50 by the end of the year.

5 of My Current Addictions:

Dessert, especially chocolate (maybe not as much as Mark does, but close)

Listening to my baby laugh... oh, and the others too

Christmas music & movies

Wasting time on the computer


I don't know how to do links, so I can't pass it on legitimately. But I thought of a good story, maybe you can help- when you chopped your finger off as a little girl. I've been trying to tell it to my children as a "you'd better not" fable but can't remember the details.