Saturday, November 29, 2008

A simple Christmas...

We are trying to simplify our Christmas a little this year. Our kids have decided that they would rather go on a little vacation together, as a family, than get too many gifts. That's what they remember the most of anything in years past. Because of that, we decided to do things a little more simple. Starting with our tree...

When we lived in Eagle Mountain, we had a HUGE house with a big picture window, overlooking the valley. That first Christmas, we bought a 12-foot Christmas tree. It was perfect for that big room and looked great from outside our house. When we moved to our current home, we weren't too sure what to do. It was a much smaller area. The last few years, we have still put up the tree here, but there is a lot of furniture arranging to make it possible. The angel's head even hits the ceiling. It is always gorgeous, but a bit over-powering and it takes about 6 hours to set up.

We usually try to decorate for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. After Rick and I got up at 5 a.m. to participate in the crazy Black Friday festivities, we took a nap and relaxed. Then, around noon, we decided to get started on the decorating. We both had anxiety, thinking about putting up the tree. I had a small tree that I originally bought for a Festival of Trees tree, but never used it. We decided (with a little whining from the kids) to try it instead. It is a 6 foot tree and took 5 minutes to set up. The kids just used all of their favorite ornaments and it was decorated within the half hour! We even chose not to put up the Festival of Trees snowman tree I love so much, or the bumble bee one. We figured that we will be gone for so much of the holiday season, it just doesn't make sense.

We even have all of the presents purchased, wrapped and under the tree. A HUGE accomplishment for me. I usually buy things all month long and many times I put off some of the wrapping until Christmas Eve. That makes for a very hectic (and messy) Christmas.

Although we left many decorations in their storage boxes this year, we did put up all of the ones important to us. This is my favorite, a picture of Andrew, Janessa and Harrison dressed up for a nativity picture. Harrison was 2 months old. I remember feeling really broke that year and worried about spending so much money on a picture. I am so happy we did it, as it is one of my most treasured Christmas decorations.

I'm even considering more simple alternatives to cards and neighbor gifts this year. With so much of an economic uncertainty, I would like to focus our time and money on giving to those in need. I'm not sure of my plans yet, but I really want my family to focus on the true meaning of Christmas this year. Sometimes I let things get in the way of that. This year we will try to enjoy a more meaningful, simple season focused on Christ and family.

Thanksgiving traditions...

I love a traditional Thanksgiving. We had dinner at Rick's family this year and it was a wonderful time filled with great food, company and celebration.

Emma is so adorable...

Nathan actually loved the cranberry sauce...

Harrison ate so much food...

Adam and Seth...

Elizabeth's crazy pose...

Janessa and Thomas...

Summer Olmstead joined our family for dinner, she is our new "adopted daughter" while she is living in Provo, away from her family. She just returned from her mission in Rome. Jane with her yummy pie...

Grandpa always does the dishes. He also doesn't like to waste food. I saw him licking a couple of the spoons and I went to grab my camera but missed it. So, he was happy to pose for this shot. He is so sweet to do this, many men could learn from his example...

Rick relaxing...

Actually, I wouldn't have let Rick do dishes, even if he had offered (which he didn't), because it was his 29th birthday! He had a fun day relaxing with his family. I am thankful for so many things in my life, but at the very top of my list is Rick.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An interesting day (and a Jazz game)...

Today was just one of those interesting days, I could never tell what kind of day it was going to be, good or bad, because it kept changing so often!

We were excited to enjoy the first official day of vacation for the kids (the younger ones were out since last week, but this was Andrew & Janessa's first day off). We slept in and then casually got up to have some breakfast. I decided to make pancakes, so I got the electric griddle out and plugged it in. It was facing the wrong direction, and bugging me, so I reached underneath to grab it and turn it around. Not a grand idea at all, apparently there is an element underneath that heats the griddle. Even though the griddle itself wasn't hot yet, that element was VERY hot! It was one of the worst burns I have ever experienced. It stung for about an hour. Andrew was good to take care of me, with his first aid scouting knowledge (and a phone call to Rick). He even made everyone pancakes, getting creative near the end with Mickey Mouse ones!

While I was recovering, I turned on my computer to check my email. I also read some blogs. I love the new sidebar option, where you only see the updated blogs. That way you don't waste much time looking for updates. I noticed that Pioneer Woman had announced the winners of her contest. The day before I read her blog and decided to enter a contest to win a $250 gift certificate to Target. I never enter those because I figure that it's terrible odds. All you have to do is comment. So, I did. And, guess what? I won! Out of 12,000 people! Crazy lucky. I'm going to start entering those from now on! (By the way, if you have never been to her website, GO! It's such a great, fun site. I just love her recipes and photography hints. She is really a crack up! I'm not great at links, so just look at the list of blogs I follow and she's on it.)

In the early afternoon, we headed out for the Jazz game. We grabbed Andrew's friend Cameron, Janessa's friend Emily, and Harrison's friend Brandon.

We had an auction for the Happy Factory last month and Rick purchased a huge suite for the Jazz game. He invited all of his employees and their families. We were worried, as it was the night before Thanksgiving, that everyone would be out of town. But, we lucked out and all could make it. It was a really fun night. We had a ton of food and the kids loved fixing their own plates and eating as much of whatever they wanted!

It was a little hectic at the beginning, as they originally had us in the wrong suite. Our food was delivered there too, and the other people started eating it. So, they made us more food and got all of our stuff moved to the correct suite. Luckily, nobody knew any different. It was all solved by the time the employees were there. Natalie, with the Utah Jazz, was amazing to make sure everything was perfect for us. I was still a bit flustered though, and just a little stressed by the time everyone arrived.

I am friends with the Jazz Bear, he is on the Happy Factory committee with me. He is really a great guy. He said that I could bring everyone down to the floor before the game started and he would come and say "hi" to the kids. Because of the earlier confusion, we weren't able to get together with him. Finally, when everything was calm, we saw the Bear down on the court while the team was practicing. So, we thought we would take the chance and go see him right before the game started. I grabbed a couple of the kids and their moms.

We went down to the court and the ushers were really hesitant to let us enter the court. I explained that we were just there to see the Bear, he was expecting us. They looked at me like, "Ya, right lady, we've had that one before." I kept telling them that it wasn't a huge deal, but he really was expecting us. Finally, I think to just get rid of me, one usher said, "Fine. Tell me your name and I will go and see if he wants to come over here." Well, needless to say, he came back with a much better attitude and told us, in a very sweet voice, to wait over here and the Bear will be right with us.

The Bear came over and gave me a big bear hug. He said hi to all of the kids and then took them right onto the court, where the players were all warming up. Then, he turned around and got Derron Williams to come over (that Bear really has a lot of pull). Now, here comes some imagination on your part. Picture this... The Jazz Bear in the back, Derron Williams towering above him, Harrison & his friend Brandon, Nathan, Carolyn holding Elizabeth, Jodi Black and her kids, all standing there with the team shooting hoops behind. What a great shot, there aren't many moments in life like this. I took 3 pictures, just to make sure they were perfect. When we went out to the hallway and started for the elevator, I pushed "play" on my camera to see the pictures. In bright red letters, instead of a picture, the camera read, "NO MEMORY CARD IN THE CAMERA!" So, you see, that's why you have to use your imagination. I was pretty sad, especially for the other moms who were counting on the chick with the huge expensive camera to come through. No pictures, not a one. But, the kids didn't care; they were just excited to have been there. They never thought another thing about it, because they were focused on getting back up to the suite to eat the rest of the food!

Rick is business partners with his brother Bruce. They have been working together for years. Bruce, Carolyn & Elizabeth loved watching the game together.

Rick and I had a fun time (after I got over the bad parts of the day and focused on the good parts).

Nathan & Elizabeth actually surprised all of us by actually watching the game until the 4th quarter. They were cheering in all the right parts and everything!

I think the endless food and sodas in front of them really helped.

We even set up the Wii in the suite, thinking it would help entertain some of the kids so that the parents could watch the game. The kids were all so good and took turns playing. We had about 50 people in the suite, but it was big enough that nobody was bothered with kids running around and playing (at least I wasn't bugged, maybe someone without kids could have been).

Janessa & Emily bought Jazz pajama pants and actually changed into them. Weird teenagers.

Cameron & Andrew seemed to have a great time (even though they were texting girls the entire game).

Harrison loves hanging out with Brandon. He went with him to a BYU game last month (dads were in charge... no photos).

The Jazz won the game and we all had a great time. It ended up being a great day (even though there were times I was unsure).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A diamond jubilee...

Grandpa James' birthday was last week. We celebrated on Sunday by throwing him a surprise party!

We all went over together and rang the doorbell. Baba answered and told Grandpa that there were some scouts at the door. He was surprised to see the kids instead.

He had just turned 75, so Leslie thought it would be fun to have a "diamond" theme. Most of his gifts had something to do with diamonds. Our gifts included Diamond matches, a candy diamond ring (Nathan's idea), a story about a baseball diamond (Lou Gehrig) and even coupons for Diamond Parking (Rick's idea).

Emma insisted on helping Grandpa open his cards and gifts (this is him reading Janessa's card).

Hannah & Harrison

Sarah & Janessa

He asked his oldest grandson (Andrew) to light the candles on the cake.

Then, all of the grand kids wanted a turn. It's a good thing we didn't put 75 on! Happy Birthday Grandpa, we really love you!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

While Dad's away, the cat will play...

It's been a while since I have posted pictures of Sally, Nathan's cat. She has grown quite a bit. She is a gorgeous, fluffy, playful cat. Nathan adores her.

Rick and all the boys (including Nathan) are allergic to animals. The boys have learned that if they are careful to change their shirt and wash their hands after playing with her, they don't have a reaction. Rick, however, claims to be very allergic and chooses not to even pet her. He doesn't love cats, but thinks they are nice to have around. When nobody is looking, I see him doing nice things for her. But, he does NOT like them in the house at all and established a rule that she isn't allowed to come in.

Since the weather has been getting colder, Nathan worries about Sally more and more. The other day (while Rick was at work), he had let her in and this is what I found them doing...

reading stories together about animals! How cute is that?

They love to play. He actually still holds her like a baby, with her tummy facing up. I have never seen a cat enjoy exposing their tummy, but she seems to love it. She actually lays on her back a lot. He likes to lay down and let her play with his hair. He is really laughing in this picture and is happy, not screaming in pain as it looks!

Nathan adores playing with and taking care of his cat. I figure that that it was much easier than getting him a new baby!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A moment in Orvieto...

Orvieto is another gorgeous city on a hill. Unfortunately, it was late and we only stopped in for a moment. It was sunset, so the lighting was absolutely beautiful.

The Orvieto Duomo, or cathedral, was the most elaborate I think I saw out of all. The detail was astounding.

I didn't get a great shot of the sides of the cathedral, and now I regret it. All of the sides and back of this magnificent building are done in this stripe. It is white travertine and greenish-black basalt. Pretty cool and modern looking.

I couldn't get a shot of the city from a distance, but here is a nifty little "welcome" sign that shows you the city, somewhat (click on it to see better). It is built on these sheer rock cliffs. Darn the time constraints!

The city was pretty fun to wander around in. I would definitely put this on my list to return to someday.

This is a view from the top of the city gates.

The countryside at sunset was stunning. I just wish I had hiked up the hill with my tripod, the pictures aren't as great without one.