Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas 2011

We had a great Christmas!

Megan and Erin and her family came over for our traditional "Breakfast for Dinner" on Christmas Eve. My mom likes to host a brunch on Christmas day, so a few years ago we started making breakfast for dinner on Christmas Eve. This year we had french toast, bacon, sausage, hash browns, and orange julius.  We make cookies together (for Santa, of course!) before we wrap up.

The kids were excited to open their gifts from Grandpa Cole. The boys got cash which made them so excited and all of the girls got some cute jewelry boxes with lip gloss inside.

Sophia was thrilled with her box.... she has carried it around for days, saying, "bah!"

Liv's was purple!

Did I mention that the boys were excited about their money?

We loved having Erin's family and Megan come over!

After the party wrapped up we moved on to our tradition of new PJs. The kids were excited about their new duds.

Sophia wasn't too interested in opening gifts, but Ryan was good to help her with hers.

We still have believers (three!) at our house, so we hurried off to bed after we left cookies and milk and carrots for our nighttime visitors.

On Christmas day we got to go to church at 9 am. My master plan was to wake up and let the kids look through their stockings and open a few gifts (new church clothes) and do the rest after we got home. Ryan and the kids had another plan... so, majority ruled and we woke up at 6 am to enjoy all the goodness of Christmas morning with plenty of time to get ready for church.

I loved this look on Olivia's face. The funniest part is that she got THAT excited about a box of gobstoppers.  Classic.

That Santa is a clever one. He brought the book Goodnight Moon to Sophia, and Ryan got Goodnight iPad. It is pretty funny.  (And is written by Ann Droyd... get it? It took me a minute.)

Soph loved her new baby.

Coleman was excited with everything he opened. He's such a happy kid.

Church was lovely. Olivia and Coleman played their Christmas hymns for the prelude music. Ryan and Olivia sang in the ward choir, Ry sang with the men of the ward too. I even sang with Ryan and several other couples. I thought it was wonderful to be at church and feel the spirit and worship the Savior on the very day that we were celebrating his birth.

Aren't they handsome boys?

Sophia's favorite gift (for the moment) was her new baby doll.

Olivia was thrilled to have a new camera... and she has been taking at least 100 pictures every day since then. She confessed that every morning she takes a few self-portraits right when she gets up because she thinks it's fun to capture her sleepy face.

Coleman was so excited for a new Wii game... Harry Potter Years 5-7. He also loved his Ninjago alarm clock.

Ryan loves his new gadget that plays music from our phones without even being plugged in. While it was his gift and a surprise for him, I have to admit that I have gotten the most use out of it thus far. Lucky me!

My favorite gift is this beautiful canvas that Ryan made. He did a collage of our family photo shoot and the Proclamation to the World on the family. Love it!

My mom knits sweaters for each of her grandchildren. Amazing, no? Sophia's sweater is darling, and Soph is pretty darling too. I loved this picture!

I love Christmas... it's busy and can be stressful, but I love giving gifts and seeing the joy on these beautiful kids' faces when they open the thing that is just perfect for them.

**What was the best gift you gave this year?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Best Ward Christmas Party Ever

So by disbanding the ward activities committee, our ward was left at having the Elder's Quorum in charge. Of course they are great guys, but they are men. When our bishop's wife heard that they were going to be putting on the ward Christmas breakfast, she volunteered herself and all of our young single adults to throw the party. They involved so many of us in any way that they could, and the result was amazing. I am not taking any credit for any of the amazing things they did, just thought you might like to see what a fun party they threw. They had a Polar Express theme and we all got to go in our PJs.

A week or so before the breakfast they delivered golden tickets to each household.

We had to turn in our tickets at this darling ticket booth. If for some reason we forgot to bring our ticket, we could do a song or a dance to get in.

 One of the hallways was transformed to be the inside of a train.

 Our kids LOVED riding on the train.

One of our ward members made a fabulous conductor and acted the part during the whole party. He punched tickets and spoke with a voice that sounded just like the conductor from the movie.

 Doesn't he look great?

A couple of my friends crafted this beautiful train out of cardboard that was just inside the gym after we got off the train. It had a functioning headlamp and even emitted "smoke" out of the chimney.

 The tables were covered with white butcher paper and then strips of black paper glued on to make them look like train tracks. Genius. I also love these boxes of crayons (wrapped to look like gifts) that were on each table so the children (and adults!) could color on the tables.

 While we were eating breakfast the young men and college boys passed out hot chocolate while they played the song from the movie.

 The conductor got into it and sang along! He was so much fun.

Breakfast was delicious! Many of us helped by signing up to bring a breakfast casserole or fruit. The ward provided pancakes, yummy buttermilk syrup, drinks, and hash browns.

Santa's appearance was brief... there wasn't time for all the kids to sit on his lap (which was okay with me...) but he invited all of us to the back of the gym where there was a "Mrs. Santa's Bake Shop" and we could frost a cookie. Dessert for breakfast? I think so!

My favorite part about our ward Christmas parties is the annual ward talent show. We have a talented ward! So many signed up to play the piano that they had to tell them all no (and have decided to hold a separate piano festival later this year). Our ward has put together a jazz band for the last several years. This year Ryan was invited to pull out his trumpet and join. He figures it had been at least 15 years since he had really played. After a fancy (and pricey) tune-up at the music store, his trumpet was ready to go. He did such a great job! He is standing in the back right corner if you decide to watch the video.

He also got to play in a brass quintet:

Olivia's clogging group performed their number too:

It was such a fun event. It is really neat to see all of the hard work of so many people pay off. I was so glad I wasn't in charge :).

Friday, January 6, 2012

December Miscellany

December was full of all sorts of goodness and busyness...

We took the kids to the Church History Museum before seeing Temple Square Lights...

There were so many fun hands-on exhibits...

Sophia and Liv loved the dress-ups...

...and Olivia rocked the latin dancing.

Sophia looked super-cute in her hat and gloves (even though she didn't keep them on for more than five minutes! Poor, cold girl).

The lights were beautiful, as always. We expecially loved the nativities.

We visited the Festival of Trees with Grandma Cole and met up with Megan and Erin and my dad who came into town for a few days. While we were there we got to see many people admiring Megan's work.

Megan's tree was amazing! It was fun to be there with my cute Grandma. We all got a little teary-eyed when the volunteer asked if we were interested in  learning more about the cute boy the tree was done for. She reached for the story and Megan told her that she had written it and designed the tree because it was HER cute little boy. Moments like that are hard.

My dad stayed with us for a few days.  He likes to get us a kit for decorating a gingerbread house most years... the kids had a lot of fun doing it with him this year. Sophia was all about shoveling the candies into her mouth. (Let's be honest, that's what we all wanted to do.)

We had a very fun Christmas party with the Harper side of the family, and I didn't even think to get out my camera. Can someone remind me next time? There was this funny picture taken of Ryan though...

Great hair, no? It was so fun to be with the Harper clan! We missed Ry's sister Traci and her family and of course his parents, but his brothers and aunts and their families and his grandparents were all there.

I got to participate in one of my favorite traditions... my friend Marilynn's cookie exchange party. This year I made some sugar cookies (recipe from Our Best Bites) and decorated them to look like poinsettia cookies. I loved the way the white ones looked...

...but the red ones looked orange and despite using no-taste red gel food coloring, they tasted like red food coloring. Oh well!

You can see other recipes and photos from that fabulous party at the Christmas Cookie Collection blog. I am hoping to add her appetizer recipes there too, they were SO yummy.

Such a fun group of friends! Marilynn is in the red... she is an amazing cook and mom and friend and all-around person. We joke that some day we are going to open a catering business together, but really, I would just be the grunt worker, all the talent is hers!

Coleman's class did a fun gingerbread play. Sophia and I got to go and see him do the songs and dance with his apron and baker's hat.

Love those smiles!

Of course December was full of mailing and receiving beautiful Christmas cards... and we thought our neighbor gift was pretty clever this year (and useful!). It was also very, very corny. Apologies to our neighbors that we love dearly!

We gathered at my mom's house a week before Christmas.... she likes to have our kids re-enact the nativity... Sophia was so thrilled to be the cow. Eliza was a cute donkey!

Tayden was Joseph, Liv was Mary, and Abi was the angel.

Cute wise men, no? Evan, Brady and Coleman loved the crowns.

Cute group of kids! They all swapped costumes and did it over again (and again!). It seems they all want a turn at being Mary... or Joseph... or the angel.

We got to go and visit Grandma and Grandpa Cole. They've had rough year with their health, and we are so grateful they are on the mend. Sophia LOVED sitting with Grandpa...

...and then she followed the fun snow globe over to Grandma. We love that the Coles live close enough that we can see them fairly often. They are wonderful to us!

I wanted to introduce the kids to potato latkes. I remember eating them in elementary school as a kid and loving them, so I thought it would be fun to make them during Hanukkah. I think it a bit ironic that the photo is in front of my "SIMPLIFY" sign, because there wasn't a lot simple about making these. Coleman said, "Hmm, they taste like hash browns." So much for introducing cultural awareness. 

We made a LOT of treats in December. Caramels and toffee and cookies, oh my! One of our favorite treat making sessions was when we invited a few friends over to decorate sugar cookies.

The kids were much more creative than I was in their use of colors and toppings.

Don't you just love a good sugar cookie?

Aside from making several Christmas gifts (which I didn't take any pictures of!) I managed to craft ONE lovely item for our home this year. My multi-talented cousin made a very cute felt rosette tree and I wanted to copy (see hers here). Mine didn't turn out as so very cute as hers did, but I like it all the same. Yay me. 

And finally, I spent a good part of December reading and listening to the Book of Mormon as part of my Personal Progress project for Virtue.. We started reading the Book of Mormon as a family earlier this year, but at 6 or 8 verses a day, it was taking us a really, really long time to get very far. I decided at the beginning of December that I wanted to finish by the end of the year, and I did! We had already read 1st and 2nd Nephi, so I started with Jacob and made it through to the end.  Thank goodness for podcasts and naptime! It was really cool to read it in such a condensed amount of time as I was making note of the characteristics of virtuous people. I loved reading/listening this way! A fun project summarizing my experience is in my head and should be in the works soon.

We also went to an awesome ward Christmas breakfast that is deserving of it's very own post, so that is on it's way... Christmas pictures to come, too.

Overall, our December was full of goodness... family, friends, gifts galore, treats and more treats, many great lessons from the Book of Mormon, and lots of great and worthwhile activities!

**How would you summarize your December?