Thursday, December 30, 2010

Let It Snow

It's no secret around my house that winter is not my favorite time of year. Short days. Cold weather. Snow.

We have been having a freakishly mild lead up to winter and I was wondering if we would just skip it all together this year. But alas, the snow has come. But really, I think I am OK with it, at least when the snow days are like this one. The 3 younger Mann kids spent the night last night and before the girls (Elise, Afton, and Karver) fell asleep, I could hear them plotting and planning a snow-metropolis in the back yard. They would have forts, trails, snowball stations, and a dozen other things their bright minds came up with before I shooed them to bed. Bright and early (before the sun was even up over the horizon) those girls were dressed and outside going to work. They dug and dragged and shoveled and rolled. And their snow forts under the trampolines are looking pretty good, as are the piles of snowballs to defend against any bold boy that gets too close.

It is really fun seeing these kiddos being so creative and working all day like busy bees! The boys (Jackson, Jebb, and Kooper) were out in it too. They took a few more hot chocolate and wii breaks, but for the most part, they have all been out there digging away. I love it when the kids are outside creating and playing and wearing themselves out!! I certainly can appreciate the beauty of the white stuff too. I guess if I just keep looking, I might learn to like winter one of these years!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Until Next Year

Down came the Christmas decorations today. I was afraid that if someone sparked the tree with even the smallest static electricity, it might burst into flames. So until next year...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day 2010

I served a mission in Canada where there is a holiday on December 26th known as Boxing Day. I would ask all of the Canadians what the holiday was for, but never really got a straight answer. Something about boxes. Or cleaning up after Christmas. Or helping the poor. Or a Bank Holiday. This year I looked it up on wikipedia. Here's the Boxing Day Link. It seems wikipedia isn't quite sure what it means either.

I wanted my kids to know that there IS a Boxing Day (since I heart Canada and all) so I gave them all a little gift today before church. They are little angel ornaments that ring like a little bell. Ahhh. Cute, I know! It was pretty funny hearing me try to explain Boxing Day to the kids, so next year I'm planning to make up something really good. We all hung the ornaments on the trees in the music room before heading out the door. And I loved thinking about Canada for a while as we drove into town.

Happy Boxing Day!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Morning 2010

Our Christmas morning came with the rising of the sun. Grandma Kristine got after all of us and said she couldn't believe how late everyone slept in as she was apparently waiting by the tree for quite sometime for us to stir. But I, for one, was glad! Everyone was in a great mood as we turned up the Christmas music and started in on the gifts. The kids opened the gifts that they got for one another. It was so fun to see them get excited and thank the sibling the gift was from.

I felt this year that Gabe and Seth were really difficult to shop for, and it appears I am not the only one that had a tough time coming up with creative gifts for them. They both received, from every one of their siblings, Axe Body Spray. I thought it quite funny that each of them shopping separately picked out the same thing. The $7 limit this year was certainly a factor. There was a Reese's candy wrapped with one bottle, and a pack of gum wrapped with another, so I guess there was a little flare of creativity in their gifts. They are going to smell really good! :)

We had a pretty practical Christmas this year. I didn't realize just how practical until I heard Jebb mutter to himself, "More Jeans?!" as he ripped back some paper. But I think everyone was pretty content as I had prepared them for the fact that none of them was receiving an iphone (which is what all 5 of them asked for!) Jebb got a pillow pet, Jackson a Ben 10 watch, and Elise got some good wii games. Gabe and Seth were even happy with the gloves they got, as they were attached to the promise of a snowmobile trip.

One of my favorite things I saw was given by Seth this year. Somewhere along the way, he has acquired the skill of making practical things out of tape. Electrical tape, duct tape, packing tape, you name it! He made wallets for all of his brothers this year. They are pretty cool and quite functional. Here is a pic of his sporting the slippers he created for himself. So far those have not gone into production.

Overall it was a great morning and I loved making breakfast for my happy family. I didn't mind eating it myself either.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010

This year we had a quiet Christmas Eve. After a fancy spaghetti dinner we cleared the dishes, cleaned up, and settled in for the reading of the Christmas Story from the Bible. Love that story.

Then it was time to open our traditional Christmas Eve present. The kids all feigned surprise at...
PAJAMAS! We opted for athletic shorts for the big boys as this is what they sleep, eat, and live in these days. The kids all changed and lined up for the PJ shot!

This year I tried something a little different. After everyone was ready for bed, we went downstairs to watch a movie together before bed. I picked the movie "A Christmas Carol." None of us saw it last year in the theater and I thought it would be a great family activity to watch Dicken's heartwarming tale of Christmas Redemption.

Little did I know that this latest animated version is actually a HORROR film! OK, not quite a horror film, but it certainly took a long, dreary, and somewhat frighting while to get to the happy ending. Part way through the film, Jebb looked sadly up at me and said, "I hope I don't get nightmares from this." Uh, ya, Jebb, Merry Christmas buddy.... Ugg! Not exactly the warm fuzzy send off for Christmas Eve I was envisioning. Good luck with those visions of Sugar Plumbs and whatnot, kids!

Oh well, live and learn, right? There is redemption for us all, even for us poor parents on Christmas Eve!

We sent everyone to bed, cleaned up the soda and popcorn, and John and I headed upstairs to look for signs of Santa. I noticed that one of the stockings has something sticking out from it:

It was Jackson's stocking and he had left a message to Santa. It read, "Thank you for the presents" and then (I am guessing a bit here) he tried to write "Signed, the EX." He has been putting on costumes with Jebb all week having fantastic adventures and I am assuming this is his latest alias as a caped hero. I thought it was super cool that he left Santa a Thank You note!

Santa left a return message. Sidenote: I grew up in a household where we did not believe in Santa Claus. I still struggle with the whole thing. End of Sidenote. But obviously I am not that conflicted, as I wrote the return note in my best 'Claus' font.

I am grateful for so many blessings in our life. I am glad we have Christmas to remind us of the greatest gift.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Good Egg

Well here we are on the first Monday of Christmas break. What's a fun family like ours to do? That's right, we cleaned the house! There is nothing like a fun Monday morning spent organizing and dusting book shelves. While the kids were less than enthusiastic, I think we can all at least agree that it is nice to have it done.

After we got our own house in order, we decided to usher in the Christmas Spirit and look outside ourselves. I took the 3 older kids with me and we headed down to the fairgrounds to help out with the 'commodities distribution.'. A woman in our ward runs the local food bank and needed volunteers to help pass out free food to those in need. There were tables set up in a huge room and people would come, get a box, then work their way down the tables. Each table had a 'commodity' or food item like milk, bread, beans, oil, flour, sugar, potatoes, apples, etc. Volunteers manned each table handing out their item. Elise and I were assigned to the EGG table.
We had to sort through the dozens and dozens of egg boxes. We would pull out cracked and broken eggs then replace them with good ones so each carton was full. Most of the eggs are donated by local grocery stores because they have been damaged in some way, so we certainly had our work cut out for us. Somehow, we ended up being quite the kid table and 4 or 5 kids were aiding in the sorting, refilling, and distribution at our little table.

Gabe and Seth were assigned to help individuals fill and carry their boxes. As there were many elderly people, they stayed busy as well. I enjoyed seeing them come through the line helping strangers get food. I enjoyed the work, and we had to really hustle to stay ahead of it. I was talking and laughing with all of the kids and I felt really happy. It was such a good feeling to see all of the grateful people coming through the line. We live in a small town and I heard many if the volunteers greeting or chatting with people they knew. Maybe because I don't live in town, I didn't really see anyone I knew.

I was pulling eggs from a crate under the table, when a woman asked me how many eggs she was allowed to have. I looked up and smiled saying that there was no limit, when I met eyes with the women I knew. She was one of my Young Women from years ago. She was a Laurel when her family moved to Bayfield. I hadn't seen her since then, but I knew she had graduated from HS then had a baby some time after that. She is a sweet, beautiful girl and I said hello as I met her little boy that was now a toddler. She took some eggs then scooted her box on down to the next table.

I ducked under the table to sort some more eggs, but also because I could feel the sting of tears in my eyes. It made it all very real to me. Of course it always feels good when you serve, but I was really enjoying giving away eggs, in part because I had no personal attachment to any of the people coming through. It is not easy to think of the idea that people need help to buy food at Christmas.

Of course the line kept coming and I kept sorting eggs. It was still busy and fun, but I think I meant it a little more when I wished people a Merry Christmas. We stayed until the line was gone and the place was cleaned up. On our way to our car, we loaded the last of the left over commodities in the food truck. We piled in the car and I asked the kids what they thought of our afternoon. I was pleased to hear that they all had a really great experience. They all said that they felt really happy and Gabe even said 'I think that was a really great experience for us!'.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Sunday

Today is what I call Christmas Sunday. Although the blessed Holiday is still many days away, today is the last Sunday before the celebration of the Savior's birth. I had been looking forward to this day because I heard it was going to be a 'musical' Sacrament Meeting. This is how a Christmas Sunday should be in my book. Lots of singing, piano, and a few instruments if we got really lucky. I was participating in the ward choir specifically because I love Musical Christmas Sundays. You see, I feel like I can't be bummed about a lack of music if I'm not willing to contribute myself.

Little did I know how strongly my conviction to that idea would be tested! On Wednesday I received a phone call. I was asked to play my flute in a duet with another woman in our ward. I agreed with my words, then hung up the phone. My heart was not as agreeable. I immediately felt kinda woozy. I decided long ago that I would always do my best to say 'Yes' when called upon to help in my church. I am smart enough to know that I had to make that determination before I am ever asked to do stuff, otherwise I would find lots of timely reasons to say 'No'. But I can honestly say that my least favorite thing to do in church is play my flute. Hands down.

I got the music. It was a super, super easy song. You would think this would put me at ease, but it did not. I had to keep reminding myself that I want to be someone who says yes. I also thought of how I'd wished for years we'd have that all-music Christmas Sunday that I was now a part of. And so of course I convinced myself enough that I actually showed up this morning for flute and choir practice before church.

So how did it go? Well, the opening harp number was a little piece of heaven. The choir pieces were surprisingly in tune and Spirit filled. The vocal soloists were inspiring. And my flute number? Well, I can say that it is over and it was fine. But man oh man, I remember in even more vivid detail why I dislike playing the flute for the ward. I cannot breathe! Then that makes me start to shake. Then I feel like I am going to pass out from working so hard to force out my notes!! The second verse isn't any better, and I don't settle in! But I play on wondering if my face is turning red. And then it's over. I sit down in the choir seats and have that shaky-yet-calmly-relieved feeling you get after doing something like that. So ya, it went fine. And I did not enjoy it.

But I do want to write about something I did enjoy. I really liked sitting on the choir seats during our Musical Christmas Sunday. I loved seeing the faces of our ward. I loved seeing the joy and peace they felt conveyed by the Spirit through music. That part of the meeting was delightful. The full time missionaries were the only two speakers and the second Elder gave a very good talk about the Gospel. It was a very simple and beautiful message. I looked at the audience and thought about the people there. I know about many of the challenges many of them are facing, though I am sure I know only a fraction. The thought also occurred to me that there were a few people in our congregation that had served time in jail and others that struggled with addictions. We aren't a polished, pioneer-stock-type ward that you visit in Utah. But we are a good ward. And really, the exact kind of ward that the Gospel is all about. We aren't a museum of Saints, but
a place where sinners are invited to come to Christ and be healed. And this Sunday I could see that. And more importantly, feel that.

I am thankful for the Musical Christmas Sunday when we get to sing praises to the Babe born in a manger over 2000 years ago. I am thankful for the Spirit that conveys the truth of that message to the hearts of the listeners. So I will continue to say yes, even when it's hard!

I also wanted to write about YW's today. I hoped to carry on the MCS, and invited the girls to either sing a song, play the piano, share a tradition, or a story. It went really well. We had several girls do music, a few that shared stories, and one that brought us all rice pudding (as per her family's tradition). I finished up with the Christmas Story as told in the scriptures. I certainly couldn't have planned and assigned a better program. I love it when things come together like that because I believe the Spirit plays the role of organizer on days like that. It was fun to be a part of and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing what the girls chose to share!

In all, the perfect Sunday to set the tone for the coming week!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day Tripping

Sometimes I get a hankerin' to travel. I just feel the need to go! ! I think if I didn't have lots of responsibilities, I would be a certified gypsy.

But that is usually not the reality of my life. I have lots of wonderful responsibilities that keep me close to home.

Yet the gypsy in me patiently waits for a good reason to roam. And I have to say that one really great reason came up recently! My dear high school friend Lisa in AZ and she is turning 40 next week. I asked another HS friend of ours, Dabrielle, to keep me in the loop on any fun plans. A breakfast was to be held in Lisa's honor and I decided that I wanted to attend and help her celebrate.

So last night I drove to the airport and hopped on a plane. It is a huge shift from going from mom-of-five to traveling-solo-lady. As I sat on the airplane, I talked to my fellow passengers and even listened to the very funny flight attendant. In AZ, I picked up my rental Dodge Charger and drove to Dabrielle's house (thank you Garmin GPS). It was really great catching up with her and she was a terrific host that graciously let me crash at her home (thanks Dabe Babe!)

This morning we made our way to the birthday breakfast where a roomful of ladies surprised Lisa. It was really fun to meet her kind friends and chat it up for the morning. We stayed almost until lunch! Dabrielle had to go to work and I went and hung out with Lisa for a few hours. I loved catching up with Lisa and seeing her cute kiddos.

And then it was time to go!! Very short visit, but I loved every sandal wearing minute of it (I only brought sandals thinking it would be balmy instead of the cool, rainy weather AZ was having)!! After dropping off my rental car and getting to the terminal, they announced that once in flight, our plane could be rerouted to Grand Junction if the weather in Durango was bad.

That little announcement was all it took for me to realize just how much the gypsy in me had been satisfied. I was now ready to go home! :) Luckily, the weather held for us and I enjoyed my flight home sitting next to a Grandma going to visit her family in Mancos. While it is wonderful to get out and go, it's always fun to return to the glorious ties that hold me home!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Nutcracker

This afternoon Elise and I went to see The Nutcracker at the college. A traveling company from New York put it on and it was delightful! Although I have never seen the ballet live, I am quite familiar with the story, as I have seen the 'Barbie' DVD of the same name. Thanks to Lori and Brooke for inviting us along!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Calendar That

This afternoon I was feeling a little wishy washy. I knew tonight was the Ward Christmas Party, but with John and the 2 older boys out of town, I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to attend. But I rallied my inner Active-Mormon and took the steps to get there. I got everyone showered and dressed in clean, unwrinkled clothing. I collected some canned food as our ward was gathering it as admission. I thought that was a great idea as the food would go to our local food bank.

We ate dinner (the Party was only serving dessert) then loaded into the jeep. It is really dark by 7:00pm. I tried to talk the party up a bit, as my kids were hesitant to go without the whole family as well. We got there minutes early and when we pulled into the parking lot, I knew immediately that something was off. The parking lot was full. 10 minutes early? Definately not right.

It took me just a moment scanning the parking lot to see that the cars in the lot were not from our ward. Earlier this week I had seen the other ward practicing for their party which also was this weekend. I started to put it together but was not completely sure what happened. Just then, I saw a man from the other ward walk out of the kitchen door. Yep. Tonight was definately the other ward's party and it had probably started at 6:30p judging by the parking lot.

The kids instantly hemmed and hawwed when I admitted my error, but their spirits were quickly restored when I announced that we would instead be going to Dairy Queen. Which we did. On the way home, we stopped at Wal Mart for milk and movies. We found some Airbender cartoons on the discount rack.

Upon our return home, I checked my calendar and there it was, the Ward Party, 7:00pm, on Friday. Snap. So here we all sit, on my bed, eating popcorn watching the movie.

The frustrating thing is that this is the second time this has happened to me this last week. On Monday I took these same 3 kiddos to the Dentist office for their checkups. Except that when we arrived, the receptionist let me know that our appointments were exactly 1 month from now. I heard her message wrong and I took everyone to the office in November instead of December (although, on my crackly answering machine they sound just alike...)!

So what is up with me and the Calendar lately?! And poor Elise, Jackson, and Jebb are beginning to wonder if their mom can get any appointments right!

At least we are all ready for church tomorrow (church is tomorrow, right?!).

Oh well, please pass the popcorn.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dinner Drama

I had to get this picture of Jebb. He isn't allowed to do anything until he eats some of the dinner (bacon fried rice).

This has been an ongoing theme lately with dinner. He eats several candy bars after school when he goes to Grandma's, and unless we are having spaghetti, he doesn't eat. Frustrating on lots of levels, but I still think that he is annoyingly cute even when he has been bawling for an hour and can barely stay awake. :)