Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas 2009 in Pictures (Nearly Wordless Wednesday)

First a sneek peek at our nativity

Christmas Eve at the Chinese Restuarant --
we've been doing this for YEARS!
The best part? No clean up!

Look at all that food!

Reading from Luke 2

Baby Jesus wouldn't sit still very well.

Notice the shepherd really IS "sore afraid." It was a little past her bedtime.

Baby Jesus was amazingly mobile for a newborn.

The angel of the Lord knew her part perfectly.

And there came wise men from the East.


Santa came! With a rocking chair/trike for Harmony:

Legos and cars for Joey and Michael:
Littlest Pet Shop for Eliza:
I love that my kids get excited about EVERYTHING, even the marbles in their stockings:

Nearly 21 Weeks along -- more than halfway there!


Waiting patiently are Allison,
and Michael (the others are there too).
Worth waiting for -- the easiest, yummiest rolls ever:
(My recipe is similar to this one)
Harmony LOVES them.

Then it was back to all the presents, to be opened one at a time and savored.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Joy

I told my husband yesterday that I feel sorry for older folks who celebrate Christmas morning alone. There is just so much joy, love and excitement in our family that day. Luckily, by the time our kids are raised, we should have plenty of grandkids to celebrate with.

One thing that happens with each new baby in a family is that the relationships grow exponentially. With one child in a family, there's three relationships, the one between the parents and the one between each parent and the child. Add another child, and you have six, adding the one between each parent and the new child plus the one between the two children. With three children, you have ten relationships. With seven children, you have thirty-six relationships going on! (Trust me on this; I had to graph it out to count it. When our baby is born, there will be forty-five!)

And Christmas morning, at least at our house, is all about relationships. The joy of giving and receiving is made more exquisite by watching each of these relationships and realizing how strong and loving they are. Each of our children is so blessed to have a huge number of people thinking of them, knowing them for who they are, and rooting for them. Lillian and Joey had both purchased presents for each member of our family, not just the one Secret Buddy they were assigned. Watching their faces as their sibling opened one of their carefully-chosen treasures was priceless. Michael had cut and pasted large sheets of paper into cut-out guys he'd colored, one for each of us. At any given moment during our present-opening, the receiver was thrilled and the giver even happier. Eliza loved the stick horse Allison had found for her, after searching the entire toy store for just the right gift. Michael loved the joke book Sarah gave him, saying, "Thanks! I'm not very good at jokes and now I will be." DH loved the photobook Lillian made for him of their trip to Chicago in April, and Lillian loved that Joey got her the new Mysterious Benedict Society book. And I sat back and tried not to be too sappy, so happy to be part of it all, to be the mother in this special family. There are days when I simply look at my kids and think, "I am so blessed," and then there are days when I just want to cry with joy.

Of course, with all those relationships going on, there's plenty of noise and excitement. Here's just a taste, of the kids right after seeing all their Santa gifts, before our yummy breakfast and the opening of all the other gifts (notice all the noise! Whoville has nothing on us):

I love my life.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We're headed out for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at our favorite Chinese restaurant in a few hours, we've assigned all the parts for our Pageant this evening, and we've somehow kept Harmony and Eliza from opening the presents under the tree for five whole days.

I hope your Christmas is wonderful!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lillian the diplomat

Last night, I took Lillian out for some Christmas deliveries. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "Won't it be fun to have another little girl? Five little girls!"
Lillian: "Yeah, that will be fun. It will be interesting to see what the new baby is like."
Me: "Well, I hope they all turn out like you."
Lillian: "The twins won't! That's for sure."
Me: "What do you mean by that?"
Lillian: "Well, uh . . . I mean, they're special in their own way."

{Then we talked about how they certainly don't have her talent for organization and knowing where things go, but that it's fun to watch Eliza develop some of that talent. Eliza's been doing 50 and 60 piece puzzles lately, the first one of my children to show an interest and ability in that since Lillian at that age. And we speculated on who Harmony is most like (a combination of the twins' spunkiness and Eliza's peacefulness). We both agreed its amazing how different each child is in our family and I told her I really wouldn't want everyone to be just like her.}

Other fun conversations of late:

Last night:
Lillian: "Just a few more days until Christmas. If I can just somehow get through tomorrow, then Thursday will be fine because that's Christmas Eve."

Michael on Monday: "Mommy, I counted 50 presents under the tree. There are really more than that, but some of them I couldn't reach."
Michael on Tuesday: "Mommy, there's actually 65 presents. But there's still a few hiding."

Allison on Monday to our dinner guests: "Want to hold my turtle? His name is Tommy. You have to hold him with TWO hands because he can break really easily. He's a desert tortoise!"

If someone forgot and held him with just one hand, Allison would remind them, "Two hands! He breaks easily!"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I was wrong.

And I'm really happy about it. The baby is healthy and beautiful, with two arms, two legs, a beautifully beating heart, and . . .

she is definitely a girl!

We're absolutely thrilled. We just had four girls in four years, and I love having all of them grow up together. Adding one more to their happy group is exciting, and I'm even crossing my fingers hoping number nine is ALSO a girl, just so we can even out the numbers a bit. I'm also a bit relieved. When the twins were born, I had a hard time switching from crooning names like "buddy" and "kiddo" over to "sweatheart" and "princess." I was a bit worried that I'd have the same problem switching back, especially since I've had almost six years of princesses. The bows and frills and pink and purple will get at least one more use, and I won't have to worry about switching out the ponies and dolls for a few more years yet. And I don't mind waiting a bit longer to have a Benjamin.

I mean, really, who wouldn't be excited to have one more of these?

I have no ideas on names yet, though. Our only rule so far has been that the baby can't have the same initial as a sibling, so that rules out names that start with L, J, M, A, S, E, and H. We like more traditional names, but also want it to mean something. Any suggestions?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Seven Days until Christmas (Some Thoughts)

Just one more week! We've been enjoying the season here. Monday night we went out to dinner for Family Home Evening, then we did some shopping for other families in need. The kids had donated generously of their own meager allowances to the Christmas fund so we could do it.

As part of Family Home Evening, we talked about why we expect our kids to be well-behaved at restaurants and in public. I said that they are representing our family and our values and also talked about how many people think children are a bother and that families shouldn't have very many of them. "If a small family has two kids acting wild, people look at them and think, 'Look at those rotten kids,'" I pointed out. "But if a large family has two of their kids acting up, then people look and think, 'they have too many kids.' It's not fair, but it happens." We also talked about how we could respond when people ask us questions about our family, as some in the restaurant had, and our responsibility to be good examples of our family and our beliefs.

I shared the Savior's words in Matthew 5: "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." We talked about how silly it would be to light a candle so you could see and then put it underneath a basket. The lesson went well and we had a wonderful time helping choose presents for other people.

Later, I was thinking about how blessed our family has been lately, and not in a financial sense. We have so many blessings, seen and unseen. Perhaps it's just the contrast between the two wild toddlers we had when the twins were younger and the calm, easy toddlers we have now, or maybe it's the influence of our older kids, but I am really enjoying the stage our family is at right now. Our children are good friends and rarely fight. They share and work hard and we enjoy time spent as a family. Our older children are becoming really responsible and reliable and I love interacting with these little people.

I've gotten lots of compliments lately on how "good" my children are, which at first surprised me, but then I realized at this point, they really are good. Sure, we have our squabbles and our misbehavior, but by and large, our children are kind and loving and respectful.

I especially love watching how good the twins are to each other (especially when I contrast it with how absolutely horrid they were to each other a few years ago!). The other day I took the four little girls to the grocery store, where the car cart only seats two. Allison and Eliza hopped in, but when Sarah expressed dismay about it, Allison hopped right out and said, "you can have the first turn!" Then she turned to me and said, "Know why I gave Sarah the first turn? Because I'm trying to be like Jesus. That's why I'm being so good at school, too."

And she IS being good at school. Her teacher says she's amazed at how Allison sits quietly on the rug "like a first grader." Allison's full of exuberance and enthusiasm, so I know it takes her a lot of effort to do it, and I'm proud of her.

Sarah is also unselfish. There was a squabble a few days ago over who was going to wear which new pajamas to school on pajama day. Sarah had been ready first, so she'd chosen the polka dotted pair and put them on, but when Allison started to pout about having to wear the pink pair, Sarah took off the polka dots and handed them over.

And the older kids have been so fun to watch during this Christmas season. Lillian's used virtually all of her money to buy presents for each of her siblings, not just her "Secret Buddy." And there's been lots of sneaking around and secret-keeping around here.

A few weeks ago, DH put a couple of CD players in our prize basket, worth 30 tickets each. Lillian was really excited about earning enough tickets for one and was just short a few tickets when Michael and Joey started pooling their tickets to buy it too. I was worried about who would earn it first and about the selfishness I thought the kids were showing, when Joey came and whispered in my ear, "I'm sharing my tickets with Michael because he wants to give it to Lillian for Christmas." Michael did indeed get ahold of 30 tickets before Lillian, and he bought the CD player. She was not happy, but I think she'll change her tune in about a week (get it, change her tune? Oh wow, I'm so witty ;P ).

I said to some friends last week that one thing that always amazes me is how quickly things can change in a family, especially in regards to problem behaviors in children. I've made a habit of recording my concerns and worries in my journal twice a year, usually around conference time. The other day I was reading through what I wrote down in April. Of the eight or nine major worries, only a few of them are still concerns today. Things improve, sometimes just simply with maturity and patience, and sometimes miraculously.

For instance, one thing I worried about greatly in the winter and spring was Michael's reading. He was struggling so much with it and I just could not find the extra time to devote to intervention. I felt like a failure as his reading continued to be extremely slow and labored, berating myself for not giving him more of my time and efforts in this area. I prayed about what to do and felt some of the worry subside, and felt greater patience in the place of anxiety. Over the course of several months, Michael's reading improved dramatically. He still wasn't up to grade level by the end of first grade, but he had improved so much his teachers were amazed. The reason for the difference? Joey, who I had confided my concerns to, had begun inviting Michael down to the bottom bunk of their bed each night to read together. His loving service had answered my prayers and brought a greater bond between brothers.

I still had some worries about Michael's reading, but now, eight months later, he has caught up and even surpassed some of his peers. He's in second grade and he's finally reading for enjoyment, mostly Magic Tree House chapter books.

I guess this post has been pretty random, so I'll keep up with that trend and end on a few other notes about our lives:

* I'm now halfway through my pregnancy! I'll be 20 weeks on Sunday and my ultrasound is scheduled for Tuesday. I'm still 95% sure it's a boy, but I'll be just as thrilled with a girl.

* I've felt the baby move a few times now. That is such an amazing experience, and one I look forward to enjoying many more months.

* I'm so tired of being tired! I just cannot get a good night's rest anymore. I toss and turn and wake with vivid, weird dreams every single night (last night, we were walking through a house we'd just built that was much smaller than our current one. We were all excited about moving, but then halfway through, I said, "Wait, we just BUILT a house," and the rest of the dream was deciding which house to keep and which house to move into). I've been blessed with some nourishing naps during the day, though, and that helps. And compared to how rotten I felt even a month ago, I'll put up with stupid dreams any day.

* The morning sickness and nausea have finally subsided, slowly diminishing until they were all gone at around 18 weeks.

* I'm still running about three days a week, though not as intense as I used to be. Partly that's because I just don't like running on a treadmill, even if I can read a magazine or watch a video while I do it. I'm tired of winter already. But still, this morning, I ran two miles straight. It felt good.

* DH instituted a new tradition a few nights ago called the Ten Days of Christmas. We brainstormed a few books to read and treats to eat and now we meet each night before bed to celebrate Christmas with a treat and a story. We're nearly done with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which is my favorite read-aloud Christmas book ever (the movie is also good). It's humorous and fun, but has a great message about the transforming power of the story of Christ's birth. DH wants to read A Christmas Carol next.

* We're going caroling on Monday. The kids know more songs than I expected.

* I've been sorting through and organizing all our photos for the year. I label all the ones with Sarah and Allison in them so we'll always know who is who. I was given that advice when the twins were babies. I thought sometimes it seemed like a waste of time because it was so easy for me to always know who was who in a photo, but it's amazing how that changes after a few years. While I can easily tell in any recent picture who is who, I will look at their baby and toddler photos and need to see my labels to remember in some of them. All this to say, if you have identical twins you can easily tell apart, please, still, label their pictures!

* I also take the best photos from each month and put them in a separate folder in our "Favorite Pictures 2009" folder. It helps me quickly use the best ones when I do our books. It was so fun to remember all the great and small events of the year. And you know what else? I've got really cute kids. Don't you agree?

Lillian (and Harmony):

Joey (and Eliza):

Michael (and Sarah):

Sarah (and some leaves):

Allison (and a bug):

Eliza (and a bucket):

Harmony (and a goat):

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

All in a Day's Work (And Other Randomness for Nearly Wordless Wednesday)

I told a friend yesterday that I feel like all my time while the twins are in kindergarten is spent doing housework.

This is what I did today:
It took several hours.

Other days this week have been employed with more fun work, namely shoveling snow off our way-too-big driveway. And to the neighbors who "tsk tsk" about a poor pregnant woman out shoveling, let me say (again) DH is more than willing to do it, but I really like being outside and working like that. I also like mowing the lawn. Is that really so hard to believe?

And in other random news, Allison really likes this hairstyle.
She calls it her "Care Bear ears"

Last week, we hosted a dinner party for DH's work at our home. DH and a co-worker's husband spent hours slaving away making authentic, amazing Mexican cuisine. I cleaned the house and tried to keep it that way. Then I did nice, shiny, festive centerpieces:

Harmony got her first dose of playdough-playing this week.

Eliza enjoyed teaching her how to do it.

It occupied her for at least thirty minutes.

And she didn't put a bit of it in her mouth.

It's nice when Harmony is occupied doing something contained at the table, because otherwise, she's off doing things like this:


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