Sunday, December 30, 2012


This has been a week full of surprises. I decided at the last minute to drive down to Tucson for a family dinner. It is a long way to Tucson.  I broke the drive up into two days, staying the first night in Redlands, California.  The first day went well, and we made it down south fairly easily.

Then the kids and I hit the road again on Friday, pulling into Tucson in the afternoon. We met my mom and siblings at Funtasticks, and the kids were able to run around and do something that did not involve a minivan.  It was lots of fun: go-karts, carnival rides, and skeeball. 

After that, we all headed over to our hotel, the JW Marriott. It is a super fancy 5 star hotel, tucked up into beautiful saguaro hills to the west of town. It has been pretty darn cold down here, but everyone went swimming that evening.  The pool was heated so it could not be passed up, except by me.  I left the swimming to Jamie, Leah, Mike, Cody, and my kids. I took the pictures.

When it was time for everyone to leave and for the kiddos to go to sleep, Catye decided at the last minute to stay at the hotel with Heather and me.  I thought that was a bit strange, but I was deliriously tired and was like, whatever!  So the three of us sat in the hallway waiting for the kids to all fall asleep.  We were talking and playing games on our phones.  And the two of the them had some kind of joke between them. They kept twittering with each other and I was ignoring them.  But when I looked down the hallway and saw Rinar walking towards me, my jaw just about dropped to the floor.  My rascally husband flew down to be with us for the weekend.  He still has to work, but just came for the dinner so that we could all be there. Catye was really sticking around to drive back to my parents house with Heather.

But boy, was I surprised!!

And the surprises just kept on rolling in.

We got to the church on Saturday around lunch for our get-together. Rinar and I pulled into the parking lot and looked over at Christi's car, and I'll be gosh darned.  I could not believe who was in the front seat: Grandma Wilma!  What!?! Christi had flown her in from St. George so that she wouldn't miss the dinner either.  It was pretty darn cool.

This is everyone in our family.  I can't even remember the last time we were all together. It has been ages. We had to get a family picture.

And all the women...

This is Christi's Mya. What a cutie.

Christi and Thomas brought a pinata, and the kids had a lot of fun whacking at the thing. We also played a riveting game of Duck Duck Goose and Curses. Leah's family was in town, and they all came to the dinner, as well as Leah's brother Roy's in-laws. Whew, that can get confusing.  But they all came and feasted on Mexican food, joining in on the celebration. The more the merrier.

We went back to the hotel for a second round of swimming, this time with Thomas and his kids.

It was much better to swim while there was still some daylight. It was not nearly as freezing cold as it was the night before. 

Today, my parents and siblings came back to the hotel to hang out and we also were able to get a few more pictures with the beautiful scenery. Julia was really happy to see Grandpa.

We went to church with mom and then hung out at their house for a little while.  Rinar headed back to the airport and I headed up to Scottsdale. 

After all, I have a long drive back!

Christmas Day

 Christmas day was a low-key affair.  The kids woke up not so horribly early. They waited patiently at the top of the stairs.  We opened presents and then played with toys the rest of the day. Some highlights: Raef got his Lord of the Rings castle, Eli, Zach and Harry got bikes and Julia got a cute doll.

 As the boys had a blast assembling Legos and playing on the Wii, Julia and I played beauty shop.  She just loved it, all except for having curlers in her hair. She was a good sport, but very happy when they came out of her hair.

I put on a little bit of neutral blush and some lipstick.  I curled her hair and sprayed it. I even put a little bit of perfume on her.  She was in heaven.

It even ended up being a white Christmas. In the evening it snowed again. A perfect end to a lovely day.

Christmas Work Party

This year we celebrated Christmas for Rinar's work at Reds 395 in Carson City. It is a restaurant all decked out in southwestern decor. There are wagons hanging from the ceiling, beer bottles everywhere, and rustic wood and iron touches everywhere.  It is a fun place to eat.

Rinar had everyone bring a white elephant gift. It was great because I was able to re-gift the SpongeBob Squarepants  slippers from the party the week before.

Rinar definitely had the best worst gift, an 8.5x11 photo of himself in his ugly sweater.  He had the cheesiest pose ever and then autographed it like a movie star. Ryan was the lucky first recipient of this awesome, light-purpled 80's framed beauty.

Bonnie later stole it.  Hey, it can't hurt to kiss up to the boss a little!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Place For Santa

About a month ago I ranted a bit on my Facebook status about Christmas and Santa.  I think I still had lingering melancholy from the election results, coupled with an animosity for the entitlement mentality that is running absolutely rampant in this country right now.  I think I just took it out on poor ole' Santa Claus. The poor guy never really saw it coming.

However, I am grateful to say that some very wise words from trusted friends helped to put me in my place; things I had not even considered before the rant.

Okay, here was my rant:

"I think it is always a good exercise to rethink everything once in a while. Which brings me to Santa. I seriously hate the guy. Yes I said HATE! I don't like the lying nonsense to my kids, especially since it really distracts from the real reason for Christmas. I just want to have a Christmas where Jesus is the absolute center and there are no conflicts. I don't want Santa getting credit for stuff he didn't do. If you ask me, he is just a lazy old fat guy.

But my question is ...would I be so horrible if I just don't do Santa at all with my little ones? Can Rinar and I get the credit around here? Can it just be about Jesus? Where am I going wrong in my thinking? I have a couple days to decide my course of action and would love some input from you guys."

And some of my favorite responses...

 I think it is a lot more Christlike to do for the children without taking the credit. I personally feel that Jesus and Santa compliment each other and children can be taught the meaning of Christmas in more than one way. -Cheryl

That sounds somewhat contradictory to me. I'm no expert but wanting/expecting credit doesn't sound very Christlike. One of the most wonderful things about children is their imagination and sense of fantasy - I would think that a shame to take that away from them. -Rich G.

 Why do you need credit now? Children don' t care who did what for things to be special. -Colleen

All I can say! Never, ever thought of it in that way. I was looking at the whole thing from a very selfish point of view. I wanted to update you on how Christmas went for us this year, on the eve of Santa's visit to our household. And yes, Santa did come and my kiddos are very excited.

First of all, here is what I did not do with my kids. I did not take them to the mall to sit on Santa's lap.  I just didn't get around to doing it and it really was not that important to me. It got the ax this year and I am really okay with it, as much as I like the picture of the kids on his lap and all. Life will go on, the world will keep spinning and it is okay.

 I also did not go bonkers baking and only made chocolate chip cookies today for Santa.  I didn't buy Christmas candy either, because it only ends up on my rear end, which is not a place I want to see it, like, ever. 

But we were able to keep our tradition of doing a music program at an assisted living facility. It was our best one yet because it wasn't just me and Rinar, but Raef and Zach, who made significant contributions to the performance. It was charming.

We made sure to go and see Christmas lights in the neighborhood. This house would have made the Griswold's envious.

We were able to help several families that needed assistance through our church and it was nice to be able to do that. In addition, we went to Walmart and bought some gift cards and then randomly had the kids pick out people in the store and we surprised them with a gift card.  The boys had a lot of fun doing that. And in that spirit of random giving, I paid for a guys clothes at a thrift store secretly a few weeks ago. It was only a few dollars but I think it really helped him. Who really knows? We paid for the car behind us at the drive-thru, which ended up costing a whopping $1 bill. And then tonight, Rinar gave the McDonald's guy a $20 tip when he bought us some french fries to go with our homemade cheeseburgers. I thought that was kind of fun also.

We went caroling with another family in our ward and then had families join us along the way. I gave a "fancy" neighbor gift of popcorn that we popped right before we left to go caroling. It was simple and quick. The caroling was tons of fun and we went wherever we ended up. It was great.

I once again watched my favorite Christmas program, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's PBS special and cried buckets over the story about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. What can I say? It is my own tradition. I listened to lots of uplifting Christmas music, watched cheesy Christmas movies on Lifetime and made sure to see "A Christmas Story", "Elf", and "It's a Wonderful Life".

I hosted a dinner party that took many days to plan and execute. I reveled in the creation of beauty and the joy of sharing that beauty with new and old friends alike. It was a life-changing experience for many reasons, and well worth the sacrifice.

Our family also went to a Hanukkah party. I had read a book to the boys about Hanukkah the previous week and so it was awesome to be able to actually celebrate it with some kind of meaning. Hanukkah is a great story and I am so grateful I could learn about it.

And instead of going bananas buying my kids a bunch of stuff, our tree tonight has a good amount of presents, but they are not carpeting the entire room. They pretty much fit under our modest-sized tree. I didn't even buy anything for Julia, just got some stuff out of the closet that I was going to give her for her birthday, but didn't.  At this age, they don't tally and keep track. I know that as soon as she sees the 20 tubes of lip gloss tomorrow, she is going to be in heaven.

The stockings have just a few items in them. And once again, I am feeling pretty darn good about that.

What I am trying to say is that I really did scale it back in some ways, but not in others.  This thought kept playing in my head.

"You can never be too generous." I tell myself this all the time when I feel stinginess creep into my heart.

I gave more of myself in this past month than I have in past Christmases.  I am grateful for that and  for the opportunity to reflect on what is really important. I am grateful for friends who have put me in my place.  The idea of Santa is a wonderful thing and incredibly enough, I think I embraced it more this year than ever...but just in a different way. 

When you think about it, Santa Claus is an incredibly generous person. Instead of rejecting him, I have learned this holiday season to embrace him more fully and be grateful that his image is everywhere.  It will be a constant reminder in the future that I can never be too generous.

Santa Claus, the guardian of Christmas, is the embodiment of that ideal. 

And THAT is the spirit of Christ.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reupholstering My Office Chair

I am always really happy when I finish a project.  I have a little bit of paranoia about not finishing things. I don't like it when things are unfinished. When you start something, you finish it. At least, that is what I repeatedly tell my children.  

About 5 years ago, I found this neat little chair at a thrift store. I think it was a thrift store. Although I am not too certain. It was a long time ago. But I bought it with every intention of reupholstering it.  It was in such rotten shape and I knew I could make it pretty. But after we started using it as an office chair, the ugliness became invisible. 

After a very upsetting November, I needed something to do to keep me busy. Plus, I was going to finish this project no matter whay. And boy, did it ever keep me busy.  

There were about a million upholstery tacks to remove, layered on top of another million staples.  Then I had to re-stain the wood, because it just needed to be spruced up a bit.

Upholstering it was very tricky. When I would get to a point where I was stumped, I would just walk away from the project and then try again about a week later. This happened many times. But somehow, I was able to figure it out and I am super happy with the results.  

The chair is beautiful and it looks very finished. I think I am ready to conquer more reupholstering projects. With a plethora of thrift stores, a compressor, needle-nose pliers and Home Fabrics, the possibilities are endless.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Taking the Initiative

I have come to realize over the past few months how incredibly important it is to take initiative. I can't just sit back and lament that things are not the way that I want them to be. This is especially true as a homeschooling mother. If I want my kids to have friends, I have to take the initiative. If I want them to learn about something, I need to make the calls to create learning opportunities for them. I am just learning how to do this, and I am 36 years-old.

Apparently, Eli has been given this gift from heaven. He is the kind of kid to take the initiative. I realized this today because of an incident at church. About a month ago, Eli got a new Sunbeam teacher. And unlike the old teacher, this one does not bring snacks. Or at least, she has yet to bring snacks for the class.

Eli made sure to tell us the very first week that there were no snacks. This was again reported to us last week as well. And this morning when we woke up to go to church, Eli didn't want to go because he knew he would not be getting a snack. Rinar made sure to pack some pretzels and gummy snacks for sacrament meeting, so the kid would be well-fed and able to endure the third hour snackless Sunbeam class.

But when Eli saw the bag of snacks Dad brought for him, he had a better idea. He decided to save the bag and give it to his teacher so that everyone in the class could have snacks. As soon as sacrament was over, he went straight to her with the bag. 

Talk about taking matters into his own hands. Now, every kid in the class got a snack!

 Apparently, this has been weighing heavily on his mind, because at his brothers' violin/viola recital today he wanted to load up on broccoli and crackers for next week's Sunbeam class. You can never be too prepared, I guess.

Ugly Sweater Party

Because I got the mad thrift store shopping skills, Rinar and I were looking suh-weet for a white elephant/ugly sweater Christmas party at Molly and Jimmy's house last night. Before we even left the house, I knew we had a winner when Julia asked Daddy why he was wearing an ugly sweater.  Bingo! Yes, she really did say the sweater was ugly. My girl has quite the eye. My sweater was so-so ugly. I know I can do better. All future thrift store trips will include sweater perusals. I am determined to find something uglier.
The party was a lot of fun and the white elephant presents were truly hideous.  Rinar's gift was picked first: a box of travel soaps from the many different hotels he has stayed at over the years.  Nobody wanted to get stuck with his gift. It must have been traded at least 20 times.
Rinar first got a pair of over-sized overalls, but they were soon stolen by Diane and Mark. They then proceeded to model them, together, at the same time. It was just too funny.


Besides my awesome lion cookie jar, the hot item of the night was this corduroy jacket. Everyone wanted it. Rusty even wore it to church today. They all took turns modeling it, holding a Conan the Barbarian goblet.

Mark, Rusty, and Jimmy

I tell you, this very last minute white elephant party was a blast and I know we are going to have to do it every year from now on.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Homeschool Christmas Dinner

I decided to host an adult-only Christmas dinner at my house this past Thursday. I invited many of my homeschool friends to join us.  It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.
 I worked on it sporadically for several days and nothing but the dinner on Thursday. In order to accomodate 14 guests, I had to do some rearranging of the furniture. I made a dining room in our front living room and set up three tables. The kitchen dining area was for visiting, appetizers, and the buffet table. I was calm all day, setting things up and really enjoying the process of creating beauty. It is just nice to create beautiful things. I was also fortunate enough to have some help in the afternoon, when my visiting teacher Corrie stopped by to help me. She was such a lifesaver.
The only harrowing time was about 6:15pm when the entire house was billowing with smoke, a mere 15 minutes before the guests were supposed to arrive. I freaked out just a wee bit.  I was cooking my bacon-wrapped dates in the oven and used one lipless tray, which was a huge mistake. The grease from the bacon spilled onto the bottom of the oven, causing a horrible smoke invasion. After every door in the house was opened, the smoke cleared out just in time.
L to R: Alisa D., Alison C., Kelley R., Maureen F., Pamela L., Gillian D., and Stephanie C.

I served beef round tip, salmon, tomato soup, mixed green salad with a balsamic vinagrette, fingerling potatoes, carrot cake cup cakes (made by my totally awesome church friend Rose) and a black tie mousse cake from Costco. Besides the desserts, I made everything myself.  The food turned out really well.
None of my guests are members of our church and it was so good to have them in my home, to break down barriers. For example, Josh (a lay minister in his church) was surprised to learn that we worship Jesus Christ and not Joseph Smith. He figured that out from a quote by Ezra Taft Benson I have in my house that says, "When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed." We were able to have a productive discussion about what we do believe as Mormons. I was grateful to be able to share that with him.

Mark R., Rinar, and T.J.

Jason, Josh, and Alison's husband.

After dinner, I showed them a clip from the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas concert from a few years ago; a story about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Then we sang a few songs and wrapped up the evening.
I am so grateful to have homeschool friends, women who are so grounded and loving and supportive. I hope I can continue to do this every year.


Now all of my kids are doing gymnastics. Raef and Zach have been going Deltchev Gymnastics for the last month. It is an early afternoon class for homeschool boys.  This place is great. It is real gymnastics and they work hard.  Raef and Zach have even complained about being sore the day after a class. I am always happy to hear that.
Harry was having a hard time on Friday. He was doing a whole lot of whining and crying. I realized that the poor kid just needed some individual attention. So I took him shopping with me. We also stopped to get a little lunch together. He was an absolute angel and it was just what he needed to reset himself. The whining and crying stopped and I got my little boy back. I really need to do this more often. I think he would agree, too.

Holiday Funnies, Julia Style

Our little family decided to do a name draw this year. Each of our kids drew each other's name for a gift exchange this Christmas. Zachary ended up drawing Julia's name.  I took him shopping so that he could find a gift for her. I left him in the toy section while I did my own shopping. Zach spent a lot of time picking out the perfect gift for Julia: a Baby Alive doll.

Zach was so excited to give it to her for Christmas. When we got home, he carefully wrapped it and then put it on the top shelf on his closet for safe-keeping until Christmas Day.

Fast forward one day. I hear a blood-curdling scream. It is Zach.  He comes downstairs, absolutely devastated, holding ripped wrapping paper in his hands. He found the doll and ripped paper in Julia's room. The box for the doll was torn, in a futile attempt to liberate the doll from her paper prison.

My darling little daughter had somehow climbed up the closet and gotten the present down. Ooh, that kid. I am not sure what we are going to do now. We can't return the doll because the box is all ripped up. We may just donate the doll to Toys 4 Tots and have Zach pick out something different for her.

And in other news, I just have to write this down for posterity. I showed Julia a picture of me when I was pregnant with her. I told her that she was in my tummy and she said, "You ate me?" Makes sense to me, Julia.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ice Skating and Bethlehem

After our regular morning of gymnastics and schoolwork, we headed up to Truckee, California for some ice skating and Christmas celebrating.  We met our homeschool friends Kelley R. and her kids for ice skating at Northstar ski resort. It was actually pretty warm, until it got dark and then I was kind of wishing I brought a warmer coat. But overall, it was okay.
I was not that thrilled about ice skating myself, but I really wanted all of my kids to experience it and I couldn't slough it off on Rinar, because he was not there. I strapped on the ice skates and got out there.  It was pretty dicey at the beginning. I really didn't want to fall, and it was compounded by the fact that neither did Harry or Julia. They desperately clung to the railings or me for a while. But they kept going out there and after a while we all got a lot more comfortable, especially with Kelley there to help me.
Later in the afternoon, more homeschool friends started arriving and the skating rink got busy and more enjoyable. It was also nice that we could get warm by the many fires around the rink. Unlike Harry, Zach and Raef did not want to leave.  They really got a lot better skating.  Zach informed me that it was so fun and he rated it an 8.5 out of 10. I think Raef gave it a 9.5 out of 10.
Once it was dark and quite cold, we headed over to Sierra Bible Church in Truckee for a night in Bethlehem. The church went all out recreating Bethlehem. The kids were given Bethlehem costumes to wear as they went through the marketplace. The church really thought everything out and it was a blast. None of my little ones wanted to leave.
It was a fun day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Time to Nurture

This is what my morning looked like a few days ago. What can I say? I am a very blessed woman.

Life has been moving forward at a rapid pace. It is like, wow, one day I look at my kids and realize...they are growing up. Each day they make new connections and demonstrate a little bit more independence. And the more independent they become, the more I can start to see who they will be and the kind of personality they are going to have as an adult. It is such a privilege to be able to be a part of it.

We have been doing a lot of nurturing lately and I am grateful for it.  I have recommitted myself to reading the scriptures and the pay off is already becoming evident. Each morning, I have been reading on my own. I finished the Book of Mormon again and am delving into the Pearl of Great Price. The Book of Mormon is my greatest treasure. I just love that book and every time I read it, I rediscover myself to a whole new level. I develop an even stronger relationship with God and things become so clear.  It is a priceless treasure. I wish that everyone in this world would simply read the book. But most importantly, I want my kids to read it. So every night, we have been reading together: Rinar, Raef, Zach, and me. I can't even tell you how many incredible discussions we have been able to have with our kids because of the Book of Mormon.  Their questions are profound and I know they are building their testimonies of what truth really is.

But still, in the world we live in today, I know that this is not going to be enough for them. Therefore, I added the seminary curriculum to our homeschool day. Currently, we are studying the New Testament and I have cherished every lesson. I just love reading the Bible with Raef and Zach. I know that as their spirits are strengthened and their hearts are softened, Bible study is helping them with their academics also. The best part is being able to feel a measure of the Spirit every day. 

Life is so good right now. I know that Heavenly Father can make so much more of me than I ever could. And so I am just going to let Him.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


For our last night in St. George, we went to the bowling alley in Santa Clara. It was lots of fun chilling with the family. Everyone bowled... except me. I do not bowl.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Snow Canyon Saturday

While we were in St. George, I really wanted to get out there and experience the area.  It was a perfectly beautiful day, so we had to do a hike. We went with Nordel and his family and it was just great. The light was beautiful and Snow Canyon is an amazing place to go.  We took the kids on a couple of little hikes and made sure to take lots of pictures.

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