Monday, December 30, 2013

Special People

One of the reasons we went to St. George this past weekend was to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday.  Linda is now 70 years old. I can't believe it. She does not seem 70 to me at all. Rinar and his siblings decided to throw a surprise party at the Golden Corral.  I was not really paying attention to the details of this shindig, so I was almost as surprised as she was.  

Rinar and I went over to their house. I fed Noelle and then we made our way to the restaurant. I thought that it was going to be just Rinar's immediate family.  When I went into the back room I was surprised by all of the people in there.  Linda's brother and many close friends came for the occasion. 

The tables were the farthest possible location from the front door.  Lynn did not want to walk all the way back there.  Luckily, because I can be kind of pushy and insisted they come to the back, they acquiesced. They didn't want to be disagreeable. I guess some times a strong personality pays off.  Linda did not suspect a thing and was really surprised.  It was a memorable moment. I am glad that I could be a part of it.

A couple of Linda's Hawaiian friends were there. One of them even brought a ukulele. When the lunch was wrapping up, the two of them sang a bunch of Hawaiian songs. It was quite nice.

Before we hit the road, we went to my grandmother's ward.  It was a blessing to be able to see her once again.  She is getting old. It must be hard. Grandma has a hard time talking and holding things because of her tremors. Her arthritis is really debilitating. It is hard to walk, stand, sit, and just move in general. She puts on a brave face and does her best, but I know it is exhausting for her.  But I really do cherish the little moments we get to have with her.

Like this one...

During sacrament, Grandma put Julia on her lap and admired the dolls Julia showed her.  What a lovely moment in time I never want to forget.

Grandma loves to be at everything and to be a part of our lives. I am so grateful that I have been able to have so much time with her.  We love Grandma!

And then it was a surprise to see Matt Holland and his family sitting in the back of the chapel. I caught his eye as I watched Julia go out to get some water.  Matt served with my dad in the bishopbric in Durham, North Carolina. He is the young one on the right.

I talked to them after church, Matt and his wife Paige. Matt is now the president of Utah Valley University.  Back in Durham, he was a PhD student at Duke. When my parents moved back west to Wyoming, we all went to lunch together at the Training Table in Salt Lake City. They are such a nice family and it was a highlight to reconnect with someone from long ago. I always love that. I really enjoy meeting people, making friends, and reconnecting with old ones. I think that people are what this life is all about.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


How about some horseback riding?  Rinar's sister Lani invited everyone to her house to ride horses. Her husband Jeff loves his horses and has some property up in Diamond Valley.  They have 3 horses.  Rinar took Raef, Zach, Julia, Eli, Bryn, Mary Jane, and Kate. I stayed home with the baby and Harry.  Harry was happy to have some alone time with me.
Raef rode Tony. Raef really had fun riding him. At the beginning it was scary, but then it was easy peasey.

Eli rode Cody. He said it was like running and he wasn't scared at all. He looks pretty comfortable up there.

Bryn rode two different horses: Rose and Tony.

And no matter where Julia is, she is gonna do a pose.  Work it, girl! She had fun and told me it wasn't scary either. Dad made the horse run when he walked Julia around. She liked to run with the horse.

I have decided horseback riding is not my thing. I was happy to just enjoy the pictures.

Cousin Gift Exchange

We came down for a long weekend in St. George. On Thursday night we stayed at the Courtyard so that the kids could do some swimming. Once in a while, it is fun to do something like that. And they kids enjoyed the time with dad in the swimming pool Thursday night. 
On Friday morning, it was  my turn to take the kids to pool while Rinar took some phone calls for work.  I am not quite as much fun as dad when it comes to swimming pools, that is for sure. But I tried at least.
We then had to do some late Christmas shopping because we were meeting at night to exchange cousins gifts with Rinar's family.  It was a good time to go to Target. There were oodles of things on sale.  Then we went to wrap everything at Grandma E.'s house.
After a Mexican dinner with Lyf's family, it was time for all the cousins to come over for the exchange.
Lani and Jeff

Rayder and Aislinn

Grandma and Jayde

Xayden and Bethany

Mary Jane

She is just being SOOO cute!

Grandma plays a mean game of ping pong.
Lyf and Angie got a ping pong table for their kids this Christmas. It was a big hit for the entire family. And let the record show, I played Nordel and beat him. Boo-yeah, baby.

It is satisfying to see all of these cousins growing before my very eyes. They are becoming wonderful young people and I really look forward to seeing what they do when they become adults. Family is a blessing.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Our Christmas Happenings

Christmas festivities were a lot of fun. I decided to do gingerbread houses with the kids. This was our first attempt. Luckily, Leah was there to help me.  I really had my hands full because while they were constructing the houses,  I had to whip up some cookies for Santa Claus.

I must say, the kids did a great job. Harry was especially engrossed in this activity. It is something he enjoyed immensely. Harry likes doing projects and has good concentration.

It doesn't hurt that all the decor is edible and sweet!

After decorating some Santa cookies and gingerbread houses, we had a family gathering to remember what Christmas is all about. First, we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 and the kids dressed up for it. Noelle did a smashing job as the baby Jesus and Julia loved being Mary.

I tried to talk Harry into being Joseph, but he insisted on being a sheep.  Well, it was a dog costume, but close enough.You can see that he really enjoyed representing the barn animals for this reproduction! Raef was the angel, Dad played Joseph, Eli represented the shepherds and Zach brought it home for the wise men.  We also had Jamie play the donkey and bring "Mary" in on his back.

After we did our production, it was time to dance. We jumped and spun around to some Christmas music. The kids were really excited. But, what kid wouldn't be, right?

Then it was time for some pictures in front of the Christmas tree. Noelle was being especially cute.

We put some cookies and milk out for Santa and then sent the kids off to bed.

It is always fun to make them wait extra long in the morning. Here they are at the top of the stairs waiting for the big moment when they can run down to see what surprises await them under the tree.

I don't think they were disappointed. It was mostly a LEGO set kind of year. But Eli also got Skylanders Swap force and a scooter. Raef got some snow camo, Zach got a few laser guns, and of course Julia got various dolls.

I also made a picture book for each of them with photos of the last four years. It was neat to see them all stop to look at the pages. They loved it. It wasn't hard to guess that they would since they love to look at pictures of themselves.

After we were done giving gifts and when everyone was off playing with their stuff, Harry and Julia asked if they could eat their gingerbread houses.  Why, yes, of course you can kids! Dig in.

And they did.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Best Dinner Ever

It had been a weary 3 years. First it was Africa, then the peninsula of Italy. And then in the past four months, the terrifying and bloody Utah Beach at Normandy in France. Private Carpenter was war-weary. He had trodden many hills of the European continent and seen much bloodshed and heart ache. The war seemed to have no end. But in the past 4 months, things had looked promising. The US army and its Allies raced across France, liberating the country swiftly, and without too much resistance. There would soon be a conclusion to all of this violence and horror. Germany would be defeated and Private Carpenter would be back in Michigan shortly.

But then it was December 16th, and another test of endurance and survival would be placed before him and the thousands of other American boys fighting for liberation and justice. Hitler desperately tried to regain his footing in France and Belgium by pushing the Allied forces back in a surprise attack against a mostly American force in the Ardennes Forest. Over 18,000 Americans soldiers lost their lives and many more were wounded.  The weather was bitterly cold and snow blanketed the landscape. It became the bloodiest battle of the entire war, called the Battle of the Bulge.

Less than two weeks before Christmas, when things were looking promising for a return to America, death was near again. Bombs, explosions, and chaos were everywhere with this furious deluge, a counteroffensive that put the Allies on their heels. Day after day, the fighting was fierce as the Americans tried to regain the ground that had been lost. The weather was freezing and the soldiers were not equipped for this surprise offensive.  But they kept fighting to push back the Nazis, staying out in frozen foxholes, stubbornly fighting. Private Carpenter kept fighting, too.

General Patton wanted his men of the Third Army to have a hot turkey dinner for Christmas Day. He knew that they needed to boost to help them get through this arduous time. After weeks of cold food, eaten on the frozen ground, shells incessantly exploding all around, Patton was able to make it happen for at least some of the troops. For others, it was SOS, meat and gravy over toast. It wasn't quite as festive or fancy as a turkey dinner. Private Carpenter didn't get a hot turkey dinner. But he did get a hot plate of SOS. 

It was the best dinner he ever had.

So, on this Christmas Eve, we eat SOS in honor of Grandpa Carpenter and all the men through the ages who have given much so that we can live in peace and remember a newborn babe, lying in a manger.

Merry Christmas and peace on Earth!

Sunday, December 22, 2013


We made it to the library this week.  I always feel super-organized and almost super-mommyish when I get my kids to the library.  My little ones love the library. Julia heads straight to the endless assortment of pink books: Barbie, Disney, Strawberry Shortcake, etc.  And Eli and Harry stick together as they scour the shelves for anything having to do with LEGOs.
I am finding that there is not an endless assortment of LEGO books. Hence, it would seem that we continue to check out the same books repeatedly.  Eli really loves it. He takes the book down to the basement, to his LEGO workshop, and then tries to replicate what he sees in the book he has checked out at the library. Eli has actually gotten pretty good at it and I love the fact that it helps to expand his mind to new possibilities.  Harry and Eli seem to becoming best friends. They do a lot of stuff together. 
Every kid should have a best friend, and when it is your brother, it is even better.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Letter

This was a big year of change for our family. Let me summarize:

January: Skiing in Tahoe, advancing to Boy Scouts, a $ignificant dental vi$it

February: House hunting in Utah, telling Rinar that I was pregnant

March: Emergency Preparedness Fair, saying farewell to Reno, trip to Monterrey, being pregnant

April: Moving to Draper, boxes and more boxes, still pregnant

May: Ditching Facebook, park outings, being pregnant and hating it, learning to ride a bike

June: Music in the park, yard sales, hikes, swings, violin camp, still pregnant and still hating it

July: Reupholstering project, carnival, Payson Lakes, parades, rodeo, staycation, Boy Scout camp, even more pregnant

August: Heartburn, Danny, football, soccer, Strawberry Reservoir, swimming in the Great Salt Lake (yuck!), pregnant, pregnant, pregnant, whiny, whiny, whiny

September: Paul, Kokopelli Triathlon, fishing trip, and NOELLE!!!

October: Grandma, Cornbelly's, Uncle John, LEGOS, Halloween

November: Michael Buble, the Robertson's, soccer trophy, orchestra, Thanksgiving, Sewell's, baby blessings galore, 18 years!!

December: Violin recital, Jr. Jazz, Temple Square, caroling, Christmas music, enjoying not being pregnant, and slobbering over the most perfect little baby a Mom could ever hope to have.


Raef: I think this kid has grown at least a foot this last year. He is now 11 and an exuberant kid. He loves LEGOs, shoveling snow, football, basketball, and history. He is starting to really enjoy reading, finally. Raef loves to hold Noelle, change her diapers, and cuddle with her. He continues to excel in the viola and even got to perform a solo with his orchestra. He still loves camo and likes to hide and build stuff, like igloos. He loves to earn money and is pretty darn frugal. 

Zach: I recently bought him a Super Mario Bros. piano book and now I am living in a video game. But I love the fact that he is playing the piano again, non-stop. He is constantly sneaking into the pantry, although I don't know where it goes because he is still a skinny bean pole, though a much taller bean pole. Zach loves to read, memorize jokes, perform for anyone on his violin or piano. Zach also competed in a triathlon this year as well as a 5k.  He really enjoyed it. He does a great job making lunches, especially macaroni and cheese and putting the kids to bed. He is an incessant kisser of babies, especially Noelle. 

Eli: I think he must be just about the cutest kid ever. He will randomly come up to me to tell me how much he loves me and how much he loves our family. Eli is obsessed with LEGOs these days and gets books from the library to get new ideas on construction projects. He is also playing the violin, though some days the playing comes with a lot of 'tude. He also loves Skylanders. This year he also taught himself how to ride a bicycle. Everyone should have an Eli, but sorry. He is ours.

Harry: This kid always walks into a room with a big smile on his face. He also has amazing eyebrow action. He is a whiz at puzzles, loves to play with magnet figures on the refrigerator. He loves LEGOs and watching his brother play Skylanders. Harry is a big helper and forces me to put his laundry away expeditiously because he loves to hang up the shirts. He loves "Nephi's Courage" and any song I sing to him when he goes to bed. And "Go Dog, Go" is classic literature to this kid.

Julia:  She is an artist: on the walls, the furniture, her brother. She loves lipstick, nail polish, and pretty hairdos. If only those hairdos could be done without a brush!  Julia is a loving little girl. She loves chewing gum, mini dolls, dress up, and she has the most amazing imagination. You put a wand in her hand and watch out. Magic happens. And I recently discovered that she really has a passion for painting. Maybe more painting will mean less graffiti for the coming year.

Noelle: The best baby ever! She is so calm, serene, and just precious. All of the kids slobber over her and she just loves it. Plus, she really loves me because she sleeps through the night consistently, 8-10 hours. Yes, the best baby ever. Pregnancy was totally worth it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Salt Dough Ornaments

I decided to do salt dough ornaments with my kids. I wanted more personal ornaments for our tree. I really wanted my kids to make some. It is a special thing to get the Christmas decorations out and to see the ones my kids have made. I treasure it so much.  I had the stuff out and when I had song practice with the girls for the Christmas breakfast, they saw the stuff. 

Then I had the bright idea to invite them over to make some of their own. It is the perfect gift for their mothers. And since I love their mothers, what a better way to give them a really good gift. It is just what I would want to get from my kids.  

I contacted their mothers and told them to make sure to tell their girls. This enabled them to invite friends, and they did! On Tuesday, this cute group came over and made a huge mess, making tons of ornaments. It takes at least two hours to cook them. This project was going to take two visits to my house because after they were cooked, the ornaments needed some paint and sparkle.

I had a few of them come back today and the rest will be here tomorrow. They are all sworn to secrecy. No moms can know what we are doing. It is rewarding to watch them create special ornaments, work really hard and put a lot of thought into it. They made them for all of their siblings, their parents, and maybe a grandparent or two. Precious.

If you want something to be a certain way, you can't sit back and wait for someone else to do it. I would love for my daughter to be able to do this for me. And I know if I would love it, other moms will too. Therefore, why not be the person to make it happen, right?

And when you think about it, what is the big deal? The ornaments cost practically nothing, I am home anyway, and the mess just kind of blends in with the rest of the mess under the table.  But I get to see 7 girls really happy. It is totally worth it.

Plus, Julia was sitting there with the rest of them working hard, too. And these are the kind of girls I want her to admire and emulate. She can only get better by being around them. What a blessing.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Saturday Activities

Saturday was a fun day for our family. In the morning, we had our ward Christmas breakfast. Rinar and I were in charge of a small music presentation at the end of the breakfast. A neighbor played his trumpet for a few Christmas carols, some girls in the ward (McKinley, Kynnli, Ashlynn, Emily, Hannah, and Kate) sang "Nuttin' For Christmas" and then I sang "Gesu Bambino".  Then the bishop was serenaded by Sister Morris. This was a surprise number. I didn't know anything about it.  She sang "Santa Baby", accent and all. It was very funny.

Then the kids gathered around for a truncated version of the Grinch.

Rick E. was the Grinch. It was quite hilarious. It was a little scary for Harry and Julia, but they didn't cry or anything.

It was an enjoyable start to our morning.  Then in the evening, Rinar took me to Temple Square for a date. It was him, me, and Noelle.  We rode TRAX, which was a blessing because it was crazy-busy downtown. We went to the visitor's center so that we could watch a video on the family.  Rinar had seen it when he was in Oakland the week before, and he wanted me to see it too.  

The video was short and powerful. It wasn't preachy or anything, but it did a good job of reminding me what is the most important. When it is all said and done in my life, I want to be surrounded with the people I love the most. My family is a gift and I have been richly blessed. We both know it acutely.

The train ride home was a bit crowded, but uneventful. I made sure to get us a treat to share as we rode back to our car: a White Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.

While we were gone, Leah and Jamie watched "Home Alone" with our kids, popcorn and all.  In the end, we all had a fun night.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Show Up

Friday was a bit disappointing. I scheduled a basketball practice for my team and Raef and I were the only ones to show up. Frustrating.  No one came. I frantically made dinner but did't have enough time to eat it so that I could hurry to the gym where no one shows up.  Ugh.

After experiencing a gamut of emotions, I got contemplative after a while. And then a thought came to me.  If you want to be successful, show up.  There you go. That is it.  I really think this is a powerful tool in life. Just be there.  How do you get good grades in school? Show up. Do the work.  Accomplish big things like getting Eagle Scout? Show up to the meetings. Sound amazing in a church choir? Show up to practices.  The key to success in life. Be there. Be consistent. Be available. Follow through.

There is no magic and no exceptional skills or talent required.  It is the "little bits" of every day life. I remember day after day, 10-15 minutes of making my little boys practice the violin. It could be absolutely torturous at times. I doubted all the time. And it was painful, both mentally and audibly most times.  But day after day, we showed up and practiced. And practiced and practiced. My kids definitely are not any more talented than anyone else. But we showed up and did the work.

Alma taught, "...Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise." Alma 37:6

It is amazing to me to think how the Lord works in small ways to bring about great miracles. He works on us a little everyday and then through a lifetime a miracle is! Me! You! He takes me, a very flawed individual and helps me to smooth away all of the rough edges and allows me to shine and be something beautiful, created in His image. I couldn't do it on my own, but more importantly, I couldn't do it all in one day, or a week, or even a few years.  Through a lifetime of experience and just showing up every day, doing the best I can to keep the commandments and serve, He is molding me His.

It really never is anything big. Just like the Holy Ghost is a still, small voice. It is powerful and piercing. It changes me, protects me, guides me, but only meekly and peacefully. But it is there for me every day of my life. As long as I "show up", the Holy Ghost is my constant companion.

I hope that I can teach my children this concept, through my words, but more importantly because I live it myself.  My word is my bond.  I will show up every day. I am not going to "phone it in". I can be the best, just for the mere reason that I am here. I am always here for them and for the people in my sphere. I can magnify what I have been given by God to bless those around me, even if it doesn't seem that significant because it does matter. It matters to God.

"Be the Best of Whatever You Are"

If you can't be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley - but be
The best little scrub by the side of the rill;
Be a bush if you can't be a tree.

If you can't be a bush be a bit of the grass,
And some highway happier make;
If you can't be a muskie then just be a bass -
But the liveliest bass in the lake!

We can't all be captains, we've got to be crew,
There's something for all of us here,
There's big work to do, and there's lesser to do,
And the task you must do is the near.

If you can't be a highway then just be a trail,
If you can't be the sun be a star;
It isn't by size that you win or you fail -
Be the best of whatever you are!

-Douglas Malloch

Show up! And then do your best.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

End of Year Recital

On Saturday, Zach participated in his end of the year recital. It was a Christmas concert and he was up there for every single song. They usually start with the hardest songs and then add kids in as the songs get progressively easier. When the last song is played, all the students are standing on the stage.

He is on the back row, smack dab in the middle.

Another year, another violin recital.

And Eli is on the cusp of being able to participate in his first recital. He now gets to play a few notes on the violin. Here he is, practicing hard, in between his whiny sniffles and frowning grunts of disapproval.

Oh, he just loves to practice. But doesn't every five year-old boy?

Basketball Time

Raef is now really getting into the sports world. He had a successful football season and now it is on to basketball. I signed him up a while ago and then right before the season was getting ready to start, I got a call from the recreation center asking me if I would be willing to coach.

I had to think about it for a second but then I decided that I would. I coached a few times when Rinar and I were first married and was very involved in the basketball world as a high school student. But man, getting out on that court and running a practice...I realized quickly that I am a bit rusty.

I had a hard time remembering drills and stuff. I started doing research on Youtube to help me remember and get the basketball juices flowing again.

Dattin, Raef, and Griffin

I have an interesting team. It is a hodge podge of different kids from the community.  And I have five tall kids and five very short kids. Most of them have never played before at all. And one kid has autism. Whew. That is a lot to deal with, but I now have a game plan. After getting massacred in our first scrimmage, I created a simple offense. It is really half an offense because it just starts an offense for them and then they play with whatever works.  The good news is that in our second scrimmage we tied the other team and I saw a huge improvement. I just hope we keep improving throughout the season and that these boys learn the game.

Monday, December 9, 2013

2 Months Old

Noelle is now 10 weeks old. I just took her into the doctor and she got her two month check-up. She weighed in at 10.4 lbs and is 23 inches long.  This means she is almost in the 60th % in height and the 40th % for weight. I am happy to report that she is very normal. When it comes to the doctor, normal is good!

Our family has been blessed to have her in our home. She is an important member of the family. Noelle is pulling her weight around here nicely. She is a good eater, pooper, and sleeper.  She is getting the job done.  And now she is an expert smiler,which is an essential skill for our household. 

I believe that of all of my children, she is definitely the most relaxed one. She is not very wiggly. Noelle is attentive and soaks it all in, but she keeps squirming to a minimum. Therefore, you just want to cuddle her all day. And her hair is so soft. I constantly have my fingers in it. I know I complained a lot about being pregnant, but I can't complain now. I am in awe.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Baby Blessing Kind of Weekend

Saturday was another crazy day. But it was all for Danny and Paul. Since so many family members had to hit the road on Sunday morning, Jamie and Catye decided to do their babies' blessings at our house on Saturday night. I was just the facilitator for this one. I didn't really have any planning to do, or much cooking for that matter. We fed our family and Leah's family before the blessing. It was a potato bar and was delicious and super easy. I was especially grateful for the super easy aspect of the meal. I was getting pretty burnt out in that kitchen.

Then people started showing up... a LOT of people. I had no earthly clue if our house would be able to accommodate so many people. I just put a skirt on, sat down at the piano and played some church music to set a feeling of reverence for this special day. But the room did start to feel pretty crowded, especially when my mom sat on the piano bench with me so that she would have somewhere to sit. Rinar packed them in somehow. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that there were 100 people here.

But it was pretty amazing. Leah had at least 50 people here. Catye and Mike, at least as many. Rinar welcomed everyone, we sang an opening hymn, said a prayer. Then both babies were blessed. We closed with a hymn, said a prayer, and then feasted on a wide array of dessert options. Once people didn't have to pack into the living room, we actually fit everyone quite nicely.

It was especially nice to see a whole bunch of my Nay relatives here. It was perfect as a lot of them were heading out of town on Sunday to get home. Barry, David, Nancy, and a lot of our cousins came. It was so great to be able to catch up and see them again.

As for Noelle, we blessed her on Sunday in our ward. She wore the same dress that Julia wore, a dress my mother made. It is a beautiful family heirloom for my girls. Nordel's family was up here and they were able to come, as well as RJ and Jazon and his wife Becca. My bestie Melanie came to sacrament also with a couple of her kids. So in Noelle's circle were Rinar, RJ, Nordel, the bishopbric (Dan E., Rick E., and Brad C.), Mike, and Jamie.

"Noelle, we now bless you with the spirit to be with you as a constant companion in your life. We bless you that the choices you make will be to follow your Savior Jesus Christ. We have been very blessed by you already, that you come to us from your Heavenly Father's presence into our lives. You have been such an inspiration and a joy to each of us. We bless you that through your life you will feel the Savior's warm, sweet spirit, that all those who you meet will be happier and helped because of you and your life and the way you live your life. We bless you to gain a strong testimony of the church, to love the mission of your savior Jesus Christ and your faith in him will grow. We bless you to continue to be a sweet spirit. And these choices that you do make, that you will choose to marry a nice young boy in the temple when the time comes. We bless you to continue to be an inspiration and help to your family and friends and all of God's children."

Yes, she really is a blessing and a sweet spirit.

We also made sure to get a generations picture. This is me and my daughter with my mother and grandmother.

Three babies, three baby blessings...and an absolutely crazy weekend.

Aren't they so precious?

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