Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas and the Piano

This was an epic Christmas, that is for sure. It was pretty much perfect and I marvel at the fact that I was able to do all the things that I wanted to do. We went Christmas caroling to our neighbors, delivered a handmade gift, sent off my Christmas cards (a miraculous feat), and decorated the house with Christmas eclat. Well, at least my kids thought it was pretty fabulous. 

On Christmas Eve, Rinar asked me to take the kids and leave in the morning so he could get my surprise here in a timely manner. I took them to the children's museum in Lehi and came back promptly at 12, just like he asked. His mom decided to spend the week with us, so in the interim time the surprise was delivered and he picked her up. 

When I got home, I announced myself and then went into the living room. There it was, a grand piano. And not just any grand piano. Nope. It was a Steinway!  Holy moly. He really went all out this year. But the most shocking part for me was when Melody Brown peered around the corner. Melody is one of the 5 Browns, part of a dynamic sibling piano playing quintet. What in the world? She then shared her musical gifts with our family and played a few songs on the new piano. One of the songs was "My Favorite Things" from the Sound of Music. It was incredible. She is a Steinway artist, so I guess when you buy a Steinway, this is one of the perks of the purchase.

We visited for a while and her husband took pictures of us together. This piano was used in a performance by the 5 Browns this summer at the Draper Amphitheater. If you look inside the piano, they all signed it. It was also a birthday present for Linda to have this private concert with her. Linda had seen her perform live at Tuacahn and now here she was, in our living room.

After Melody left, the kids made gingerbread houses with grandma while I finished up last minute errands for Christmas.

Too cute.

And on Christmas Eve, we ate pork burritos and had a birthday cake for Linda. I think she liked it.

This is what our Christmas looked like this year.

And the kids patiently wait, eagerly anticipating the gifts Santa brought.

We decided to get all the boys a Nintendo 3Ds. I am not sure if I am going to regret this decision, but it sure has been much loved over the past few days, without a doubt. Julia wanted an Elsa doll and Noelle got a cuddly little doll also.

After we opened presents and ate lunch, we headed over to the Draper Rehab center to do a Christmas program for the residents. Linda was able to participate with us, which was a blessing. We left Noelle home to nap with my sister and her husband. That was also super nice to be able to do. Zach wasn't able to go because he lost his voice and was just not feeling very well. Over all, he was not too sick, but at that moment he was probably at his worst.

The Christmas program was lovely and it was nice to be able to do service on Christmas Day. I was really grateful that we could have the kids do that.

Sunday was another spectacular day. We decided to do the same program for our neighbors. I really wanted to do something for them as a way for everyone to get to know each other better and to create more solidarity on our street. I was happy with the turnout. It was kind of last minute.  But you can see, the room was full!

Rinar told me right before our guests arrived that one of our neighbors was going to bring some friends. I was like, uh, okay. Whatever. You can see the "friends" in the very back row. We sang and played and did our stuff. I finished off the program with "I'll Be Home For Christmas" and then was like, thanks for coming everyone. That's it.

But then Rinar stepped in and said there was an encore performance. What? I knew nothing about this. Then he introduced Josh Wright and his wife Lindsey. Josh is a world-renowned pianist and another  Steinway artist. You can find his stuff on Youtube, especially this song where he plays on two pianos. He also was on America's Got Talent. First they played a couple of piano duets and then he proceeded to play a slew of songs. It was breathtaking. And the best part was that we could share this with our neighbors. Everyone seemed to enjoy it immensely. It was just one of those super-cool moments in life I don't ever want to forget.

Of course, Rinar made sure we had a Sharpie, and had them both sign our piano as well. 

This is probably my best Christmas yet. How could you ever top this, right? Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

Merry Christmas everyone! I have taken a little blog vacation, but I guess a promised Christmas letter should help me get back on track.


We started off 2014 with a big birthday for Raef and Zach. They turned 12, which means they were ordained Deacons and started passing the sacrament in church. They took to it well and have never looked back. 

It was also a month that brought great change. Rinar's dad passed away after many years of poor health. We were able to have a beautiful funeral service for him to send him home. We miss him every day and look forward to a happy reunion some day.


Eli turned 6! And we also took a family trip to San Diego and Legoland. It was really nice and fun to be able to go when it was not busy. It is one of the perks of homeschooling, for sure.


We got back to business with school work galore.  All the kids are growing, but especially Noelle, who passed the 6 month mark.


Noelle, Rinar, and I went with Bart and Monica on a quick trip to Las Vegas so that the guys could compete in a triathlon relay with our Vegas friends Rich and Johanna. The guys did great and won the relay. Then later in the month Rinar and I went to North Carolina for my 20 year high school reunion. It was fun to get away and do a bit of reminiscing.


We had an unexpected visit from Rinar's cousin Ranel, did lots of little outings, including a day trip to the Golden Spike National Monument and some scenic mountain drives. Then my mom came out to stay at our house for two weeks so that Rinar and I could take Raef and Zach on an epic Eastern states American history trip. We did it all, from Jamestown to the coast of Maine. I thought they didn't really learn much, but I have been surprised over the rest of this year how many things did sink in. Thank goodness!


The little kids took an intense interest in coin collecting. That is a super easy souvenir to bring back from any old trip. The boys also did a Father/Son camp out with our ward. And as always, it was violin camp time. This was Eli's first year and he really enjoyed it and wanted to play his violin a lot more.


We visited family in St. George for the 4th, did lots of swimming, visited the Salt Lake Cemetery, the Utah Arts Festival, and skate park.  We also planted a garden this year and it really took off. The kids just loved going out there every day finding botanical treasures and asking lots of questions about nature.  I also took a weekend trip to Sedona with my sister Heather and my Dad came for a week long visit.


Football was in full swing for our house. Raef made it onto a better team this year and had a positive experience with the coaches and the season. He was back on the line and learned a ton. Eli also played flag football with his crew. We went camping, hiking, swimming more, and worked on lots of merit badges for Boy Scouts. Zach participated in a triathlon and did a marvelous job. And the biggest event this year was probably that I enrolled both Raef and Zach into the public middle school. 


Harry and Julia both played on soccer teams and had a blast. We made a day trip to Wyoming and the mountain man rendezvous and a visit to the fairy forest. And darling Noelle turned 1! Holy Moly!!


Julia had a special princess birthday party to celebrate 5. It was a huge success. Harry had a LEGO party with the little boys in our neighborhood and just loved it. Two separate parties. I participated in the Red Rock Relay with my running friends and almost died running my leg around Jordanelle Reservoir. Somehow I survived. And Raef's team won the championship. Go Chargers!


Zach started with the wrestling club and really loves it. Raef found a competitive basketball team to play with and is enjoying it immensely. We also did the craziest thing by driving all the way down to Arizona to visit my family. Thanksgiving was at Golden Corral with my parents and sister Christi and her family. We stayed in a hotel in Mesa and were able to visit the beautiful Christmas lights at the temple and spend time with everyone. And somehow we limped home all in one piece.


Eli started playing basketball and is really enjoying it. Raef, Zach, and Eli all had string recitals and Raef and Zach continue to play in a chamber group with another violinist and a cellist. It has been a great experience for them.  And Rinar and I took an over-nighter to Las Vegas to watch our Utes play victoriously in the Vegas Bowl. We also were able to catch up with some wonderful Sunset Ward friends. We stopped by at a few other places to surprise people but nobody was home. Boo. I wish we could have seen everyone. Las Vegas has the best people in the world.

And you must really love me if you read through this entire list of family happenings. Have a Merry, merry Christmas everyone. We love all of you and look forward to hearing from you in one way or another.
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