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Friday, December 31, 2010

Last thoughts on the nativity

At least the last thoughts for this Christmas season ... maybe. :) I just have been thinking a lot about the nativity this year and the miraculousness of it. I forgot to mention in my previous post about the nativity how I've also been thinking about how the shepherds heard heavenly hosts singing. They were singing and rejoicing so loudly about the birth of the Savior that the veil between the earthly and heavenly were ripped wide open. And I was there. I was singing. And I was rejoicing. To think of myself as a part of the nativity story makes it a lot more personal. Because I was there. As you were you. Just something to think about next time you hear about those heavenly hosts singing.

The other thing I thought about (and this is the PR girl in me) is that if his birth was a "normal" one then it may not have been recorded. Think about how newsworthy it was to have been born in a foreign town in a stable of all places! Of course, the Lord wasn't thinking of newsworthy, and there is definitely symbolism involved in there being no room at the inn, but I wonder if we would have any record at all about His birth if it had been under ordinary circumstances. Most of his childhood was "ordinary" and therefore we don't know anything about it except for one out-of-the-ordinary story. So thank goodness it was something different and worth telling to these authors in the New Testament or we may celebrate his birth without knowing any of the details. Kind of a funny way to look at it, I suppose, but it makes the story memorable and interesting to tell, and therefore we have it.

My last thought is that I'm so happy we celebrate His birth December instead of in the spring when He was truly born. During that time we celebrate his resurrection, which gives us as much hope as does His divine birth. The winter would surely be long if we didn't have such a glorious holiday to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Austin is 9 months

So in addition to the fun on Christmas day, we also had Austin turn 9 months old. Okay, I guess you don't really "turn" 9 months old, but he did anyway. We mark the baby's first year of life with pics every three months, so here are his 9-month pics:

Trying to copy the kids and fold his arms:

I can't roll over yet, but I can do this:

And, of course, Austin and Austin:

Yes, I had too many to choose from. He's such a sweet, sweet boy! And thanks, Gavin, for lending your hats to your buddy. :)

Christmas fun

Christmas day was wonderful! I mean, it always is, but I've decided it's just a lot more fun as a parent than it even was as a child. There is nothing as fun as watching your kids get excited over the smallest things. I was pretty happy that in the days before Christmas I heard the kiddos mention they wanted at least three things they'd be receiving. And there wasn't a complaint about what wasn't there. That's such a blessing that my kids are grateful for what they have, and not focused on what was missing. (We had no legos this year, and I'm not sure anyone even noticed even though it was the top request. :)

Anyway, here were the big presents for our family:

Becca was especially excited about the ping pong/billiards/air hockey table. She's been wanting air hockey for a long time, and if it weren't for her we definitely wouldn't have gotten it! I'm not sure I want the space taken, but we'll definitely have fun with it.

One of the fun things about kids is that they don't have to finish opening their presents to be completely and utterly happy. Shayla got a new dance outfit and leg warmers and immediately put them on to do a dance for all of us as we opened gifts:

Shayla was in love with the shopping cart she got -- not only is it pink, but it can hold a baby, and the basket can come out and be carried around separately. I bet you've never looked so stylish shopping:

This picture is for Christina. I'm not sure if you can tell whether or not Tyler liked the marshmallow shooter you sent. ;)

Little Austin wasn't too into unwrapping presents this year, but boy did he love sucking on ribbon:

We also had a fun "treat" this year by having my parents here to watch the kiddos open presents. This also meant we got to watch them open theirs:

And good thing Grandpa was here, because he could show Tyler how to do a few tricks with his new yo-yo. After he left Tyler said, "Mom, your dad actually helped me learn something!" Who knew a grandpa could know how to yo-yo! ;)

In any case, it was also fun to watch Austin try to grab the yo-yo from my dad. I only wish our videotape hadn't run out before we got this!

And as tradition calls for, we got a picture of each of us with our loot:

(I loved my newspaper I got from Tyler. He typed it all up and put it together himself. It tells what we do on Christmas and has a place for us to mark the weather for that year's Christmas. What a cute boy!)

One of the gifts (other than the Wii) that the kids have spent the most time on is eggs with dinosaur bones in them that they have to excavate:

Good to know Santa can find good things at the dollar store!!! :)

And Austin loves his ball toy, almost as much as Shayla and Zachary do. ;)

It's kind of sad that we have to wait a whole year for the Christmas season to come again since I love it! But today we'll take down our Christmas decorations and start the countdown. ;) In the meantime, we'll have fun playing our Wii, and I'll continue to beat everyone at "Let's Dance 2" ... much to Becca's surprise. :D

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Eve

This year we had our second annual sandwich feast for Christmas Eve. My sister Rebecca mentioned that she does this every year (and in style, I might add, which you can see on her blog!), and Becca thought it sounded perfect. So, it's our new Christmas Eve tradition ... although we're going to have to up it quite a few notches to get to ridiculously delicious sandwiches like Rebecca and Rob have ...

Anyway, we ate and then gave the first gifts of the season to our Savior. This is a tradition we have done for many years, and we like having it be the first gift we give each year. We all choose something we want to work on extra hard the next year as a gift to the Savior. Mind you, we just read in Mosiah how when we serve the Lord He immediately blesses us and we can basically never get out of His debt. I think that made it fun for the kids this year to think they can try. :) Anyway, it's always fun to look at past years' gifts and see what we've tried to work on. This gift stays in a somewhat visible place in our home and is out all year round. (Sometimes we even pull it out for an FHE lesson to remind us what we need to be working on.)

Then it was time for our traditional jammies to be opened. I was excited about the kids' jammies this year! I was shooting for cheap and had gotten the cheapest ones I could find for the boys, which turned out to be thermals. Then I learned a really cool technique from aforementioned sister, and I turned their boring jammies into awesomeness. Yes, I took the nicknames they got from Uncle Brandon and put them on jammies:

The boys were THRILLED! As you can see, they couldn't pose without showing off their super hero identities.

And not to be outdone was their super hero sister:

She always poses how they do, and then later when she sees the pictures she asks, "What was I doing?" Exactly. So we also have to make sure to get a normal shot, too. This girl sure loves Ariel because of that beautiful red hair:

Becca was happy about her jammies, especially since they are especially warm and fuzzy and she says she's always cold in the basement:

Austin actually went first and didn't know what to do with his very first present ever. But what do babies do with anything and everything?

Once he got a little help he got them unwrapped and ended up matching Mommy:

I bought these when I was pregnant with Tyler but never used them -- the baby jammies are too big to use with a newborn, and usually when they do fit my babies are crawling and don't want a nightgown. Good thing Austin is content to do nothing so I could finally use these nearly 10 years later! :) And yes, I did just post a picture of myself on my blog in my jammies!

I mentioned before our free gift the kids would be getting, but I think I neglected to mention the size. This has been sitting in our family room just like this for three weeks. It's been so much fun for the kids to anticipate what it would be (mattress, anyone?).

To end the evening we put out treats for Santa, tracked him online (catching him in South Carolina visiting Brandon :) and got the kiddos into bed. Mind you, Santa's treats disappeared before the boys were asleep, which almost gave me a heart attack, but no harm was done ... phew! (The stresses Santas throughout the world have to go through! ;)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fun things are afoot ...

I'm so excited for Christmas. Ever since Paul and I finished the shopping back in October it's been an exciting wait. And now it's almost here. In the meantime we're keeping somewhat busy ...

Monday night our ward had a special event that was something new -- they did a live nativity with a short program. It was called a walk to Bethlehem, and shepherds came around and knocked on our doors to guide us to "Bethlehem." (These are the advantages of having our ward only about four blocks wide and one block deep.) Turns out it was snowing all day long before it, so my boys went over and helped shovel out the stable. They're good boys. Paul was in the cast: Can you pick him out?

He's the shepherd behind Joseph. Here's a better view:

I was so glad he was in the program, because I think it made it more special for the kiddos. Mind you, I had to get a babysitter for the baby since it was too cold for him outside, but other than that it was a good family event.

The snow continued for the entire night (and most of the next day), so school was canceled. I heard that was the first time our school district had canceled in more than 20 years. And it took them hours to make the decision. Hello -- nobody was going to go out in that anyway, so why debate it? Anyway, here are a few pics of Paul trying to dig us out:

(I love the antennae ball on the car -- how is that much snow possible on one little ball? Look again in case you missed it.)

You can tell it wasn't extremely cold, just very snowy:

You can see the antennae ball better here:

Basketball anyone?

I'd been wanting to take this pic since Austin was born and finally got around to it. I love how none of them have the same hair color. How is that possible?

And, by the way, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Too much stuff

So, I'll go ahead and say it -- my kids are getting too much stuff for Christmas this year. We had planned on having what we considered a big Christmas anyway (buying what we consider a large family purchase), but then we got another large gift (for free) to add to the mix. Of course, I can't give specifics lest my children read this and it ruins the surprise ...

Anyway, I was thinking about this and one of my favorite Christmas stories came to mind (below). I used to enjoy and collect many Christmas stories, but I've really narrowed it down to a few I really love. This is one of my absolute favorites:

With God in a P.O.W. Camp

I thought of the Christmas tree at home, set up in the living room as I knew it would be. Had I been there I would have gone to parties with my friends, and at every party, in every house, there would be a Christmas tree.

I wanted a Christmas tree, but nothing was allowed into our cells, and frequent searches made sure of the barrenness. Outside, we were not even allowed to make a bending motion as though we might pick up something from the ground.

That Christmas tree came to mean to me just the opposite of all I was experiencing. The green of its envisioned freedom, and light, and family and America. And the season the tree represented spoke of God. I dreamed of a Christmas tree, and the melancholy knowledge that I should be at home settled over me like a pall. I prayed.

Then one afternoon after washing my dishes, I turned to take the one step back into my cell. I looked down, and on the threshold of my door was a tiny leaf blown there by the wind. I picked it up with my toes and carried it inside. The door slammed shut behind me. I carefully took the leaf from between my toes and looked at it for a long time. I held it to my nose. The perfume of freedom raced up my nostrils and infused my mind with its power. I fondled the leaf. It was real. I held it in my hand. God had not forgotten me. I set the leaf on the little ledge by the window. Its greenness stood out in stark contrast to the dull, gray bars. Tears rolled down my cheeks. God had given me a Christmas tree.

By Lt. Ralph Gaither
Viet Nam P.O.W. from 1965 to 1973

I have so much more than did this man and sometimes I don't feel nearly as grateful as he did. However, we emphasize gratitude often in our home and I feel blessed to have kids who are for the most part grateful. I hope they can follow the example of this POW and learn the importance of gratitude and seeing God no matter what our circumstances.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Miraculous Birth

I've been pondering a lot lately about the birth of our dear Savior. I've always been grateful to our Heavenly Father for sending His son, but since becoming a mother I also have a great appreciation for Mary and her part of the Savior's life.

This past week I have been thinking about the joy of birth. I have been blessed to give birth to four beautiful children, and all have been miraculous moments. I have been blessed to have extremely wonderful medical care. I have been able to go to a facility that is sterile and clean and created for the purpose of childbirth. I have had available to me medical personnel who are trained in taking care of women and new babies no matter what complications may arise. I have been given epidurals so I have been able to enjoy every little second of the birthing process without pain. I have been surrounded by loved ones who were excited to be there with me while I welcomed a new baby into the world.

I wasn't nervous during my first labor and delivery. I had been in the delivery room with my best friend only six weeks earlier, so I knew exactly what to expect, even though our deliveries had differences. When I became a mother my mom was there with me. That is such a special thing to me -- my mom and dad hopped in the car and drove for 15 hours straight to be there when Tyler was born. It was a miraculous day that I will cherish always.

Then I thought about Mary's experience. She probably had never been involved with anyone else's birth, so this was a completely new experience to her. Even if she had a midwife to assist her earlier in the pregnancy, she was alone with Joseph going through the most painful parts of labor. What was her delivery environment? She was surrounded by animals in a stable. Mind you, I've always felt like the stable actually was a blessing in disguise, because the inns were totally open (everyone slept in the same room), so she would have had to deliver in front of everyone. Imagine the sacrilege that could and probably would have happened if she delivered in front of people who did not want to be bothered with this distraction. However, even though she was blessed with privacy, she was in a stable with animals. Even if Joseph found clean straw for Mary and Jesus, there would have definitely been a distinct stable smell.

Who was her medical personnel? Joseph. I think of Paul having to handle our first birth on his own, and there's just no way! I know Joseph was inspired and blessed to know what he needed to, but I'm sure it was still stressful for both of them! And where was Mary's mother? Probably wherever she needed to be for taxes at the time, but definitely not with her dear daughter.

I spoke with one woman who believes that God spared Mary of any pain since she was delivering His son. I don't feel that is the case -- I'm sure she felt much pain and suffering in this process as only laboring women can comprehend. And as mentioned, she suffered much of this labor on a donkey, in an unfamiliar land, with only her husband who had no medical knowledge. Obviously if He was hoping to make the childbirth perfect, He would have had her at home with midwives and her mother!

And yet, in the midst of all these unfavorable circumstances, Mary experienced a miracle. She gave birth to a beautiful, healthy babe who was not only her gift, but a gift to us all. I'm sure she felt the great love that I felt the first time my new baby was laid in my arms. And maybe she had even more gratitude than I had because they did overcome so many unusual and unfavorable obstacles to welcome their first child into the world.

Those humble circumstances of His birth have touched my heart so much this year. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift (2 Cor 9:15). May we all remember this, the greatest gift of all, during this blessed season.

Friday, December 10, 2010


So we made it to the mall to visit Santa. I really prefer him coming to the church so my kids associate him with the church instead of the mall, but our ward is being different this year ...

So we went to the mall and were blessed to get there when there was absolutely no line whatsoever. I'm thinking this might be the last year a certain little boy believes, and it was obviously Austin's first Santa exposure, so I was looking forward to our visit.

Here are my boys visiting with the big man:

Can you just see him staring at the beard? I totally expected him to just yank the poor old man's beard, but he never did:

Unlike his older sister did her first visit to Santa:

(Rebecca, I was thinking you'd love the costume. This was the worst one I've ever had. Too bad it had to be one of the cutest pictures I've taken!)

Anyway, speaking of said sister, here she was this year so proud to go talk to Santa:

And I knew I wouldn't get Becca on Santa's lap, so instead we took a group picture. I think it's pretty cute:

And this visit to Santa (as well as a couple of other errands) explains why Zachary went to his choir concert in a wet shirt! Yes, we have four white shirts, and they were all in the washer wet. Is that really any better than being dirty? Anyway, he sang great anyway and from the audience you couldn't even tell his shirt was wet. What a sweet boy: