Friday, December 27, 2013

Thank you, Santa!

Santa must have reconsidered and decided to put the boys on his "Nice" list because he sure was generous with the boys this year!

As a parent, there is no greater happiness than watching your kids open their presents on Christmas morning. It is such fun to watch their surprise as they tear off the wrapping, see the excitement in their eyes as they open the box and discover a long-desired toy.

The favorites this year included baseball cards and Lego sets for Hank, a nerf "mega gun" for Max, more blocks and shapes to sort for Ben, and a kitchen for Joey. Did you notice I left out Rocky? He may not have received any toys this year, but, trust me, he is the luckiest of all as he will be the benefactor of ALL of the toys before long!

Christmas Day was a toy-fest....

The Aftermath:

Finding the Christmas Spirit

In my admirable quest to make this Christmas, like all previous Christmases, the Best Christmas Ever, I think I may have all the hustle and bustle. Though well-intended, in my effort to bring in the Christmas spirit, I think I got so caught up in the hot-chocolate drinking, carol singing, house decorating, Santa visiting, gift shopping, light viewing, present wrapping, and merry making that I became too busy to feel the spirit at all. Don't get me wrong, I loved every moment of spending time together as a family, building traditions, and creating memories, but, at least this year, I think our festivities were so plentiful that some of the special-ness was lacking. As Christmas neared, I felt a little disappointed that I didn't feel that giddy, warm *magic* in my heart. Our Christmas Eve couldn't have been any better--Joey helped Nana Z finish the last of the baking, we ate like kings at our own five-star buffet, we played family games, we read Christmas stories, the kids performed Christmas songs in a short program, we opened Christmas jammies, we left out a plate of cookies for Santa, and we watched a video of the Nativity--but I still went to bed that night feeling a little hollow. The next morning (if you call 5:40 morning), after the gift-opening frenzy was over and the kids were contentedly building their new Lego sets, I felt a fullness in my heart. No, it didn't have anything to do with those things that came wrapped inside boxes. The warmth in my heart was the feeling I felt as I surveyed this life that is mine...the little smiling babe in my arms, the husband who patiently helped the boys construct their Lego sets for HOURS, the miracle and joy that Benny brings me every day, the learning and growth I feel in my role as the mother of my five sons, the beauty of a snow-covered earth, the lovely home that provides our family with a place to put down our roots, and countless other blessings. I felt a little silly for thinking that I could manufacture the Christmas spirit by making handmade Christmas cards or decorating gingerbread houses. The Christmas spirit had been there all along, in my own home, in my own family, and in my own heart all along, but I had become too distracted with really well-meaning activities to feel it. Perhaps it was because the shepherds were attentive, in-tune, and receptive to promptings of the spirit that they followed the star to find the babe Jesus at the Inn. Metaphorically, would I have been too busy baking cookies to recognize the signs of His birth? Hank and Max repeatedly exclaimed, "this is the best Christmas ever!" While the celebrations and family activities were memorable, what made THIS the best Christmas ever (until next year) for me, was that single moment when I felt in my heart that clarity that all that I am, all that I have, is because of that night, a long time ago, when a perfect baby boy, even Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, was born.


Unlike some of our neighbors' elves, our elf, Donald, is a bit on the lazy/forgetful side. He doesn't wreak havoc or leave clever gifts like some of his elf friends. No, Donald is more of a watchful observer. While he mostly just prefers to watch the boys from some vantage point on a tall cabinet or shelf top, Donald did surprise us with his whereabouts a couple times:

All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth!

Leave it to Hank to negotiate a deal on getting his front tooth pulled. As if the incentive of a dollar from the tooth fairy wasn't a strong enough enticement, Hank agreed to let Aaron pull his tooth out only after making a deal to get out of his basement cleaning chore. He drives a hard bargain, but it was worth it to not have to look at that scraggly front tooth hanging down anymore. I love his goofy toothless smile!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

7 out of 7

Take it from me, it is a real challenge to get five little boys all happy at the same time. It doesn't matter what we're doing, as a rule, someone is always hot or cold, someone is always hungry, someone is always being touched by someone else, and someone is always crying. You can't please everyone, right? Well last night we had a rare moment (and I mean moment) of all seven of us enjoying the same activity together. We drove through the light display at Thanksgiving point, visited Santa's reindeer, and capped off the night with icecream and hot chocolate and good times were had by all! It's a Christmas miracle!

Wonder of Wonders

Before taking the boys to visit Santa, I decided it would be wise to prepare Ben for the encounter as in years' past he has greeted Santa by bursting into a fit of hysteria. To my surprise, when I mentioned to Ben that we were going to see Santa, he got super excited and squealed, "Santa!" Not sure if he understood what I was telling him, I asked Ben what he was going to say to Santa. Clearly Ben is no dummy because he responded very matter of factly, "more Legos." Somehow he has overheard his brothers' conversations and put the pieces together that this Santa character brings toys to good kids. Still, I was interested to see whether or not Ben would chicken out and resort to hysterics when the time actually came to sit on the big stranger's lap. Sure enough, Nana Grover took the boys to visit Santa and Ben went willingly! We'll work on the smiling for the camera thing next year--the deer in the headlights expression is major improvement!

Gingerbread Houses

I decided in advance that I was not going to micro-manage our gingerbread house project and that I would just let the boys decorate them any way they'd like. As Hank and Max just haphazardly stuck a candy cane here and a jelly bean there, I had to sit on my hands to keep from "suggesting" a few design ideas. At one point, I couldn't stand it any longer and applied a few candies to the roof of Hank's house in an ordered pattern. Hank took one look at my contribution and said he needed to "undo the damage" from my additions. The funny thing is, they LOVE their gingerbread houses and have been admiring them and complimenting themselves on their work all week long--even though they turned out a little sloppy for my liking, they like them because they made them themselves.

Checking In

The other day I was holding Rocky, just pondering his perfectness, and passed him to Aaron so that he could also appreciate our little boy. Aaron bounced him on his knee, held him up over his head airplane-style, blew on his cheeks and tummy, made raspberry noises, and then passed him back to me, rather unimpressed, and commented that Rocky is still "checked out." Well, lo and behold, it's like the lights just switched on because overnight Rocky has "checked in" and is suddenly becoming an alert, observant little guy. His hands are beginning to open and close, he's mesmerized by overhead lights, he smiles on demand, and loves to bat the toys under his play gym.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Polar Express

I'm going to file the Heber Creeper under the "really-good-idea, but-probably-won't-do-it-again" category. Last night for FHE we boarded the polar express on the Heber Creeper for a 90 minute train ride. Perhaps in our rush to gather the needed outerwear (the rail car was not climate controlled) and baby gear, feed the kids a quick drive-thru meal, and barely arrive at the train station before departure, our attitudes weren't as cheerful as they could have been, but our overall experience of the train ride was just average. We all enjoyed the Christmas sing-along and on-board hot cocoa, but the train was so cold that the windows were frozen over and we couldn't see a thing outside, making the ride a little on the boring side. Oh well. We tried. More "cool parents" points for us.

Check is in the Mail

I just want to know where to send in my application and collect my prize because I feel like I've earned my "Mom of the Year" award this week. And, dang it!, I deserve to toot my own horn. Who spent several hours playing outside in the snow with the boys, teaching them how to build a snow fort (and if you've seen their tiny dollar store shovels you can appreciate who did all of the work in the construction of our fort (which, by the way, was even more impressive than the photo does justice)), and hurling myself down the mountain with them on the sled? Me! Who invited the boys' friends over to make marshmallow blow guns AND whooped them all at a marshmallow fight? ME! I do my fair share of nagging them to get their chores done and sentencing them to time outs for fighting, but I want the record to show that I am a fun mom! Yes, I sometimes put off their requests to play with a "just a minute" that lasts more like and hour, but I hope my boys know that I try really hard to make time to just play.


Our family was invited to participate in a great little nativity reenactment at our neighbor's house. Hank and Max were assigned to play the role of the wise men. After we cut up a couple pillowcases for tunics and covered cardboard with foil for hats, I thought they looked the part quite well! The program was simple but very sweet with all of the neighborhood kids dressing in costume as the parents narrated the story with scripture and Christmas carols.