Monday, December 15, 2014

getting festive

I don't do as many Christmas traditions as I thought I would when I imagined being a mom, and often I can't find the energy just to do even a couple of activities, but this year we are exploring our new city by doing all the fun things it has to offer! I feel guilty sometimes (surprise, surprise - guilt has a strong presence in my life) that I don't do a lot of the fun little things that I see other moms doing, but I'm learning to let it go and recognize that I am doing my best. I feel like I'm somewhat succeeding at teaching my children the most important thing to me about Christmas, which is Jesus Christ being the greatest gift of all
Our stake puts on an amazing Festival of Nativites so went to that last week. When I heard about it, I was expecting a few nativities to be set up around the gym but no - it was fantastic! Every room of the building was filled with nativites, trees, lights, activities and people. It was wonderful. They also had Total Experience Gospel Choir there performing and it was so great! It was the highlight of the evening, even when William loudly proclaimed, "This is boooorrring." Not enough action for him I guess. Ha!
Another night I told William we would roast some marshmallows but suddenly it was 7 p.m. and I realized I didn't have anything to make the s'mores he was requesting... but, wait! I have some mini marshmallows leftover from Thanksgiving and I have graham crackers and I always have a stash of chocolate chips on hand so we made mini s'mores! Aren't they cute?
David's mom also sent a Christmas box and in it, were these giant gingerbread men that the boys were very excited to decorate. Most of the candy ended up in their tummies however, but they thought it was very fun.
Bellevue was voted the "most festive city in America" and for good reason. Their Snowflake Lane is so fun and is every night from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. Toy soldier drummers roam the streets on stilts and pass out suckers, jingle bells dancers danced in perfect sync to festive music on the street and they even make it snow while snowflakes danced on the side of the buildings. The lavish costumes and bright lights with traditional holiday music really made me excited for Christmas. It was perfect weather too. It was warm and we just put on a couple of light layers and then met my brother and his family at Chipotle for a quick dinner. Then we walked over to Bellevue Square to get a spot before it started and literally, as we sat down, it started to rain... and then pour... and then we decided to leave because we were soaking wet and it was pretty much over anyway. I had to laugh though because - hey, we live in Seattle! It rains here!
Fritz did NOT like Rudolph.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

relief society christmas party

I recently was put on the activities committee for the Relief Society (the women's organization at our church) and the first order of business was planning our Christmas party. I was really excited to be a part of this cause party planning is oh, so fun and the other women in our committee are really talented and great to work with (no stepping on toes or hurt feelings - just talented, good people!). It turned out really nice and I wanted to share some of the things we did in case you're planning your own Christmas church party on a budget.
We decided to have a dinner and then a short program with the theme of "Longfellow's Christmas: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day." We set up a projector and a screen so we could show this wonderful video and we used the same sound system to listen to instrumental Christmas music during dinner, which was nice. I printed out the lyrics to "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and tied a tiny bell at the top with some baker's twine and put one at each place setting. Then, I printed out the story of Longfellow's Christmas and put it in an envelope under each plate to open when we began the video. I figured it would be nice for some of the "hard of hearing" women to be able to follow along and also for people to take home and read again - it's a wonderful story. We had a few left over as well, and will hand them out at church on Sunday to those who were unable to make it that night.
We served appetizers and then soup, salad and homemade rolls (quintessential "light supper" food) and one of the ladies on our committee had this chocolate fountain which everyone really had a good time enjoying with cream puffs, strawberries, marshmallows and rice krispie treats.
After eating and talking for about an hour, we started the video and told everyone to open their envelopes so they could follow along. I love this story and the performance by Edward Herrmann. It is one of my favorite Christmas traditions to listen to.

As for decorations, I had some red runners that have gotten a ton of use (thanks for those, Mom!) and I bought these $4 plaid lanterns from Target. We put some battery powered votive candles inside and then put some evergreen leaves around them and some bells. It was really inexpensive but it looked cute. The lights in the gym were so glaring so we didn't want to turn them on, but the votives didn't give off enough light so we brought in a bunch of floor lamps and table lamps from home and placed them around the gym. It was just the right amount of soft light.
It was a nice night and now I think I deserve a long winter's nap! :)

Monday, December 08, 2014

life lately

I finally upgraded to the new iPhone 6 and it's just like getting a new camera! I'm so excited to have a better way to docment life lately because, even though I love my nicer SLR camera, I hardly ever pull it out because my iPhone is so much easier. I'm loving it! I upgraded from the iPhone 4s so it's a big change and now I don't have to restart my phone every hour of the day to get it to work. Yay!
This girl and her faces. She is five months and she is so sweet. We all love her so much! She is cheerful and cute and squishy and we all coo over her. You guys told me... but I didn't believe it - having a girl is SO fun!
And so are these boys... unless I'm cutting their hair. I gave them haircuts the other day and if you had been standing at our front door, you would've thought I was using some sort of torture device on them. Good grief! William isn't so bad but Fritz HATES it and I ended cutting the heck out of my finger. Maybe I'll just let them look like ragamuffins next time...
We put up our tree on Tuesday night. It was one of our advent activities and it just so happened that Fritz fell asleep on the couch at 5:30 so I carried him off to bed early and Louisa went to bed early as well at 6:00, so it was just William. He was LOVING being my helper as I put the lights on the tree. He was talking up a storm to me and David and kept hugging us. It was sweet seeing how much it meant to him to have this special time with just him and reminded me that I should do that more often.
Sundays aren't so much a day of rest around here, but we do really love to be together as a family. Church itself is always kind of chaotic and David and I always need a nap in the worst way afterward, but we keep plugging along! Anyway, my kids are cute.
Last night, we hunkered down to watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional in our jammies and popped popcorn and made hot cocoa. I won't lie and say that it was calm and quiet, but we did enjoy a few minutes of the music and were inspired to remember that "The kindness of others pours healing balm into our wounds." - D. Todd Christofferson
I am having so much fun using chalk markers to draw all over our windows. It's really fun and easy to clean! William even drew a little snowman on the windows and was so proud of himself! Fritz just keeps running his fingers all over them and messing them up, but you have to go with the flow when you have kids, right?!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

advent(ure)

I've always loved the tradition of advent calendars but there are so many cute ideas out there and I was never satisfied with one that I could afford so I kept putting it off. Last year, I finally bought one after Christmas on mega-sale. So, this is the first year that I'm actually putting things in my advent calendar! This is a big deal, people!
In an effort to remember the little traditions we're implementing for our family, here is the list of what we're doing this Christmas season. I tried to incorporate some service things along with fun activities at home as well as community/church events. It's going to be a fun Christmas!

DECEMBER 1: Pick out Christmas tree
DECEMBER 2: Decorate Christmas tree
DECEMBER 3: Make snowflake decorations
DECEMBER 4: Make Christmas card for teacher
DECEMBER 5: Watch "How The Grinch Stole Christmas"
DECEMBER 6: Make gingerbread nativity
DECEMBER 7: First Presidency Christmas Devotional
DECEMBER 8: Festival of the Nativities
DECEMBER 9: Watch family movies of past Christmases
DECEMBER 10: Deliver Christmas treats to neighbors
DECEMBER 11: Go Christmas caroling with cousins (+ soup!)
DECEMBER 12: Snowflake Lane in downtown Bellevue
DECEMBER 13: Ward Brunch
DECEMBER 14: Roast marshmallows
DECEMBER 15: Write letter to Santa
DECEMBER 16: Send cards to family
DECEMBER 17: Wrap gifts
DECEMBER 18: Decorate Christmas cookies
DECEMBER 19: Listen to "The Polar Express"
DECEMBER 20: Family service project
DECEMBER 21: Drive around town and look at Christmas lights with hot cocoa
DECEMBER 22: Watch "Small One" and eat peppermint popcorn
DECEMBER 23: Serve dinner to missionaries
DECEMBER 24: Read the Nativity Story + open Christmas jammies
DECEMBER 25: Ebelskievers for breakfast

Monday, December 01, 2014

thanksgiving 2014

I have so much to be thankful for. This year has been really challenging for me (and for a lot of other people I love), but even with all the hard things, I have blessings too numerous to count. I am so ungrateful sometimes and I feel ashamed to admit that, but the theme for me this Thanksgiving was from the beautiful hymn, "Because I have been given much, I too must give".
I've been thinking about this talk (i.e. sermon) a lot since I heard it during General Conference. I know I've often wondered how I can "do my part" to help others. When I heard this, I was immediately humbled because I've had these exact uncharitable thoughts: "For one thing, we can, as King Benjamin taught, cease withholding our means because we see the poor as having brought their misery upon themselves. Perhaps some have created their own difficulties, but don’t the rest of us do exactly the same thing? Isn't that why this compassionate ruler asks, 'Are we not all beggars?' Don’t we all cry out for help and hope and answers to prayers? Don’t we all beg for forgiveness for mistakes we have made and troubles we have caused? Don’t we all implore that grace will compensate for our weaknesses, that mercy will triumph over justice at least in our case? Little wonder that King Benjamin says we obtain a remission of our sins by pleading to God, who compassionately responds, but we retain a remission of our sins by compassionately responding to the poor who plead to us."

I'm so glad that we have Thanksgiving before Christmas. It's such a great reminder to concentrate on all of our blessings before we get into the gift giving and receiving part of the holidays. We have this day to really focus on all the things that we've been blessed with and then look for ways to move into a season of giving service to others. I'm going to really try to focus less on material gifts this year and instead, try to focus on giving service and love. I'm super excited about JustServe (no one asked me to post this FYI - I just heard about yesterday and I think it's pretty great) that allows you to search for service opportunities in your area (almost like a job search website like monster.com). Each service organization is vetted and you can sign up for a slot in whichever organization or position you want (assuming it's not filled). What a great way to start the holiday season! I know that I'm always meaning to serve during the Christmas season in particular, but have never known where to start. I'd love to hear how you're helping your fellow man this holiday season!
We had a Thanksgiving full of delicious food, family and fun (the three best F's!). David's parents and sisters flew here from California and stayed until Saturday and we all had a great time. It was my first time hosting Thanksgiving and it went well, even though I wasn't great at taking pictures of everyone together. William loved making paper chain garlands for Christmas and finger painting with Gramma, and Fritz was in heaven stealing all the chocolate from Gramma's purse. Whenever they come to visit, or we visit them, she loves to hide these little Lindt chocolate bears for them to find. It's a cute tradition and I'm pretty sure that Fritz thinks that their names are "Gramma and Grampa Chocolate". If you even say the word "Grampa", Fritz's little ears perk up and he tilts his head and says, "Chok-it?" I love it.
The morning after Thanksgiving, we woke up to snow! I was like a kid on Christmas morning! I woke up before anyone else and almost ran outside in my underwear because I was so excited! I took some pictures and then the boys woke up and I took pictures of them with Louisa in one arm (hence the quality) while they had a snow ball fight with David. They were in HEAVEN! Then, we picked up David's family from their hotel down the road and drove to Snoqualmie Falls. It was really cold and the mist from the falls was creating all these little icicles on everything. It was really beautiful and William particularly thought it was the coolest thing ever.