Saturday, January 6, 2018

Camp Hope...being God's hands

We had the neat opportunity to provide and serve dinner at Camp Hope (homeless shelter for men, women, and children) tonight with many of our friends. I asked one man if the baked ziti was hitting the spot tonight and he responded, “this is WAY better than dumpster diving!” We enjoyed mingling with many of the residents and found everyone to be very kind and appreciative. Camp Hope is in need of lots of donations - clothing (all ages), kitchen stuff (they are working on getting a kitchen area built - currently in need of a meat slicer), one woman said she would love a piano so she could sing (she did treat us all to an acappella number), and some furniture. We’d love to do this regularly - sure was nice to have lots of donations as we provided baked ziti, salad, bread, and water bottles for 80. I am glad my kids had this opportunity as they were especially touched by the few children that we met that live there.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Years!!! Life is Sweet!!

We totally enjoyed staying home for a couple of days following Christmas.  Birch worked, we cleaned up the house and Christmas decorations, and we all went to bed early and slept in late (well, except Birch).  After work on Wednesday we loaded up and headed to spend a few days in Spokane.  Everyone but Tavia and her family were in Spokane so you can imagine the partying was endless!! 

The first party we kicked off was a surprise retirement party for Grannie!!

I had a great time doing the decorations with Alysee's help.

Logan and Julia opened their beautiful home to host the party.

Retirement is sweet!!!

Each family did a little tribute to Grannie.
Blayre's family

Carter giving "Grannie-Mommy" a hug. 
Kelly's family

Our family - "Lean on Me" - tweaked version


Brent's family

Blayre and Ryan made a sweet treat letter.

These girls did the cutest dance/song together.  I'm so mad -- I thought I recorded it but only got a picture.

Logan's family did a little charades game guessing the various jobs Grannie has had throughout her life. 

Watching Tavia and Vaughn's family tribute that they sent over as they were in Utah for Vaughn's parent's mission homecoming.

Grannie had lots of kids willing to help open her gift...a Vitamix blender.

Pretty sure this was all the kids favorite part of the evening!
 Wish you were there?
After the party we got the kids all situated and the adults all went out to eat!!  It was so fun to be sans kids.

New Year's Eve!!!!
Hours and hours of games!!!

Smorgasboard of favorites for dinner.
These cousins all got to go to a Stake Dance together!!  It was Lucy's first dance.  So fun for them to all share these times together.

Toasting at midnight!
Kissing my Lover at midnight!!
We ended out trip with attending Blayre's ward for Rhett's baby blessing.  It was so wonderful to be altogether!

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Spirit of Christmas...Christmas Day

a little background about our Christmas gifting/giving this year...

Our kids are not a big fan of my brain that loves to come up with new ideas.  Several years ago we started doing an experience gift for our main gift to the kids for Christmas.  I've loved doing this the past few years but this year I couldn't come up with anything that would work with our schedule, fiances, and weather.  In September, I started digging down in my brain and online for some new fresh ideas.  Last year I had the challenge of keeping our Christmas to $350.  This year I needed to financially have a similar goal so we could be on track with our financial plan.  I've also loved the experience gift as really I don't think our kids are too "needy" -- more filled with "wants" which is not necessarily bad. 

Anyways, we decided to do something different and boy did we get flack!  Birch even had parents come up to him at church and say, "I heard your family is not celebrating Christmas this year." took a bit for our kids to get on board but in the end I think they all liked it.  I'm not sure if we will do it again next year.  Okay, this is what we did.  Right before Thanksviging we had a special dinner with Christmas plates and decorations.  Then we presented the kids with baggies that were filled with three things - 1) $10 to go toward their sibling gift (after drawing a sibling's name they each purchase a gift, do an act of service, and make a homemade gift); 2 - a chocolate Santa (this represented how each of them was ready to BECOME Santa...meaning we would do things in "Santa's" name throughout the month and they would not be getting a specific gift from Santa (Birch read a great talk by President Faust about how Santa is emulating Jesus Christ - note all the kids knew about Santa); 3) $$$ (each child received $5/year -- ie. Tyler is 17 years old so he got $85, Nate is 13 years old so he got $65) - this money was for them to purchase whatever they wanted (with parent approval) and then we would wrap the gifts for them and put them under the tree; all purchases had to be made prior to December 15th so we could focus on other Christmas things.

The initial shock brought tears, anger, and disbelief.  I was honestly pretty surprised.  To me being given a lump sum of money and getting to pick out whatever I wanted sounded pretty awesome!!  It's hard coming up with ideas each in that fit in the budget and also that you think the kids will like, wear, want, fit, etc... This took out all the guessing.  Chloe was upset because she wanted an electric car she could ride in...let's be honest, she was never getting that!  So as the weeks went on I saw the kids carefully making selections.  For some this was hard - like the idea of spending the money was hard because then they couldn't take back what they had purchased if they came up with a new idea.  For others they added some of their own money as got something bigger that they really had wanted (and wouldn't have received).  Some got a little overly preoccupied with the ME ME ME of Christmas (where usually the focus should be on others that you are getting gifts for not yourself).  To me this was the negative part of the idea.  I loved not stressing out about the gifts, though.  It was nice to wrap as soon as something came in the mail (oh yeah, we also did something new -- each child had a specific wrapping paper assigned to them that their gifts were wrapped in.  They all wondered why there were no names on the gifts under the tree.  Then in their stocking they had a gift from us in their special paper -- then they knew what was theirs under the tree).

The kick-off Dinner back in November:

Best part of Christmas day was our 8 am phone call from Moldova with Elder Ditto!!!
The allotted forty minutes FLEW by for us!!


Opening Gifts!!!
Chloe got a La La Loopsy Easy Bake Oven she has ALWAYS wanted!!!

Nate got a super cool drone.
Nate trying out the gift he made for Coop - a Indo Board.  He saw this at Seth and Caroline's house and knew he wanted to make one for Coop.  He spent so much time on it and was really happy with the way it turned out.

This is my favorite part about Christmas - seeing the kids gratitude toward each other when they have made a gift for them.

Alysee got Nate a slack line set.
More Christmas day fun!!!
Putting together lego sets that we gave the three youngest kids.

Chloe trying out her Easy Bake Oven for the first time - pizza!
Christmas Dinner with the Andersens!!
We had a super yummy dinner of marinaded pork tenderloins, homemade rolls, mashed potatoes, and salad.

Happy Cousins!

So Christmas 2017 will go down in the books!!!  We had so many opportunities to #Lighttheworld and BECOME Santa throughout the month!  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve did not disappoint this year!  We started it off with going to church and even singing in church as a family.
A member in the ward snatched this picture of our family singing "Far, Far Away In Judea's Plain."  A few of the boys in the family were pretty sure this equaled a near death experience while the girls were begging for solos.  It was a good family bonding experience to practice together the weeks prior to Christmas Eve.

The Christmas Eve clan...just missing Elder Ditto

Church was only an hour so we spent the rest of the day getting ready for our Smorgasboard and talent show with friends and family.
The smorgasboard never disappoints -- Dad chose chips and salsa, Mom (homemade pizza), Alex (orange chicken), Tyler (curly fries), Nate (cheese, crackers, and salami), Coop (street tacos), Chloe (two kinds of goldfish).  With the others that joined us and also brought their favorites we had TONS to gorge ourselves on.

Decorating gingerbread houses

Chloe had been waiting all month to do this!
Talent Show...
Birch sang and played the guitar

Truman growled like a dinosaus

Alysee and sidekick Coop did a hilarious British cooking show teaching us all how to make a peanut butter sandwich.

Nate played "Away in a Manger" - self taught this past month.

Mila did a gymnastic's routine.

Camilla showed off her skills of being able to figure out who someone is -- while blindfolded and using only kitchen utensils.

We were all DYING with laughter as she struggled to figure out who Bro. Seal was.

Chloe did a short gymnastic's routine as well.

Then she treated us all to singing "Oh Holy Night"

Sagey showed off her 3-D snowflake she had made.

I read "I Believe" a story comparing Santa and Jesus Christ.

We look forward to Ryan's cheer routine every year!  BOOM!!

The Seals did several talents including a few magic tricks, trumpet playing, and this awesome bell carol.

Tyler played the guitar while Chloe sang.
 Live Nativity!!!
The cast...each child drew their part in the Nativity and then had five minutes to find a costume.  Pretty sure the costumes get more creative every year!

Baby Jesus, Sage and her parents


A few more pictures of the cast!

Wish you were here?!!!  Click here to watch the talent show and Nativity: