Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Date to The Chocolate

One of my favorite places to go in Utah County is The Chocolate in Orem. Their cakes and brownies are the best thing in the world. Becca and I took Eliza and Ruby there on a mini-date today, and the girls had a great time! I think they felt pretty special going to a "fancy" place for cake. I didn't mind having a piece of The Husband, either (basically the greatest chocolate cake ever).

Eliza and I rarely go out without Nathan and the boys, so this really was a special treat. The mini cupcakes definitely won this girl over!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013

The elves were very sleepy today.

Eliza's Barbie Dream House ended up being a nightmare to assemble. The instructions were practically useless and there were so many stickers that had to be delicately placed and pieces that had to be forcefully snapped together. And, when we got to the end of construction, Nathan and I realized the elevator was broken. So, we know we are going to have to exchange this Dream House and build another one (the joy!). I watched all of Return of the King while assembling this thing,
Nathan had to help when I got really frustrated at certain points. He was just as confused as I was. 
 We finally finished it, though, and Nathan then moved on to the boys' work bench. That was also pretty fun to assemble! Can't you tell?

Around 3 AM, we finally went to bed. All we could think was, "There were way too many toys sitting out in our living room for our children." Our families are both enjoy giving gifts (obviously). Not too many presents were from Santa!
I woke up around 8 AM, and the kids were all still asleep. I didn't want to risk them waking up and seeing the toys without me there, so I excitedly woke them all up. Eliza's face when she saw the Barbie Dream House was priceless.

Ezra and Elliott headed straight for the slide and then proceeded to ignore the rest of their Christmas presents. Typical two year old behavior :)

Eliza enjoyed trying on her new costumes and playing her new Ariel guitar.

 She couldn't wait for Ruby to come over!
Nathan opened up his music and electronic gifts (keyboard that works with his iPad, microphone stand, cello rosin and bow, and a recording device), and I was the happiest girl in the world with the thoughtful gifts from Nathan and my family. Nathan managed to get me everything I wanted (and more). I especially love the shoulder bag he had made for me!
Christmas was definitely a success!

(I feel like I need to sleep for a week in order to recover, though.)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

One More Sleep 'til Christmas

I have been wrapping presents for hours now, and I know I will be up for the rest of the night wrapping more gifts and assembling a Barbie Dream House and work bench. Being an elf is hard business. Eliza was so excited to go to sleep and cannot wait to see what Santa has brought her in the morning. Nathan and I have never done Christmas with just our family, so it is strange to be setting up all of the gifts, knowing our parents won't get to see how happy the children are in the morning. To be honest, Christmas without family is pretty depressing. We are both feeling homesick. If it wasn't so expensive to fly to South Carolina and so dangerous to drive to Washington in the winter, we would most certainly be with one of our families. Nathan and I are trying to focus on making Christmas traditions for our own family and ignore the feeling of emptiness that has been creeping up on us. 

Thankfully, Becca and Kyle are here for Christmas, too. We exchanged gifts with their family this afternoon, and it was so much fun to see Eliza and Ruby open a couple of presents. 

 We also continued the tradition from my family, where each child unwraps several gifts from grandparents and aunts and uncles before going to bed. I like this tradition because it makes Christmas morning a little less overwhelming.

 I even got to open a gift! I told Nathan that I had everything I wanted for Christmas already. I can't believe how happy a t-shirt made me.
Before bed, Eliza and I made some cookies for Santa and she sprinkled some reindeer food outside. She put on her pajamas, came into the living room, and then proudly said, "If Santa is anything like you, Mom, he's going to need a Coke!" Yes, she has probably seen mom drink way too many Cokes. I got the cosmic hint.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Get Here Soon, Christmas!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.... in our bathroom. More specifically, our shower.
Living in a condominium means there is a limited amount of storage. Living 3,000 miles away from my side of the family and 1,200 miles away from Nathan's side of the family means all of our Christmas gifts are mailed. The boxes were taking over our bedroom, so Nathan finally moved them to the shower where they would safely be out of the way from wondering eyes.

Can you imagine the amount of wrapping we have ahead of us!?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Sunday

Growing up, the Sunday before Christmas was always my favorite church service of the year. I loved the focus on Christ's birth and the songs celebrating the Christmas season. My mom always made sure we had a new Christmas outfit, so that was always an additional bonus.

Now that I'm an adult, things haven't changed at all. I still love the Sunday Christmas program, I enjoy singing in the Christmas choir, and my mom now spoils my children with adorable Christmas clothes. This year, Becca and I were members of the choir and also sang "Once in Royal David's City." Our girls looked so cute in their Christmas dresses (which happened to be Eliza's old ones from years past) and Ezra and Elliott looked like little gentlemen in their suits. It was a pretty wonderful Sunday, and it definitely feels like Christmas will be here any day.

 Sidenote: It's impossible to take pictures of all three children looking happy.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Tiana's Self Portrait

Everyone. Let me just tell you that thinking of various mischievous things for an elf to do every night can be difficult! Eliza's little elf, Tiana, hasn't done anything too crazy because we don't want Eliza to think that being naughty is awesome (obviously. Tiana has written Eliza notes, taken Barbie's car for a ride, built a snowman out of marshmallows, and hung from the living room chandelier. I think the craziest thing our elf has done is gift-wrap our refrigerator. The kids all thought it was hysterical.
Nathan and I are beginning to run out of ideas, though.This is a hard business!  Last night, Nathan came up with a last minute idea for Tiana's trick: drawing a self-portrait on the Magna Doodle. Eliza loves her Magna Doodles, so we were hopeful she would think it was pretty funny. When she came out of her bedroom and saw Tiana sitting beside the Magna Doodle (which, to me, looked pret-ty creepy), Eliza couldn't stop smiling and laughing.
Several times today, Eliza has sat down and practiced drawing a picture of herself on the Magna Doodle. I guess her elf inspired her to further her artistic endeavors.

Parenting success!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

An Early Christmas Gift

My mom is an incredibly thoughtful gift giver. This year for Christmas, she gave me a painting that I have been wanting for a couple of years now. I am so excited to have this piece of artwork up in our home.
The painting is entitled Christ Walking on the Waters and is by Julius Sergius von Klever. When I first saw this piece, I couldn't stop staring. I've heard people talk about art "speaking to them" and that definitely happened with this painting and me.

I love how this depiction of Christ that is layered with beauty and meaning. It's not a portrait of Him, He's not laughing or even smiling, and in fact, His face can not be seen with any real clarity. Instead of focusing on His physical appearance, this piece of work centers on one of the most amazing miracles Christ performed. The story, which is found in the book of Matthew, tells how following the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus sent the disciples by boat to the other side of Lake Galilee while he remained behind, alone, to pray. Night came, the winds increased, and the boat the disciples were in was caught in the midst of a storm.  During this storm and the total darkness that came with it, the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea. Jeffrey R. Holland states that at this moment, "The Savior simply took the most direct approach to their boat, striding out across the waves to help them, walking on the water as surely as he had walked upon the land." I love how the miracle of walking upon the water was accomplished because the Savior wanted to get to his disciples as quickly as possible and walking is what is made sense to Him. The men in the boat were frightened and thought they were seeing a spirit comes toward them. Christ, knowing their fear, called out to them, "It is I; do not be afraid."

I love how Jeffrey R. Holland relates this portion of the story. He says, "This scriptural account reminds us that the first step in coming to Christ, or in his coming to us, may fill us with something very much like sheer terror. It shouldn’t, but it sometimes does. One of the grand ironies of the gospel is that the very source of help and safety being offered us is the thing from which we may, in our mortal shortsightedness, flee." Jeffrey R. Holland continues in his talk and then speaks of Peter, which is my favorite part of the story. Holland states:

Finally recognizing the Master that night, Peter exclaimed, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water” (Matt. 14:28).

And Christ’s answer to him was as it always is to all of us: “Come,” he said.

Instantly, as was his nature, Peter sprang over the vessel’s side and into the troubled waves. While his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind could toss his hair and the spray could drench his robes, but all was well—he was coming to Christ. Only when his faith and his focus wavered, only when he removed his glance from the Master to see the furious waves and the black gulf beneath him, only then did he begin to sink. In fear he cried out, “Lord, save me” (Matt. 14:28–30).

In some disappointment the “Master of ocean and earth and skies”stretched out his hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt. 14:31)

Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. He wishes us to come unto him, to follow him, to be comforted by him. Then he wishes us to give comfort to others. However halting our steps are toward him—though they shouldn’t be halting at all—his steps are never halting toward us. May we have enough faith to accept the goodness of God and the mercy of his Only Begotten Son. May we come unto him and his gospel and be healed. And may we do more to heal others in the process. When the storms of life make this difficult, may we still follow his bidding to “come,” keeping our eye fixed on him forever and single to his glory. In doing so we too will walk triumphantly over the swelling waves of life’s difficulties and remain unterrified amid any rising winds of despair.

These words are close to my heart because I can definitely relate to them. I am incredibly grateful that I have been able to overcome some of the bigger storms in my life and see that the Savior was there throughout my trials, waiting for me and coming towards me with nothing but love. Of course, we have our moments of unbelief, but the Lord is there to save us in the end. 

So, for all of those reasons, I am grateful to have this painting up in our home. It will be a constant reminder of the Savior's desire to lift us up. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Things That Made Me Happy Today

1) Getting out all of our Christmas movies
2) Seeing Nathan in the new coat he got for his birthday
3) These minion snowmen
4) Eating at IHOP with our family (and yes, the twins are in their pajamas)

I love how some days are wonderful--even when we have nothing elaborate or incredibly exciting planned. It's just nice to spend time with the people I love. We're pretty lucky to have such a wonderful family.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Lights at Temple Square

Tonight, we bundled the children up and drove to Salt Lake to see the lights at Temple Square. Every year, the temple and the surrounding grounds are covered in thousands of lights. I've lived in Utah for 7 winters now, and I have never seen the lights at the Temple, so we decided to take advantage of how close we live and take our family to see them. Nathan and I thought it would be a great family activity, but we didn't plan on it being so cold!

It was freezing. Well, it was below freezing. While we were walking around the Temple grounds, it was 19 degrees outside. The high for the day was 26 degrees! Our entire family was mesmerized by the lights, but also incredibly cold and miserable. I kept joking that the kids would enjoy seeing the lights if their eyes weren't frozen.

We pushed our double stroller through a sea of people, saw some of the lights, and then went into the Visitor's Center to warm up for a little while.The cold was physically painful, and we were worried about the kids being outside for too long.
We eventually warmed up and hurried through looking at the rest of the lights before heading to our car. Eliza loved them, and I'm sure the twins would tell us they loved all of the bright lights if they could talk in sentences :)

We'll definitely come back next year, but it will most certainly be on an evening where it is warmer than 19 degrees. It was just too cold to fully the enjoy the beauty of the lights. That being said, I'm still glad we went.