Friday, December 31, 2010

Wasatch Christmas Choir Concert

Will is in the top row, fourth one in.

We got to see Will perform for the first time with his new choir. We loved the instrumental group and both choirs. Choice of music was delightful, and the kids did a bang-up job even on their "challenge" piece. I think it was a Haydn. This next one is from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Pie Jesu. I've loved hearing Will sing it around the house:

There were only two problems with the concert. One was Joss. He was a demon despite my having brought in a coloring book and crayon. Two was our camera. The wee video function is just not up to all of our performers!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Maddie's Christmas Concert

Maddie's on the left, about four girls in.

We had a week of performances before the kids got out of school. First was Maddie's orchestra concert [though Maddie refers to it always as "dorkestra"]. They played a Jingle Bells and Carol of the Bells and a piece called Santa Goes To The Symphony with excerpts from Christmas carols and well known orchestral pieces.

Mercifully, Maddie came first on the program, because Joss made it through only two of her pieces before having to be carried out. We called it a night after her group was done. I'm so glad we got to see her! Her confidence and sight reading have improved a lot, and I love the fact that now she's practicing for a grade!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Boxes are Open

Now that Christmas is over, here are a couple of presents for other people that it's safe to talk about. Our friends and family have been so SO generous to us that we should take a moment here to remember. We had B & H, J & T, D & J, and M & D who all invited us to come stay at their cabins this year. They were our vacations and they were all highlights. K K and K gave us a vacuum cleaner and a camera when everything in our possession began to fail. L & A kept us entertained for six months with their treasured boxed set of West Wing and got our carpets livable again with their wonderful steam cleaner.
There are many more things that I'm forgetting right now, but it does remind me of C & B who gave us a toilet when Joss was born. I kid you not. A porcelain throne; the genuine article. The card said "happy toilet training". So when they adopted their eighth this year, I knit a sweater for their daughter. It looked like this only deep pink with navy and purple trim.
This one was for a longtime friend's baby boy. Only took me two months to sew on the buttons and ship it off -- hope it fits him!
This is for friend J's daughter Zoe
and for her son, T-man. You can see that I took TJ's advice and tried a new hem on the bottom. It's sure easy and it doesn't roll up like the old ones. Now I have to go back and fix Joss's sweater!
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I am behind this year on Christmas, and really noticing a difference. Normally I aim to meet Flylady's holiday deadlines to have my presents bought, menus planned, nonperishables stocked, cards mailed, and everything wrapped. This gives me the whole month to obsess over neighbor gifts (which I loathe).
This year I'm playing catch up on all of those things. The one thing I've done right is to wrap and label the presents but not stick bows on them. This way I can hide and stack them, I know who they're for, and I'll have the perfect job to do while I'm helping the kids wrap their gifts. OK, the other thing I've done right is use Amazon. Not only do I love their wish list and the universal wish list button so that I can add things to the kids' lists as I think of them whenever I'm "looking for the end of the internet" as Liesl's sister calls it. I also love their gift organizer which lets me create an idea list for family and friends and shows me what I bought for them in years past. Amazon has taken over large portions of my brain so that I can free up more time for the dread neighbor gifts.
So it was well into December before I started readying for the gingerbread house. I had planned to make a darling this old gingerbread saltbox house that they had on I printed it out on the wrong paper, and then threw it away. When I returned to print it out on card stock, they had redone the website and broken the 4-year-old link. Color me crabby! So I used some other random pattern that looked cute. When we were assembling it, we found that it didn't fit together. At all. It was only Rob's quick use of scrap gingerbread and mom's piped rebar royal icing that enabled us to make a structure at all. (Use the One True Gingerbread Pattern. Why try anything else?)
Once that was up, though, it really was a joy for me to watch. I handed out ice cream cones for the kids to frost and decorate (and eat the candy off of and start over again. . . ). Maddie worked with Rob on the roof, Sebastian specialized in landscape. Curtis taught Rob how to make the icicles on the roof.
I do wonder about it as a family tradition, though. Lois was asking if the point is to eat it or to look at it and if it's for the kids to decorate or for the parents to show off with. We try to make it do everything, and that's a losing battle. The Isaaks bought kits for their kids to decorate so they only had half as many squabbles. Rob and I had two spats during gingerbread season and one child who was a conscientious objector. Probably some peeping and muttering too, but I've already blocked that.
The Isaaks made their own pattern. It looks like the Pepi Gabl pension in San Anton Austria where we went for Christmas in 1991. McFarlands should have made an onion-dome church to go with it, no? How could you make an onion-dome? I think a frosted onion would stink. I had been teasing the kids, telling them that this year we were going to try a savory, high-fiber version out of wasa crackers covered with shredded wheat shingles and lentils and split peas. I got stuck when it came to frosting though. I guess peaut butter might work . . .
Doesn't it look so Bavarian? I love the window boxes with Boston baked geraniums. I can just imagine caroling on Christmas Eve out in front of it. It was something of a Christmas miracle that Curtis and I, who had gone to three grocery stores and probably bought over 20 pounds of candy, we didn't overlap in anything except yogurt pretzels. Joss took care of the extras for us.
And here is ours. I asked for a wreath on the window, but other than that, I didn't care what it looked like and I didn't place a single piece of candy. I like the way it turned out despite the inadequate pattern. Now we look at it for a month just to torture the kids, and then let them smash it to smithereens on New Year's Day. I had leftover gingerbread and so much extra candy that I made one more house out of the One True Gingerbread House pattern and gave it to Ann to make with her girls. Because gingerbread houses are like family therapy on a cookie sheet and I had to share the love!
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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Second Advent

Yesterday we celebrated second advent. I guess we've been celebrating it for a while now. Here was advent in Berlin in 2006, and a good example from 2009.You generally have a bunte teller full of cookies and candies, but we were caught flatfooted, so we punted with sugar cookies. When we took out the cookie cutters, we were dismayed at our strange Christmas offerings. We had things like numbers, farm animals and letters, so we made a Mr. Bean christmas plate instead. If you haven't seen Mr. Bean and the Nativity Scene, give yourself a gift and go watch it. Then you'll understand the helicopter and dinosaurs.
We had Betsy & Bulk over for a dinner of gulasch & spaetzle.
Then finished it off by going to see the 35th annual Adventsingen at the Provo Tabernacle. The Frauenchor was the best ever; the program came in under an hour; Katie actually gets to keep her dirndl; these are all amazing things but it was a banner year for me because I didn't wrangle a small child the whole time!
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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sebastian's 2010 Letter

Dear santa. I have been not so good these week's. but now I will be verey good if I kan So please can you bring me some legoes and a air soft gun and duck tape.

[all true. Sebi's been having a hard time with obedience lately, though I'm surprised he recognized it. And if we're being honest here (which we often are) I am far more concerned about the grammar in his letter. An apostrophe in "weeks"? Be still my heart!]

Monday, December 06, 2010

You Get What You Deserve

. . . when you let the two-year-old pick out his own outfit.
I'm just sayin'. . .
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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Calgon Weekend Part II

Having already established that we were not going skiing ("I don't ski. That was a bait & switch to marry Eric" said she) Jen & I were avid explorers of Main Street. I hadn't been to Park City proper in about two decades.
We wandered in and out of all the shops, from high end Paris-Hilton-shopped-here boutiques to the ski bum t-shirt shops.
When we got tired, we went back to the hotel and used their spa! We used the dry sauna, the eucalyptus steam room, the hot tub, the shower, the outdoor hot tub, the steam room, the shower and the women's meditation room (I read People magazine and catch up on Portia di Rossi's anorexia to meditate). It was heavenly!
As evidence of what a great weekend it was, I told Rob that as we were leaving, I couldn't even contemplate Thanksgiving the next week, let alone Christmas. After three days of enforced relaxation, I was enthusiastic about the holidays.
On the home front, the husbands cooked, cleaned, chauffered kids, made a snowman, put on a birthday party for 16+ kids, cleaned up vomit and did homework. They were really phenomenal. The kids were mostly happy that I was back because I brought them candy cigarettes to horrify their cousins with -- they'd have been fine under the Rob regime for another two weeks at least!
Thanks for making the trip, Jen! It was marvelous to see you and have a GWO. Let's not wait 20 years for the next one!
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Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Calgon Weekend: Jen & MA's Twentieth Reunion

In 1990 I was working at a law firm in San Francisco when they hired Jennifer. We worked on the same insurance coverage case through trial prep and trial for six months or so. We put in 14-hour days together organizing the documents, reorganizing them and then making seven copies of the results. I was so grateful it was Jen that I got to spend so much time with. We even took a weekend roadtrip to see where our case took place.
Jen introduced me to Thai food, the Haight Ashbury district, Marin County, and taught me that while two wrongs never make a right, three rights make a left. She even visited me back at BYU where we spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find coffee in the mornings. She blushes now when I mention it, but her swearing is pure poetry; she takes it to truly artistic levels (and says now "Shhhh! The kids have no idea!").
After that crucible of a beginning, we've seen each other through college, law school, a mission, half a dozen jobs and boyfriends and breakups, family deaths, job losses, two weddings, two miscarriages, two fabulous husbands and six kids. The kids are often fabulous too.
So celebrating 20 years of friendship, on the anniversary of my driving a Ryder truck full of documents from Santa Barbara and having a blowout on highway 101, Jen came up and got this SA-WANK suite at the Hotel Park City. It was heavenly. It was quiet. No one was demanding anything of us and nothing need cooking or cleaning or arranging. We spent a lot of time talking on the couches, in restaurants, hot tubs and the car.
We ate at Zoom, the Sundance restaurant in Park City. Yum! It was fabulous and we both waddled away. We had breakfast at Squatters, a brewery (which made Jen suspicious "Utahns eat breakfast in a brew pub? What kind of state is this?"). We ventured out to mexican in a blizzard and found our own breakfast place on Main Street. We ate so well that we only had two meals a day!
And we were there for the opening of ski season and the first big storm. Jen got a taste of living in the snow, driving in the snow and digging your car out of the snow.
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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A Holiday Rant

To my local home improvement store:

Normally I work to "maintain contentment in whatsoever state I am", loving my minivan with the back bumper sensors whilst in the US and the freedom of my transportation pass in Europe, etc. etc. etc.
But you sent me over the edge today.
To entertain the two-year-old, we came over to the Christmas aisle "to see the lights". That would be the 12-color LED lights and the icicles that light up as though they're dripping and the ones that flash to the music of over 40 Christmas favorites. I knew it was coming and I kept my cool.
I question the need for an inflatable Santa-popping-out-of-his-Airstream or the light up Santa-in-a-golf-cart, but . . . . to each his own. I part ways with you when it comes to a family of tinsel chickens as lawn ornaments, or a sparkle peacock, or the pink sequined Susan G Komen reindeer (you have seen what happens when they meet with rambunctious teenagers and end up in compromising positions, haven't you?); nevertheless, live and let live.
It was your "snowglobes" that did me in, and I use that term in only the loosest of senses. Those plastic spheres with tinny music and no liquid at all look like styrofoam blown about by a hairdryer. They are Wee Tornado Orbs of the Apocalypse.
If that weren't enough, I then found a strange musical grouping of Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and a Snowman and, unsuspecting, I let Joss push the button. ACK! They move! It was hideous. I couldn't figure out who would have created such madness. It appeared to be a menage a trois, as evidenced by the fact that the Snowman's cheeks light up and it's blushing like mad. Also that the button is red and marked "G". Eeeek!
I spit upon your endless and needless newfangledness. I'm tired of your neverending pursuit of profit. I'm ready for some kinderpunsch and quaint Erzgebirgische ornaments. Get me to a Christkindlmarkt NOW!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Will Goes Double Digits

Last week Will celebrated the big One-Oh. We had a family party for him the night before where he had cake & ice cream and got some much-needed clothes, and much-wanted toys.
I was leaving town on his actual birthday, so I made him another cake and bought candles and ice cream and Rob took over everything else. Rob got treats to his class at school. Rob fielded RSVPs and was a human GPS to lost parents. And he put on a party for 16 or so fifth- and sixth-graders on a Friday night!
They ate five pizzas, two cakes and ice cream. They played football in the front yard. They watched Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Then they had a forty-minute pillow fight downstairs in the basement. I'm told it was pretty epic. Thankfully there was no more than some superficial scratches from zippers.
Will had a great time and everyone else survived.
Here are 10 things I love about Will:
1. He is the best and most willing snuggler of the kids
2. Will's japanime dance
3. His diligence; he's had to work hard at homework for years; he now really knows how to work
4. Will has the Lego aptitude. He made the Star Wars Republic Attack Shuttle in a matter of hours. Would have been done sooner if we'd only let him stay up all night!
5. His voice. He has lovely tone and we're getting to hear fun snippets from his choir this year. I'm really looking forward to the Christmas concert.
6. His violin playing. He hates to practice, but when he plays he is very expressive and looks like he's losing himself in the music.
7. He knows how to relate to girls. He gets along with his sister, has several friends who are girls, and I love his protective big brotherness of the girl in our carpool.
8. He is observant. Will has always noticed things about other people, places and things and he's very astute in the conclusions he draws.
9. His creativity. Will can make up stories from one sentence to the next. You think he's going to ask for the salt when you find yourself in imminent danger on another planet.
10. He is my biggest, blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy. I sure do love you, Will-O!
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

To Nerdly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before....

A Halloween Guest Blog from the Professor

Because we are evil to the core, your humble Professor and Mary Ann stay up nights thinking of all the different ways we can ruin our kids socially. We eat vegetarian fare from the Moosewood Cookbook, we listen to Brahms and Faure and Stawberry Switchblade (only MA on that last one), and we do not do TV.
Our final fiendish plot (inspired by Michael Chabon and Dr.Who) is to put our kids in our own nosatalgia warp. Instead of exposing them to Avatar (loathesome) and Justin Bieber (what the @#$% ?), we hook them up with Bill and Ted (Prof), The Scarlet Pimpernel (MA) and, as can be seen in these Halloween shots, we have introduced them to Star Trek. Awkward Family Photos, here we come!

It all started with Sebi. He is half Vulcan, it seems, and on any given day he already looks uncannily like the young Spock in the most recent Star Trek movie. All he needed for the full transition: some ears, of course, and the appropriate haircut by our favorite BYU Barber-ella, La Gwen. From there, Will identified with bossy bad-boy Kirk, Maddie loved the hot, brilliant new Uhura. Joss just had to go along with things, although he probably would have rather dressed up as Mater from "Cars."

As always, The best laid plans of mice and parents go astray. Check out Maddie. I did not realize that my 12-year old could work a polyester sheath dress and boots like that. She came out of her room on Halloween morning in that mini-number and it occurred to me: she is going to high school dressed like that. My 12-year old. Wearing that. Against my better judgement, I took her to school like that. Before I left, I predicted to MA that we would be getting phone calls from boys.

The call came. That night. From a boy.

So much for the wisdom of the Nerd-Parents.

Friday, November 12, 2010

St. Martin's Lanterns

[Curtis appraises his Chihuly-style lantern. ]In honor of St. Martin's day (November 11th) we had the third annual BYU lantern crafting and Laternenumzug. We first celebrated this in Berlin with the communist party and a local congregation in 2006 and then brought it back to the students. Here is one that friends from Vienna attended this year.
This year's group was an enthusiastic and calm 40-50 or so people. They took the lantern making very seriously. Rob is learning what to order from Labbe and this year we had round, rectangular and freeform options. If I get more pictures I'll post them, but the family lanterns included a fish, a new hedgehog, a tie fighter, a mushroom, and Strongbad. Students made amazing cutouts, a rainbow, an elephant, and all sorts of things. It generally seems like a crazy thing to do just before Will's birthday/Thanksgiving/the run up to Christmas, but it is such a charming tradition.
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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Teton Canyon

After two days of driving, the children decreed that we were sticking close to Driggs on Saturday. We sent them off to the park in the morning and then drove up Teton Canyon to find a picnic spot for lunch. Our camera had quit by then, but we found the most gorgeous place by a stream about this size with similar trees (this was taken at Mormon Row the afternoon before). We climbed rocks and crossed the stream, ate lunch and drove home at nap time.

, While I stayed with Joss, the professor took Maddie, Will and Sebi out to the dollar store and then out for shakes at the soda fountain downtown. After more park and dinner, we watched Galaxy Quest with the kids and A Single Man after they went to bed. When we asked Sebi his favorite part of the weekend, he dreamily said "Family Dollar! I wish we had a Family Dollar at home." Uh, Sebi, we do have a Family Dollar . . . I guess I'll pull that out when we're having a staycation.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Grand Teton National Park

We began at a beautiful new visitors' center at Moose. Joss entertained himself here for over an hour. He loved these screens on the floor that played scenery from the park. Between that and the pet-the-mammals' fur displays at his height, he thought it was made for him (poor deprived child has never been to a McDonald's playplace, but I've been scarred; stories for another post).
Oh, and they had horns and antlers to try on.
The kids all got their junior ranger badges again. Maddie was somewhat reluctant, but she joined in when she found out this was her last year and perhaps her last chance.
Then we had a picnic and went on a hike. We hiked from String Lake back down the northwestern side of Jenny Lake. It was through a burn area, but it was stunning.
[click to enlarge]
We headed back when it started raining rather than pushing on to Hidden Falls and we were so glad we did! While we did escape the rain, Joss fell asleep and Rob and I had to carry him back tag teaming it to the car.Poor bloke, having to keep up with the rest of us.
We finished with a drive by Mormon Row because it was there.
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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Driggs & Jackson Hole

Over UEA weekend, our friend Monica offered us use of the family cabin in Island Park. We were going to take Daniela back to see Yellowstone. But Daniela couldn't go and at the eleventh hour, the cabin was sold, so we went to Driggs Idaho instead, excited to see something new instead of retracing our summer steps. Driggs has a cute downtown and there was a park across the street from the condo, so we were set.
On our way to Grand Teton from Driggs, we stopped in Jackson Hole to run around.
The professor is the only one who had ever been before. Kids were impressed by the great antler arches and we vowed we'd come back someday. Someday!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

See If You Can Do Better

I realize that many people are concerned about privacy here in the blogosphere. Even some of you, gentle readers. Some of you have private blogs. Some of you have code names for yourselves and your families. Some only use first initials for family members. And some of you don't talk about the children or just don't blog.
But here we're letting it all hang out and this is why: anyone who is still reading this has to have some connection to us or have some really awful cable choices. The only of our stalkers we don't know are the ones who live in New Zealand and if you guys want to come up here and kidnap our kids, you're going to have a large outlay in airfare just to begin. In fact, that might qualify you as better, more concerned, parents than we are right there.
The other reason I don't worry too much is that anyone who reads this does not particularly want our kids. You probably read this so that you can heave a sigh of relief and go back to your own set of trials renewed and refreshed. Case in point:
Some Sundays are warm and others are cold. Some Sundays we have plenty of time for a big breakfast, and other times we are grabbing plain bread and bananas as we rush out the door. One thing never changes, however -- Will complaining about his church clothes. It really doesn't matter what he has or what is clean or whether it fits. He'll find some reason to throw a hissyfit about it. If he can't complain about the clothes, then it's his hair he'll meltdown over. This Sunday Rob laid out clothes on the boys' bed and came into the living room. He sat down on the couch and started counting down: "five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . " and as if on cue, we heard Will in his room say "I AM NOT WEARING THAT SHIRT!!"
Will looked a little sheepish when he found out why we were all laughing in the living room. I expect he'll have forgotten by this weekend, though!
Lest you think we only pick on one kid around here, check out what happened while we were out for an hour on Sunday evening. This is why you don't want to hide the Halloween candy in the top of the closet. This is also why you don't want to hang from the curtain rod when you are twelve! Yes, it was Maddie who did this; not our first grader (not that Sebi wouldn't have done it if given a chance). So when we went to the temple on Tuesday, we took the candy with us in the minivan. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Projects for Joss

After some time as relationship counselor, I am pleased to announced that my camera and laptop are together again! Here are some of the goodies I found inside once I downloaded everything. I lured Joss outside with his lawnmower and some candy to take pictures of the things I knit for him recently.
First I made this sweater. For some reason Joss doesn't have many clothes in his size. I don't know if I gave away all of his brothers' or if they'd been chewing on them and I tossed them out. In any case, he needed some clothes for fall and for church, and so I made this out of the supply of yarn I inherited from Oma. The pattern comes from Minnow Knits, Too and they were right: it looks more complicated than it is. I don't usually do patterns, but this one was very easy to keep track of.
Rob informed me that Joss needed a hat while we were out of town, so I made this for him with no pattern, yarn on hand, and one circular needle. Rob insisted that it had to cover his ears, so there it is. We'll see if he ever wears it.
Finally, I made this one for him, using leftovers for the stripes and the same pattern my mother used to use for John's sweaters. I altered it to make it a rollneck, but I confess I still haven't figured out how to keep the bottom hem from rolling up to his belly button. Perhaps a few rows of ribbing right near the end with a little roll below it?
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