Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011 Christmas Update

For anyone who didn't get a hard copy, this is what we sent out this year (with a bonus picture for my blog readers!):
Greetings from the McFarlands! We hope this letter finds you all well and ready for a long winter’s nap. We’ve had a full year of fun and adventures, visiting Goblin Valley and Capitol Reef over spring break, leading a study abroad to Berlin and Tübingen over the summer, and jaunting out to California to see Mary Ann’s brother John marry Clarissa Lyons over Labor Day. We’re happily settling in for the holidays here, with plans of sitting by the fire and not much else. Here is what we have been doing:

Maddie (13) is in her second year attending an accelerated program at the high school here. She says “Just because I’m a nerd doesn’t mean I have no social life!” She lives, eats, drinks and breathes ballroom dance. She has found her niche on the swim team, doing distance freestyle events and is close to making a state cut. She still loves Shakespeare, and got to see All’s Well That Ends Well with her papa at the Globe Theatre inLondon. Asked if she could sum it up, she said "Girl loves boy. Boy doesn't love her back. Oy gevalt!" Maddie has a new dream job. She wants to play Countess Anna at Burg Hohenzollern where she gets to dress up in a white wig and take children on the kids' tour of the castle.

Will (11) is in his second year in his aunt Betsy’s class at school. He loves having her as his teacher and is counting down the days until she returns from maternity leave. He just graduated from cub scouts to boy scouts and can’t wait to go camping. He tolerates school, denigrates swim team and funnels all of his spare resources to Legos, Wii games and Nerf wars. He mostly wanted to play Garage Band and Photo Booth this summer, but he found to his surprise that he actually enjoyed the DDR museum, the Lichtenstein castle filled with armor and weapons, and swimming in the Bodensee. He renamed our much-touted app for public restrooms all over the world the "iPee". Will was a BYU Quidditch player for Halloween -- yet another costume of his own invention.

Sebastian (7) is in his second year of a Mandarin immersion program. While it isn’t easy, he impresses the rest of us no end when we get to hear him speak it. If we try to read the pinyin, he just shakes his head. He is also Maddie’s tutor and secret weapon since she started taking Mandarin this year. Sebi switched over to the pianoand tries desperately to keep up with all of the books his siblings read. Right now he’s plowing through Percy Jackson. This summer Sebastian enjoyed making a custom chocolate bar at the Ritter Sport store, and gleaning blackberries by the S-bahn trains, but his favorite part was having his best friend Tomas come to Berlin to visit.

Joss (3) is still the McFarland dictator. He dictates the CD in the car, the volume of the house, mealtimes, naptimes and bedtimes. His taste in music has evolved from the “Tiki Tiki Tiki Room” to “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray. He calls mama “mudder” and papa “poppy”. We try not to let on how funny he is, but near his birthday, Rob set down his breakfast eggs and said “Now what do we say? . . .” Joss replied “Waateber. Where is the freakin’ keppitch?” He took his first swimming lessons this summer and is now enrolled at a local preschool, run by a woman he refers to as “Mister Kaffee”.

Mary Ann is happy to be nearly through 2011. She made several sweaters for babies of family and friends, and tried her hand at making a quilt this year. She has begun to jog with Rob in the mornings and so far has a pulled muscle and plantar fasciitis to show for it. She saw lots of marvelous things this summer and was most happy to introduce her kids to London, see the Green Vault in Dresden, and go to the Black Forest andHeidelberg.

Rob has had a hugely productive year, teaching five classes and writing an online course in the spring, recruiting for and directing a study abroad over the summer, and sending out his first manuscript to find a publisher this fall. Once again he boldly went where no one had gone before with a group of 32 students. He continues to garden and jog, write poetry and attend Sundance and keeps the primary presidency in stitches with his antics as the primary chorister.

We feel so fortunate to have had a year full of blessings and activities, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, security, peace and health. We wish a similar 2012 for all of you. We love you and you enrich our lives with your friendship and love.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent 2011

We've been busy around here for Advent. Rob had three musical numbers at church. Maddie had a ballroom concert and two choir concerts. We had ward friends over for soup and cookie decorating. We attended the Adventsingen of the German department (held this year in the DeJong concert hall in the absence of the Provo Tabernacle). Maddie and Rob dressed up in their TrachtenMode again for the ward Christmas breakfast and Maddie found to her dismay that her dirndl was not even close to fitting. I did a quick and dirty alteration (my mother is never allowed to see it), but in the end she wore a very pretty one borrowed from the Isaaks. Sebastian had a Christmas program too, and they sang all of those chinese classics like We Wish You A Merry Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Fa-ra-ra-ra-rah I mean Silent Night.
In addition, just before Thanksgiving Grandpa was hired up in Salt Lake by one of his favorite clients. This has meant that we're all getting spoiled by him at restaurants near and far (and exotic grocery trips full of junque food). He has also donated his time and talents to fixing things around our house, and there are a lot of them. He decluttered my hard drive so that it quit giving me dire warnings, fixed this shower door, a toilet seat and two doorknobs and gave us sage advice on varied and sundry car issues. Invaluable.
St. Niklaus came on December 6th with peppermint lotion and Ritter Sport chocolate and hats. I know there are more winsome and twinkling pictures of Niklaus celebrations elsewhere, but around here we are just happy that no one has any foot fungus in their shoes.
We ate traditional Leyden cookies which were packed up specially for Utah. It has to take hundreds of hours to make these. Each tin has dozens of cookies of different kinds, and each cookie is very work intensive -- I've tried to recreate two and they take time!
Grandma taught Maddie how to bead the traditional Shumway family stockings and she was great at it! She finished the a large portion of the bow on that candy cane.
I got Grandpa to help me assemble a new toy kitchen for the nursery at church. It was well-crafted but time consuming to put together. This picture shows one of Grandpa's tips: he uses a muffin tin to keep track of all the little nuts, bolts, screws and thingamagidgets that come with a job like this.
The grandparents also stayed with the boys on Sunday morning so that we could go to the Mormon Tabernacle Christmas concert with Nathan Gunn and Jane Seymour with Maddie. Will was going to come too, but he was sick in the night. So just the three of us went and had a good time and actually smooth going for once. Nathan Gunn's voice was magnificent and Maddie fell in love with Jane Seymour.
Tuesday night Rob and I went back up to SLC with the Buskirks to attend the carol service at the Cathedral of the Madeleine. I've fallen completely for this event. The choir is accomplished [and cute!] the music is beautiful and it is so Christmasy with the congregation standing and joining in. After all of this, I was still wishing it was one more week until Christmas, but we were all ready. Then on the 22nd, our friends came from out of town and we all [all!] stayed up until midnight. It was so good to see them! I think I should get credit for New Years though, and I'll go to bed at 9:30pm on the 31st.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Gingerbread 2011: the Pious Edition

This year for our gingerbread house, I checked three books out of the library and looked for ideas. And for future years and generations, here's a good rule to live by: "if you ain't baking' it, you don't get to vote on it." Without this rule we ended up choosing a church and I said some truly unholy words while the candy rose window wouldn't cooperate three times.
This is always the point where I contemplate running out and buying a kit. Then I look down and see that I'm covered in molasses and powdered sugar and surrender. In the end, it has always turned out just fine:
We had a good time, but the kids were playing happily downstairs and we didn't want their pestering hands to bother them, so Rob and I did a lot of the decorating. Sebastian put on the roof, Joss placed the shrubs, and Maddie decorated the trees with coconut and candies.
This is the only fuzzy shot we got of the Isaaks' magnificent manor house, which was based on an actual British estate complete with dozens of windows. Curtis decided where certain candies went, particularly on the roofline, from years of experience at picking them off when his mom was looking the other way.
Here's one of my favorite parts of this year's design: the parish cemetery with Pepperidge Farm Mint Milano tombstones. Not our idea, though Maddie's memorial wreath was her own addition.
This is another favorite: the Hershey's Kiss church bell (also borrowed from one of the books).
And finally, a shot of the windows. We set it up as high as we could, but it was still within the reach of Jossmonster and it was only a matter of days before he'd eaten the yogurt pretzel fence and some tree decorations off of the front side only. C'est la vie!

Friday, November 25, 2011


This is my favorite picture from Thanksgiving this year. It reminds me that this was a great year because of the McKids. They are all growing up so fast and Jessie is already in college, but they are so much fun together and such good kids. They are smart and witty and entertaining and kind. And we're still all quoting David's "I'll take some, coach, if it's all the same to you", though none of us has his comic timing.
It was also a great year because of the food and all the family we had to help prepare it. This was the first year Rob and I got to host for the McFarland family. We had everyone but the Beans, who stayed up in Idaho. With all the other cooks, I actually did a lot less than last year, and the food was spectacular. Maddie and Rob get a special mention as our pie specialists. They have decided to take that on and have been practicing whenever they find fruit for a filling. There was a smashing lemon meringue along with the more typical pumpkin, apple, chocolate and mincemeat (OK, not typical, but traditional), and they made little Mr. Kipling-style tarts in muffin tins.
Jessie and the olives
The kids' table. Joss is just a blur next to Adam, who had split his eyebrow and gotten stitches. Sebi and Hannah sit in the foreground.
And the tryptophan-induced nap.
We eventually got up and wobbled about the neighborhood in the evening. It was a good time all around!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


My sister-in-law Betsy just her first baby, a boy named Eli. I started this sweater while she was in labor and finished it when he was a week old. Then I decided it needed a hat, so that took a couple more days . . .
And these are for two cute brothers, Declan and Malcolm, sons of friends of ours. They wore them to their sister's baptism and they looked so cute, but I realized I could have done better sizing down the 3 month old size. And TJ will notice that I took her suggestion on the hem at the bottom!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Three More Reasons I Don't Homeschool

Joss "reading" his halloween card: "Which kind of candy is your favorite, and DAMMMNATION, and which kind of candy is your favorite, and DAMMMNATION, and which kind of candy is your favorite, and DAMMNATION (repeat another 4-5 times), in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

Will and I had a very confusing conversation until figured out that he thought "flamboyant" meant both buoyant and flammable. Pretty understandable, but he kept talking about these flamboyant bombs floating around at sea and I just couldn't catch the vision.

Joss had his Halloween party at preschool and came home with a pumpkinload of goodies. He pulled out a little rubbery skeleton and said "Mama, do you think skeletons are spooky?" I, sensing the opportunity for a little teaching, said "No, I think skeletons are great! I have a skeleton and you have a skeleton and everybody has a skeleton inside of them to help them stand up and move around. Isn't that good?"
Joss turned around, pulled down his pants, mooned me and said "Can you see it in there?"

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Halloween 2011

This year when we got home, we found that for the first time, we were successfully growing pumpkins. And that there were exactly four. By Halloween, they were all orange and we harvested them and carved them, lit them and stuck them on the front porch.
They were just as slimy as ever.
Will decided that he wanted to be a BYU quid ditch player for Halloween. We had gone to D.I. (local thrift shop) and let the kids go wild finding things for their costumes a week or so before, but by the evening of the 30th, Will still just had a navy bathrobe. Rob made his awesome Firebolt broomstick with an old broom and clippings from our fruit trees. I downloaded a new varsity font, printed everything onto iron-on paper, ironed it onto white fabric and then sewed it onto the robe.
[I'm messing around with all of the cool new effects on Picasa. This one is neon and is one of Will's favorites.] He was happy with the results. Phew!
Launching himself into the game.
Mercifully Maddie found a dress and only required a shopping trip to finish off her costume.
Here she's a princess and I've made her photo 60's style.
Sebastian decided he wanted to be a punk rocker after Mark put the song "Punk Rock Girl" onto a CD for Will. [OK, I'm really liking the pencil sketch! I was going to start drawing again, but why? This is great!]
We found a denim jacket, the guitar and the boots at D.I. Sebastian was not into the patent leather high boots, but his parents both told him that was exactly what he needed. Then we downloaded album art from punk bands and a british flag and ironed and sewed those on too.
The whole crew.
These two decided to take Joss out trick-or-treating.
Sebastian had to be talked into going out at all. He had hated the costume at school and wet down his stiff red hair in the morning. Such a shame because he looked great! Finally we called up and arranged a trick-or-treat date with Tomas and Curtis. And then he was fine with it. Apparently there are more punk conversant people up north of us.
Joss was a "scary fledermaus" and since that is one of only two German words that he says, we never did tell him what he was in English. He eventually figured it out since everyone else called him a bat. He loved this costume and even at Christmas when his siblings went to find costumes for the nativity play, he wanted to be the scary bat. I'll leave you to decide where the bat comes into the story of the first Christmas . . .
And here is a closeup of some of the bands we turned into patches and put on Sebi's jacket. His brother and sister have both worn it to school since Halloween, and Maddie claims she wants to be a punk rocker next year, so perhaps the investment of time will be worth it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Squaw Peak Leaf Peeping

Rob insisted one Saturday that we get out and see the leaves before they all turned brown and blew away.
He was right -- it was well worth the time.
We drove up Squaw Peak which I hadn't done in 17 years (sometimes I wonder if I actually live here, or if I just visit local schools and grocery stores).
We had a picnic courtesy of In-N-Out that made everyone happy.
I found the vignette feature on Picasa.
Joss monkeyed around and the rest of us tried to keep him from falling off the trail.
And we took a lovely walk out in the leaves. You've got to give them a good send-off since they won't be back for another 11 months.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Quips from the Natives

The Skype generation discovers General Conference.
Joss to Elder Richard G. Scott: Hello? . . . Hello? . . . You talk to me? . . . Hello?

Maddie: Can I has scriptures?

Joss: Can I do yoga?

Rob: Who would you like to meet in the afterlife? Mimi?
MA: Grandpa Oscar.
Rob: Madeline Kahn.
Will: 'Someone broke my igneous rocks.' 'I feel your pain, man. I hate it when my igneous rocks are even touched.' *

Joss: Papa, can we go to the zoo? Can we go to a schloss?

Rob, giving a lecture on social class in his turn-of-the-century Vienna writing seminar: So what are some indicators that someone is of another social stratum?
finally somewhere out of the back: Someone uses the word 'stratum'?

Rob and MA waking up. Joss comes in
Mama: Joss, why don't you go out and jump on the trampoline?
Papa: That's a good idea Joss.
Joss, settling in, intending to go nowhere: Hey, I love you guys!

Maddie: Hold still or I'm going to give you fifty lashes!
Joss: I don't want eyelashes!

Heather A.: I just think that Joss is magical.
Rob: Yes, but it's a dark magic.

* From What's Up Doc which stars Madeline Kahn as Miss Eunice Burns.

Monday, September 05, 2011


Over Labor Day weekend we had a whirlwind trip out to Berkeley for John and Clarissa's wedding. It was held at the Berkeley City Club, another beautiful Julia Morgan building. It was an intimate, personal ceremony and we were glad we got to be there to see it. Aside from that, we played hard, we ate well, and we fell apart before the dancing began! Here is more of the occasion in pictures:
bride and groom with nieces and nephews
reading an e.e. cummings poem during the ceremony
Shumway siblings
McFarlands were here
oooh! nice eyebrow! Joss banged it into the door of the rental car that afternoon and it would not stop bleeding.
the cousins snuck off for some pictures in the courtyard
flower girls dance with the bride
parents of the groom give a toast
during Clarissa's mother Barbara's toast
Sebastian talking to Grandpa
Each table was themed with a spot from Manhattan
Milkshakes used for toasts (John's friend Will said the next morning: "So it really is true -- you can have fun without drinking!")
Karen, Maddie and Rosemary