Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December Favorites

I’m graduating in seven weeks.  SEVEN weeks.  It almost seems unreal.  I have been in and out of school with three different majors and three different universities for nearly ten years just trying to obtain a bachelor’s degree all while popping out babies.  There were several moments where the finish line seemed impossibly far, and I assumed I’d be in my forties or fifties by the time I wore a cap and gown again. Amazingly, in seven weeks, I will finally realize the dream I have worked and sacrificed so much for.  I wish I could say this was the end of my school days, but I still have a master’s degree on the horizon.  However, I will be taking a year off between degrees to rest, recuperate, and give my kids some extra lovin’ to make up for all of the days and nights I impatiently rushed them to bed or shushed them incessantly so I could work on homework.  During this coming year, I want to revive my neglected blog, finish editing my book, and reorganize my house (you should see the guest room. . . yikes).

Part of my blog revival will be weekly posts.  Mostly, there will be the same old stories about my life, cooking disasters, and overly dramatic moments, but I also want to do monthly favorites.  My most beloved blog, Young House Love, used to do monthly superlatives, and I enjoyed reading those posts.  I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite things like activities I’ve done with my kids or recipes that made my taste buds sing.  Maybe even some beauty items will make it in there. Because December was such a busy month, it seems like the perfect time to begin this tradition.

December Favorites
My Fireplace
Who knew that a gas fireplace could be so expensive?  Not me.  When we moved into the house last January, I turned the fireplace on almost every night.  But a $170 gas bill seemed like a steep price to pay for a little ambiance.  Paul forbade encouraged me to save the flickering flames for special occasions.  WHAT IS MORE SPECIAL THAN CHRISTMAS?  The excitement of opening presents on Christmas morning was only enhanced by a roaring fire.  I highly recommend it.  If you don’t have a fireplace, maybe open presents by the kitchen stove for a similar effect?

Christmas Attire
Much to my grand dismay, I was not invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party this year.  Okay, I’ve never been invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party, but I imagine they are the most enjoyable thing on this great green earth.  Second to white elephant, of course.  Anyway, because I had no party permitting me to dress like a mom from an 80’s Christmas card, I decided to wear my husband’s sweater and some gaudy earrings on a random weekday.  I secretly hoped someone would notice and think, I bet that eccentric woman would be fun to invite to my ugly sweater party.  I’m still waiting for an invitation, but in the meantime, I found the holiday attire really lifted my spirits.  Washing dishes felt romantically domestic.  Grocery shopping made me feel like Mrs. Krank.  Wiping Sam’s bum after a number two was suddenly like frosting a yule log.  My afternoon nap dreams even consisted of dancing sugar plums.  New life goal: Christmas sweater for every day of December.

Arctic Circle Cookie Butter Shake
Shut. The. Front. Door.  This was one of the most heavenly treats to cross the threshold of my house this month. It’s a vanilla base with Biscoff cookie butter incorporated into the clouds of bliss.  Paul brought one home as a surprise on a particularly stressful day, and as I stared into his beautifully blue, caring, thoughtful eyes while we shared the cup of heaven, I couldn’t help but think, Gee, I wish he would go away so I can have this all to myself.  It was that delicious, people.  Go get one before the holiday flavors are gone.

Photo retrieved from
I’ve had the opportunity to play this game a few times this month, and no matter what group I played with, I laughed till I cried.  There is no strategy required, so when your brain feels like mush after gorging yourself with tasty delights, this game is the perfect solution to distract from the painful digestion occurring deep within your bowels.  Try it.  It will not disappoint.

Our Ward Party Santa

If this Santa is not the big man himself from the actual North Pole, then I’m not detail-oriented.  When we heard the announcement that Santa was coming onto the stage at our ward Christmas party, we were desperate for Sam to meet Santa for the first time for that quintessential photo op.  As we searched for the illusive lad, I notice a woman pointing to the stage.  Santa walked out and waved to the crowd, and our little Sam was trailing behind him, absolutely spellbound.  Apparently, Sam found him in the hall and had been following him ever since.  Santa gave him a hug and pulled him onto his lap.  He spoke so softly that I couldn’t hear their conversation, but as Sam came off the stage from his magical moment, he looked up at me and said, “Mom! Santa loves me!”  My heart melted right there onto the floor, and I had to use my coat to wipe up the mess.  Annie, unlike Sam, was scared to see Santa and came running from the line crying.  I gave her a minute to watch the other children, and she decided she could try again if I came with her.  Once her turn arrived, she seemed pretty calm.  She wouldn’t sit on Santa's lap, but he gave her a hug and asked her about her Christmas wish.  It was such a sweet moment that I suddenly understood why so many moms stand in obscene lines at the mall (though I was also grateful I didn’t have to).

Temple Square
Many Utahans have a December tradition of visiting Temple Square to see the Christmas lights.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had the opportunity to do so, and I forgot what an incredible experience it is.  If you’re into crazy crowds of cold, grumpy adults and frostbitten children blocking all of the best views, I highly suggest going the three or four days before Christmas like we did.  I got some of the most beautiful pictures of strangers looking surprised by my flash.  I spent half of the tour shouting, “Hold my hand!” or “Hold Daddy’s hand!” or “Do we have all of our children?” or “Sam?!  Where are you?”  Really, it was a great vocal exercise that properly prepped my voice to belt Christmas songs over the sounds of my kids' over-tired sobs on the drive home.  In all honesty, I’m glad I went.  We got to go went with my in-laws and had a lovely bonding experience.  Annie has already asked when we can go back.  Next year, I’ll try to go earlier in the month.

My New Laptop
This is my ugly cry, courtesy of my mom.
Though I'm usually not keen on publicizing Christmas presents, as I type this blog post on a particular present, I can’t help but think of it as my number one favorite thing.  Nine years ago, I saved up my pennies and bought my first laptop.  His name was Harvey, and he was my baby.  I used to polish his glossy exterior, slip him into my backpack, and carry him with me across campus.  I remember sitting in this little nook in the Jesse Knight Building (JKB) at BYU and being warmed by the laptop as I analyzed African Bushman or Baroque architecture.  Harvey made me feel like I was playing college student similar to the way fun food made me feel like I was playing house.  Unfortunately, like most technology, he started to slow down and freeze up when I tried to perform simple tasks.  When we moved here in January, it took the internet company a month to come out and hook up our router to their network.  In the meantime, I dragged Harvey to the empty townhouse every evening so I could work on homework.  His glitchiness reached an all-time high as every click took at least ten minutes to compute and typing had a 15-second delay.  I was in constant fear that I would lose my work, and once the internet was installed in the new house, I retired poor Harvey to my backpack permanently.  Though I have a computer to do my homework on now, I have missed the freedom my laptop afforded me.  There are Saturdays when I drive 40 minutes to do homework at my parent’s house when a laptop could take me a mile away to the library for some quiet study time. There are also so many nights when the stationary computer is too far from my sick children’s bedrooms or the areas where they play.  During this month alone, there were several nights where my kids coughed and heaved, and I cried on the couch because I felt so torn between them and my grades.  My sweet family noticed my laptopless stress and pooled their money to buy me a beautiful, shiny, new laptop for Christmas.  I still tear up thinking about it.  Harvey 2.0 is going to help me finish out the next seven weeks and then carry me on into the master’s degree.  I feel so loved and blessed by my favorite people who gave me my favorite gift.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

More Christmas

This month is flying by way too fast, and I feel like I haven't had much time to soak in the season. I'm incredibly thankful for Christmas music that can make washing dishes, cleaning toilets, and snuggling sick kids just a little more festive. The next few days will be filled with the best kind of madness and people I love like crazy. For me, being around family and friends is one of the best gifts ever, only second to my Savior.

As I've read a piece of the nativity story with my children each morning, I have been so touched by the simplicity. Sometimes I feel this need for more stuff or more adventures or more talent or more praise. But that is not what Christ wanted us to have more of. He wanted us to have more charity. More love. More compassion. More understanding. More joy. More peace. That is what I want to strive for in the upcoming year. I hope you all have a merry Christmas filled with all of the best and most worthwhile mores.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Have you ever been sick with severe congestion and lost your sense of taste for so long that you almost forgot what strong flavors were like?  Have you ever been so cold that you lost some feeling in your toes but didn't realize it until you stepped in the shower and your feet couldn't feel the heat of water beating down?  Have you ever been unaware that you've become desensitized to a sound until someone asks you how you are not bothered by the rattle or beeping or incessant sound of screams?  Maybe these aren't relatable questions, but I know I have personally experienced them all.  I have been numb and not even realized it.

I was scrubbing dishes this evening while my children frolicked in the living room.  Annie was being abducted by Miss Hanigan, and Sam was trying to save her with a toy broom.  My iPod sang from across the counter, and I belted out the familiar words.  I could see my reflection in the dark window, face illuminated by the overhead light, and I allowed my shoulders to dance as my hands scraped away at crispy egg residue in my non-stick skillet.  Glancing over at the microwave, I realized it was time for baths, so with a flick of my fingers, I pulled them from the sink, dried them on a Christmas towel, and then swooped up my stinky son.  When both kids were naked and blanketed in bubbles, I stepped back into the kitchen to finish cleaning.  A new song played from the iPod dock, and I recognized it as a waltz.  Embolden by a lack of witnesses, I began to box step in my kitchen, which soon evolved into copious amounts of twirling and general merriment as the sexy trumpet cried and a gritty voice professed his love in a sweeping melody.  I could feel my extremities fill with a radiant, youthful light which seemed to shoot from my fingertips with every extension of my arm.  I closed my eyes and remembered the exhilaration of fanning out and facing the stage lights at my high school ballroom concert.  One, two, three.  One, two, three.  One, two, three.  One, two, three!  I spun out and then spun back in, except it was not into the arms of an imaginary partner but the countertop.  A gasp of pain escaped my lungs which was shortly replaced by embarrassed and amused chortles.  I looked up at the dark window over the sink and studied my carefree smile in awe at the uplifting powers of a simple song.

Two years ago, I rarely listened to music.  It played in my car to drown out the sounds of crying children, but at home, it was a rarity.  If you know me well, you may find this odd.  I have always loved music.  I sang in the choir in elementary school.  I played the clarinet and did musical theater when I was in junior high and high school.  At BYU, I was never without my iPod to set the tone of my campus walks.  However, while I was in the throws of depression, music didn't feel the same.  It didn't feel like much of anything if I'm honest.  It was merely white noise.  At the time, I chalked it up to growing older and sluffing off the last of my childhood, but now that music once again invigorates my soul, I realize I was just numb.