Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Resolution Wrap-Up

Spiritual: My goal was to read the entire Book of Mormon, Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price this year.  The good new is that I kept with it. I read every day, but didn't always read enough each day.  So, I'm 100 pages behind which means this goal will take approximately 12 months and 2 weeks to achieve.  I'm okay with that.

Physical:  Ugh.  This one was the worst.  Between my injury in the spring when I did something nasty to my posterior tibial tendon and getting walking pneumonia at the end of August, running was no bueno this year.  That being said.  I would like to try again.  But, I'll start small this time.  Maybe just try to run 38 miles before my 38th birthday in a little less than 3 months.  I'll have to run between 3-5 miles per week, but I think that's manageable.  And if my body can handle that, I'll make a new goal for the spring.

One thing I found was that I am terrible at training while on vacation.  We travel for at least 4 weeks in the summer and between all the driving and the wacko schedule and staying in new places, I'm terrible at sticking to a fitness routine.  Although, I did discover some really fun fitness apps for my phone that I used a lot while travelling.  I could listen to scriptures in my room in the morning and spend 20 minutes doing the fitness apps for sit-ups, crunches, push-ups, planks, and squats.  My phone became my trainer.  It worked really well on vacation, even if my normal routine didn't.

Financial: We were doing really well with financial goals until last month.  And now we need some pretty major (major=expensive) service done on our van, a new refrigerator, and going over our financial's we realized that we needed to make a larger tithing payment than we'd originally budgeted for thanks to some stock sold earlier in the year that I didn't factor in.  So, we paid the tithing, but are in some cases literally holding things together with duct tape until everything else is sorted.  Just like last January, we're planning on spending money for the two family birthdays we have coming up, and signing up for the next round of classes at the rec center, but food will come as much as possible from our own cupboards and pantries, so we will have a much smaller grocery bill this month.

Last year I started off with a financial fast.  We didn't do it for more than a few months, but it did make me more mindful about what I was buying when and more importantly, why I was buying it.  At the beginning of each month, I would make a list of the things we needed to purchase that were outside of our typical budget and it definitely kept me more focused on our goals.  I will definitely carry that over.

Organizing:  The challenge was great for me.  I confess that I didn't follow everything to the letter, and I didn't finish all the mini-challenges within, BUT it was great to take some projects by the horns, so to speak and get rid of a lot of clutter.  There is still A LOT of room for improvement, so I'll be doing it again this year.  I'll also be doing another month of winnowing, where I donate, throw away, or sell at least one item every day for the month of January. That's something I've been much better about doing this whole year.  And while I still feel like I'm drowning in toys, clothes, papers, etc. I also feel like I have a better handle on it.  

Books I Read this Month:
The Holy Bible (well, I finished it this month, anyway.)
Miranda's Big Mistake
The Nature of Jade
Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince
The Secret Life of Prince Charming
Unspoken (WARNING: If I had not had the 2nd book in the series already in my possession, I would have thrown this one across the room at the end.  WORST ENDING EVER! But very compelling story and the sequel left me more satisfied, though anxious for the 3rd to hurry up and come out already.)
Sweet Tea Revenge
Also, I was able to read a friend's manuscript and it was fantastic! I'm so excited for it to be published! 

Monday, December 30, 2013

I have only myself to blame...

Benjamin plays trombone in band but walks all over the house banging on everything with drumsticks.  Nathaniel actually plays percussion, but has no interest in playing a drum set.  He likes the geekier percussion instruments and specifically asked for a triangle for home so he could "work on triangle technique". 

 Okay, I was a music major.  I played (badly) in drumline in marching band in high school.  I had to take a whole percussion class in college.  And I once played the triangle in a community orchestra concert. (They needed one more percussion player, and I wasn't helping the violins all that much anyway, so nobody complained when I volunteered.)  However, with all that in mind, when he mentioned working on playing the triangle, I just looked at him and said, "There's a technique for triangle??"  Then he looked at me with a withering stare that says, "Ugh, why don't my parents know anything??"  And we moved on.

The point of me telling you this is that I decided to give Benjamin a digital drum set for Christmas.  I did not give him an amp, so I'm at least a little bit intelligent.  It's blessedly quiet and if he starts banging on the furniture with drum sticks, I can send him to his drum set.  He was thrilled with the gift.

I gave Nathaniel a triangle.  He was equally thrilled.  

Blessed weirdos.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

"On Christmas Day in the Morning!"

Thanks to facebook and the like, you're probably all tired of seeing everyone's Christmas pictures.  But as this is my blog and you actually clicked over to it, I can put however many picture I want.  

Lilyanna is at that fun age where Christmas is a magical time of year.  It's been a delight to see her excitement and enthusiasm about this holiday season.  (And sometimes a little exhausting.  Emotions have been running pretty high with all the intensity of her excitement.) 

Our Christmas day was relaxing and low-key.  Last year, we decided that everyone could only give one present to everyone else.  Including me and Todd.  It significantly changed how I thought about and bought for people, but it many ways has made the experience nicer for all of us. 

In past years Lilyanna has been timid about tearing wrapping paper.  NOT SO this year!  She happily tore into her own presents and the presents of anyone else who would let her help them!

Nathaniel holding up some of his haul.  This was the first year he didn't get upset when Todd gave him a pretend present first.  (In the past we've always done socks and underwear and watched him throw a fit.  This year he handled it gracefully, which means we probably won't tease him like that anymore.  So sad.

All things princessy.

Caleb with all 11 of the incarnations of Doctor Who in minifigure form.  Happy day!

The ultimate!  Nathaniel has been begging for Minecraft for years now! I finally gave in for this Christmas.  He was truly surprised and has hugged and thanked me every day since then for this present.

Caleb is ditto with the hugging and thanking on a daily basis thing.

Three Smithly Batmen in their pjs.

What they all did when I said, "Now do a Batman face!"

Merry Christmas from the Smiths!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

'Twas the Night Before Christmas....sort of

I never remember to take before pictures of the house before Christmas, even though I love looking at it.  So, at 2:30 am Christmas Day after everything was done, I snapped a few pictures before crawling up to bed.  The home decorating magazines will never be alerted, but this is what Christmas looks like at our house.

I give the kids books every Christmas, but they have informed me that books don't count as presents, so this year I just left the piles of books per kid on the table.

The tableau of stockings hung by the chimney, etc. used to be prettier before this room was turned into the home school room, but it seem that even with the fireplace blocked by a bookshelf, the stocking still managed to get filled.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 23, 2013

"If they asked me, I could write a book"

Warning: There are at least a bazillion photos in this post.  Proceed at your own discretion.

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary.  We try to do a trip to celebrate our anniversary every 5 years.  So, a couple of weeks ago we managed to time a trip perfectly in between blizzards to NYC.  It was delightful! 

Todd on the airplane.  Reveling in the super cheapness of the plane tickets I found, no doubt.
Part of a series of photos we like to call "Let's text pictures to the kids that will make them jealous!"  Us getting Jamba Juice in Penn Station is jealousy inducing.  (Though my kids are partial to the one right by the subway station at Lexington and 53rd which is our traditional breakfast when we tag along with Todd on business trips.)

We dined at Ellen's Stardust Diner where my dear friend Chris-Ian is a waiter and performer.  And if you are eating gluten free or vegetarian GET THE VEGGIE LASAGNA!!  So. Good!

We took Todd's cousin, Cameron, with us to dinner.  Because we like him.  Look at how adorable he is!

And then we went to see "Twelfe Night" which was the most satisfying theater experience I've had the pleasure to enjoy in the last decade.  It was incredible! They did everything as traditionally as they could without doing it at the Globe Theater.  I wish that every kid who has slogged through reading a Shakespeare play in high school could go see this and really understand what a Shakespeare play is supposed to be like!  It runs through the end of February. Go see it!

Quick stop at the Times Square Toys R Us to take more pictures of things that would make our kids jealous.  We're mean parents.
The next day we slept in, breakfasted late, braved the rain and went to the LDS temple at Lincoln Center.  It's so beautiful inside and such a stark contrast to the bustle and noise right outside the doors.

After the temple we headed over to the Guggenheim and saw the Christopher Wool exhibit.  This is shockingly my first time at the Guggenheim, but I am a convert!  I loved being able to experience the art up close, but then continue up or down the museum and experience it from afar.  It made me realize how much a traditional gallery set-up limits the way you can experience art.

And then off to a gluten friendly Indian restaurant where we sent another picture to our kids.  This one of Todd enjoying naan.  Benjamin would happily live off of nothing but warm naan if he were allowed to do so.

We couldn't figure out why this train was so uncrowded as we headed down to the theater for that night's performance.  Then we noticed the sleeping man.  Oh, well.  On a rainy day in the city, it's tough to find a dry place to nap.

After we saw the new musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" we splashed back up to the apartment we were staying at and put on dry clothes to cuddle on the couch for a bit before bed.

The next day we headed down to Bleeker St. where there were blocks and blocks of places that catered to the gluten free!  Two pizza places and three macaron shops all on the same street!!!  And this place. It was closed, but I like the signage.  I love the village.  

And then back to Penn Station to catch the train back to the airport.  The monitors just aren't as fun as the big flippy chart used to be, but I suppose progress is like that.

View from the train. I know it doesn't look like much, but it still looks like a piece of home to me.

It was delightful to have a trip for a few days that was just the two of us.  And even more delightful to realize that we still really like each other and were happy to spend as much time together as we could.  We have many wonderful friends and relatives in the area, but we decided that we wanted to just be us on our trip.  It was nice to feel good about that together.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"Caroling, Caroling"

Another of our favorite Christmas traditions is singing as many Christmas songs as absolutely possible.  We have some wonderful friends who have an annual night "Cookies and Carols" at their house, and frankly, it doesn't feel like Christmas without it.  We adore these people.  And not just because they are the alto and bass to my soprano and Todd's tenor.  It's a delight to sing with them alone, but even more delightful is to watch our kids enjoy one another so much.  
 For me, music is so wrapped up in the Christmas season that it feels wrong without it.  I've been shopping in two stores this last week where they weren't playing any Christmas music, and I missed it.  I love some good Old English hymns, but am just as happy to sing about Rudolph and Frosty.
 I'm glad that our children are learning to love music of the season as well.  Look at this group of cute little girls all happy to sing songs, too!
I feel very content after a delightful evening of good music and good friends.  (And the homemade chocolates don't hurt, either.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Grinchy Claus

Last night we were able to enjoy Nathaniel as the Grinch in the Worthington Rec Center's production of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas".  They all did a great job, and he had a lot of fun playing a villian of sorts.  Best of all it was the first play that Lilyanna was totally engaged in from start to finish, so we could all enjoy it!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Texts from Todd

Todd: I told Lilyanna that I was texting you to see if you had thoughts for dinner and she said, "Socks for dinner??"

Might be time to clean out her ears...

I'd prefer the argyle soup, please. ;)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Books

Every single Christmas for the last several years we've read aloud as a family 2 books.

First this one:

You should know that I am vehemently opposed to "adaptations" and abridgements.  Ever since 4th grade when I wanted to read "Little Women" but when I went to check it out of my school library and found that the 5 copies they owned were all different, I've avoided abridgements almost entirely.  This book is the one exception to my own personal rule.  It has lovely pictures and illustrations that make my younger children happy, but enough of the original language that the feeling of the original story isn't lost.  Benjamin and Nathaniel have since read the original and agree that it's funnier, but this is still "pretty good".  High literary praise from a middle school boy!

The second is this:

We laugh and laugh and laugh and I cry at the end.  Seriously. We haven't read it even one year where I'm not a blubbering mess at the end of this book.  In fact, I'm tearing up just thinking about the ending.  Unfairly, everyone always wants me to read the end.  It's like they WANT me to cry!  If you saw the movie once, but have never read the book and think you know the story.  Stop reading this, and go get this book right now.  It is wonderful and captures beautifully some of the truths of childhood and life.

Todd just told me I had to mention this one, too:

We do read it every year (gazillions of times some years) but typically just once as a family.  When Benjamin was 2.5 yrs old he had the book memorized and would "read" it to anyone who sat still long enough in his presence.  It was a fun parlor trick.  Lilyanna doesn't have it memorized yet, but still makes Todd read it to her every night at least once.  It's fun when certain stories really resonate with kids.

And then on Christmas Eve we read from the scriptures.  (We read scriptures together every night, but on Christmas Eve we read the Christmas story.)

I'd love suggestions on some new stories to add to our list.  We keep a whole box of books for Christmas that get looked at and read once or twice but the ones listed above are the only ones that we read consistently every year.  Any ideas?

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Annual Christmas Ornaments

Benjamin received a little pine cone that had been fashioned to look like a hedgehog,  in memoriam of Nicco, the Hedgehog.
Each of my children has a lovely Christmas box which holds the ornaments that I've purchased for them, or they've made over the years.  I try to buy an ornament each year that symbolizes an important event, achievement, or love of theirs from that particular year.  I'm also making an album explaining each ornament, so their children will know the stories, too.  My kids get almost as excited for the Sunday after Thanksgiving tree trimming and unveiling of their new ornaments as they do about Christmas itself.

Someday, right now I'm planning on when they get married, I will give them their box of ornaments and album for their first Christmas as their own new family.

Lilyanna received Rapunzel.  She adores the princessy things.  I tried to avoid that whole scene, but it was not to be.  At least this Rapunzel is wielding a frying pan to take out an intruder.  I like a princess who gets things done.

Ah, Caleb and Doctor Who.  He's holding up last year's Dalek ornament as well as this year's 50th anniversary ornament featuring all 11 of the doctors.

The kids happily going through their boxes to rediscover the treasures of years past.

Nathaniel and a manatee.  Nathaniel is obsessed with manatees.  I have no explanation for how or why.  It just is.

Caleb wanted Adipose in on the Doctor Who action as well.  (I do think it's funny that there are angels peeking over into the picture.  They're not exactly weeping, but still...)