Sunday, December 30, 2007

New Year's Eve

Well, since coming home from church, I have spent the last few hours taking down Christmas decorations. I am far from done as my one year old kept taking things out of the boxes that I had just put in them. I like to have most if not all of the decorations down by January 5th--the 1st preferably.

Anyway, I thought I would briefly write about what our family does for New Year's Eve. We have taken this from Dentist husband's family. I ask each child what food item they want me to prepare for dinner. It can be ANYTHING. With my husband's family, the food requests have been as simple as cottage cheese or as grandiose as Beef Wellington. This year, my kids kept it fairly simple. Toothsome #1: Lettuce wedges--iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing. Toothsome #2: Homemade noodles. Toothsome #3: Roasted hot dogs. Toothsome #4 is too little to request. I usually request slushy Limeade.

So our dinner is a strange assortment of foods but everyone gets their favorite item added to the pile. In the last few years, I have added "The Awards Ceremony." Besides this blog, I have written a detailed family letter for the last 12 years or so. I write it on average about every two weeks and it is e-mailed and in a few cases for people without e-mail, regular mailed. I started it when my parents were called as MTC presidents in the Dominican Republic and it has been a great documentation of our lives. Anyway, I review the past year's family letters and make awards for each child spotlighting this past year's accomplishments. For example, "Great Swimmer Award" to a child who has passed off many levels of swimming. Or, "Outstanding Pre-schooler" for the child who started pre-school. And often more specific like, "Great Header" to the child who scored his first header goal in soccer. The kids LOVE it and it is a fun way to look back on the year.

We also set out all of our games and play games until bedtime.

Around 9:00 pm, (I am mean and have yet let my kids stay up until midnight), we go outside and bang on pots and pans (something from my husband's family) before sending everyone to bed. My husband and I will often stay up and play Scrabble or watch a movie but we rarely stay up until midnight. With little kids, midnight is too close to their true waking up hours.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Some Christmas Pics

Christmas Eve Fondue

In their new Hannah Andersson pajamas

Toothsome #4 with her doll purchased from Michelle

Boys with their Boss brand Bow and Arrows. These are really the best type of "play in the house and have battles with your brother" bow and arrows.

Toothsome #2 with her Melissa and Doug art easel

Thursday, December 27, 2007

FYI: The Talbots Sale

The Talbots semi-annual sale started yesterday. It is a grand tradition in my family of girls for all of us to go either together or now that we are in different states to go and then call each other with information about our purchases. This year, I got a sweater, a skirt and a dress. My mom and sister and I all got the same skirt. Anyway, just thought you all should know.

10 Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today, Dentist husband and I were married. It has been a fun ride.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Melodee Bells

My friend Gabriela wrote about these bells about a month ago on her blog. When she was living in Mexico, a friend of hers introduced them to her. I liked the idea so much, I ordered a box for our family. Here is how it works: They are plastic colored bells. Each bell is a different color and is labeled by a number as well as the actual note. The bells come with a music book that has the numbers under each note. I took the book to my local copy center and had each page enlarged to poster size. I then circled each note with the corresponding matching bell color. I then posted all of these up in my living room, handed out the bells to each family member (everyone got two) and then the fun began! Because they are color coded, even my three year old could do it. I stood by each song, and pointed at the notes with a chopstick, and we were able to sing along with each song as well as play.
Ever since I brought these out, the kids insist on doing them every night before bed time. Gabriela actually ordered four boxes and invites friends over to do it. If I am ever called to be Primary chorister again, I will get three more boxes. Can you imagine the fun the kids in Primary would have with these?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Friend Gift

I don't remember giving my friend's Christmas gifts until I was in high school, but around here, it is what all the elementary kids do. Every few days, there seems to be a knock on the door, and I open it to find a cute little person with a gift for one of my kids. For the past few years, this is what we have given in return.

They are called, "Bomb Bags" and they are Mylar bags with citric acid and baking soda inside. You break the citric acid pouch and once the reaction takes place, it makes a loud bang! The kids LOVE it.

Anyway, I have found them at various places on-line but I have had the most success with a company called, "Zymetrical".

I purchased Christmas themed plastic gift bags and then put 10 of the bomb bags inside. We stapled them shut with a note that says, "Hope your Christmas is a blast!" (Sorry about the sideways picture. I am too lazy to switch it.)
Anyway, it is a huge success among all of my kid's friends, boys and girls alike. Just make sure tell the parents to do the bags outside as they are loud and very mildly messy. And for those of you who don't know, the colder it is outside, the longer it takes for the reaction to happen. So, be patient if you live in cold climates.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Present for Dentist Husband

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am PASSIONATE about recording family stories. While I get little to no satisfaction doing true research based genealogy, there are few things I like more than sitting down with a family member, preferably with a tape recorder running and asking them questions about their life. It doesn't matter how old they are, even three year old's can be surprisingly insightful to life, I just love getting hearing and keeping for posterity people's life stories.

Anyway,the big family gift this year is a piano, so we are trying to limit spending on each each other this Christmas. So, for Dentist Husband, I contacted all of his siblings and asked them to write one or more stories/memories they have that deal with him. He is the third child of (gulp) nine children. All of them by the way university graduates (ok, the jury is still out on the youngest, but he is only a few years away from finishing his graphic design degree from BYU--Go cougars.)

Anyway, I had to post this story because it really captures what a great man I am married to. I had to go through and change his real name to dentist husband in every case, but besides that, this is what was sent to me by my husband's youngest sister (8 of 9).

The story I feel I must tell comes from the deep recesses of my mind and is filled with a lot of myth. But to this day, I believe that it is true! And now I will continue my story.

There are a lot of things I remember about dentist husband; the way he would play with us on weekends during high school and then in college he'd come home to watch Star Trek... or was it to eat dinner with the fam? I can't remember exactly which. Still, I remember that he made an effort to spend time with us little ones whenever he could.

I remember one night especially when I was about 5 or 6 years old, we were all placed under his watch. (Note to Janice: I swear proper nouns ending with an 's' get an extra apostrophe 's' when used to show possession... if this is not true, please change it to be correct). I had been sent to bed (I say sent because I rarely fell asleep as soon as I went to bed. I would lay awake for hours it seemed staring at the ceiling imagining patterns there, or thinking of stories about people and places in my life and then convince myself they were true.) I had been placed in bed and was instructed to go to sleep. But I began to think, and I began to think about how awesome it would be if I could still be awake and doing stuff. I tossed and I turned and I strained to hear the faint sound of the television. Blast! Dentist husband is watching a good show I'm sure! I tried sleeping the other way, repeating to myself that my body was tired a la Mom's style ("my toes are sleepy... my toes are sleepy... my toes are sleepy...") and nothing seemed to work.

So, up I got. I went to him (because one cannot get out of bed without providing an adequate explanation to the supervising adult of the time) to tell him the new development. "Dentist husband," said I, "I cannot sleep at all. I know what you're thinking, 'You just want to be awake and doing stuff,' but that's not it. I really think I cannot sleep at all tonight... I think that I'll just never sleep."

He looked at me semi-frustrated, semi-understandingly. I could tell that the wheels in his head were turning. As I sat there wondering what my fate might be, he came to a conclusion. "Oh really?" he replied, "You've tried everything? Well, then, it's time for my special remedy."

Special remedy? Could there really be a "special remedy" for not-being-able-to-go-to-sleep? I was torn between relief and disappointment. On the one hand, this was the end of my aspirations to be awake and doing stuff, and on the other hand I could be free from the seemingly endless days of lying awake each night. I considered his offer and, being curious, chose to follow him to the kitchen.

Once there, I was asked to sit up at the counter on one of the stools and wait while he put together the mixture. I tried to catch glimpses of the ingredients he chose so that I might decide in my mind whether or not this remedy was a fluke, but he kept the lights low and his back to me. The only thing I really saw was milk. "Milk, eh?" I thought, "That's not so bad... and not so remedy-ish either... I'll wait to see what unfolds."

When he was finally finished he handed me a milky brown liquid and began, "Now this is pretty powerful stuff. Take a sip and you'll start to feel sleepy immediately."

"How sleepy?" I think I asked.

"Oh, pretty sleepy. Your arms will start to feel heavy (I distinctly remember this "arms" bit) and your eyelids will start to close. But don't worry, I'll help you get back to your bed if you need some help."

I looked at the brownish liquid, inquired as to the ingredients, to which I was answered that it was a secret recipe, and with apprehension, I took a sip. I'm not sure I know exactly how to describe the flavor, but I think in my 5 or 6 year old mind the word I came up with was "gross". The milky brown liquid was extremely sweet and kind of organic tasting, like it came from dead leaves or something (He later told me it was molasses... go figure). I swallowed it down with a shiver and waited for its effects to kick in.

And they did!

My arms began to feel heavy, very heavy in fact, and then my eyelids began to close without being told to.

"How do you feel?" he asked."I don't know," I said, trying to avoid the inevitable for as long as I could.

"Are your arms getting heavy?"

"Is it difficult to keep your eyes open?"

"Yes," I was getting progressively more sleepy.

"Why don't you take one more sip just to make sure?"

I reluctantly took another sip... significantly smaller this time and evaluated the results. I tell you I was sleepy! And genuinely sleepy! It had worked! Again, I was both elated and dismayed. But I couldn't seem to control those increasingly heavy arms of mine.

He told me that he'd put the special remedy in the fridge, just in case I woke up again (I remember making up my mind not to tell he even if I did) and helped me off the stool and off to bed (I think I remember him telling me that I was quite dramatic at this point, unable to walk in a strait line or watch where I was going). After that, I fell right to sleep.

In the morning, I opened the fridge to investigate. What was it that had made me so sleepy? Was it real or was it a dream? But, there it was, that milky brown liquid that I had so loathed and loved. It was real and I couldn't deny it.
Try as I may, I have never been able to replicate such an effective insomnia remedy, nor do I plan to. But I do remember how impressed I was with my older brother. Gees, he knows everything!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

This past weekend, I turned 35.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Merry Christmas

My sister forwarded this to me in an e-mail. So much fun!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Magic of Thanksgiving Point

For the last three years, we have taken our kids to see the lights at Thanksgiving Point. For whatever reason, the whole experience just "fits" how we like to do things as a family. For a mere $7, ($5 if you have the coupon and go Tuesday-Thursday) you can drive, staying warm inside your car through a wonderful, Christmas lights display. We roll down the windows, blast the heat, turn on 100.3 Christmas tunes and let the magic just soak in. We laugh, point out favorite lights, sing with the Christmas songs on the radio and have a great time. At the end of the lights, they have beautiful pictures painted by Simon Dewey of the nativity scene.

And, we always go to the little cafe just inside the entrance of Thanksgiving point for dinner. Their food is EXCELLENT and prices are right. My mouth is watering thinking about the mozzarella and tomato sandwich that I ate. After dinner, we let the kids each get a kiddie cone (25 cents) from their ice cream bar. It was just a perfect Christmas fun night.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas--Christmas Village

About 9 years ago, dentist husband was still in dental school and I was working for a small company as an assistant to the HR director as well as editing anything that left the office. My supervisor was a person about as different from me as possible but we managed to form a nice friendship in spite of it. We often went to lunch together at Chipotle, and she was the first person outside of my family that found out I was pregnant with my first child. (I was really morning sick and the only thing that tasted good was a Pepperidge Farm beef stick. She was a vegetarian and watched in horror as I cut slice after slice of it for lunch one day.)

Anyway, at the time, Oprah had started some movement that dealt with getting a journal, telling a friend why you valued them in it and then giving it to them and they in turn would do it for someone else. Often, a gift was accompanied with the journal. One day, I showed up to work and on my desk is this journal and a wrapped package. It was from my supervisor and in the journal she had written why she valued my friendship. In the package was a Christmas village house--a dental office. I had mentioned at some point that I thought it would fun to have a Christmas village but I wanted a village that had a dental office. She had actually researched villages and found this one for me.

Because of her, I later purchased many more pieces to that village that now sit in various places around my house at Christmas time. I don't have it set up as one scene but various houses, stores, trees and people on the various tables I have on my main floor. So as you walk around my house you discover more things. I think I now have a total of about 15 pieces and it is my kids favorite part of the Christmas decorations. The pretend people travel to different areas and they make believe with them all season long. Yes, various pieces have been broken in the past few years but it is worth it to see how my kids play. It helps add to what I like to call around here our "Christmas Magic."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Ok, I couldn't resist posting this because I have never been called a genius before.

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THE way to see the Temple Square Christmas Lights

Last night, we did an item from our Christmas Fun list. My son had an in-door soccer game downtown. As I have posted many times before, I am not a big fan of in-door soccer and in my efforts to make lemonade out of lemons, I planned a Christmas Fun activity before the soccer game.

We left for downtown early and got parked at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building around 4:45 pm. The Joseph Smith Memorial Building has three great restaurants at varying prices. My favorite used to be "The Garden" but in the past few years they have upped their prices and with four little kids, it is too expensive to do that very often. Also, you have to be dressed nicely--not in the sweats and team t-shirts we were all wearing. So we opted for the relatively new "Nauvoo Cafe". It is a stand-in-line sandwich place on the main level. It is open from 8:00am-8:00pm. The food is really good and the desserts are from the Lion House Pantry. We had fun dinner and could hear Christmas music being sung on the lobby from one of the many high school choirs that perform there all season long. Afterwards, we went upstairs to the 10th level and looked at the Temple Square lights from above. We were warm, there were no crowds to fight with AND we had a spectacular view of the Salt Lake Temple. In past years, I have dressed my kids in all of their winter clothes and we have walked around the Square fighting the crowds of people. I worried I would lose someone and we were all freezing. This time, we all loved it and just soaked in the beauty from the warmth of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.

We then went to my son's soccer game, listened to Christmas music in the car on the way home and my husband and I had a great date of watching, "Ocean's 13".

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas--Christmas Novels

I love the Salt Lake County Library system. It is much better than the one I was raised with and I spend a lot of time each week, checking out books.

A few years ago, I discovered that the librarians at our local library, set out Christmas themed books right after Thanksgiving. I have found a wonderful treasure trove of Christmas books that keep me feeling the spirit throughout the whole season. My indulgence for the last four or five years has been to check out Christmas themed romantic novels. I specify romantic novels--not romance novels because I like clean, romantic, fun love stories. No graphic bedroom descriptions, but total fluff, full of improbable stories of people finding love with a Christmas setting. Every night, I set aside a few minutes, and read them. Silly and frivolous but pure easy fun reads. In January, I again tackle more intense stuff but in not December!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Christmas Memory--Christmas Ornament

I have a December birthday. My due date was actually Christmas Eve but fortunately for my mom (and me) I came early. My mom said it was a great Christmas because since she knew she was having a baby in December, she got everything done really early and since I came early, she was home with a newborn baby and it made that Christmas season very special.

Anyway, shortly after my mom came home from the hospital, my mom's neighbor (Mrs. Adams) brought over a Christmas ornament that said, "Janice's First Christmas 1972". It was a little white felt horse. I don't know exactly who decided to continue the tradition, but every year since, I have received an ornament on my birthday. On each ornament my mom writes the year and often "Janice's 6th Christmas, 5th birthday." They have come to be a wonderful documentation of my life as my mom often tried to buy an ornament that coincided with big events on my life. For example, the year I got married, she purchased a Lenox Wedding Bell ornament. When my father was a mission president in Costa Rica/Panama, the ornaments are Costa Rican birds. One of my favorites is a big 1970's wrapping paper covered box that my sister, Goddess #2 made as my ornament shortly after the tradition started. She asked my mom if she could make my ornament that year and on the tag in her 11-year old handwriting, it says, "Janice's 3rd Christmas, 2nd birthday." As I have had children, my mom has purchased baby themed ones to document their births.

I was the only one to get an ornament, being the only December birthday and it was always the highly anticipated gift that I (and my siblings) looked forward for me to open. And up until my siblings got married and moved away there was a grand procession to the Christmas tree to see where I would place my new ornament. I now have 35 (almost 36 since my birthday is in a few weeks) ornaments and I really need to have a separate tree for just them. One of these years, I am going to do it but until then, they mingle with the rest of the ornaments my kids have made over the years. As I pull them out, I am flooded with memories of past Christmas' and reminisce about them with my kids. And it has always made having a December birthday a little special--often when it can easily be brushed over by the craziness of the season. I am eager to see what will arrive from my mom this year.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Christmas Memory/Recipe

My mom is very pragmatic and instead of having a huge Christmas meal that would require a ton of work, my mom and Dad discovered this Crock-pot recipe that we had every Christmas Day as our Christmas meal. My mom (and I think more often my Dad) would prepare this the night before and refrigerate it , to plug in on Christmas morning. The smell of it cooking is one of the great Christmas memories of mine.

Continental Chicken

(Keep in mind this recipe is 30 plus years old. Low-fat was not part of the vocabulary of America yet. I do try to "slim it down" by using Turkey bacon and low-fat sour cream and Cream of Mushroom soup but it still is full of artery hardening ingredients.)

6-8 chicken breasts
6-8 slices of bacon
1 jar of dried beef (the brand is Armor and you find it in the olive and relish section of the store. Sometimes, you can find a shrink wrapped package in the deli/cheese section). I only use about 1/2 to 2/3 of a jar.
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup flour

Arrange dried beef on the bottom of a greased crock-pot. Wrap each piece of chicken with a strip of bacon and lay on top of the dried beef. Mix sour cream and flour together. Add soup into mixture and pour over the top of the chicken.

Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or High for 3-5 hours.

Serve over hot noodles or rice.

The gravy is so good, I usually double or triple it (the sour cream, flour and soup mixture.)

Christmas Memory--Puzzles

Every December, usually just as we were getting out of school for Christmas Break, my mom would get out our card table and 500 piece puzzle. She set it up in a relatively central part of the house and it would sit there until one or more of us were drawn to work on it.

It was a great activity to fill the empty and cold days of winter break. Through out the holiday season, we would all end up working on it--sometimes alone and sometimes together. My mom loves puzzles with multi-colored flowers and I remember hearing people say with great satisfaction, "Oh, I just finished the whole yellow section" or, "I finally found the last piece for that pine tree!"

My kids are too young to really do that type of puzzle yet, but I am looking forward to continuing that tradition in a few years.