Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Holiday Portraits

And finally, we are at the end of the Christmas chronicle. As mentioned before, the children had their pictures taken. On this particular day, they were not quite as cooperative as I would have liked. I think the photographers were glad to see us go.

This is the family picture we chose for the Christmas cards we didn't send, but it does look lovely hanging on the wall.

Mary Rachel and Tyce .

Cute Cameron.

Handsome Harrison.

Best buddies.
Ack! Too much love!

Dashing Tyce.

Beautiful Mary.
One of the many pictures we didn't choose but I like it because it makes me laugh!

Happy New Year from the Jones Family!

Christmas Day

And now back to our regularly scheduled progam.

If I could bottle up how nice, pleasant, and charming our children were on Christmas morning and pour some in their milk every day for breakfast, I would have the easiest job in the world. They helped each other, spoke kindly, laughed at each other's jokes, waited respectfully . . . it was awesome and odd at the same time.

I'd take more of that any day.

Well, Cameron woke up first and went into Mary's room. They played for a while together, and then they went into Tyce's room, where Tyce read to them. That pretty much melted my heart. Then they came to get Harrison from the side of my bed. Pretty soon they gathered at the top of the stairs, where we said our family prayer. Bryce and I went down first so we could get some pictures.

Santa brought some nice stocking gifts, including jingle bell necklaces and packs of cheese and crackers. He also brought a Ripstick for Tyce, a Razor scooter for Harrison (so he and Mary don't have to fight over hers anymore), and a twist car for Cameron. (That twist car is cool! No batteries, no pedals, just steering.)

Unfortunately it rained on Christmas day.

So our hallways became the Indie 500.

Miss Mary got a mask-making kit, which was at the top of her wish list. (These are actually bubbles; the mask picture was too blurry.)

Santa also replaced the usual orange at the toe of the stocking with a lovely pomegranate.

Note to self: never do that again.

(Remember that the stain remover worked well on the carpet, but neither the kitchen cabinets nor the walls fared as well.)

Well, we ate breakfast (cinnamon rolls, sausages, and oranges). I am getting wicked good at making cinnamon rolls.

After that we went to the Christmas tree. The kids got a blanket to sit on and they opened their gifts. They get three from us, because Jesus got three gifts from the Wise Men. One is gold: the thing they really want; one is frankincense: something practical (like a new backpack, alarm clock, or clothes); and one is myrrh: something enriching or educational (like a puzzle, a fun how-to book, tickets to an event, or the promise of time spent together doing an activity. I gave M. "12 Days of Baking" with a cookie cutter and some hot pads, with a note saying I'd bake with her every month this year.).

Of course they get awesome gifts from grandparents and aunts/uncles too, so there is a wonderful variety of gifts for the children to open.

I took a million pictures but here are just a few.

They loved all their gifts, both the things people picked out for them, and "spending power" in the form of cash!

It was great morning.

In the late afternoon we invited the Shapiros over with their 5 kids. The kids all showed off their loot, and the adults talked and played games. I wouldn't say it was relaxing with 9 children running around, but it sure was fun!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Date Night

Before I go any further with the Christmas chronicle, I must slip in that Bryce and I went on a date.

(For anyone with small children, you will love when your oldest gets to be about 12 and can babysit. Trust me.)

We went cosmic bowling at Sunset Station. My score was 168. Pretty good eh? Even . . . IMPRESSIVE . . . right? Thank you.

In the spirit of full disclosure I must admit that 168 was my combined score between two games.

That first game I was kind of on fire. I had two strikes, a few gutter balls, but overall consistency that was inching me closer and closer to shutting Bryce down and finally winning the game. At the last frame, I led by about 15 points.

And then I burst into tears. Figuratively, of course. Who bowls their first strike of the game on frame 10? Darn you, Bryce Jones.

I lost by 3 points. Or maybe 2. Well, let's just call it a tie, since I WAS winning for so long.


After that we went where all the happenin' hot couples finish off their dates: Barnes and Noble. We both got a stack of books, found two chairs (together!) and read the night away. I read several cookbooks, a memoir (3 or 4 chapters at the beginning, middle and end--done!), and a Martha Stewart magazine. Bryce read a book about serial killers and one on the brain.

Every once in a while I'd say something like, "Honey, look at this picture of polenta pancakes with tomato yogurt salsa--what do you think?" and he'd give an appreciative nod--like yeah, awesome!--partly because he knows me well enough that a thumbs down would likely end with me saying "Harumph!" and feeling annoyed.

Well played, Mr. Jones.

At 11:00 pm they kicked us out of the store and we headed home.

I just love date night.

Christmas Eve

At our house, December 24th is where most of our Christmas traditions take place. First we start with a dinner; this year we chose a traditional English meal. Standing rib roast, roasted potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, green beans . . . and red jello. (The kids have to have SOMETHING they'll eat.) Mary sets the table with linens, china, and candles. And then we eat by candlelight. There's something festive-feeling about eating in the almost-dark.

We always do Christmas crackers, an English tradition Bryce loved from his mission.

(This year they will be New Years crackers, because we forgot them on top of the fridge.)

We clean up before our program. Of course the parents' jobs take a lot longer than the kids'.

Mary played "Jingle Bells" with flair.

Tyce read to the younger ones. Yes, they both have Batman masks on.

And finally we have our program.

We watch The Nativity and then we talk about the prophesies in the Book of Mormon of Jesus' birth. Each person gets a candle and we talk about sharing our light. We sing Christmas songs.

After that the kids sit by the tree to open their "one present."

We give the kids new pajamas and a special book. I was in charge of the night-wear and Bryce did the books.

Tyce got a Christmas volume of a Redwall book, and a graphic Redwall novel.

Mare got "Swan Lake" by Bryce's favorite author Mark Helprin, and he downloaded Tchaikovsky's music onto a CD for her to listen to while she read.

Cameron got illustrated poems by Langston Hughes; Harrison got illustrated poems by William Blake. They both love the poem "Tiger Tiger."

And then the kids go to bed with hugs and kisses.

Harrison was particularly concerned that he'd stay asleep so that Santa could come. At about 2 am he sneaked into our room and laid right down by the side of the bed. The next morning he was thrilled that Santa didn't notice he'd switched sleeping spaces.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Catch up

Here are some goings-on from the week.

We went to Tyce's holiday band concert. I promise he's in here somewhere.

We did some Christmas shopping.

The kids got holiday pictures taken.

Bryce has taken a sick day. I hope he's well by Christmas.

I made lots and lots of treats to deliver to friends. Delicious!

Harrison tried to convince Mary that I wanted a toy gun for Christmas . . . which he hoped I'd pass on to him.

I wrapped gifts this morning.

I watched Mr. Krueger's Christmas. I love that Jimmy Stewart.

The kids watched several other Christmas movies.

We tried to visit Ethel M after the snowstorm but the lights were down.

We are excited about Christmas Eve and our special dinner and program.

We are happy!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Fluffy, white, and cold

The local weather people love drama, so I was skeptical that the "huge snowstorm" slated to hit "parts of the valley" and cause "major traffic delays" would really affect me.


I have never been so happy to be wrong.

On Wednesday the skies were gray and it began to rain. (M. had the day off for parent/teacher conferences.) The next time I went out I noticed that the drops had turned to snow, so I called each child out individually to show them. I whispered, "Don't tell anyone until they come out! It's a secret!" But I made a big mistake. I brought Mr. Noisy (aka Cameron) outside first. Pretty soon Harrison, who was wearing shorts, and Mary, who was supposed to be cleaning her room, danced around outside singing, "Snow! Snow! Snow!" although I don't think they could tell on their own. It looked a lot like rain.

HOWEVER. It got colder. It got wetter. And soon the valley looked like this:

Bryce left work early and picked up some emergency supplies, such as mozzerella sticks, pizza rolls, and mittens.

Soon our little world was filled with snow!

When Tyce came home from school, his friends Kyler and Brian went to the park and built a snow fort.

And Mary built this winged snowman all by herself.

Lots of hot chocolate later, the twins went to bed and the rest of us stayed up playing LIFE. (I almost won.) The night was made sweeter by finding out that school was canceled the next day!

We got at least half a foot of snow at our house.

The next day Bryce took a "snow day" too, and the kids had friends over to play all afternoon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pensive and Personal

You know how I mentioned that Family Home Evening on Monday really touched me. In fact, it touched me so much that I began to wonder what *I* could sacrifice, what I undoubtedly SHOULD sacrifice because I am so richly blessed. I have steady income, a giant house, an awesomely organized pantry, a best friend for a husband, and kids who look like models for The Children's Place. My life isn't perfect, but what I'm saying is that the Lord has blessed me with so much.

Because I have been given much, I too must give.

Ever since we got the twins in 2005, people have asked me if we're done adding to our family. I have always said something like, "Yes, defintely," because, hello, I had always felt like my life was completely out of control after doubling the kid-count over here. But part of me was open to the possibility, maybe, down the road if I got hit over the head by lightning, that we might adopt another child.


I prayed the other night, I can't remember what for, but I felt something unusual . . . but familiar. "Not the lightning bolt, please not the lightning bolt," I said, in the part of my brain that was cowering in the corner. The warm feeling filled my heart and I really wanted to make it go away. I wanted to sing, "I can't hear you!" but I did.

Because I have been given much, I too must give.

I know that feeling.

Hesitantly, I called Bryce today and asked him if he felt our family was complete. You know, just the kind of casual conversation that follows, "What are you eating for lunch today, Do you know exactly what time Tyce's band concert is," and the like. Of course we've discussed this before and the answer has always been a big fat yes. This time he said, "Yes, but . . ." and named all the ways we've been blessed. Wouldn't it be a shame to keep it all to ourselves?


And today is our family anniversary. The day that toddler Tyce came to live with us at 17 months of age. The day we became parents. The day that changed our family forever, for the better.

We're in the thinking stages. Just thinking. Pondering. Staying open to possibilities. Warming up the idea.

We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas activities

1. The Ward Party. Friday night was a beautiful and well-attended dinner. The three younger kids mostly ate the candy scattered about the table.

At least their breath was minty-fresh.

The Primary kids did a live nativity: Tyce was a wise man. Harrison was Bryce's sidekick for narration from Luke 2, Cameron was too shy to get on the stage, and Mary pouted back at the table (reason unknown).

The Young Women and some leaders did their dance and I thought it was great! A little chaotic but a lot of fun. We showed the video of their performance in opening exercises Sunday and the girls were like, so embarrassed. j/k

At the end of the party, Santa came to town. A festive time was had by all.

2. Stake Youth Christmas Cantata. Sunday night was a musical presentation called "Jesus, Once of Humble Birth" written by Sally DeFord and directed by the extremely talented Darrell Crowther. I was so happy to have a good turn out, and even happier that we had two sets of visitors: Judge Dawson and his wife, and Donna Silva with her husband and daughter. It was nice to look out and see so many friendly faces. Tyce was a gracious host and welcomed our guests before the performance.

The music was powerful. I really felt the Spirit as I sang of Jesus Christ. Tyce said that he felt the same way. Dallin H. Oaks said that sometimes we gain a testimony by the bearing of it. I think that for many young people that night, that was true.

3. Family Home Evening. Bryce plans the best FHEs, by the way. Bryce had the kids put on their pajamas, get a blanket, and come to the living room. He turned off the lights except for the fireplace and the Christmas tree. After an opening song and prayer, we watched the video "The Nativity." When I hear that angelic voice sing, "Let earth receive her king" while the Virgin Mary holds the baby, it really chokes me up.

After the video we discussed the teachings in Matthew 25, culminating in this verse:

Inasmuch as ye have a done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Bryce brought up the fact that in these tough economic times, some families are struggling to keep their jobs, homes, and food on the table. Mary mentioned that someone at her school lived out of a car. We talked about what it might be like to be cold, hungry, and worried all the time.

And then came the challenge. Bryce asked the kids if they would be willing to forfeit one of their three Christmas gifts, and donate the money we would have spent to help someone else.

The room was quiet.

It was an obviously tough choice. What if they didn't get the thing they really wanted? Could they really part with the joy of "getting"? Would they be able to sacrifice something they wanted to help someone else? I know these thoughts ran through my mind.

Finally Tyce asked, "Can I give my allowance instead of a gift?"

"How much allowance?" Bryce asked.

I think Tyce sat up a little straighter when he said, "A whole year."

Bryce wrote down a figure. "You know that means this much, right?"

Tyce looked at the paper. "Yes. I know. And I want it all to go to Fast Offering."

That money was a million dollars in his eyes, and he gave it away.

(Do you know how proud I was of him at that moment?)

Mary also agreed to give up her allowance, for three months.

I really felt a special spirit in the room that night. Even the little ones wanted to give their "money" away, so Bryce wrote a figure on a piece of paper for them too.

Our closing song summed up the evening:

Because I have been given much, I too must give.
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live
I shall divide my gifts from thee
with every brother that I see
Who has the need of help from me.

(From Hymns page 219, Text by Grace Noll Crowell, Music
by Phillip Landgrave)

We had a sweet end to the night.