We Had a Little Christmas

Our Christmas was perfectly perfect despite the lack of sleep. We finally let Nate crawl into our bed around 6 am and Luke followed around 6:30. By 7, we woke up the girls so we could eat some breakfast before 9 am Church.
We let the kids look through their stocking while we got breakfast (it was baked french toast with buttermilk syrup, so really we got "dessert" ready) made. They were so good about not opening presents until after church. I am so grateful that they understood what Christmas was all about. An what better way to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior than with song and loved ones.
Our sacrament program was amazing and I was so happy to wish some many friends a Merry Christmas. With all the singing and hugging I felt like I was living It's a Wonderful Life. I think I may have been singing too enthusiastically because Karen Malanca kept turning around and looking oddly at me. Also a fun fact -- Luke cries during any slow Christmas song. So he would alternate between clapping and whooping when the choir was done and sticking his lip out and weeping. At least he gave me lots of kisses.

We headed back home and some kids (and mothers) opted to change back in PJs. Livy decided that she would rather steal Sadie's presents instead of open her own.In her defense, the first two presents she opened were PJs and book. I'd steal Sadie's bike too. Unfortunately, she kept telling people that she got a bike for Christmas.I promise that Livy did get lots of really fun presents -- My Little Ponies, a baby doll, snap n style dolls, games, a laptop. . .Ellie, on the other hand was overly enthusiastic about PJs. Ellie got lots of girlie gifts -- shoes, lotions, jewelry, clothes. . . and her own room!! She was over the moon excited about it. Sadie was not. "Oh boy, now I'm going to have horrible dreams all night," she told us. She managed to get over it and help Ellie move everything into her room the next day. Then I found her video recording a tour of her room, "This is my old bed. Now it's a trampoline."Nate had a really fun Christmas. Legos, Bey blades, Paper Jamz. . . Basically everything that is fun to play with and Nate had a blast playing with everything Christmas day. Dustin and I totally disagree when it comes to present opening. He wants to hurry up and get everything open and I'm much more of the play-as-you-go kind of person. We have all day!! Just DO NOT open a present without me in the room. I will hunt you down, rewrap it and force you to recreate the excitement.
Everything Sadie opened was "exactly what I always wanted." They always came with great big hugs too. Oh and she also may tell you that she got an iPad. Sadie believes whatever fantasy world she has created in her head. We may have told her a million times that it is a Barbie laptop. She will still tell you she got an iPad for Christmas.Luke's gift included a giant dinosaur, a scooter and Nate's entire GeoTrax collection. I had them in a giant box that I kept forgetting to wrap. That is until Luke wandered into my room one day, opened the box and screamed, "TRAIN TRACKS!" in delight. I quickly grabbed the box (the box was huge and I'm pretty sure I almost toppled over in this maneuver) and insisted it was full of spider. "No, train tracks." Sadie came in and helped me tape it all up and wrap it as we told Luke scary spider stories. My trick did not work. Every time he came in my room, he would walk right up to the giant box and say, "Train tracks."

It doesn't even matter, though, because to Luke there is only ONE Christmas gift. It's called "POCOYOPOCOYOPOCOYO" or maybe a Pocoyo train track.The second he started opening that thing he could barely contain his excitement. We could not get him to open another present for the entire day.After a few hours, all of the presents were opened and everyone was off playing. Sadie the Unphotogenic was riding her new bike with Nate. Luke was out there too, but of course Pocoyo had to come along. I was inside cleaning up when I asked Ellie what Santa had gotten her for Christmas because I couldn't remember her opening it. "Nothing." WHHHATTTT? My daughter was on the naughty list? Oh my gosh, I started freaking out. We searched everywhere for the lost gift. Finally 15 minutes later I had a mental jog. . .and a few minutes later there was a knock on the door and a whole load of presents Santa must have found left over on his sleigh. PHEW!Just what she asked for: A hot pink camera with her name blinged on it. I bet that was a tall order to fill!

The rest of the day was a blur. The boys spent all day putting together Legos and we had a yummy square steak and mashed potato dinner followed by molten lava cakes and ice cream.Luke and Livy did not join us for much as they were. . . STILL playing with Pocoyo. Did I mention that it plays the theme song over and over and over and over and over again?? Hours upon hours. Those batteries must die soon.

We wrapped up the evening with our brand new BYU firepit (do you love BYU as much as we do?? I highly doubt it), You Can Dance (ABBA Just Dance if you can imagine something some awesome existing) and Just Dance 3. We hope you had yourself a Merry Little Christmas too!


The Creatures Were Stirring

Christmas Eve we hosted our traditional dinner of soup followed by the world's greatest Christmas Pageant. This tradition actually started in 2005 when we found we were going to be all alone and family-less on Christmas day. We were very lucky that our friends, the Hortins and the Kimballs, were in the same situation. Seven years later, they've both moved and we've had a few different families over over the years, but I'm very grateful that we always manage to fill the house.
For the second year in a row we had an Oregon Love fest with the McGuire sisters. It was even more fun because MY sister was here, too!! You probably don't believe she was here because there is not one single solitary picture of her. She absolutely refused to have herself photographed. Possible reasons:
1. Kyle is secretly a vampire and she is now been turned and she didn't want us to find out when she didn't appear on the screen.
2. She had joined the Blackfoot Tribe and adopted the belief that cameras steal your soul.
3. Our Thai hairdresser back home gave her the worst haircut ever and she wants no record of it.
But I do have proof that her adorable daughter was here.

Sadie was dying to be Mary and Lindsay had to pinch hit for her achy pregnant mama as the donkey as they road to Bethlehem. Although there was no room in the inns, they found a quiet stable. The Angel(s) appeared and announced the good news to the Shepherds. Eventually the Wisemen made their pilgrimage as well. And then it was time for COOKIES!!
Oh the mess! But oh the fun! Dustin was quick to remind the kids that he read on the internet that Santa does not like too many sprinkles. It did not help.I will say the cookies are getting prettier every year as the girls get older.

Shockingly there was a knock at the door and who could it be?? Well, no one. But there were. . .
PRESENTS! And just like every other year, in those presents were. . .
PAJAMAS!! The kids changed anywhere they could and then went CRAZY!!! We attempted to take a picture:And then we let them go wild.There was a crazy fun dance party and Christmas Taboo before everyone left and we settled in for a nice, relaxing Christmas Eve. All the presents were wrapped and ready to go, the boys just needed to put a bike together.

Around 10 pm were sitting in the living room laughing when Nate wanders out thinking it was Christmas Morning already. He had been asleep for a total of 30 minutes. This was just a foreshadowing of our evening. All night long you could hear the pitter patter of little(big) Nate feet. I guess at one point Kyle heard him ringing the bell on Sadie's new bike around 1 am.


Christmas Eve Eve

When I was 6 years old, my parents took me to see the New York City Ballet's Nutcracker. I was mesmerized. My kids have all loved it too. We have been taking them every year since Ellie was 4.
I use the term "we" liberally because someone has to stay with the little one/ones, and it usually me since driving in Phoenix gives me hives. My sister and I did take Ellie one year when Lola was here for Christmas.
Last year, we decided to try the Polar Express. There just weren't enough days in the month to make both of them work, so we had to skip the ballet. After Christmas was over, we polled the kids and the Nutcracker was the clear winner. My kids have been begging to go ever since.
This was Sadie's first year going and I was a little nervous. That girl can't even make it through a movie without "needing" to go to the bathroom 5 times. But even Sadie Lou Who got caught up in the magic of the Nutcracker. It might have helped that Daddy bought them each a little souvenir. A nutcracker for Nate, a snow globe and Clara and her nutcracker for Ellie, and a ballet dancer tree ornament for Sadie.MERRY CHRISTMAS!!


Sappy Post Ahead

Oh wait, aren't all my December blog posts super sappy? I think the theme has been: Maddy is a Grinch, does something Christmas-y and feels holiday spirit. But guess what -- I'm not so Grinchy anymore.

We lucked out when we moved onto our street. We had *the* best neighbors. Most of them have moved (some are moving back) and don't get me wrong, I really enjoy our neighbors now, but there was something magical about the street when we first moved in.
Throughout the year the girls will get together, or we'll try to have an adult game night, but every Christmas we get EVERYONE under one roof. It's one of my favorite parties of the season and it doesn't feel like Christmas until it's happened.

The kids keep getting bigger. And there keep being more of them. This is Noah and Jill's newest little baby Tessa. She is only 5 weeks old, but seeing as she wasn't even due until January 10th, we were glad she made the party. She's up to 5 pounds and 7 ounces. I am in love with her and I can't wait for them to be right back down the street.

We were debating on who was taller -- Dustin or Mark?Dustin may have him beat, but we might have to shave his head to be completely certain. It doesn't matter since Cade Lamb will surpass them in a year I am sure.

The kids all do a $1 gift exchange (we draw names -- which can get confusing with all the Sadies and Brady/Brodys) and it never fails to amaze us how excited the kids are over their $1 gift. They are seriously THRILLED and the gifts are always perfect. Ellie got a felt hair bow, Nate got Bubble Gum (they couldn't have known that he was dying to learn to blow a bubble), Sadie got a princess purse and Luke got ring pops (someone hates me).

We ate and the kids played and that was it. Somehow were were still there for over 3 hours. I love love our friends and I love that we get to spent the holidays with them.

"I'm SO escited"

I love the way way Sadie says excited. (Yes, I do know it is spelled "excited.") Her preschool party was on Tuesday and she was counting down the days. "What day is it? I'm so so escited!" She also reminded me that she needed to eat lunch before she left because there would be no time to eat at her party.

Tuesday finally came and Sadie changed from her Hello Kitty pajamas into her Snowman pajamas and off she went. Mrs. Becky is very lucky because she has an "in" with Santa Claus. It is the REAL Santa according to Sadie. Even though my other children have told her it is Mr. Becky (yes, that's what Sadie calls him), she insists that it can't be him because he has to work. And even though I've mentioned that the real Santa doesn't make appearances, she is still "so escited." I think it's kind of cute that Sadie believes whatever she wants to, just like with the Easter Bunny.

Sadie was also "escited" because she got her first gift of Christmas. A necklace from this cutie:I guess Garrett has quite the crush on Sadie. So much so that he might have sticky-fingered a necklace from Mrs. Becky's house to give to her (along with $2). It was returned and his mom helped him make a much less expensive one. He also took our Christmas card and carried it around to so much that there are holes in it, so Sadie thought maybe she should give him a picture of herself for Christmas.

Tuesday was also Ellie's Winter Choir Concert. I'm not a big fan of her music teacher's orginizational skills so I was kind of dreading the performance. Especially after Nate's Christmas concert where we sang Jingle Bells 800 million times (yes, there are no pictures of that since it starts 30 minutes late, a full hour after "call time" and the entire school was shoved in a tiny little cafeteria and left to chase after their screaming babies and toddlers who decided their hour of being good was up). So yes, I was not "so escited." I thought it would be smart to get Courtney to watch Luke since he cannot sit still more than one hour a week and I reserve that for Sacrament Meeting. Sadie decided she did NOT want to change out of her PJs, so I left her home as well. It was actually a pretty cute concert and Ellie did a great job. It's so cute to see her smiling while she is singing. Her little dimples shows up. And maybe some of my jealousy appears as well. How I wish I could sing and be in a choir!!

The next day was the holiday known as Thelastdayofschool. Everyone was SO SO escited, but this is where my Mommy Guilt set in. I feel bad that I had to miss out on Nate's party. It was in the morning and there was no way I could swing it. I still had to run some errands for Ellie's class party (like picking up the teacher gift and making hot chocolate) and I seriously would have felt horrible pawning off Luke and Sadie for another 2 hours of the day. There are SO many volunteers in 1st grade and I *had* to Ellie's party since I'm her room Mom. I just felt so bad because I hate to miss anything. I'm still an OK mom, right? Plus I had just been in his classroom on Friday for Art Masterpiece. And Thursday I volunteered in there.

Ellie's class party went perfectly. Seriously so little chaos. I was impressed with the kids. Usually I come home from class parties and kiss my children after dealing with their peers for an hour, but these kids were really fun and sweet. The moms of her class are so amazing too. A lot of them have gone back to work, but so many of them took off to come in and help or e-mailed me to make sure I didn't need them to run to the store. Everything I asked for was donated times 10.We did a hot chocolate bar where I had a Would You Rather game I made up, some minute to Win-It games, other random games (Blind Snowman, a relay race and the Candy Bar Game), and a craft station.

You know what game we were NOT going to play? BINGO. Last year Ellie's room mom played BINGO for Literally for almost an hour they played BINGO. And there were prizes, but it wasn't like, "No, you won a prize, let someone else win." It was the same kid (usually sitting next to Ellie and a really obnoxious boy) winning over and over again and shoving it in her face. No no, there would be no BINGO!

After all the prep work I am so glad it ran smoothly and that we.were.DONE!! No homework! No waking up early! And even better -- in just a few hours LOLA was coming!! Can you feel the "escitement"? But we'll save that for it's own post.


Finding my Christmas Spirit

Yesterday we were scheduled to have 3 families come over for Family Home Evening at 6 pm. Dustin was up in Scottsdale and Ellie had been at choir rehearsal for the last 3 hours. Around 5:50 everything started converging. Daddy was home! Hooray! Ellie was home! Double HOORAY!
Only she had a boatload of homework. 60 math problems (long division and three digit x three digit multiplication), reading comprehension, 2 math fact drill sheets, a vocab sheet and spelling senetences (complex and compound, please, no ordinary sentences). My eyes started crossing and then maybe some fire shot out of them.

I hurried her into our bedroom to get as much done as she could before everyone got here. About 5 problems in we hear loud crashing noises as every toy in my house was dumped out simultaneously. A few minutes later there was much wailing as Luke had hit Ryder in the head with a light saber. A lot more crashes and crying. Children bouncing off the walls. FHE was off to a rocky start. I could feel my brain freaking out. I finally started the lesson while uttering, "Dustin, I'm having a mental break down." I talked to the kids about Elder Uchtdorf's talk, "You are My Hands." Slowly half the kids settled down. Then we watched this clip:
and all the kids settled down. I could feel the Christmas Spirit reentering my soul.

After it was over we divided up into our usual groups and took off for our super secret service project. We ended up with the big girls (Ellie, Chloe and Kyla) this year. They were very fun, but *very* opinionated. Last year I remember being a little sad because the big boys just agreed to anything I said, so I guess I got my wish??

Everyone met back at the house and all of the kids shared what their group had done. It was so neat to see their excitement as they shared what they had decided on for other people. As we worked on some projects, there was still crashing and maybe some doors being locked. There were crumbs and sugar everywhere, but suddenly none of it mattered. Amidst all the chaos there was such a feeling of peace and happiness.

In fact we were all so caught up in the Christmas Spirit, we bundled up our kids at 9 pm on a school night and took them Christmas Caroling. Every year my girlfriend's parents hook a trailer up to their horses and take the kids Christmas Caroling through the streets. This year due to some surgeries, they weren't able to do it. I think everyone was a little sad about it, but Mike suggested that maybe it was *our* turn to do something nice for them. We piled some plates full of cookies, hoped that our children were in someone's car since our car was full of theirs and took off.

Somehow that turned into a giant leaf fight and I thought of how lucky I am that my kids have "family" to celebrate the little and big things with even when our families are far away. Merry Christmas!!



That is the sound of me trying to fit every last thing in before Christmas comes.
Friday night was our Ward Party. The Young Women were put in charge of decorations, which meant a skeleton crew since it was smack in the middle of finals, illnesses, a graduation and surgery, and work parties. I am so grateful to all the leaders and girls who managed to sneak in a few minutes to help out as we spent Wednesday night preparing the center pieces, Thursday night setting up and Friday night prepping last minute details.
Dustin had one request: No ham! We ended up with brisket and it was delicious. We ate, made packages for missionaries, collected donations for a shelter, Santa came, there was a gorgeous talent show. . . It was really wonderful especially when you consider how many people put in so much work during the busiest season of the year.
Luke was not in the best mood at the party and I was trying to get him to sit still for the presentation of Luke 2. He loved the animals, but when the Wisemen came on he was pretty bummed there were no animals. I told him a star would appear. If you've ever watched Luke 2, you know it's quite a bit of time watching the Wisemen plot and plan and watch the sky before one finally steps out. Luke kept asking, "Where's the star?" "Where's the star?" And I kept promising him it would come. Finally the star appeared and Luke jumped for joy, "The star!!" I felt like I was there at that exact moment and I almost started crying. The joy and elation of knowing that what was promised had finally come to pass. All the hope and waiting and finally to know that the Son of God had been born. The Savior of the World.

Saturday Dustin and I both had to get in long runs, then we met up with some friends to see A Christmas Carol and lunch.We ran some errands for Sunday and then met with our friends, the Amins, for dinner and temple lights. I think this year was more gorgeous that last year if possible.
The weather has been rainy and cold, but Saturday night the weather was gorgeous and clear.
All the while I am freaking out that it is the last weekend before Christmas. All the presents are bought and wrapped, cards sent and the packages are mailed, but I feel like we haven't gotten to be a family this Christmas. Dustin has been knee deep in callings, Tithing Settlement and out of town on business. When we do have a night together it's been a party or concert or something fun, but busy.

Ironically I taught Young Women's today about making time for the Savior based on Neal A. Maxwell's quote, "Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!" My girlfriend shared this gorgeous song with me: Do You Have Room. It was such a great reminder to SLOW DOWN and focus on what really has meaning. One more quote from President Howard W. Hunter, "Even in our day, although two thousand years have passed, there are many who say the same thing that was said on that night in Bethlehem. ‘There is no room, no room.' We make room for the gifts, but sometimes no room is made for the giver. We have room for the commercialism of Christmas and even pleasure-seeking on the Sabbath day, but there are times when there is not room for worship. Our thoughts are filled with other things—there is no room."

Someone asked me if I was ready for Christmas. Yes. I am ready, because whether all the packages are bought and wrapped, whether I've delivered all my neighbor gifts and attended all my parties, Christmas will come. And really, being ready means that my heart is turned to the Savior. This week I will make room.