Monday, December 27, 2010

'Tis the Season

Merry Christmas to one and all!

What a wonderful Christmas we've had!

One of the fun things we did was to take something to a family every day for the Twelve Days of Christmas.  We had a lot of laughs over what we took, sneaking around, whether they had "found us out", etc.  In the end, they gave us a far nicer gift than anything we gave them, and we are left with a bond of friendship and love for this family, even though it was all anonymous.  Interesting how that works!

Having Josh home has also made the season special.  I've mentioned this before, but this is the last Christmas where we'll all be together until 2015.  At that Christmas we'll have two returned missionaries!  But let's not think about that, let's concentrate on this Christmas!

We enjoyed a Christmas Piano Recital. Libby played a duet of "Ode to Joy with her friend Sydney.  Peter played Libiamo, from the Opera "La Traviata", and Mary played a Sonatina by Clementi.  Jesse played "Consolation" by Franz Listz.  The video is on my last post, in case you missed it.  I told her that when she wants to marry someone, if he doesn't absolutely melt when she plays that for him, then she shouldn't marry him.  Ha ha

Libby had a Christmas Gymnastics Recital.  Here is a short video of her floor and vault routine.  She took a summer camp in July, and now goes once a week to a local gymnastics teacher.  She has come a long way in just four months!

On Sunday, during Sacrament Meeting, we sang the Hallelujah Chorus again, with Jesse accompanying on the piano.  The conductor asked me to lead that number because she had never done it before and didn't feel confident doing it, so I got to conduct.  What a thrill!  A literal, physical and spiritual thrill.

This is Libby at the Ward Christmas Party with Santa Claus!

At the same party, Joseph was asked to play the part of "Joseph" for the song, "When Joseph went to Bethlehem".  He sang the part with the primary children.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to see it because we had to go to Mary's choir concert.  I heard Joseph, Peter and Libby all did a great job.  I did get to see Joseph practice with the Junior Primary, and I had tears streaming down my face the whole time, seeing him play that part.  He was not named Joseph by chance.

Mary had a wonderful Choir Concert!  Here she is singing a duet:

Mary has also had fun this past month playing on an indoor soccer team.  She played goalie in the last game and did a great job!

As luck would have it, Peter and Libby's choir concert was scheduled on the same night and at the same time as Joseph and Jesse's Madrigal Concert.  Joseph also performed with the Show Choir at this concert.  Oh, the pain of it!  Bruce watched the first part of Peter and Libby's concert with me, and then he took off to the High School.  I had watched the Madrigals practice one day when I was subbing at the High School, so I had at least heard their songs.

Peter and Libby have a wonderful music teacher at their Charter School, so they always do great music programs, and this was no exception.
Libby and Peter before their Concert
 Peter's class also did some bell ringing songs.  Unfortunately the stage and the lighting weren't that great, so I wasn't able to see their faces as well as I would have liked, but the music was great!

I did get over to the High School in time to see Joseph perform in the lats half of a number from "Grease".  From all accounts, it was a wonderful concert.
Jesse and Joseph after their Concert

A lot of people said it was one of the best Christmas concerts they had been to, which was exciting to hear! (Too bad I wasn't there to here it  - ARGGGH!)  Just had to release a little frustration there...

Christmas Eve brought caroling to friends (almost all said, "Wow - you guys sound good!"), Posole dinner, the Nativity Scene, and the opening of the first presents of Christmas, accompanied by the usual picture by the fireplace.  For our Posole dinner, we used a chicken that Peter and Bruce had killed and plucked a couple of days before. 
Mary is taking the picture

We also had the last of the Cider from our Cider Festival.  It was fun to use some of our own harvest.

Joseph and Mary are perfect for the Nativity Scene, of course.  I was struck by how pretty Mary looked.

  Jesse was the angel, Peter a shepherd, Libby a Wiseman, and Josh was the Innkeeper/King Herod.

Then came the pajamas...

 And the chaos that always ensues...
After prayers, they were off to make the famed fort.
They took every blanket, sheet, pillow, and MATTRESS in the house, except from our bedroom, and put them all into a big "Fort".  All six children sleep here for days on end starting on Christmas Eve.  
You can't see Libby very well, but she's already asleep.  You can see her face peeking out from covers right above Peter's head.

Last year they were so sad to clean the Fort up that we let them move it down to an empty bedroom downstairs.  Josh bailed after a week or so, but the rest slept in that bedroom together for the next five months, until May 29th when Josh left.  That empty bedroom is now our Master Bedroom, so that won't work for this year.  We'll see what they come up with...

Christmas morning is always a joy!  Here are some presents and smiles:
The beautiful painting that I got from Josh, Joseph and Jesse

Libby and her Zsu Zsu pets

Mary and her new cleats

What?  Doesn't he go to BYU-I?  "It's the football team!" he said.

Cousin Murlene sent this straight from Spain!

Now there's two happy farmers
Jesse eating an orange (a constant) and perusing her new Anatomy book.

My Zone Bar (the only chocolate treat I eat), my new sweatshirt, and my new boots
The Elders came over for some Posole, which we were happy to serve up.

 Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Into December

 Since Josh was stuck at home because of closed roads, we were able to do our annual "Measuring of the Heights" last Sunday.  We always do it in November.
The results?  I thought Jesse would be the one to grow the least, if at all, but it was Josh!  He grew a few millimeters only.  Jesse grew a whole half an inch!  This was a first - the first time each of our children has not grown at least two inches.  Signs of the times!  Mary wins for growing the most with more than two inches.  You do that when you're thirteen! 

On Tuesday evening of this week, it started to snow.  All across Facebook and texts, the word snow day and wishing kept popping up in the same sentence. 

I was lying in bed at 5:30 am Wednesday morning thinking about substitute teaching in a 5th grade class versus playing with the kids all day.  You can guess which one I wanted.  All of a sudden I heard a pause in the practicing coming from the piano room, and I heard Jesse yell, "Wohoo!" That's when I knew we had a snow day!  Holli told me later that's when she figured it out too!

I thought we would all sleep in, but no, it was practically like Christmas morning. 

By 6:30, everyone was jumping around the kitchen and giddily happy.  We did get the scripture study in, and some breakfast and then by eight something, Peter was out with the four wheeler and the sled.  The others soon followed.

With 8 inches of snow on the ground, the street was snow-packed and perfect for sledding.  We had the usual melee in the laundry room where all the snow gear is stored. Between sledding, we played board games and had hot chocolate and crepes. 
Libby in the snow

Walker, Skyler, Trent, Kalli, Nathan and Darrin all came over, so with Kyle, Dustin and Brooke already here, there were lots of kids floating around here.  Four year old Payton rode on the back of the 4-wheeler for so long that I thought he was going to be half-frozen.  Nathan came in and said, "I can't feel my legs."  Having moved here only a year and half ago from CA, I believe this was his first snow day, and his jeans were soaked from top to bottom.  He recovered.  There is something very unique about a snow day.  It's a guilt-free play day, and we did take advantage of it!

Libby got a new gymnastics uniform.  This is what she'll wear in her Gymnastics "Recital" on the 18th.  I can't wait to see it!

Tara and Mary
We got to go to Brooke's baptism on Saturday.  Holli's mom made her white dress, patterned after white dresses that Holli saw on Pride and Prejudice.  Wow - I admire that kind of talent! 

Here is a picture of Wade and Holli's family - the ones that have been staying with us.  And here is a picture of Payton (the one I mentioned earlier).
 Wade and Holli and family moved out today, but not before leaving us with this:
It was so clever and fun!
Kyle, Dustin, Mary and Holli
 They also left a big bucket of ping pong balls, many clean and organized closets, shelves and drawers, thanks to Holli's incredible organizing skills, and a huge empty place in our home.
Both families together
After they left, we sat around the kitchen table, kind of quiet, and we talked about what we had learned from having them stay with us.  The conclusion - they gave us a lot more than we gave them.  It left us with a desire to leave things better than when you got there, in whatever circumstance you are in.  That's what their family did for us.  I can't believe how much more we learned to love them while they were here, and how grateful we are for the time they were here.  Thank you Wade, Holli, Kyle, Dustin, Brooke, Payton and Tara!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010


I think I mentioned in the last blog that Josh played his guitar non-stop while he was here.  
Tara, the 18-month old daughter of the family that is staying with us, came down and snuggled in with Josh to listen to him play.  Joseph captured the moment.  Having our friends here with us has made me think about how much we're missing not having little children anymore.  We're in an in-between stage where we don't have much interaction with young children, and it's a true loss.

On the other hand, there are many things we can do that would not otherwise be possible, so we are trying to taking full advantage of those opportunities.  And one of those this week was to do a "Harry Potter" marathon in anticipation of the 7th movie coming out.  We started on Tuesday night and watched the first two.  Harry, Hermione, and Ron looked so young!  I didn't get to see the movies because I had to do some shopping, but most everyone else did.  On Wednesday we watched the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth movies.  It lasted until midnight!  That was a lot of fun, as the kids had friends over, and Josh was with us, of course.

For Thanksgiving we went over to Paul and Karen's house.  Karen is my 2nd cousin on my Mom's side of the family.  We have become good friends over the years, with Cider Festivals, Thanksgivings, and through the piano teacher's group that I belong to.  The highlight of the day, besides the meal, of course, was the Talent Show.  When we had Thanksgiving with these guys a few years ago, we had an impromptu talent show that inspired my children so much, that I wanted to have it again.  Paul and Karen's children are talented in the extreme, so it's always fun to have a show with them.

Libby played her duet of Ode to Joy and Sakura.  Peter played Libiamo, from La Traviata.

Mary played a Clementi Sonatina, and Jesse played Consolation, by Franz Listz.  Joseph played his original composition entitled "A Bite of Sunshine".  Josh played the guitar and played "What Child is This" and "Hallelujah" (from the Shrek soundtrack), with Jesse providing backup harmony on the chorus. 
Jesse and Josh
Bruce even sang John Denver's "Rocky Top Tennessee".  I thoroughly enjoyed ever minute!

On Monday night, we had a Family Home Evening where we wrote down a list of what we were thankful for and then read them to the family.  Mary was lucky because she kept writing things down while others were reading their lists, and read hers last, so she had the best list of all!  She was pretty sick on Thursday and Friday, but her fever broke late Friday night, and she was OK after that.  When her fever broke, it was so funny - she was totally out of it.  She sat up on the couch and said, "It's cold. It's cold, it's cold, it's cold!"  I could tell she was not awake.  I got her up and tried to get her to bedroom.  On the way she had to sit down and started talking about swimming.  I started to get a bit nervous and called for Peter to bring some Frankincense, which I put on her head.  That seemed to bring her to her senses somewhat, and I was able to get her to her bed.  She slept well the rest of the night!

On Saturday morning, we got up to a delicious breakfast cooked by Dad!  Thanks Bruce!  We then put up the Christmas tree, which always involves a great deal of commotion.
Josh is sporting a very handsome "cowboy athlete" outfit.

Libby dancing on the tree stand
Mom, Libby, Dad, Joseph and Jesse setting up the tree
Josh (aka Superman, or "Master of the Universe", as he likes to call himself lately)
It's up!
 The tree is not decorated yet.  I wonder how long it will take to get to the actual decorating?!  I started to yesterday, but the first string of lights I plugged in had only half the bulbs working.  Does this frustrate anyone besides me?

After setting up the Christmas tree, we played the rest of the day.  Grandma and Grandpa (Bruce's parents) were here, and they took Bruce and I shopping for awhile.  That is always fun!  Later in the afternoon, we all went to see Harry Potter 7, the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.  One time I looked over and Joseph had Libby curled up in his arms and comforting her during the scary part.  It was cute!  I thought it the movie was well-done, but I sure could have done with a few more happy moments.  But as Bruce said, it was a dark time, and they had to go through some hard things with Voldemort in power. 

Right after Harry Potter, we went to the Forgotten Carols, a musical production by Michael McLeane.   Jesse saw the DVD over at a friend's house, and loved it, so when I saw the tickets for sale, I decided I wanted this to be my present to her for Christmas.  But then I thought of everyone else that would want to go, and I ended up buying for everyone.  We don't do things like that very often because of the expense, so it was fun to go to a nice cultural event with the whole family.  I liked the singing at the end the best.  Even Peter said, "That was cool!" after the last strains of Silent Night died away.

We have snow on the ground!  If it's going to be winter and cold, I like there to be snow!  But I just heard from Bruce that Josh had to turn around and come home from going back to school this afternoon because the roads on the way there are blocked. Well, I can't say I'm very sad about that!

I figured out this astonishing fact this morning: this is likely the last time our family will be together - the eight of us - at Christsmas time without either somebody gone or somebody added to the family.  Here's how it all plays out:

2011 - Josh on a mission
2012 - Josh on a mission
2013 - Joseph on a mission
2014 - Joseph on a mission
2015 - Everybody home!  (But Josh will be 23, and possibly married - so we could have an addition, or he could be at the in-laws!)
2016 - Jesse on a mission
2017 - Jesse on a misison
2018 - Mary on  mission
2019 - Peter on a mission
2020 - Peter on a mission
2021 - Everybody home! (But Josh will be 29 and maybe starting to have their own Christmas?  And Joseph, Jesse and Mary possiby married.  Yikes!!)
2022 - Everybody home!  (The "buts" are an even more likely scenario than the year before)
2023 - Libby on a mission
2024 - Everybody home!

Those are some sobering numbers for me.  I don't know how people can stand it that don't know the Plan of Salvation.  If you are reading this and don't know what I'm talking about, look up the link, but also know that families can be together forever!  (We sang this last night all together at Forgotten Carols).  This brief mortal journey is a sliver in the eternities, and if we make choices that lead us there, our families can be together in the eternities, with glorified, resurrected bodies and infinite possibilities ahead of us.  While we may experience scarcity of time and location on this earth, abundance lies ahead of us and we will be TOGETHER forever someday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Honor Choir and Other Happenings

Joseph and Jesse sang in the local "Honor Choir".  It was where all the smaller schools in the area had choir students audition to be in this Honor Choir.
All of the students from our high school that participated in the choir.  Jesse is on the bottom row on the left, and Joseph is near the top row on the left.
They rehearsed on three Monday nights, and all day on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then performed on Wednesday night.  For the concert they sang four songs, and they were very unique and beautifully done.  I loved that concert.  So did Joseph and Jesse.  Jesse said she was as happy singing up there as she had ever been in her life.  She does love to perform!  And Joseph - we had several friends comment that they couldn't keep their eyes away from Joseph because he look liked he was having so much fun.

During one of the songs, the conductor, unrehearsed, told the choir members to join hands.  Joseph never heard him say that.  The irony of it was that Joseph was standing right next to a really cute girl that he has had his eye on for awhile now.  When he found out that he could have held her hand for four minutes and fifty five seconds, he couldn't believe his bad luck!  Ha ha  Oh, we had a good laugh over that one. Jesse did hear the conductor say that, and got to hold the hand of one of her good friends who's a very handsome fellow.  She said that wasn't so bad.  :)

Josh is home again, and this time to stay for nine days for Thanksgiving.  He has been playing the guitar non-stop, and it's beautiful.  He told me that his roommate Stephen said, "Josh, you can play Silent Night a million times, but please play something in between."  Ha ha!  Uncle Craig was nice enough to let Josh borrow his guitar this semester.  I guess that will have to be a future purchase for Josh since he's getting so good.  Thanks Craig!  Speaking of Craig, he and Jennette went up to visit Grandma and Grandpa, and took a small side-trip over to visit Josh.  I wish we could have been there.  Thanks guys for taking the effort to go and see Josh!

Bruce and I spoke in Church today.  My talk was based on Elder Richard C. Edgley's talk "Faith - The Choice is Yours" from October Conference.  I chose to focus on faith over fear, and I told three different stories.  I told of when the missionaries were killed in Bolivia, when there was that trouble on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem where Palestinians were killed, and then when that guy threatened Pres. Hunter in the Marriott Center at BYU during a devotional.  The parallel I drew between all of them was that when frightening things happen, the adversary attempts to distract us from our work and fulfilling our purpose by using fear as a tool.  Fear is immobilizing, and is the opposite of faith, which is motivating and gets us moving and working.

Bruce spoke on Elder Richard G. Scott's talk, also from General Conference.  One of the poignant images I had from the talk was when Bruce described our faith as fine pottery that we have worked very hard to create, and that has gone through the furnace of affliction.  Even so, it can be shattered in a moment by transgression.  Thus, we have to be ever-vigilent and careful to keep it safe.

As a follow-up on my eating too many calories trying to keep myself awake, I found this week that I could drink water and get a similar effect.  So I made sure I had a water bottle on hand all the time.  And I also realized that if I make sure I have vegetables on hand, I can eat all the veggies I want and that will help keep me awake without contributing to an overload of calories.  I also worked really hard on getting to bed on time this week!

This is a fun picture that I didn't add last week.  I think Josh is the coolest in this picture! I'm gonna get grief about that from all the other kids, including Bruce - ha ha.

It's been snowing today!  I like it when it snows.  If it's going to be cold, I like to see white instead of brown and gray.  I am so grateful to have a warm home and to be here with all my family in it, and another family as well!  We have been blessed, and continue, every day, to see the hand of the Lord in our lives.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Descending into Winter

We had our first hard frost this week, and dipped into the twenties.  For the first time this week I started to feel some of those winter blues.  When I realized this, I put on Bergamot, Joy and Valor, and right away I could feel a difference, as if my heart felt "lighter".  I was very grateful!

One of the reasons I got the winter blues is that I substituted four out of five days last week, which is just too much!  Thankfully Bruce helped a ton with keeping the kitchen clean, and Holli, my friend who is living here, worked organizing and cleaning too.  We have a clean playroom, a clean food storage room, and clean windows in the kitchen!!  You should come over to see it, Mom!

Last Friday I was at a high school in a neighboring school district.  I was the Boy's PE teacher, and that was a little wild!  I was shocked at the lack of fitness of some of these boys.  It was a good reminder that my boys, being soccer players, are in extraordinary shape and I shouldn't take that for granted!  I'm really grateful for what good shape they've kept themselves in.  The activity in PE was soccer, so when I put the soccer ball down at the halfway line in the gym, I announced that I was a certified soccer referee.  You should have see their faces!  "Are you really?", was the common question.  "I really am," I announced, and then proceeded to call fouls and handballs and all kinds of stuff that they weren't used to.  Ha ha  That was kind of fun.

Another two days I was a substitute for English Language Development classes.  I get a good reaction in these classes when I tell them that I speak Spanish, and that I was born in Mexico City.  "Are you really?", is again the common question.  I then start spewing off Spanish like a pro and it's really fun to see their faces. 

The other fun reaction I get is when I call them by name.  "How do you know my name?", they ask.  I just smile and say, "I know you're name!".  They forget that 1) I'm really good at names and a lot of times remember it from calling roll, and 2) I have a seating chart right in front of me, and 3) I listen to what the students call each other.  I get a certain satisfaction, I'll have to admit, out of them thinking I'm really smart!  Ha ha

Mary's basketball team is wracking up the wins!  The have been winning by at least 20 points in every game.  Mary even scored this week, and not on a free throw.  Good job Mary!  Oh, and speaking of Mary doing a good job - my, oh my - you should have seen her at the Ballroom Dance Class that we started on Friday night.  She was dancing around with the instructor with poise and her held high like she had been doing the dance for ages.  She has been asking for awhile now to take Ballroom dance classes, and I found an instructor that agreed to come for an hour on Friday nights.  We had about nine kids there, ages 12 to 17, and we had a great time learning the Lindy Hop, with more lessons to come on that dance.  We did it to the slow beat of "The Pink Panther" and it was fun!  I don't know how those boys felt about dancing with "Sis. Holmstead", but they were sure good sports about it.  If you want to make comments and ask where Bruce was, I'll forward them on to him for his perusal. Ha ha    I hope it will grow and we can get some more dancing skills going on.

I love to dance.  I hear a good beat and that's all she wrote.  Kevin, our instructor, turned on "Cotton-Eye Joe" after the official hour of instruction was over, and there we all were, Peter and Libby included now, doing the line dance.  That was followed by line dances to Men in Black, the Boot-Scootin' Boogie and others.  And then some country swing to boot.  Later in the evening we played games with some of our adult friends.

Saturday night, I went with Joseph over to the "Stake Prom".  All the Priests and Laurels, and their friends 16 and over, from our Stake were invited, and the purpose was to give the kids a prom-like experience, especially for those who may not get asked to dances.  Our Stake has a Youth Committee, which is one boy and one girl from each ward.  The Youth Committee planned the activities and put up the decorations.  Since my calling is that of Stake Dance Director, I went to help in any way I could.  We had a good DJ that actually got the kids to dance more than they do at Stake Dances, so it was fun to see that.  Joseph had a good time, and I think the others did too.

I have a big announcement about Jesse that I forgot to put in last week.  She played the organ for Sacrament meeting for the first time last week!  In our ward, we have three different organists, and they rotate months, so this month was Jesse's turn.  She played so well, and even played the pedals!  Our neighbors across the street have an organ in their home, and they have generously allowed Jesse to go over there and practice, so that has been a huge blessing.  Jesse is also the ward choir accompanist, and she's doing a fantastic job for that.  On top of all that, she is learning to play the Hallelujah Chorus for the Community Choir.  When you're in demand, you're in demand!  She is sometimes overwhelmed by all that she's doing, which puts me in a very tough position as a parent.  It is generally understood that a parent teaches a child because they are wiser and have "figured things out" because of their experiences.  Unfortunately, I have not figured out how NOT to be overwhelmed by responsibilities.  So when Jesse gets in that position, I am sadly lacking in how to counsel her, except that to say that it doesn't get any easier.

Josh came home this weekend!  One of his best friends from High School, Braiden, who was also his MAD Boys companion, spoke in Church in preparation for going on his mission on Wednesday. He gave a GREAT talk, testifying about the Holy Ghost.  It is strange to have Joshua's friends and peers start leaving for their missions.  Saturday morning Josh got up and started playing the piano.  "Ah," I thought, "Josh is home!"  I went in a gave him a hug and told him to keep playing.  It's great to hear my children tickle the keys.

Libby and Peter are having a ball with Dustin, Kyle and Brooke (children of the family that is living with us).  I'm not quite sure what they'll do when December comes and they move to their new home.  Peter and Libby are getting really used to having someone around that will do their jobs with them.  I'm going to miss them too!  They sang today in Church, with Jesse accompanying them, and I was just in tears because of how much we love this family.  We were friends before, but now there is this bond being created that is a special thing.  When you serve, you love; that is a true principle!

I had a revelation this week.  I realized that I am consuming extra calories that I don't need because I eat a lot to keep me awake.  I know you usually think of that when you're driving, and I do do that, but also just around the house, or at school when I'm subbing.  I eat to keep me awake because I'm so tired.  So even when I'm home, I find myself getting up and snacking on something if I start to feel drowsy.  The conclusion:  I need to sleep more!  I'm actually really grateful for this insight.

While Josh was here we were able to get a family picture taken, and the result is at the top!  We had a lot of fun taking it (not getting ready to take it - that was wild).  Hopefully this will go on Christmas cards soon!