Christmas Stories from My Digital Elph

In an attempt to dump my brain, I am dumping my camera instead. Bear with me. It's about all I can manage in the middle of the holiday season. 

Here are our gifts to deliver around the neighborhood. Gorgeous, no? All ready to deliver. Then just as we were eating that chicken pot pie in the bottom of the frame, two separate families came around and delivered the exact same gift. Really. So we had to start over. For the record I wanted to make Lelly's "House Sparkle" in the first place.  David scrunched up his nose at the idea. When our friends delivered the second bottle I told David that this never would have happened with "House Sparkle." He said there was a reason for that. I ignored that. We ended up making a Christmas CD which was a far superior idea anyway and only took us another three or four days (heaven help me) to make the mix, copy the CD's, figure out how to print CD covers and then finally deliver them.    

Olivia had her Christmas viola recital last weekend. She was beaming at her chance to wow the world with "the Can Can" and "Ode to Joy."  We were all sufficiently wowed.

David and I finished up most of our Christmas shopping last weekend.  I snapped this picture of David in a store that we have never shopped in and are unlikely to ever visit again.  I've said it before, there are a million little universes out there.  How we ended up in this one is a mystery of the season. 

Amy and Kelly and I went to dinner on Wednesday night.  And then Kel and I did some (mostly window) shopping.  Here she is expressing her outrage at the sight of this anatomically correct cologne bottle.  Whatever happened to public decency standards?

My nephew, Luke, had his first birthday party on Saturday, and we played at the park with him and all his other fans.  My kids were good enough to open all his presents for him, and, bless his heart, he didn't seem to mind a bit.  (I think Ethan has secret designs on his Christmas presents as well.)  We had a great time and I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard.

This one is by far my favorite.  I snapped it as the girls and I were leaving the Nutcracker on Friday night.  After a night of gorgeous dance and costumes and music, they are whispering about the magnificence of the Sugar Plum Fairy and picking the parts they want to play next year.  They oohed and ahhed through the whole thing, gasping at just the right moments.  They even raved about our "great seats" up in the balcony.  And here they are reviewing all the best moments:  "Olivia, weren't those gingersnaps soooo cute?"  "Oh, Savannah I think next year you could definitely do the Russian dance."  We hummed and pirouetted all the way to the car.

The stories that my Canon Elph could not tell this week (either because they were too sacred or too sad) include a multitude of car problems (for both cars), the worst of which is that David's car needs a whole new engine, and will have to be replaced.  So I am shuttling him to and from work and making due until we can do that.  And meanwhile, I am secretly enjoying this extra time with David every day.  

After grudgingly (yes, even petulantly) making my way through the first couple weeks of the holiday season, I have finally caught the spirit of it.  On Saturday night we watched "It's a Wonderful Life" and I started bawling at the drugstore scene with Mr. Gower and never really stopped.  And then last night we had dinner with some friends and went to a Christmas concert at our church.  (Caleb and Olivia both sang in it too, Olivia with significant feeling all over her face.)  The music was gorgeous, and suddenly I caught the Christmas spirit, and I belted out "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" at the end as loud as I could.  Today is cold (a first this year) and overcast (rare), and it finally feels like Christmas.  David said we could light a fire tonight after Caleb's violin concert.  I think if we open the doors we really can.  There will be hot chocolate.  And marshmellows.  And more Hark-the-Herald-Angels-belting with "significant feeling."  And Dicken's "Stave One" in which we shall meet Marley's ghost.  It's finally Christmas at our house. 

Word of the Week: Sanguinely

sanguinely /adv./  cheerfully optimistically.  assuredly.  buoyantly.  confidently and enthusiastically. expectantly.  lively.  hopefully.  also with reddish or ruddy color, floridly.

sanguinely  /adv./  1.  I think perhaps I had a hard time with this word this week, because the word itself doesn't sound sanguine to me at all.  The middle syllable in particular sounds like you opened a box of something distasteful and reminds me of dissecting frogs in 7th grade.  And so the week did not go sanguinely, at least for me.  There were moments spent in the exact opposite way in fact.  But we woke to rain this morning, sanguinely pattering on the roof and skylights, dark clouds covering everything, and so I am sanguinely publishing this post and hoping for days and days of rain and turkey and games around our kitchen table.

sanguinely  /adv./  2.  Olivia was delighted at her viola lesson this week to be invited to play at the big Christmas recital.  Her teacher has been astounded at her progress and believes she's ready to perform.  Olivia, of course, sanguinely accepted the invitation, beamed all the way home, and has been madly practicing the can-can ever since.

sanguinely  /adv./  3.  Savannah had her second grade "Johnny Appleseed" play this last week.  She wanted to memorize her part and spent a good part of the week pacing the house reciting lines about John Chapman's life.  She narrated beautifully and did her own share of sanguinely beaming.  The highlight of the play, though, came when David cancelled a meeting and surprised her by showing up.  He said when he walked up he had never seen such a grin on her face.  I am including a video of her part for her grandparents whom, I'm sure, will sanguinely applaud me for doing so.  Please notice the scenery that I helped create.  David was duly impressed of course. 

sanguinely  /adv./  4. Caleb and I spent more hours than I care to think about working on his aerospace project this week.  He and his team are sanguinely predicting a big win at the competition next week, but I am nervously worrying about all the "black holes" in our research and plans.  But there is little we can do now.  We have built and rebuilt and typed and retyped and thought and rethought, plus glued and sawed, and drilled, and mod-podged, and watercolored, and scale drawinged, and made a gazillion trips to Home Depot.  All that's left is the bibliography (which is substantial) and securing the solar panels (which are sadly skewampus).  Truth be told, I would find an "honorable mention" downright miraculous.  I keep telling the boys that this is just a learning experience, but their enthusiasm will not be dampened.

This was the state of my feet on Monday night after a day of helping 11-year-old boys spray paint.  They came clean, but my garage floor will never be the same.

sanguinely  /adv./  5.  On Saturday we drove down to Tucson to visit Daniel (my cousin) and Carol (his wife) and their lovely girls.  We went to watch the BYU vs. Utah game (we don't have any kind of cable) on their large theatre screen and have dinner.  The girls disappeared shortly after our arrival, emerged for dinner, and shed a few tears at our leaving.  When I announced that it was time to go, they said, "What?!" with utter shock and consternation.  BYU lost horribly to their big rivals, but David took it okay.  In fact, when we left to drive down he rather un-sanguinely said, "I have a bad feeling about this." (Meaning the game, not the car ride.)  They live in near some gorgeous mountains covered in saguaros, and this gorgeous specimen is right in front of their house.

sanguinely  /adv./  6.  On Sunday night, David and I attended "Priesthood Preview" with Caleb who will turn 12 this year and receive the Aaronic priesthood.  This was, of course, one of those moments that kind of stops in your tracks and you wonder "What just happened here?"  In the middle of the meeting they asked the boys to stand together and sing "Called to Serve."  Caleb sanguinely belted out his part, regardless of the other quiet, tentative, 11-year-old voices around him.  When the other boys looked at the floor or blushed shamefully at each other, Caleb stood up tall, looked straight at us and sang out his testimony.  I was busting.  I love that he knows who he is.   

Passing Notes in Bed and Other Nonsense

My whole house was slow getting up this morning.  Except for David, who kissed me goodbye at 6:40 and I said, "Oh, it's late."

The girls were especially slow, and bleary-eyed on top of that.

I guess they had a late night. 

Last night, I finally said, "Girls.  Stop talking.  (In my firmest voice.)  If I hear one more sound from this room, I'm going to have your dolls come sleep in my room."  (That does it every time.)

But they found a way around me.

I found this in under Savannah's bed this morning.


And then I discovered this in the corner.


Apparently there was a late-night party in the southwest bedroom last night.  I'm not sure at what point in the night they had two ginormous bowls of popcorn.  But there you go: evidence of my expert parenting skills.

For the record, I didn't hear one more sound from their room.

In other news,

look what Ethan and I found today:  the raw materials of a space station.  We've been looking for the perfect tubing for weeks and so we were pretty triumphant at our find.

We were giggling pretty hard in Ace Hardware using this tubing as a telephone.  No one else thought we were funny.  Apparently hardware is serious business.

Word of the Week: Ascribe

ascribe /vt./  to credit or assign, as to a cause or source.  to attribute or think of as belonging, as a quality or characteristic.  accredit.  credit.  impute.  hang on.  pin on.

ascribe  /vt./  1.  The appearance of this post can only be ascribed to Rachel, who when I told her I was going to put the word-of-the-week on hold for the rest of the year, gasped out loud in horror.  Bless you, Rara.  This one is for you.

ascribe  /vt./  2.  The word "ascribed" has been pounding through my head, ever since we sang this line at church last week (and a little):  "To Him ascribed be, Honor and majesty, Thru all eternity, Worthy the Lamb!"  (I especially like the exclamation point, don't you?)  I like the way ascribe sounds, especially in the past tense, when you say it in three syllables...a.scrib.ed.  If my life were a musical, that's how I would say it all the time.

ascribe  /vt./  3.  My absence from all things blog can be ascribed mostly to the pace of my life and the length of my list these days.  To be honest, there is no actual list, just a wheel in my head that turns around and around saying, "What about this..."  "Don't forget this..." "You better start on..."  (This wheel sounds suspiciously like RIM, while CIM just thinks its a good idea to take Tuesday afternoon off and play Monopoly with my boys.  Ethan creamed us by the way.  He kept saying "Nope, that's too expensive," and only bought Mediterranean and Baltic Avenues, while I bought everything I landed on.  I ended up going bankrupt and selling most everything to him in the end.  It was a little too frighteningly close to my actual life.)

ascribe /vt./  4. It seems like most of the week was taken up by the election.  The first part spent in nervous anticipation and after Tuesday, taken up with a bit of consolation pie and what can only be described as quiet, resigned acceptance.  But by Thursday, we had all recovered for the most part and life went on.  I can only ascribe this to the magic of pie.

ascribe  /vt./  5.  On Wednesday afternoon I took Savannah to get a haircut (which was badly needed and long overdue, and finally accomplishing it can only be ascribed to her constant prodding.)  It turned out darling and she said, "When you put this on your blog, you need to put an exclamation point by the 'after.'"  Indeed.  When David saw it he said, "I'm not sure if it makes her look older or younger."  As for me, I feel like I got my little girl back.

ascribe /vt./  6.  We had a big aerospace work party on Friday afternoon and evening.  The other boys in Caleb's group rode the bus home with Caleb and we worked until eight o' clock, when one of the boys said, "I'm really tired."  And they were.  Exhausted.  The most exciting part of the night happened when I hooked up about 9 volts too much power to our little motor and blew up two batteries.  After we got over the little scare this mini-explosion caused, the boys all said that was about the coolest thing ever.  All the progress we made this week can only be ascribed to the brilliance of my mother (who I called for consultation on physical layout...she's a genius with graph paper) and my cousin, Daniel (who I called in for help on the motor dilemma), and the guy at home depot who flirted with me shamelessly when I consulted him about belts and tubing and free plywood.  And in the meantime, my quilt room has been turned into ground zero for the project.  For the record, I am much better with fabric than I am with copper wire.

ascribe  /vt./  7.  On Saturday, my cousin, Daniel, and his family came from Tucson for a short visit.  They brought their bikes and we took our first bike ride of the season.  It was glorious.

The weather was beautiful and we rode about 4 miles with a stop in the middle at the frozen yogurt shop.  The kids played and we had dinner and dessert before they headed for home, but not before my girls tried to talk them all into spending the night.  It was delightful to see them all again.  David was one of Daniel's roommates at BYU, and I still ascribe all the happiness of my life to that (not so) "random" housing assignment. 

ascribe  /vt./  8.  I taught the lesson in gospel doctrine on Sunday and finally felt good about it.  Of course there were a few small moments where CIM started talking, but I was able to course correct pretty quickly and recover.  I can only ascribe this success to the advice I got from my dad and my brother, Matt, a few weeks ago.  (More on this in my 52 blessing post.)

ascribe  /vt./  9.  David is over the oncology program at his hospital, and they hosted their first annual Mustang Car Show/Prostate Cancer Screening Event on Saturday morning at the hospital.  When David told me about this, I just grinned.  I know you're all sorry you missed it.  And while Caleb and I did not need our prostates screened we went with David to check out the car show and show our support.  There is no end (no pun intended) to the variety of projects David's job entails.  But the success of this event has to be completely ascribed to Patricia DeBruhl, who is just about the best hire David has ever made.  She is a wonder.  I'm going to have to add this to our list of minor holidays.

This and That and an Appearance by CIM

Not much to say, but need to talk.  Be forewarned, this is mostly CIM at work.  I'm afraid RIM has flown north for the winter.


This week Ethan only had to go to school on Monday and Tuesday and so we had an outing yesterday, to Target, then to Sweetcakes (our secret lunch spot), then to the museum, the library (of course), and finally the grocery store.  Ethan told me he wasn't bored the whole day. 

We're at my favorite part of the Book of Mormon in family scripture study.  Ether, chapter 2.  Though I'm crazy about chapters 3 and 6 as well.  After we had read the chapter, I tried to explain to the kids why I liked it so much.  I said it was like a metaphor for our lives, and asked them if they knew what a metaphor was.  Olivia raised her hand and said, "It doesn't use 'like' or 'as.'"  Correct darling.  (She's been doing metaphors and similes all week at school.)  And then I explained the metaphor and bore my testimony.  A pause for impact.  And then Olivia raised her hand again.  She asked, "Mom do you want to hear the simile I wrote?  The koala is as fluffy as a pillow."  I looked at David who was discretely grinning behind his book.  This is because he finds it charming that I would try to explain my metaphor to the children, and he finds it even more charming that the whole time I was talking, Olivia was thinking about koala bears.

Olivia had an impromptu tea party with her friends yesterday.  She dressed up, of course.  Complete with a hat.  But her bike had a flat.  Miraculously, I had a tube on the shelf and offered to change it for her.  She was skeptical, but agreed.  Halfway through the project I sent her on Savannah's bike because I am not nearly as handy as I thought I was.  An hour later (well-spent, no?) I had the tube changed and pumped up and Savannah took it on a test drive to the mailbox.  I congratulated myself on my brilliance and proceeded to clean up the tools and popped tube.  By the time I did that and went back to park Olivia's bike, could hear a soft hissing and found this:

Apparently I put a hole in the tube as I was putting the new one on her bike.  Which is a real shame.


Savannah came home from school yesterday and said, "Hi, Mom.  You look pretty."  That made my day.

And David came home at 6:30.  That made me over the moon.  How's that for a metaphor? 

Last night was the final presidential debate. (Thank heavens.)  I cannot bear another word from either candidate.  David had it on while we were finishing dinner and I started answering the questions for the candidates.  They would uncanniliy say the exact same thing a few moments later.  Savannah's eyes got bigger and bigger.  She asked me how I knew what they were going to say.  That, my dear, is because I have heard it all too many times.  I can recite their speeches for them.  And that is why I cannot wait for election day.

An Appearance by CIM:

Last night there was nothing on TV (including the debate), and so David and I went to bed early and talked, which turned out not to be early after all and was, in fact, rather late once we finally went to sleep.  I started the discussion by unleashing CIM from her carefully controlled enclosure and telling David that I was desperately failing at everything, and I was pretty sure I never choose "best" when given a choice between good, better, and best, and by the way I was going to shut down my blog as well.  He tried to reasonably talk me through my crisis of confidence and eventually we ended up on safer ground talking about his life at the hospital.  And eventually CIM settled down and went to sleep.  And this is why I love that man.

"Ahhh, Y-ness"

This is what Olivia sighed and said when we reached the "Y" on Friday afternoon. 

A few of the highlights of our quick trip to Utah:

1.  I hiked "the Y" for the first time.  David cannot believe this and believes he has saved me from tragedy by insisting that I complete this BYU tradition.

2.  The hike to "the Y" takes 10 switchbacks up the mountain.  The kids begged to go back to the car by the second one...but we did eventually make it, much to their delight and surprise.  Savannah noted our speed and asked, "Mom, have you noticed that everyone keeps passing us?"  Luckily speed doesn't count.

3.  Once we reached "the Y" I was terrified that someone was going to fall to their death.  My terror made David grin.  I was relieved and happy when we finally started back down without incident.

4.  On our way down from "the Y" Ethan told me that he wanted to hike all the letters in the alphabet.  He told me he knew where there was a "G" and a "K" and we could skip "Y" since we had done it first.

5.  It snowed!  On October 12th!  The kids were delighted of course.

6.  I kept our tradition of "buying-a-new-sweatshirt-for-everyone-every-time-we-go-somewhere" alive and well.  Even though I packed the warmest stuff we had.  It was not enough and we ended up buying everyone a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.  Maybe we'll turn the air conditioner on in January and everyone can dress up again.

7.  We visited David's sister, Lori, and her family on Friday night and then met up with them again after the game on Saturday.  It was so good to see them all again and the kids revelled in the "cousin time."

8.  We also had a brief visit with David's brother, Greg, and his wife, Becca.  They were on their way to celebrate their 1st anniversary, which just made me wonder as I looked at my growing kids sprawled around their living room.  It really wasn't that long ago.  Greg made a brilliant recommendation for hot chocolate with a squirt of soft vanilla ice cream at the Maverick down the street and we went in and got six. 

9.  We were grateful to stay with my gracious and generous (and talented) Aunt Jill.  (Thank you!)  She always makes you feel like you are no trouble at all, even when your kids track brand new snow all over her wood floor. 

10.  One of the delights of the trip was going to the new Hinckley alumni building.  While the girls and I were in the bathroom, David found a donor book and we were both excited to see our names listed.  And I was twice happy to find out that I don't spend all of my money on children's books or sweatshirts.

11.  The Cougars won, much to Ethan's relief.  The game was cold, but in the crisp-fall-pink-cheek way.  My kids are still slathering chapstick on their chapped lips.  It makes me happy every time I look at them.  We bundled up in blankets and drank hot chocolate and sang the BYU fight song.  It was pretty near heaven.

12.  We made obligatory stops at the Creamery, the Gameroom, and the Bookstore.  All the kids found a book to buy and I had to grin at all the lustful bibliophiles I've raised.  We only window shopped though, and everyone started filling out their mental Christmas lists.

13.  And finally, this is for David:

It Adds Up

Savannah came home with an assignment to count all the books in her house.

She was overwhelmed by this and just that made me smile.

I helped her count.  And solved the little question David asked last night at our budget meeting: "Where does all our money go?"  Apparently, Barnes and Noble has most of it

Here are the books in our house, by the numbers:

1,088  total

(though this does not include phone books, cookbooks, music books, quilting books, or dictionaries.)

837 children's books

140 of those just in Caleb's room

I told you I had a thing for words.

I'm not sure if I should be delighted or embarrassed.

But in my defense, Ethan and I did hit the library earlier this afternoon where he checked out an armful of Halloween books and I checked out The Westing Game to read aloud in the evenings.  So I don't actually buy everything I read.

Caleb just read the numbers in this post, patted me on the shoulder, and said, "That's cool."

I am inclined to agree.


Last week at family home evening, Ethan gave the lesson.  It was about serving in the right way.  I helped him share President Eyring's story from the October Friend, a story that made me teary.

And then Ethan had everyone take a card and write something they could do during the week to serve someone else.

This morning as I was straightening the girls' room, I found Savannah's card under her pillow.  There was a list of things to do for every one of us.  But I was especially touched by what she had written next to Caleb's name:

Caleb: Give him faith for tests.

I felt twice blessed.  One for finding this earnest note, and two, for having such a girl.  I so appreciate her tender heart and her faith.  And I am inclined to ask her to add my name to that list of people who need faith for tests.

Word of the Week: Burgeon

burgeon  /vt./  to grow or develop quickly, flourish.  to bloom or blossom.  effloresce.  expand.  thrive.  flower.  snowball.  sprout. 

burgeon  /vt./  1.  I need to get this post written, as this word's life and influence is quickly burgeoning into my current week.  And may I just say that I love a word that can be defined by both a snowball and a flower.  Clever word.  You can feel it's anxious, growing, proud self in the first syllable.

burgeon  /vt./  2.  David's love of politics has burgeoned from a sweet little crush to an all-out obsession.  I have felt a bit like a "football wife" for the past, oh, ten months or so, but it has been particularly bad this last week.  He has Fox News on his Blackberry 24/7 these days and he was cheering and clapping and yelling so loudly during Sarah Palin's speech this week that the kids got out of bed to see what all the excitement was about.  (In his defense, she is quite fabulous.)  He's even given up sleeping-in on Sunday mornings (gasp!) to watch the political shows.  That election cannot come soon enough. 

burgeon  /vt./  3.  My sister, Rachel, and I taught another of our body image classes last week and we have another one tonight and two more scheduled in the coming weeks.  I cannot explain the burgeoning popularity of the class, but we are so happy to teach it whenever we can to get the message out.  Though the more we give it, the more we see what amateurs we really are.  Really, you'd think our confidence would burgeon the more times we give it, but I think both of us are just more and more aware of our flaws.  I told her this last week that the one really great thing about it is that we get to spend more time together.  That part is admittedly delightful.

burgeon  /vt./  4.  Savannah was baptized this week and Olivia was unaccountably emotional about it.  As I was blow-drying Olivia's hair on Saturday afternoon the tears burgeoned to overflowing.  She finally threw her arms around Savannah's neck and sobbed, "I'm just so proud of you Savannah.  You make me so happy."  I cannot believe my luck in catching this moment on film.  Savannah's look so perfectly captures her bafflement at her sister's emotional (and decidedly lachrymose) moment.

burgeon  /vt./  5.  Much to my delight, Caleb and Olivia performed a musical number at Savannah's baptism, "When I Am Baptized."  Caleb played his violin and Olivia sang.  I accompanied them on the piano.  They did so well, despite the sheer terror (as Rachel described it) that Olivia experienced just before she opened her mouth.  I love to see my children's talents burgeon and flourish.  They have been asked to do the number in sacrament meeting in a few weeks.  Olivia has been quite conflicted about this invitation, vacillating between burgeoning fear and happy pride. 

I didn't have a picture of their musical number, but David sent me an email earlier today letting me know that I had neglected to include his favorite picture in the baptism post...I'm including it here, for him.

burgeon  /vt./  6.  Olivia had her first viola lesson this week and was bursting and burgeoning with uncontainable excitement.  Her teacher is a woman named Marie with a charming eastern European accent.  When I picked Olivia up she said, nodding at Olivia's joy-infused face, "Oh, she's just vonderful."  And so the practicing has begun in earnest, and I am aware of a burgeoning acknowledgement (again) that I should listen to my children...apparently they do know what they want.

Water and the Holy Ghost

I love being a mother.

I love days like this.  Touchstones.  Joyful, happy, eternal, real.

The third of my four children was baptized on Saturday.  And as happy as this makes me, it also makes me slightly achy inside.  Because amidst all the joy at Savannah's growth and her willingness to follow her Savior, there is a part of me that sees just how fast this is going.  And I am simply unprepared.

There was this day...

and then suddenly Saturday was here, and I was painting her toenails (a French manicure for my girl who dreams of Paris) for her baptism day. 

Ethan asked me the other day, "Is Savannah going to be baptized in the River Jordan?"

She was baptized by David and I am always struck by how powerful and magnificent he is when he is exercising his priesthood.  As he said the prayer, I was reminded again.

My favorite pictures are not on film...her bare feet padding down the hall with David, her dress billowing around her waist as she walked into the water, her wrist in David's hand, her joyful, surprised face as I met her walking out of the font, her dripping dress hanging in the bathroom, the back of her neck as I wrapped her wet hair into a brown, velvet ribbon for her confirmation.

One of my favorite parts was during her confirmation to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  David blessed her to always remember her middle name, that His grace is the greatest blessing of her life. (You can read about my most favorite part here.)

We felt so blessed to have most of our "Arizona" family there and lots of really kind friends from church came to support and congratulate her.  Quite a few of Savannah's friends came to see her baptism too, and we had a little party afterwards at my parents' house and the kids swam.  I put quite a bit of effort into the dinner...ordered a giant sub, and bought fruit and veggies and cake at Costco.  I did make a couple of dips for the fruit and chips, so that's something, I guess.

Last night at Family Home Evening, Savannah gave the lesson.  She talked about the covenants that she made at baptism and then talked especially about her promise to "take His name upon her."  She shared what that meant to her and how we had recently read about the "new law" that was given by Jesus to "turn your cheek."  It was such a sweet lesson and David and I were both touched by her testimony of the covenants she made on Saturday. 

And just like that, she was all grown up.