Holidays · Traditions

Easter 2017

Our Easter was relatively simple this year, but still lovely.

I loved doing some of the little things in preparation, like dying eggs with Adelina (she loved it, obviously. We even managed to not make too big a mess!). She was so proud of her creation!

 

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She very much enjoyed helping with these cookies too…

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We did some special scripture studies during Holy Week — watching Bible videos, reading special articles, etc. For Family Home Evening, I opened Easter eggs that told the story of Christ’s last days with Adelina. She’s still a little young but getting to touch and hold objects was fun and helps the concepts make a little sense. (Here’s one, and another version here)

For my own personal study I found this guide really helpful — and no, I certainly didn’t make it through the whole thing! But over the years I look forward to refining what works for our family traditions. This is a great guide for families as well.

And yes, Easter also meant the end of my social media fast. This year was interesting because instead of a complete break, I decided to only allow myself to use social media when the children were sleeping. Full disclosure, I wasn’t 100% successful. I had some rough days here and there where all I wanted to do was escape. But generally it went well and it was really beneficial in terms of evaluating how I was using social media and for what purpose. It helped me exercise restraint in a more real-life type of scenario. I significantly disconnected from online hysteria and debates, which was really good for me. Instead, I plunged myself into books, I texted or called friends more often (instead of just assuming they’ll see my updates on the internet), and I had more time for reflecting on the important things. General Conference was so good this year, and I think part of it was I was cleared from a great deal of the distractions I usually surround myself with. This “fast” was so good, I think I’m going to continue to restrict social media time in a very similar way. In the last few weeks I also gained some really good insights into things I need to change in my life, and received a really direct response to how I could invite Christ into my life more — a concrete way I could do that. It’s funny how the answers come when you’re finally listening…

So there’s my recap of sorts. It is absolutely worth doing, and I recommend it to anybody who’s looking to recenter their thoughts on what really matters. It was a really great tool to start some important reflection. And it helped me make more mental space to prepare to celebrate Christ for Easter.

Of course, I love the fun and decoration aspect too 🙂 I’ve been slowly collecting or making little items for around the home — a moss-covered bunny hanging, a linen table runner, an egg wreath that I adore. And no spring would be complete without tulips and daffodils!

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I got to enjoy these on Saturday at the Provo City Center Temple (I got to shoot my sister’s engagement photos, and I can’t wait to share them with you!) Since we had to travel that weekend, my plans for an egg hunt sort of went out the window when I realized it was just one thing too many. I decided it wasn’t worth stressing about, so instead, Adelina simply found a surprise from the Easter bunny ready for her.

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(And yes, things got a little crazy so I dug out and repackaged a toy or two! Ha ha. I didn’t even buy any chocolate eggs… I know, I know. But she seriously didn’t need more junk food that weekend.)

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The big item in her basket was an apron I found just in the nick of time. I love cooking with her, and she loves the hands-on fun — like playing with dough — so much! She was a great helper for our Easter meal that day 🙂

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As for the traditional family photo… Jonas had a blowout ON Andrew before we got a chance to take it! And then Adelina was waving a stick in my face the whole time, so this is as good as it gets.

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Real life, right?! (Just take my word for it, Jonas looked stinking adorable. And my husband was handsome as always of course!) I had some moments of frustration that day, but I’m getting better at tampering my expectations and being reasonable about what will and won’t work with small children. So when Adelina decided that “I’m going to get a quick picture!” meant “Quick! Run around as fast as you can and whatever you do, DON’T look at the camera,” I took a deep breath and just went with it.

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Jonas has matching shoes that he can finally wear now! And yes, she’s been wearing that cardigan since she was about six months old…

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Gah! She was so tiny! But seriously, I can’t find a good replacement for this cardigan and I love it so much! It’s probably getting a little ridiculous though.

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And there you have it: hope you had a beautiful, peaceful, and meaningful Easter weekend!

Holidays · Traditions

Sweet Valentine & Toddler in the Kitchen!

We had a pretty sweet Valentine’s Day around here — simple, but full of good moments.

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It started with Jonas taking an awesome nap, which meant Adelina and I got plenty of time together to make some treats!

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This has become something of a tradition for me and I rather like it: making chocolate-covered pretzel rods & strawberries. I LOVE those pretzels, especially with the crushed peppermint. Adelina did a great job of crushing and sprinkling it!

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We definitely had to wash hands a few times though, she kept licking her fingers clean ha. I wouldn’t have cared so much except we all had a cold and some of these were intended for other people…

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(It’s pretty self-explanatory how you make these, but for a few tips: I hate using the “candy melts” because they taste nothing like chocolate. I use milk chocolate chips and white chocolate chips, melt, then dip and drizzle. Make sure the strawberries are completely dry before dipping or it’ll make a mess of your chocolate and the chocolate won’t stick properly to the fruit — I usually pat them each with a paper towel before dipping. Oh and cute cupcake liners are perfect for giving the strawberries a few extra presentation points 😉 Crush some leftover candy canes for the pretzels and sprinkle while the chocolate is still wet or it won’t stick. Let cool. Voilà!)

Andrew stopped by for lunch and I handed him a plate to take to his office. I also gave him a little felt mailbox valentine with some chocolates and notes (I loved these prompts over at Marriage Laboratory for 14 days of love letters!). I used to think Valentine’s Day was cheesy and overly commercial (it’s definitely a commercial holiday…), and I still think giant teddy bears and heart-shaped jewelry are ridiculous, but all things considered, I do love the idea of a day to remind the people around you how much you care. Plus you don’t need to convince me to eat more chocolate…

After Adelina’s nap, I had prepared a valentine for her too: a little baggie with a Frozen sticker book, some glow sticks and lollipops. Great way to get over the post-naptime grumpies!

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We set off to deliver our treats to a “Galentine” and her little girls — gotta love Leslie Knope 😉 Adelina was excited to deliver them but sad once she realized we weren’t going over to play ha ha!

Later that afternoon, I cut out a paper heart and had her decorate it for Andrew. When he came home that evening, she stood at the top of the stairs, hardly containing her anticipation, crying out “Papa!” and rushing down the stairs to hand him her scribbled Valentine. It was pretty cute.

You know, we haven’t always been very good at holidays around here. You get married and both swear that Valentine’s Day is stupid because you don’t need a special day to say “I love you,” and then several years go by without really celebrating any of the other holidays or milestones either, and you start to realize little holidays really are kind of nice, and that little gestures go a long way. My point being, it takes time to develop rituals and align expectations, and I’m glad we’re getting to a point where traditions are beginning to form.

That evening, after getting the kids down to bed, Andrew had prepared a little surprise of his own! I’ve been on a big hygge kick lately — I’m reading The Little Book of Hygge, which has been really interesting, plus I’ve always had a big crush on Scandinavian cultures. One of the concepts is spending simple, cozy evenings in good company, and I’ve been mentioning lately how we’ve definitely gotten into the rut of collapsing in front of Netflix at the end of the day instead of talking to each other. Anyway: Andrew prepared a “hyggelig” evening, complete with a puzzle (of a scene along a dock in Copenhagen, ha!), candles (proper lighting is very important for good hygge), and hot beverages!

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I’m pretty sure the last time I did a puzzle, I was a kid. It was fun and it was something different where we could just have casual conversation for a while. I love that he takes note of things I mention, it’s the little things in life!

Hope you had a lovely Valentine’s Day! Have any other fun things you do to celebrate? I think “heart attacks” are pretty cute too, I’m always on the lookout for other ways to involve little ones.

Holidays · Motherhood · Traditions

Blessing Day

This story is not sweet or picture-perfect… but maybe there’s at least a lesson to learn, so bear with me.

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Since we were with all of Andrew’s family for Christmas, we thought it would be nice to bless Jonas with them there. We blessed Adelina in France two years ago so it was mostly my family then. And it is rather special to bless a baby boy on Christmas day when you think about it.

But as much as I’d like to say it was all lovely and wonderful, it was mostly just stressful. It’s a pretty wild rush to get ready and go to church on a Christmas Sunday, after the stockings and breakfast, and luckily we all made it in time. Jonas was actually perfect and slept throughout the whole meeting and his blessing, so that was a relief. Adelina was a little hyper but she did OK thanks to Omi. The meeting ended and I wanted to grab a photo with the whole family. Of course, it was suddenly uncharacteristically cold and blustery in St George, so everyone was freezing, and did I mention the presents were still waiting at home? So this is the cousin photo we got!

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It actually cracks me up looking back… real life right there! But at this point in the day I was getting really frustrated because Jonas was now screaming and Adelina was melting down because she didn’t want to take off her coat for the photo, and we have a very limited window of time to get this done… fine, let’s head home.

I really wanted to get a photo of our family because dang it, we’re dressed in our Christmas best and I’d like one stinking photo, right?! I’ve carried this baby for 9 1/2 months and looked exhausted and overloaded for months, so the one day I finally look nice, I’d like just one picture before everyone tears their clothes off! But no. This is the best we could do.

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Double chins all around, Adelina was crying because she didn’t want her socks off, Andrew had immediately undone his tie on the 2-minute drive home because he wanted to put on his BYU tie that day (bowl game week), and Jonas wouldn’t calm down. So that was fun (just writing about this makes my skin crawl all over again). I finally just gave up, so frustrated I could hardly speak, and it was time to do presents anyway.

I know, you’re probably laughing at me right now… I wouldn’t blame you. Sometimes we do this to ourselves — have high expectations (apparently, getting a single decent photo is a high expectation these days) and get frustrated when they don’t hold up. Another life lesson to store away. I was just glad to be done with the whole ordeal and finally just enjoy Christmas.

And once I took a breather and gave up on my dream of a picture-perfect moment, it was a lovely day. Everyone just hung out and relaxed, the kids played with presents, we all enjoyed sweet Jonas and ate delicious food… simple things. I tried to get some photos of Jonas but once again came up short, so you know what I did? I dressed him up again the other day and did a photo redo. And that’s how I got the photos I actually wanted!

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Moral of the story: don’t plan more than one “thing” in a day. It’s not worth it. Leave space for important things because it’s just too much to try to combine. Also, expectations… waaaaay lower. You’d think I would’ve learned that by now, but here we are again. In my defense, holiday expectations mixed with postpartum exhaustion are a little intense! So that’s the story of how poor Jonas’ blessing went down!

DIY · Holidays · Traditions

Thankful Tree — Thanksgiving Traditions

I hope you had a lovely thanksgiving — we certainly did! Yes, it was very soon after Jonas’ birth… but we kept it simple (I’m a turkey breast kind of girl — who wants to deal with that much bird anyway?) and my wonderful in-laws made it all possible by alternately cooking and holding the baby. My sisters (+ a special friend) were able to come up from Provo and join us despite snow the day before, and it was great! Man, I LOVE Thanksgiving food, especially my MIL’s famous monkey bread… that didn’t last long ha!

Anyway, I wanted to share a fun little tradition I’ve been developing on over the years. It’s nothing particularly original and I’ve been inspired by various bloggers, but I really like how it turned out this year: behold, our thankful tree! (modeled by these silly turkeys…)

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The concept is simple: create a bare tree with brown paper (I actually have rolls of it that I use as wrapping paper — brown paper packages anyone?) and then have paper leaves and pens handy for people to write things/people they are grateful for. Last year I had a string with clothespins for the leaves, this year I made a whole tree, and I think it turned out pretty cool!

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Some people were being a little silly with some of these… 🙂 I meant to get it up sooner in the month, but we got kind of distracted by a baby that refused to come and then the actual baby himself… next year! Obviously nothing particularly original, I know many families have versions of this, but I love how it’s a simple way to encourage gratitude and to count your blessings!

Now, on to Christmas!

Holidays · Traditions

In the Christmas Spirit

It’s that time of the year, and it is wonderful. The air is thick with cheer and a little extra kindness. I talked about our Christmas planning, and it is paying off big time. All the gifts are wrapped, the cards are sent, and now there’s no more spending to be done — it’s time to soak in the Christmas spirit and spread some joy around us. I’ve been so grateful for opportunities to serve with others, it has brought me right where I need to be focused these days.

Last week we had a Christmas date to the Wyoming Symphony, and the trumpeter who soloed was world-class (former Canadian Brass). It was SO much fun, he and the conductor are old buddies so they horsed around a lot and thoroughly entertained the audience.

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It was lightly snowing but store owners would come out to listen a bit and some passers-by stopped or smiled on their way past. It was wonderful (although keeping a wiggly toddler happy was an adventure ha ha!). It wasn’t too cold and the happy spirit we carried kept us warm! We are definitely making this an annual tradition, so join us next year! (also, next time I want to up the ante and bring a donation basket to collect money for a local charity)

Then Sunday night was more music, with Andrew playing violin in the local performance of Handel’s Messiah! It was a mix of professional, semi-professional and amateurs, but it was absolutely lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Our friend (right behind Andrew) was one of the soloists and she was incredible. We witnessed some serious talent in our little western town!

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Even Adelina was really good, especially considering it was well past bedtime… I’m very grateful for the Badgers who sat next to us and helped entertain her, Adelina loved them!

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And I’ve finally put the finishing touches on our Christmas tree, although the bottom half is just going to have to stay bare because we have a saboteuse…. ha. I love these ornaments, many of them are tied in with the last few years as our family grows.

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My sweet ornament exchange ball. Cool right? And below is a cow bell Andrew brought back from his mission in Switzerland.

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Love that western star of ours 🙂 it’s been nice to mix cultures and pick up a little bit of everything that makes our family us. And I love the decorating. For gift wrapping this year, I’m doing brown paper and washi tape, I love the simplicity and that tape sure is fun! (anybody else just start humming the favorite things song from Sound of Music in their head?)

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On the topic of traditions, I’ve started our Christmas books collection. One of the Power of Moms founders does this (as well as a favorite blogger who happens to be her sister!) and I love the idea: she has a pile of books collected over the years that she brings out during December and they read them at night with the kids. As they grow older, it can be chapter books that they read a bit of every night, etc. I absolutely love embracing reading and Christmas together, so here we go! (To be fair, we haven’t done much reading with her — these days her patience is limited ha ha. But we’ll get there!)

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And we’re still reading through our advent calendar scripture study. It has really brought a nice spirit into our home — I love that it jumps between the old testament prophecies, new testament nativity story and Book of Mormon prophecies and events, because it’s so beautifully interwove and testifies of just how much the old world and new world were connected. The Lord was speaking to his people everywhere, and the whole earth was living through that special time.

(I’ll also add: the scriptures to read are very short, it is very doable for families of all ages. We often end up talking about the verse of the day for a little while after too, and pondering just those few words.)

What a beautiful season. It’s always a good reminder to sit back and enjoy the time with my family, and of course to remember the reason for all these celebrations. Especially on a blizzard day like today, it’s time to take the slow route.

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(Yes, that’s a mega snow drift, and it’s still blowing outside with no signs of stopping!)

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This video is one of my all-time favorites — the lyrics prompt us to ask ourselves how we will apply Christ’s spirit to the world around us, and it is a beautiful story they tell.

“What shall we give to the Babe in the manger, what shall we offer the child in the stall? Incense and spices and gold we’ve got plenty, are these the gifts for the King of us all?

“What shall we give to the boy in the temple, what shall we offer the Man by the sea? Palms at his feet and hosannas uprising, are gifts for Him who will carry the Tree.

“What shall we give to the Lamb who was offered, rising the third day and shedding His love? Tears for his mercy we’ll weep at the manger, bathing the infant come down from above.”

 

 

Holidays · Traditions

Planning Christmas Magic

I need to preface this post: when I was writing this, I was in a good mood, feeling all happy and full of Christmas-y thoughts, and when I went to preview & publish, there were all sorts of ridiculous formatting issues that took a long time to resolve. In that time, Adelina woke up from her nap and got tired of playing by herself, and had three meltdowns (one of them was mine). So now everybody is incredibly frustrated, I get mother of the year award for neglecting my child to finish the %*/$!ing post and clearly, I have my priorities all lined up in the proper order. Moral of the story: don’t listen to me, I’m a hypocrite. Or Murphy’s Law. Probably both. I posted all this to Facebook and lots of very nice moms informed me that it’s called “motherhood,” so I guess I’m not too horrible of a person ha ha. Anyway, take what follows with a heaping dose of reality as context 😉

I have some serious catching up to do in terms of blogging — there are a lot of things I’ve been wanting to write about, which means of course writer’s block and then a few months passed… oops. But first:

Christmas!

One of my goals this year has been to be deliberate in how we celebrate the holidays and how we spend our family time. I want to make it meaningful, not just get caught up in the rush and shopping and obligations that can come with it all. I’ve had a few failures along the way, but mostly it’s been really good.

Andrew and I had an awesome discussion a few weeks ago about planning and preparing for Christmas traditions. (I strongly recommend this worksheet by the way!) I’ve been staying relatively calm and happy as the holidays get closer, but man that balance can be tricky!

We brainstormed what we wanted — and what we didn’t want — to have and experience for our holidays, and then compared those to our goals for this period (basically: family time, Christ-centered, relaxed and content, thinking outward). It was interesting comparing lists to our stated intention, because it didn’t always match up — and so we deleted some things from the list. Also, I’m essentially done with my Christmas shopping. (I love it!)

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Seriously, if you haven’t already, check out the worksheet and see what a difference it can make for you. Anyway. This year we’re finally putting up lights! We set a Christmas budget a while ago and so to stick to it, we’re starting small, but I’m so excited to come home to these.

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OK I know it’s pretty basic, but it’s a start. Next year we’ll add another strand or two. Also, that roof line is seriously high. We do not have a big enough ladder!

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Oh and yes, there’s snow. Lots of it. We had a big snowstorm into Thanksgiving, and it was the perfect kickoff to the Christmas season!

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So much fun to watch dad scrape snow off the sidewalks 😉 He was a trooper in putting up the lights too. It did bring back childhood flashbacks though ha ha.So of course we put up the tree after thanksgiving, although we’re not done decorating it yet, and we have a little “helper” who won’t let us do the bottom half, so it’ll have to do for this year 🙂

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I love that we are setting up Christmas traditions for the future, it is so exciting to be full of hopes and dreams for our family. Obviously you have to be a little realistic… but what a great journey.Meanwhile, I’ve been hard at work the last month doing some Christmas sewing. Adelina has finally been taking good, long naps, so that is absolutely a factor in my ability to do this sort of stuff ha ha. Also Andrew’s nice 4-day weekend was helpful! I started this pillow a year ago… And now it’s done! I love how festive it is, and I just love this fabric line (Aspen Frost by Moda).

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Let’s take a closer look at some details, shall we?

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Not perfect, but it’s a labor of love 😉 Here’s the pillow pattern if you’re interested. This designer has so many fun projects, I might have to try out this, this or this next! I’ve learned a lot over the years — and improved! Adelina’s been a trooper too with all the preparations. This photo makes me laugh! It was a last-minute shopping trip the day before Thanksgiving… sigh. I had everything but one crucial item, of course. It was so funny, the lady behind us at checkout said out loud “I swore to myself I wouldn’t be here today!” And I just laughed and replied “yup!”

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Thanksgiving was wonderful, by the way. I still had to work but it was only one newscast so it wasn’t bad at all — I just skipped out after dinner and got back in time for pie! Our friends Chris and Laurin invited us to join in with all her family so it was really fun to be part of a big celebration. That’s one of the downsides to being out in the wilderness with just your tiny family: not having extended family nearby. Anyway, I’m sad we didn’t get a picture, but I DID grab a shot of this beautiful rustic apple pie I made 🙂

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Yum. Seriously though, everything was absolutely delicious. The turkey, the sides, the salads, the desserts… oh man. I wish I could have some more right now! And Adelina had the time of her life, their little boy is just a month younger than her and he has some pretty fun toys including a little plastic slide that she spent probably half an hour climbing and going down on. No afternoon nap, so she was definitely wired! Oh, and the final project to get ready for the Christmas season? An advent calendar! I finished it this weekend.

We are printing out the advent scripture study paper chain from here and putting one in each of the little pockets. (Also here’s the pattern if you’re interested!)

(Yes, those are tiny pockets with even tinier numbers. This little thing was a lot of detailed work!) So see, it’s fun and educational! Ha. Also little candies or chocolates will fit.Anyway. We are feeling so grateful these days. The economy isn’t doing so hot locally, which is scary, but then when we think about Andrew’s job stability, the security and warmth of our home, and the wonderful people who surround us, we can’t complain one bit. Life doesn’t always work out quite how you planned, and you don’t always end up where you imagined on your detailed little road map, but it’s OK — I guess that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We’ll wait and listen. And so, it’s been a wonderful November, here’s to a beautiful December full of just the right things — like this.