Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Traditions, Old and New

  • New: Watching George C. Scott's A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve Eve, all squished together on our king-sized bed, complete with Sophia hiding her eyes every time the "Black Ghost" came on screen.
  • Old: Making cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve.  This year we made Peppermint Meltaways.  Divine.
  • To Santa, with love.
  • New:  A fancy-schmancy Christmas Eve dinner.  This year we had lasagna by candlelight.
  • By candlelight
  • New:  A family music recital for Christmas Eve after dinner.  It was Chloe's idea and she very carefully planned the whole event.  
  • Silent Night Carol of the Bells Christmas Eve pianists
  • Old:  The opening of Christmas pajamas.  This year even Joel and I got some, due to our lack of really warm PJs and the definite need for them up here in the snow.
  • Ready to open pjs
  • Old:  Listening to Amahl and the Night Visitors by the light of the Christmas tree, while all cuddled together on the couch and eating some of our Christmas cookies.
  • New:  All of us camping out together in Bria and Chloe's room.  (This was necessary because Joel does not want the children to see what Santa brought without him.  But the way this house is set up, they would have to pass the tree in order to come into our bedroom, as our room is on the main floor and the kids are upstairs.  So, the obvious solution was for all of us to sleep in the same room upstairs.  It was actually really fun.)
  • Old:  The opening of gifts on Christmas morning!  We were spoiled this year, as we usually are.
  • Christmas morning joy
  • New:  Building an awesome snowman using our new snowman building kit given to us by some neighbors.  (Actually, only Joel, Bria and Sophia participated in this activity.  Chloe preferred to stay inside and test out all of her new art supplies, and I preferred to stay inside and be warm.)
  • We love you, Mr. Snowman!
  • Old:  Getting all dressed up in our new Christmas duds for Christmas dinner (which was eaten at the home of the same wonderful neighbors who gave us the snowman kit).
  • Christmas Beauties
  • Old:  Falling into bed exhausted, full and happy after two days of fun, food and family.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dashing Through the Holidays

Yesterday Joel and I gave a "Silent Christmas Lesson" to our Young Men and Young Women at church.  We handed each of them a packet with instructions.  No talking.  They read scriptures to themselves, we listened to hymns, they read some thought provoking quotes and ideas about Christ's birth and we finished up by watching The Nativity.

I had such a wonderful experience with that lesson.  The kids really were completely silent and the Spirit was so strong in that room that it was tangible.  Even after we said the closing prayer, everyone just kind of sat there, basking in the glow of the Holy Ghost, completely silent.  Which is totally abnormal for a group of rowdy teenagers who are usually up and chattering as soon as the final "amen" is pronounced.

And then some of the Primary kids ran in the room, breaking the spell as they laughed.  And that was that.

But it all made me think about my manic approach to the holidays this season.  I have never been less prepared for Christmas than I am this year.  I can blame my cross-country move, but that was 4 1/2 months ago and I really should have planned things a bit more.  I may not be the most organized of people, but I normally have stocking stuffers purchased a couple months before Thanksgiving.  I usually have an idea in place for my Christmas card in the summer, and make sure I get the right picture before Thanksgiving.  I have lists of ideas for gifts.  Sewing projects are begun months before Christmas, and the rest of my shopping, while still done in December is usually done by the first week.

I really hate feeling so rushed during the holidays.  I've completely missed the reason for it all this year.  The Christmas shopping wasn't even begun until Black Friday, and only finished a few days ago.  It took me 2 weeks to finish decorating the house, and I didn't derive much pleasure from it at all. The stocking stuffers were an afterthought.  The Christmas picture for my card was taken on December 12 and the card was made late that night.  They were finally mailed out this past Friday.  Gifts for extended family weren't even thought of until this past week, and naturally, I mailed them late.  It's a huge gamble as to whether they'll actually arrive in time for Christmas morning.

As I stood in a very long line at the post office on Saturday morning, balancing packages for my niece and nephews, my parents, my brother, my in-laws, I vowed to be better next year.  For my own sanity. But I wasn't even thinking that sitting back and remembering God's greatest gift to the world should be a reason for being more prepared.  I was thinking about the fact that we were going to be totally late to the Christmas party the kids were invited to because of the insane line of other procrastinators and freaking out about the cost of mailing the packages to (maybe) arrive by December 25.

I finally got it yesterday during our lesson at church.  After church,  the kids and I cuddled up together and listened to Christmas music together.  Not the Kristin Chenoweth or Harry Connick, Jr. albums I've been playing lately, but the Tabernacle Choir and Jenny Oaks Baker and Josh Groban.  The rushing around, the stress, the short fuse, the endless lists that must be done now, or else! were gone.

Our home was finally filled with the Christmas spirit.
For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

~John 3:16

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lara is...

  • relieved to have all but one of her Christmas Cards sent out.  (Still waiting on an address.)
  • unhappy with the print job on aforementioned cards.  (Oh well.)
  • eating Christmas goodies.  (Totally going off sugar on December 26.  For good. Really.  Forever.)
  • wishing the kids had a longer Christmas break. (First day off is Christmas Eve.  They go back on January 4th.)
  • dreading cleaning the kitchen. (All that Christmas baking yesterday, you know.)
  • loving the gorgeous weather today. (Temperatures actually above freezing and the sun is shining!)
  • finishing some sewing projects today.  (Maybe.)
  • mailing packages tomorrow.  (Definitely.)
  • excited for Christmas morning. (Joel always manages to surprise me in a good way.)
  • bugged that the new planner I just bought is missing January-April. (I'd gladly skip them, but I'm not quite that powerful. I guess I'll just have to exchange it.)
  • done with voice lessons until January. (Thank goodness.)
  • learning a new aria for Joel's February concert. (I love that he's using me, but am a little terrified at how little time I have to practice for this one.)
  • blogging later and later every day. (But that doesn't really mean I'm getting anything else done.)
  • going to clean the kitchen now.  (Wish me luck.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis the Season!
(For concerts and concerts and more concerts)

My friend Karen recently wrote on her blog, "December is to musicians what April is to accountants."

May I just add a great big hearty AMEN to that?

This year, Joel and I got off pretty easily.  Messiah and that's all.  In years past he's had a million orchestra concerts and I've had several choir concerts and solo gigs and what-have-you.  Lest you think we got off completely scot-free, though, let me remind you that we have children we are trying to turn into musicians.  And their concerts, recitals and programs this year have been more than enough.  Believe me.

Let's see.

First we had the Elementary School's Winter Program.  It was scheduled for Thursday, but we had a snow day that day and it ended up being on Friday.  And I think it should have been yet another snow day, but I braved the weather with Sophia and attended the program.

(These Winter Program photos are pretty icky.  I was nowhere near the front and I don't have a telephoto lens.  Oh well.)

Bria Winter Program

Bria sang with the 4th and 5th grade school choir, as well as with the 4th graders.  She was as un-animated as she could possibly be, on purpose.  Ask her.  She'll totally agree.  The little blonde girl next to her, who is one of her best friends, was totally into the songs and actually quite fun to watch.  Bria said she was "totally embarrassing."  No worries, though.  I'm just thrilled Bria has been participating in the choir.  She won't be able to help but sing animatedly someday, it's in her blood.

Chloe Winter Program

Chloe sang with the 1st graders, and she was standing in the worst possible place for me to get a good picture.  She has no problem being animated while singing, but I couldn't really get the photographic evidence.  It was funny to watch her, because she wasn't nearly as animated as she usually is because she couldn't find where we were sitting.  I could see her eyes looking and looking and searching and searching for us, so she was a bit preoccupied.  I waved and waved but she never saw me.

That same evening, Chloe had her very first piano recital.  She played Skateboard Doodle (just a silly name for Yankee Doodle with even sillier new lyrics) and Long, Long Ago.  Due to her broken wrist for most of October and November, she didn't have time to prepare a Christmas song.  Although, I think Long, Long Ago is technically a Christmas song.  Maybe.

Piano Recital

She did fabulously.  The kid who was supposed to go first didn't show up on time, and after the teacher waited 15 minutes and he still wasn't there, she asked for a volunteer to go first.  We all know that nobody ever wants to go first at recitals, but Chloe volunteered.  So proud.

On Saturday night we had our Branch Christmas Party.  I was in charge of the musical program, so I enlisted the help of my kids.  Chloe learned Good King Wenceslas on the piano and Bria played three Christmas tunes on her violin.  I sang O Holy Night and accompanied another gal on the piano while she sang something and Joel did nothing.  I should have had him play the trumpet, but he was too busy.  Next year.  (No pictures for this one.  I brought my camera with good intentions, but never actually used it.)

Sunday, Joel and I both spoke in church.  Not a concert, but I felt like mentioning it because this has been a crazy week!

Sophia preschool program

On Tuesday morning, Sophia had her preschool music program.  I was very excited to see how she dealt with performing in front of people.  Normally she's not shy at all, but boy did she ever get bashful once she saw all the people watching them sing.  I think most of the kids were oblivious to the performance aspect of it, but Sophia was hyper aware.  Leave it to my child to be the only one who didn't sing.

Peek a boo

She would sort of move her mouth, sometimes.  Mostly she just looked at the ground and watched the other kids out of the corner of her eyes.  Every once in a while she would do one of the actions, like in  this picture.  All the kids were covering their eyes, and Sophia did it half-heartedly.  (On a completely unrelated note, Sophia is super tall!  The adorable little girl in the Santa outfit is her same age. Sophia calls her "Little Audrey.")

Bria violin concert

Finally, Bria had her Suzuki violin concert on Wednesday night.  It was her first Suzuki concert here in Michigan (not recital, she had one of those at Halloween).  They played several fun Christmas songs, as well as a bunch of the Suzuki pieces.

Jingle Bells

They ended on Jingle Bells, and the Suzuki director invited any children in the audience to come play the bells, so Chloe got to help out with that.

I think we are now finished with all of the performances for the Christmas season, and now we plan on relaxing.  Except, I'm so behind on Christmas preparation, it's not likely to happen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Decking the Halls

Mormon Mommy Blogs is hosting a holiday home tour where we show how our homes are decorated for the holidays.  So, I'm inviting you into my house to take a looky-loo at my own decorations.  Which I would have gotten around to anyway at some point this holiday season, so the $50.00 gift card isn't motivating me in the least bit.  Honest.

So, come on in.....

Front Door Wreath

This is my front door. In the few days after Thanksgiving this year, I kind of went crazy making Christmas projects and decorations. This wreath was one of them. They are all over the DIY blogs this season. Dollar Store ornaments strung on a wire hanger. I hate the ribbon, but I didn't have anything else on hand. I'll change it next year. Something about all the snow and the cold makes me not want to go out and buy different.

My front porch

I have an enclosed front porch. I put this console table in there with the idea to decorate it for all holidays, which I have done so far. The problem is that I don't think anyone really notices it. Oh well. For Christmas, I have my more rustic looking decorations on it.

I know. I haven't written how many days 'til Christmas on that chalkboard. I never remember. Plus it's freezing on the porch, and so I just don't bother. We all know anyway, right?

Five Christma Cards

This is one of those little photo trees. I got it at Goodwill, spray painted it black and am using it to display the Christmas cards I receive in it. Please notice, it is December 16 and I have only received FIVE thus far. Tsk-tsk. Actually, I've gotten a lot of e-cards this year, which I personally don't like but understand why people do it. I like to hold the paper and photos in my hand and use them all for Christmas decor.  Then again, my cards aren't sent out this year yet, either. So I have high hopes for a flood of Christmas cards in my mailbox.

Snowman floral arrangement

These two floral arrangements were purchased here in town. The snowman one was at a craft fair at the Rosza Center on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The smaller one I bought at a flower shop that my neighbor runs.

Button Tree

This little button tree is another of the decorations I made this year. I bought a silver tray from the Dollar Tree, sprayed it black and used my vast button collection to make a little tree. Bria helped me decide which buttons to use, and it was her idea to have the star on top. Love how it turned out. A little kitschy and very cute.

Willow Tree Nativity

In the dining room I have several nativity sets displayed. This is the Willow Tree one, on top of the radiator (I love that spot...such a good little display area). I also have a Precious Moments Nativity in my hutch, and a few other small ones in various spots around the room.

Kid's Christmas Corner

This is my "Kid's Corner" in the dining room. Please excuse the state of the walls. Just before Thanksgiving we stripped the wallpaper in here, and it's pretty bad underneath. We have plans for fixing and painting, but it's looking like they won't come to fruition until January.


I admit, I'm a bit of a Christmas Tree snob, so I don't put the kid's homemade ornaments on my main tree. I don't know if that makes me a bad mother or not, but my aesthetic sense just can't do it. So, I have a small tree on the table that holds all of their ornaments and some various balls that I was going to use on another decorating project but never got around to doing it. Also on that desk are some Santas, and a small nativity. The stockings hanging above are the stockings that have been used in our household since Bria's first Christmas in 2000. This year I finally bought 5 new ones, and I'll show you those shortly.

The kiddie tree

It's not that I don't love the kid's ornaments. I really do. I adore them. This tree makes them feel pretty special, so it all works out in the end.

And the Stockings were hung

Now for the mantel, which I like to call "The Pottery Barn Project."

First, the new stockings. These actually are from The Pottery Barn. I splurged back in early November. I had a coupon, plus they were running a special for free shipping and free monogramming. They're velvet with little jewels and I love them. Worth the splurge.

But normally, I refuse to buy things at Pottery Barn, and just try to copy the look instead.


So, the stocking holders I have had for ten years. At least the "JOY" ones. Those were a Pottery Barn knockoff being sold at Target. This year I added the snowflakes to accommodate the two new stockings.

Bria's stocking

I found these initial ornaments online this year at several places. Unfortunately, every place that sold them was out of "L" but had all our other initials in stock. So, I found another ornament that wasn't quite as pretty for the "L" and ordered the other initials from two different stores. Then I strung red grosgrain ribbon through them and hung them from the stockings. Love how this turned out.

Pottery Barn wannabe

Finally, the wreath. I fell in love with this wreath at Pottery Barn this year.  But, I couldn't justify the $80.00 price tag, especially when I was already buying stockings there.  So, I decided to try to make it myself.  I got the plain pine wreath at WalMart for $10.00, and around $5.00 worth of ornaments at the dollar store.  I wired them on the wreath, and I think I did pretty good at creating the Pottery Barn look.  (Funny enough, I've seen two other people in blogland copy this wreath since I got the idea.  Sharla did, and I don't remember who else.)

I have various other decorations here and there, but this is the main idea of my home for the holidays.  I do, of course, have a tree, but I think I'll save that for another day soon.  I'm exhausted.

Golden Snowflake

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Truth About Online Shopping


What one corner of my den/office/computer room/craft room looks like this afternoon.

And this is even after I used 4 or 5 smaller boxes to wrap gifts for under the tree.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Quick Mommy Brag

Chloe, whose main goal in life is to be an artist when she grows up, drew this portrait the other day.

People.  She is 6 years old.  SIX!

She blows me away.

That is all.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snow Angel

Santa's Beard

Sophia learned how to make snow angels at preschool this week.  When I got to school to pick her up on Tuesday she didn't want to leave because she was having so much fun in the snow. Once we got home, she didn't want to go in the house to eat lunch because she just wanted to make as many snow angels as she could.

Turns out she's not so threatening after all.

Snow Angel

Friday, December 11, 2009

(my bathroom is finished, do you wanna see?)

Somebody clandestinely recorded the Hallelujah chorus from our Messiah performance the other night and posted on You Tube. Probably from a cell phone, so the quality isn't the greatest. But there I am in my red dress. And there's Joel up on the podium.



I'm guest posting over at Visible Voice today. It's a peek at my newly painted/decorated know you wanna go check it out!  I'm also giving away one of the framed opera posters similar to what I used to decorate it.  So hurry on over there to win.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Threatening Threes

Sophia is three, going on 38.  Which would make her older than me.  Or so she thinks, anyway.

She is in this sometimes humorous, sometimes annoying, sometimes downright vexing stage of threatening me when I do something she doesn't approve of.  Usually something involving not catering to her every whim. Every threat is accompanied by a protruding lower lip, angrily folded arms and a stamped foot.

Some recent gems:

Our library books were due, and since we were going to be downtown, I began gathering them all up to return.  When I got to her room, she freaked out that I was "taking away" her precious frog and Cinderella and Care Bears books that she had chosen this time around.

And she threatened me with, "I goning to call Mamah and tell her to buy me my Cinderella book because YOU takeded dem away and YOU won't let me have books!"


She'd watched her movie quota for the day, and I wouldn't let her watch again.  Even if it was A Charlie Brown Christmas.

And she threatened me with, "I goning to tell Daddy that you hate me!"


And then there are the general threats that I thought weren't going to appear in her vocabulary until she was at least 12 or 13.

"Don't talka me EVER again!"

"I hate you!"

And my personal favorite, "I don't like you anymore, Mommy!"  When I pretended to cry that she didn't love me she said, "No! I still love you but I JEST DON'T LIKE YOU!" 

Allrighty then.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Driving in a Winter Wonderland


(Photo above taken from my front porch this afternoon.)

 Last Thursday night, it started snowing.  And it snowed all day Friday and all day Saturday.  More snow on Sunday and Monday.  Today we had a respite, but it sounds like they're predicting a major blizzard tonight and tomorrow, and rumor has it that it will be a snow day (no school!).

The snow is beautiful.  It's peaceful and quiet and calm.  Nothing quite like it.

But it's also treacherous.  I am terrified to drive in it.  Oh, I drove in it in Utah, yes.  But it really isn't comparable.  Besides, even in Utah I found myself in sticky situations because of the snow.  Just last year I managed to get stuck in a snow bank just before Christmas and cause a couple hundred dollars of damage to our van.  I didn't even want to try it around here.

Just look at the hill I live on, for goodness' sake!  Yes, that is a ski resort across the canal.  Yes, I took this picture from my driveway.  Yes, I am afraid we are all going to kill ourselves trying to back out of the driveway. Just look at those poor cars going straight up the hill! Not fun, and since today was a relatively nice day with no new snow, it was a lot worse yesterday and the previous days.

Snowy hill

I told Joel I'd just walk everywhere close and have him chauffeur us around the rest of the time. I know I was being unreasonable, but did I mention I'm terrified of driving in this? Well, he's just a big meanie, because he said I had to do it today.

He made me drive him to the grocery store, and then to work. I had to back out of our itty-bitty-teeny-tiny garage, go up the hill in the lowest gear possible and drive on the ice and snow all the way to the shopping center. Then I had to park in a parking lot so full of snow that people were making up parking spaces. And then I had to safely get out of that same parking lot.

Scary stuff!

After I dropped Joel off at work with no incident, I had to go by myself to pick Sophia up from preschool. Lots of hills around there, too.

Thankfully, I made it all safe and sound, but I didn't like it one bit!

I do have one hold out, however. I refuse to try and get myself into the garage. Our last house had a two car garage, and I often couldn't maneuver the van into it without incident. I will stubbornly refuse to attempt this one. See how tiny it is?  And how big my car is in comparison?

Our humble (and snowy) abode

Yeah, Joel will just have to deal with it, unless he wants to pay for some major car repairs.  I'm not budging on this one.

So there.

Monday, December 07, 2009


In the Green Room

Months before the performance I spend time plunking my parts out on the piano--learning the words, figuring out where to breathe.  I listen to recordings of the famous singers performing the pieces.  Sometimes I ignore practicing and listening for days on end.

Weeks before the performance I (try to) spend an hour or so each day perfecting the music.  I hit problem spots and scary runs harder than the rest.  I work on technique and hope it is as solid as it can be without a teacher to guide me.

Days before the performance I really do insist on practicing at least an hour a day, if not more.  The Maestro practices with me often and really gets ticky about rhythms and tempi and even a little technique.  It's almost like having a teacher.  I rehearse with the orchestra a few times, and learn what I need to work on further at home.

One day before the performance I wake up with a sore throat and a voice that isn't working quite right.  I take it easy by napping, not singing at all, sipping hot tea with lemon and honey, sucking zinc lozenges and vitamin C and drinking Airborne.  And praying that my voice will last just one more day.  I rehearse with the choir and orchestra that evening, and I have to work very hard to get my sick vocal cords to obey me.  I begin to worry.

The morning of the performance I rehearse with the orchestra and choir yet again.  Things are still not working quite right.  The Maestro doesn't make me sing my most difficult aria (But Who May Abide?), but he does make me run through O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings because I struggle hearing the orchestra on it, and then second-guess where I am and get off.  The others are not too difficult vocally, but I'm still feeling a bit discouraged.

Hours before the performance  I nap.  I drink as much water as I possibly can.  I take a long, hot shower.  I spend an hour or more on my hair and my make-up, warming up as I blow dry, flat-iron, blush and mascara myself.

One hour before the performance  I am in the green room.  I dress in my gown, slide my shoes on and tweak my hair and make-up.  The Maestro finishes getting ready and we bow our heads and pray together, dedicating the performance to The Messiah himself.  Hoping that those in the audience will be touched by the music of Handel and that the spirit will deliver our performance to all that listen.

A half-hour before the performance I hear the choir warming up, so I join them.  Two of the other soloists had the same idea.  We comment on the weather, our gowns, and our anticipation for a good show.  Then we visit the bathroom one last time before heading to the stage.

Minutes before the performance I find a quiet place just before I go backstage.  I pray again that the time and effort I and the others have put into this performance will be enough.  I pray my voice will work correctly.  I leave it all in God's hands and open the stage door.

Seconds before the performance the Maestro meets us backstage.  The house lights go down.  The orchestra tunes, the audience claps.  The Maestro counts down and the four soloists head onstage, followed by our conductor.  The adrenaline begins to rush along with the applause.  The Maestro turns around and lifts his baton, we sit, and the first notes of the Overture fill our ears as his hand comes crashing down.

A little more than two hours passes by, but it seems like only a few minutes.  My eyes fill with tears as the final "Amen!" of Worthy is the Lamb rings through the hall.  We stand, we bow, we smile, we walk off the stage, we come back again, we smile, we nod, we applaud.

And we know it was all worth it.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Good Grief!

We finally got our snow tires put on yesterday.  Growing up in Utah, I vaguely remember my parents putting them on our cars sometimes, but not really, and certainly not in more recent years.  But everyone around here said you MUST put on snow tires.

So we did.

And last night there was a nice storm that left several inches.  Still snowing at a pretty good pace, too.  Lots of snow out there.  And even though the snow plow came through our street early enough to wake us up, it's pretty bad out there.  And we live on one of the steepest hills in town.

Glad those tires are on today.


I have a nasty habit of getting sick right before a big performance.  So I didn't only wake up to snow, but I woke up to a nice sore throat and a raspy voice.

I've been sucking down the Vitamin C, Cold-Eeze and Airborne along with lemon tea and honey.  Please pray that my voice will stick around until late Saturday night.  It is then free to leave and I won't be too upset.


On Wednesday, we got a call from my father-in-law telling us our nephew and his friend were stuck up on Timp.  I guess since there hasn't been much snow there yet this season, that they decided to do the major hike.  My brother-in-law got a phone call from my nephew a few hours after they should have been back telling him they had lost the trail, but then they lost contact and weren't able to reconnect at all.

To make a long story short, they did eventually come off the mountain, but not before Search and Rescue had been called and many people were praying for them.  I was a bit of a wreck about it for the few hours until I heard the good news.  So thankful that they were okay, and found before anything horrible happened.


 I bought the DVD A Charlie Brown Christmas for my kids. They are obsessed.  Bria is saying things like "Good Grief" a lot, and Chloe is drawing all of the Peanuts characters amazingly well.  Sophia is watching it constantly.

It's a nice change from Cinderella and Harry Potter.


Here's the latest article about Messiah.  You can even see a peek of me sitting there behind the tenor who is the one singing.  And Joel, of course. You can see him quite well.

Here's another one, from the local paper.

Have a happy weekend!