What we have been doing

Christmas Eve---dinner by candlelight
(Italian gnocchi soup with spinach and fresh parmesan cheese
Bread and butter

Soft pajamas

New bears/monkeys to hug (see also here)

New blocks---bubble wrap---fwuffballs

We had a great Christmas! :)

Just wondering . . .

Does the addition of a small rhyming verse to a Christmas gift enhance the gift's value, in your eyes?

a. Yes, such sentiments convey the true spirit of Christmas
b. Yes, I love to have a little chuckle over them
c. No, I don't even read them
d. No, they make a gift worse

Gifted, part II

"This Christmas, I was gifted a lovely sweater."
"I gifted these chocolates to my neighbors."
"Keep it for yourself, or gift it to a friend."
"Perfect for last-minute gifting."

Why? Why?? Why????

Resist the urge to use new, trendy and unnecessary verbs. Resist, I say!!

Christmas is a time of giving. Or even gift-giving, if you prefer.

Not "gifting."

A Happy Baby vs. A Sad Baby

(round sucking mouth with rasping teeth)

Sometimes people ask about Malachi, "Is he always this happy?" To which I usually reply, "Yes. He is a very happy baby."

And it's true. He is. But babies, as a class, are not the happiest of people. When I say, "He is happy all the time," what I mean is, he cries for an average of 2 hours a day. But I'm not being facetious---that really IS an exceptionally happy baby. Isn't it? I suppose I have no comparison except my other two boys. I know Sebby cried MUCH more than that. (6+ hours a day)

In my experience, this is when a happy baby cries: when he's left alone in a room, a while before each meal (as he wants to let you know he is getting hungry), a while before each nap (as he is getting tired), when he's been in the car too long, when someone steps on him, when you don't give him his next bite fast enough, when his diaper is bothering him, when he slams his finger in a drawer, when he wants you to pick him up, when you take away some piece of lint he was trying to eat, when he wants to go up or downstairs (he can't do it himself yet), when you wipe his nose, and when he thinks someone is mad at someone else.

He also occasionally cries for secret baby reasons and no one but him knows why.

A happy baby occasionally continues to cry after he's been fed, changed, hugged, played with, and had a recent nap. But only occasionally.

The difference is that a sad baby cries all of the above times, plus others. And it is for secret inexplicable baby reasons more frequently.


Now I am six, so I'm clever as clever

Today when I walked Abe into his class, his teacher said to me, "Oh good, I wanted to talk to you---one of the other parents had reported a concern that Abraham had been walking home from school alone?"

"Yes he does," I said. "Is that a problem?"

She said, "Well . . . there was just a concern that . . . "

I said, "We live a block and a half away, and I can see him out my window from the time he turns the corner from the school, so I'm not worried about it."

So she said okay, and I smiled at her, and she smiled at me, and it was fine.

And I know there's this whole debate about such things, and there was that lady who let her kid ride the subway alone in New York, and it spurred all this comment on both sides, so I'm not trying to say anything here that hasn't already been said, but . . .

I just can't stop thinking: For crying out loud. He's my own child. I love him. Isn't it okay for me to decide what he can and cannot handle by himself? And who is thinking that maybe they ought to "report" such behavior to his teacher? I assume it was probably a well-meaning act. Whoever it was, just wanted to make sure Abe was okay. So I shoudn't be bothered by it.

But I am, kind of.

Doesn't it sometimes seem like there is far too much "policing" of parents going on these days? Is such regulation (e.g. state-required carseats, no unwrapped Halloween candy, safety regulations for toys, etc.) worth it, because of the truly alarming situations it prevents? Is the "nanny state" an inevitable result of our litigation-prone world? One's answer to this determines one's political views, in some part, I suppose.


Abe has croup, so he stayed home from school today and yesterday.

Today I told the boys we could go to the "swimming pool." (This was my bathtub.) I let them splash lots more than usual, and bring their water noodles. We all got very wet.

Sebby had a heyday squeegee-ing everything. (The glass doors, the walls, Malachi.)

Malachi liked splashing and trying to drown. (No luck though; we were too vigilant.)

It was a good thing to do on a cold day.


The editor of the newspaper I write for wanted all the writers to share a Christmas memory for the paper. This was mine:

When I was at BYU, I took a semester of carillon lessons. BYU’s carillon bells are the ones in the Bell Tower (the ones that play "Come, Come Ye Saints" on the hour). You play the bells with a keyboard that’s set up like a piano keyboard, but with much bigger keys, and you hit the keys with your fists.

We had a practice keyboard downstairs in the Bell Tower, but those keys felt different (lighter), so when you really wanted to practice, you went all the way up the tower to the real bells. It’s simultaneously the most public and the most anonymous of forums: everyone can hear you, your hesitations and your mistakes—but no one knows it’s you, and most people are on their way elsewhere, and not really listening anyway.

At the end of that semester I took it into my head that the perfect thing to do on a Christmas Eve would be to play Christmas Carols on the carillon. I took my family over to the Bell Tower and we climbed up the hundred and ten steps until we were in the keyboard room, overlooking the snowy, moonlit world. Then I played through every Christmas song I knew: O Come, O Come Emmanuel; Silent Night; We Three Kings; O Little Town of Bethlehem; I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Emboldened by the knowledge that most of the students were home for the holidays (and therefore not lying awake in their nearby beds, cursing the noisy skies), I kept playing for over an hour, enjoying the sound of the echoing bells and the feeling of being back in time, somewhere the church bells still rang out on Christmas Eve over silent, moonlit fields.

I felt like we were the only ones in the world that night, high up in our cold tower like angels. But sometimes I want to know if anyone else was listening, wondering who was playing those Christmas Bells.


The Spectator

There are certain things that are hard to sit by and watch. You know what I mean: someone untying a knot, someone trying to straighten a picture. You just want to get in there and take over, do it yourself (if you want something done right, do it yourself).

But maybe because it's so unrelated to anything I could do better myself, I love to watch Sam draw or paint. It is endlessly fascinating to me. When we were engaged I used to sit for hours watching him draw (I know, what kind of date night is that?---it's just that he often had a lot of work to do, but don't worry, we still had our date nights), even boring things, like dragon scales: scale after scale after scale after scale.

After we got married he still had to work on drawings at home sometimes, but after a couple years I was usually putting kids to bed or nursing some baby or trying to practice the piano or whatever, so I didn't really have those long uninterrupted times where I could just watch him.

But the last several weeks, Sam's been working on a project for Christmas presents [I'll post it after Christmas], so I've been able to watch him draw again. And it hasn't ever stopped being amazing. I love to watch the unexpected colors he chooses; the way they build from surprising and out-of-place---to sort of starting to make sense---to suddenly inevitable and exactly right. I expect him to pick brown for a tree trunk---but then there's blue and grey and green and red and it's so much more right than brown would have been. I love the way that something looks done to me, and then he brightens it, or adds a few strokes here or there, and suddenly it's better. I love the way he builds up a texture with his brush, the brushstrokes jarring and defined at first, and then gradually receding into the background as they, too, become right and real-looking. And then the way that all of this---the tiny details, the textures, the colors, the lighting, the shadows---disappears into the entity of the picture itself, and becomes unnoticeable as you get the picture's full effect, as you become involved with what you see and forget to wonder just how each brushstroke was painstakingly laid down, how each highlight was meticulously applied, and can only think of how awesome the picture is and how it has transported you into its world.


A dentist for all seasons

I don't really have a fear of going to the dentist or anything. I like getting my teeth cleaned and I've never had to have anything too painful done, so I don't mind the visit itself. But generally, I just don't like dentists. For some reason I've been to a lot of different ones (well, I know the reason: it's because I never like them, so the next time I always want to try someone else) and I've never liked any of them.

Well, I went to a new dentist yesterday, and I liked him! And here is why.
  • He was older than me. By more than a few years.
  • He was not some young, gleaming-toothed, All-American male model that gets his hair highlighted and has pictures all over his office of his wife (blond) and three strapping designer sons (also blond) dressed in coordinating Banana Republic clothing and baring their own gleaming white teeth at you in faintly alarming semblances of smiles.
  • He did not say, "You know, you are a candidate for braces yourself." [He did say, with professional enthusiasm, "It's a pleasure to see such a nice healthy set of teeth, young lady!"]
  • He did not call Abraham "buddy." Or "bud." ( I think he called him "sir," actually. "Hello, sir. Are you getting excited for Christmas?")
  • He did not discuss his upcoming golf game/boating trip/rock-climbing trip/cruise to Mexico with his assistant while working on my teeth. (He did say, "I got gas for $1.27 today! I just about jumped for joy!")
  • He did not turn all the cleaning over to his "hygienist" and merely make a cursory appearance at the end to tell me to prepare myself for Abe's orthodontic work in the future. (He did the cleaning himself, in fact.)
  • He did not keep up a steady stream of questions/observations that required comment from me which I was unable to provide due to, hello, my mouth being full of metal instruments and that little water-sprayer thing they use. (He worked in a lovely, calming silence, for the most part.)
And his office is just a few blocks away! It was wonderful. I think I will actually stick with this guy!

UPDATE: You're right, Chelsea; I should post his name. But I can't remember it. Maybe Sam does? The place is called "Daybreak Family Dental." Phone number (801) 260-0400.

UPDATE II: Dr. Jenkins!! M. Douglas Jenkins. How do I know this? He sent us a little thank-you card in the mail. "I enjoyed getting to know all of you. Your family certainly have great teeth! I look forward to serving your dental needs in the future." I TOLD you he was awesome!

They're . . . daaancing

Sam and I have been taking a Ballroom Dance class through "Community Ed." the last several months---we just had our final class last week. Sam is a good dancer already (he did Ballroom in high school) so all I really had to do was follow him. At first it was a little bit hard, because Sam couldn't go more than 2 minutes without having a coughing fit, and then he'd start wheezing and not be able to breathe, so he had to keep stopping to rest (and people would look over at me and mouth, "Is he okay?"). But after his cough started getting better, it was really fun. I love dancing! The hardest part was getting a babysitter every Thursday, but we even brought the boys with us a couple times (they just ran around out in the halls, pushing Malachi in the stroller) and it was fine.

It's fun being in a class like this because there are all types. What an odd assortment of humanity: older couples, younger couples, tattooed and non-tattooed, coordinated and non-coordinated, sense of rhythm and non-sense of rhythm. :) We were all sort of clueless and awkward together, but it fostered a strange sense of camaraderie.

Anyway, don't expect me to be breaking out the ostrich feathers and false eyelashes anytime soon, but I think we did improve, and I at least know some basics now. Yay!

Great and original gift ideas under $10!!

Ha! Just a little joke. I don't have any such ideas. If I did, don't you think I'd already have my Christmas shopping done?

Instead, I have something better than gift ideas: an inspirational message for you. (I'm a great source of inspirational messages.)

Thank you.

Back to your Christmas shopping, everyone.


One eternal square

We decorated for Christmas this week, and it's been fun trying to fit all our old things into our new house. We hung all the unbreakable ornaments on the lowest two feet of the tree, and the glass balls, etc. went above that. I put a little jingle bell on the lowest branch, especially for Malachi, which he found immediately upon seeing the tree. He has already spent many happy minutes grabbing it and making it jingle (muffled-ly, through his chubby baby hand).

(He also likes the santa-in-a-hot-air-balloon and the bear-in-a-rocking-chair.)

I like wreaths at Christmastime, but I couldn't find any that were interesting or modern-looking, so I finally used my nearly-nonexistent crafting skills to make my own. I just cut out squares from foam-core posterboard and then wrapped them in wrapping paper and glued them together. Kind of a cubist design. I made three wreaths; one for the door and two for the windows. Then they looked kind of bad on the back so I covered that with wrapping paper too. (Planning ahead is not my forte.) If I were doing it again, I might make two wreaths back-to-back so they'd look the same on both sides, but I'm happy with how they turned out anyway. Much more contemporary than anything else I saw, and (more importantly), cheaper!

Other highlights:

My indoor herbs died from lack of sunlight (not neglect on my part, never that!) and therefore I filled my little silver herb planter with shiny ornaments.

I love this tiny evergreen tree from IKEA. I hung little gold balls on it and then hung this spiny, puffer-fish-y star above it. It glitters. I like it.

My mom gave us this gingerbread man advent calendar several years ago, and the boys love it. Last year I tied two gingerbread men on each string so there would be no fighting, but this year they are going to have to take turns. There have been no unauthorized eating incidents . . . yet.

Another good thing is this Little People nativity set which we got as a gift one year. Ky loves it (as do Abe and Sebastian, still). I love having something out that they can play with all they want.


Spirit of the Season

Do you have certain music that makes you cry because it's so beautiful? I have quite a few CDs that will occasionally strike me as the "best" or the "right" thing for a given mood, and occasionally one of them will really make me respond emotionally---but I tell you, this CD here, the MoTab with Sissel, is one of the best of all time. I had forgotten how much I loved it until we got it out as we decorated our Christmas Tree yesterday. The first song on there, "Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella" has ruined all other versions of that song for me because it's so stirring and urgent and joyful--now other arrangements seem too tame in comparison. And then the second song, "The Wexford Carol", is sung by this guy who has the most wonderful voice, accompanied by a cool Celtic-sounding flute, and I love the words and music SO much. Those two are my favorites, but then I listen to the other songs and decide that THEY are my favorites as well. Sissel (the soloist) has such a hauntingly lovely voice. It is mesmerizing to listen to. Last night we could hardly make ourselves go to bed because we wanted to just keep listening.

I actually went to the concert a couple years ago where this was recorded, and it was amazing---so I was afraid it wouldn't be as good on a recording---but it is. And I thought that after a few times listening through I would stop being so affected by the music, but the boys and I have been cleaning the house and singing along, and even though normal everyday things are going on, I keep getting emotional---all choked up and teary. (I had to tell Abe, "It's just that the music is so beautiful, and sometimes that makes me cry.")

Burn, baby, burn. Disco inferno!

Here are a few pictures of Sebby that I haven't found a place for.

That boy. He is one-of-a-kind. I am not sure what he is doing above. Disco dancing, it appears, but I think it was probably a windmill of some sort. I like how serious he is about it (whatever it is).

Big fwuffballs. Yes, yes, I am going to get him a bag of them for Christmas. Maybe even colored ones. The question is do I give them to him myself or let Santa take the credit?

This is the look he gives me when I am trying to tell him something. I'll be scolding him for something, giving him a talking-to, and suddenly I'll look at him and notice that he is making all sorts of weird facial expressions at me. (And not listening to a word. Naturally.) The most common one is this, sort of a fake grin combined with squinty eyes and raised eyebrows. The trouble is that he looks so funny and cute that I often lose my train of thought, or laugh (spoiling the effect of my lecture). Here, I was telling him, "Get your tricycle Sebby, it's time to go." But he just kept looking at me like this. So I took his picture instead.

(And one more---of Ky-guy---just too cute not to post.)

Lab mice

Yesterday we made a maze in our house and timed the boys crawling through it. They got pretty fast at it after a few tries. (Except Malachi.) Average improvement: 1:07.50. At the end of each time, they got a prize: a butterscotch brownie.

It was fun.

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