Christmas Eve, and so on

Much has been said about how the discerning parent seeks for real, unscripted, genuine photos of one's children having authentic childhood moments. As opposed to a posed, forced, fake-smile mockery of a photograph (no doubt the type their own parents took of them). While I am, of course, all for the capturing the fleeting, sparkling, gem-like moments, there's just something about a good-old fake-smile portrait that does my heart good. I look at these funny little velvet cuties, and these, and these, and I'm just so glad I made my children stand there and grin at me! Next year there will be no one to wear the small Christmas dress. *sniff.* Unless I manage to stuff Goldie into it anyway, just for old times sake (can't rule that out).
Ah, Christmas Eve! Such a wonderful day, and it makes me nostalgic to look at these pictures, because it already feels like it happened years ago. But I'm back-dating this post to December so it will at least appear in the correct year! 

Every year on December 23rd we have a family party (usually it's my side of the family, celebrating Joseph Smith's birthday, but this year we had the Nielson family party) and we inevitably get home late at night, and as we drive home I'm always panicking about what has to be done the next day: namely, I have to get the house clean and make 21 dozen butterscotch rolls. Our Christmas Eve Neighborhood Butterscotch Roll Party is a tradition I never want to give up (we've been doing it for 13 or 14 years now!), and it's worth any trouble, and usually once the morning begins it's all just bustle and chaos and fun—but in those dark hours the night before, even though I know it will all turn out fine, I just can't help but worry. What if no one comes? What if the rolls don't rise or the oven stops working? What if the house is a mess? (The answers to these questions are all "it would still be fine," but try telling that to me on December 23rd!) It's gotten so predictable that Sam can just say, "You always feel stressed, and it always works out fine"—and I can say, "Yes, you always say that—". Nice for us both to know our proper roles! :)


Sam and I always have so much fun choosing what Christmas tree ornaments (or "ordaments," as about 50% of the children in this family call them) to make, and then making them, for the ornament party we go to every year. I guess it's becoming my tradition to crochet a little set of amigurumi characters every year. I did the Wizard of Oz last year, and Star Wars the year before that. And this year I decided on Alice in Wonderland. I wasn't able to find a pattern this year, so I just sort of fumbled my way through it, not knowing exactly what I was doing. I used some ideas from this pattern, and looked at this darling set for inspiration.
Mad Hatter

Santa Lucia, Nutmeg washes, and other random things

We celebrated Santa Lucia Day a couple days late this year, but we did make the saffron buns and we had TWO Santa Lucias, which seems like it ought to make up for it. Junie was so happy she was finally big enough to wear the little Lucia dress and sash!
We do have shorter candles somewhere that are less hard to hold up! But we couldn't find them in the chaos of the storage room. We'll find them as we're putting the decorations away, I'm sure. Anyway, Daisy did an admirable job holding her head straight and steady.
Does Daisy look a bit pale? She threw up about 30 seconds after this picture was taken, poor lamb. She did make it to the toilet! We saved some lussekatter for her to eat later.
This picture of Daisy yawning and Junie doing…something with her finger? turned out to be my favorite of the lot. I sure love these little girls.

Snow and Snowflakes

Did we even get snow last winter? I suppose we must have, but it seems like so long ago. And I love snow before Christmas! We were so happy when we had some big storms last week—big enough to actually go out and play in! Speaking for the children and not myself, of course. I prefer to stay inside and take pictures through the window—and maybe tiptoe out in my slippers to get a better angle if I absolutely must—and make hot chocolate to make everyone warm again when they come inside.
Goldie was so happy she practically glowed. 
A little taste

The two big boys

These big boys are busy with their own ideas and their own agendas (agendi?) a lot of the time, so I don't get to post about them very often. But I'm so glad I have them. They're both great babysitters (life-changing), they're good singers and pianists and artists and scholars, and they're a delight to have around!
They had their Christmas Choir concerts last week, and they sang so beautifully. I LOVE listening to them. I cried my way through the concerts, thinking about Christmas and Jesus Christ and angels and how much I love my boys and how big they are getting. It all goes together. I am so blessed.
Seb catches sight of me
Here's Abe at the football game we went to together in November. He's a good fan just like Sam is. He cheers and has faith and never criticizes. Except for the officiating, of course. :)
Abe also loves the bunny Nutmeg quite a lot. He can often be found snuggling him. 
Seb made these watercolor paintings for everyone in the family recently. I love the things he draws and paints. I think the penguin picture, especially, is a perfect likeness!
He also made this cute snowman the other day. I don't know if I've ever managed to make a snowman that good!
Seb is also the king of making "rides" for his little siblings to go on. I often can't bear to watch! But they certainly produce shrieks of joy and delight!
Along with a few concerned looks.
I'm so glad Abe and Seb came first and introduced me to the joys of boys! I don't know what we would do without them!

Temple Square Lights

We don't always make it up to see the lights at Temple Square, but we usually make some attempt at it, and this year the stars aligned and we went! It always seems like a happy place to go (even if cold) because that's where Sam asked me to marry him, at Christmastime fifteen years ago! Who would have thought we'd be doing it all these years later with seven kids in tow??!

Teddy was so snug and bundled, I couldn't stop taking pictures of him. His bright little eyes looked around with considerable interest.
Speaking of bright little eyes, Miss Marigold had her fair share. She had such cold little hands, so I showed her how to put them in her pockets, whereupon she lit up even further with joy and accomplishment.


Abe and Seb like to call Malachi "Boolaboo," or "Boola" for short. Not quite sure how that got started, but Ky takes it good-naturedly, as he does most things. I can't believe he's EIGHT years old! I remember when Abe turned 8 and it seemed incomprehensible that we had a boy that age. And now we've had three of them!

Ky will be baptized in January, but we had a good birthday celebration this month—sandwiched in between all the December craziness that makes quiet birthday dinners seem such a breath of fresh air. He wanted baked potato soup and fresh bread for dinner, and orange juice cake for dessert, and that's just what he got (eventually…spread over two days…)!
Malachi keeps saving up to buy these little owls. They are so cute!
We rode Trax up to Temple Square to look at the Christmas Lights on Ky's birthday night. It's always a treat to ride Trax, and this was especially nice because we had the whole train to ourselves for a long time! The children gleefully moved from seat to seat (and strap to strap!) just as they've always wanted to do.

Hot Caramel Milk

A few years ago we were in San Francisco, and among all the good food we tried was something called "Caramel Milk." It's like hot chocolate, but caramel-flavored. I'm tempted to call it "caramel hot chocolate," but that seems a bit misleading, since it's not caramel-flavored chocolate, but just caramel-flavored…well, caramel. Anyway! It was really good and I wanted to figure out how to make some myself. So I've been faithfully working toward that goal for some time now.

Hot chocolate, let me hasten to say, is still a regular part of our lives around here. We drink it (pretty much) daily. Often we make it in our Vitamix blender (1 cup chocolate chips to four cups milk; add flavoring like a handful of mint leaves, 1/4 c. of peanut butter, or a teaspoon of orange extract; blend for 5 minutes or until hot), but we also like to change it up with this Parisian Hot Chocolate or a nice cup of Stephen's cocoa mix every now and then. And this Caramel Milk is not a replacement, but a great addition to our repertoire ("Bring all the good that you have and let us add to it!"). We love it!

This is really so simple to make, just like hot chocolate. A lot of recipes just say "stir caramel sauce into milk and heat." Which is right. But I never have store-bought caramel sauce around, and I like my favorite salted caramel sauce recipe better anyway. This time of year, I like to have it constantly on hand. I just cook up a big batch of it (it takes all of 10 minutes), and then we eat it on crepes, waffles, ice cream—and in this caramel milk.

Hot Caramel Milk (to feed a large family! :))

Red Butte Garden and Delightful Goldie

Now that Sam doesn't work downtown, we haven't gone to Red Butte Garden as much as we used to…but we managed to get up there for a picnic one day when the weather was still warm. I always love the textures there in Fall and Winter.

On another note---I'm having lots of conversations like this one with Goldie these days:
Me: What are you doing, Goldie?
Her: Toeing.
Me: Toeing?
Her: No, Fff-tooing.
Me: Tooing? Chewing? Moving?
Her: No, TOOOOO-wing!
(I turn to look at her with a bowl and spoon in her hand, mixing something).
Her: Yes, ftooing.

We also particularly like several words she says. Our favorite is GALALA for "gorilla." And we also love her tendency to end "-er" words with "y" instead. For example: water bottle is watty body. The cute otters we saw at the aquarium were cute cute otteys! and honey butter is honey buddy. Oh how we wish we could just snatch up her cuddly little self and smother her with kisses (which we frequently DO)—but she's got far too much on her plate to put up with it for long.

Anyway, a few more garden pictures:


The fretful porpentine

Several weeks ago, I was sick (strep throat, as it turned out, which is good as I find it much more satisfying to have a named sickness rather than the usual vague viral-flu-ish-something); sick enough that I couldn't even drag myself through the house doing things feebly and grudgingly as one sometimes has to when one is sick. Even sitting up in bed and reading tired me out, but since I felt like I was being garroted every time I swallowed (which of course meant I desperately felt the need to swallow every few seconds), I couldn't really sleep. And I was so BORED! I was reduced to mostly just lying there and thinking. Now, I LIKE lying around thinking, but unfortunately I had the sort of fever where you have half-dreams about how each of your breaths is stored in a separate file folder in a huge warehouse, and you have to climb, exhausted, over chain-link fencing to collect each one, in ever-widening circles. The sort of fever where you wake, sweat-covered, clutching, a taste like ash on your tongue, and absolutely certain that your body has burned a hole right through the pile of blankets above you. So, while mildly entertaining in retrospect, the ideas I had were very strange and overwrought and not much worth writing down.

I hadn't stayed confined to my bedroom like that since…well, since last time I had a baby, and I must say I liked this much less: no rosy newborn cheeks to kiss, no glow of accomplishment and fear-tinged wonder about what sort of new routines lie ahead. Instead just a sort of morbid feeling of hopelessness, and an almost smug certainty that I'd never be able to do anything comfortably again. Now of course, I'm seeing it all through a haze of nostalgia and wistfulness ("Ah! To stay in bed for a few days! To just drift off to sleep whenever I felt like it!"), but at the time I was thinking to myself, very seriously, that we were going to have to move to Idaho so the children could drive at age 14, because I would likely never be able to sit up and focus my eyes well enough to drive them anywhere again.

At this point I would like to deliver a touching little sermon about something like how when one's perspective changes, one learns to see the good amid hard times (likely very true) but I didn't really have anything like that in mind when I started writing this, and I can't much think of anything now. Maybe someone better at actually enduring hard times would have more valuable thoughts on the subject. All I really wanted to say is that these pictures are from a drive Sam and I went on, up into the canyon, when I absolutely could not stand the thought of being within four walls for one more second—and even though I was still weak and feverish and despairing—I felt the sunshine, and looked around me, and felt that maybe, possibly, things would be better soon.
And maybe there is a bit of a sermon in that, after all?

Random Thoughts, The Lamps Are Going Out edition

These pictures are from way back in October, but it's good to have a little October left over when it's dark and cold outside.

• Speaking of the dark, cold world, the Marriott Center got remodeled with new seats, so we had to have our BYU Basketball season tickets reassigned. And because of the selection process, we weren't able to get our new seats anywhere near where our seats are supposed to be. Now we're on the other side of the court…higher up…to the right. Look, I KNOW this isn't the biggest deal in the world. But my dad has had those seats since the Marriott Center was built, and they were our seats. I've been watching BYU basketball from them for 30 years! When we went to the first game the other night, I actually felt this physical heaviness, like something precious had been lost forever. I kept getting tears in my eyes. Lame, huh? It didn't help that we were sitting next to a 14-year-old boy who (as Bertie Wooster says) made you feel that what this country wants is somebody like King Herod.

• I also note the absurdity of saying "I'm just gonna sneak past you" as you squeeze past everyone along the row to get to your seats. No…no, you're not really going to "sneak past me." But go ahead!

• How is it that every search I do on Amazon ends up with pages and pages of iPhone cases at the bottom of it?

• Sam referred to the condition of our children "sitting" on the pew at church as "The Human Abacus." Strikingly accurate.

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