Wednesday, December 30, 2015

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! :)

Anyway, this year when Sam and I got home from the family party at 11:30 p.m., having left Abe and Seb babysitting the other kids, we walked into the kitchen and I stopped in my tracks. It was totally clean—completely. Down to the stove and microwave having been scrubbed and the counter cleaned off. I was so surprised, I felt like I'd just stepped off a cliff! I just stood there in awe, with tears running down my face. When I recovered enough to go upstairs, I saw it had all been cleaned too: everything put away, lamps turned on, and nice straight vacuum lines in the carpet. Abe had cleaned the entire house for me while Seb kept the little kids entertained. And now everyone was sweetly asleep in their own little beds. I don't even know if I can describe how I felt, with surprise and pride in my thoughtful boys all mingled together, but mostly so GRATEFUL. So amazed that Abe would think of doing that for me, and then that he had actually done it! All my worries just lifted off my shoulders and I couldn't stop crying with thankfulness. It was amazing and I felt like Christmas had come sooner and in a different way than ever before.
I found these pictures in the camera later, which Abe had obviously taken to document his good work.  I'm so glad he took them so I can remember this night forever.
And a little watcher in the bed
The Butterscotch Roll Party was a warm, crowded, noisy, happy occasion, as it always is, and we even remembered to get a few pictures before things got too crazy. Sam's apple plate was a work of art.
At one point, in the thick of things, Seb said to me, "Come see! People's shoes are going all the way down one hall and up the other!" And in fact, they were. It's funny, because we don't TELL people to take their shoes off, and indeed I wouldn't mind if they didn't, but once a few people de-shoe, everyone else inevitably follows suit. :)
Seb's specially designed place setting
And after the party in the morning, of course, there are all the usual excitements: making dinner preparations and setting the table and lighting all the candles and, this year, wrapping the last presents while watching "The Scarlet Pimpernel" with the kids (me behind them on the floor, sternly warning everyone to NOT TURN AROUND, you must NOT TURN AROUND).

And then, after dinner, Sam's Annual Elf Olympics, which ended slightly prematurely due to some unpleasantness during the "Load Santa's Sleigh" activity, but which brought plenty of giggling and drawing and cheering and fiendish Lego-building while it lasted.
Poor Theodore was valiantly trying to grab the bell on Sebby's hat for a good five minutes while Seb kept moving his head, oblivious.
Sweet Goldie, designing some toy or other. I am starting to wonder if she is left-handed, and I've probably caused deep psychological damage already because I've been cluelessly trying to get her to switch to her right hand for the past year. It's just that she seems to do better eating with her right hand, or she did for a long time. And I would always switch the pencil or crayon to her right when I noticed her using her left, because I just figured she had picked it up in the wrong hand or she didn't realize what to do. And I've just never had a lefty before, so that didn't occur to me. Finally after absentmindedly making her switch about 20 times in a row one day, I realized she kept going back to her left on purpose! As she is here in this picture, happily coloring away. I still think she puts the fork in her right hand a lot of the time, though, so I guess we'll see.
Theodore watched all the proceedings thoughtfully, like a baby who is storing up lots of thoughts to put forth at a later time.
And then we watched the Tabernacle Choir broadcast, and the kids went to bed, and here was the tree  and the clean house as I at last went up to bed myself. All glowing and magical, as it always is on Christmas eve.
And to top it all off, on Christmas morning, we woke up to a big snowstorm! What could be better than that?

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ornamental

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.
Alice
Mad Hatter
White Rabbit

Sam (using the wood burner) made a bird ball like he did last year, just for fun. It's impossible to show how intricate and entwined and organic it looks in person. But here are the different sides:

Best of all, Sam made a bunny ball for me this year! Bless him. It's the best thing on our entire Christmas tree. I love it so much. When he showed it to me, I cried.
And…for the party itself, Sam made this owl. He shaped it out of Sculpey and then painted it with acrylics. I never stop being amazed at the things he can create.

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.
Moving on…Nutmeg kind of thinks he owns the place. I love it when he hops up on the back of the couches like this, and surveys his domain.
As I have mentioned, I love it when Nutmeg washes his face. There has been a bounty out for some time now for whoever can get a picture of him washing his ears! All we had till this point was the one above, where he's in his cage—
but now Sam has captured a few more! It's hard to see, but Nutmeg tilts his head so he can grab his little soft ear with his little soft paws—then he pulls it down as far as he can—and then licks at it until it's cleaned to his satisfaction. He's a very fastidious bunny. 
Three pinkies coloring
Guilty
Pig-hugger