Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve...Part Deux!

Paella aside, the second half of our evening was just as enjoyable...and even more thought-provoking. We just finished watching The Great Debaters. Denzel Washington, once again fabulous in the role of a coach and mentor. Just as in Remember the Titans he is able to lead and inspire people to rise above their limitations and focus on their strengths. This movie has a strong message from history that needs to be remembered, not forgotten. In light of the fact that the first black man in the history of America is about to become the President of the United States, we must always remember how important it is to go forward...relying on the strengths and people from history who make us who and what we are today. Remember, "We do what we have to do in order to do what we want to do."

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

We are making paella. When Whitney was in London, she tried it for the very first time and LOVED it. She has been dreaming about it ever since. As a special treat, we decided to make it for our New Year's Eve Feast. Cook a little shrimp, saute' some sausage, peppers, onion, and garlic. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and rice. A pinch, or two, or three, of the special (and pricey!) Saffron...(Yes, we're just mad about it!) and BAM! You're making paella. Thirty minutes from start to finish, with frozen peas added in at the end! Garnish with lemon and serve in a festive holiday dish! Emeril would be proud!

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Post-Holiday Reading Suggestion...

Even though the holidays are now over, I have a recommendation for a great read. Check out A Red Bird Christmas by Fannie Flagg. I read it every year. I love it! It makes me happy. It makes me laugh and it makes me cry. It has inspired me to change my blog background for the long winter ahead. I actually just ordered me a brand new copy from Barnes and Noble and I am anxiously awaiting it's arrival. The minute it is here I will be dropping everything to re-read and re-visit one of my holiday traditions. I'm thinking hot chocolate with fresh whipped cream and some mint milanos to keep me company while I read!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On the third day after Christmas... true love reminded me..."Joy, you didn't do much blogging during the holidays." I'm not quite sure why that is, actually, since I had every intention of sharing favorite movies, music, and memories. I guess I just got caught up in the hustle and bustle of the 'busy sidewalks, city sidewalks, dressed in holiday style.' In the air is no longer the feeling of Christmas. So, for those of you who are is my version of the Twelve Days of Christmas...after the fact!

On the first day of Christmas...we put up the family tree...(See only December holiday blog). Now aforementioned tree is shedding dead pine needles all over the floor. It still looks lovely, but the scent is gone, and it's days are numbered. Oh, well, Christmas tree...oh, well!

On the second day of Christmas I sat down and made a list. And another one. And even another one. On the day BEFORE December 25th, I actually checked the last thing off of the least the last thing that was absolutely necessary. If we didn't have it by then, we didn't need it.

On the third day of Christmas, we attended Phillip's office party. The food was good, the company was good, the punch was GREAT, and it was the first year it wasn't at our house, which made it THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR for me, since I wasn't ready for all the 'parties' I should be hosting!

On the fourth day of Christmas, I watched a Christmas movie on the LIFETIME network. Usually LIFETIME movies involve women getting hurt by men, getting strong, killing those men, and then getting new lives. This particular movie, though, is one of my all time sappy holiday favorites. Borrowed Hearts stars the ever beautiful Roma Downey (She's an 'angel sent from God') and a bad hair day and non-gay Eric McCormack (Will and Grace). If you get a chance, take 1 1/2 hours and view it. It's worth your time, if nothing else for mindless entertainment purposes. Over the next few weeks I also watch other classics, "White Christmas", "I'll Be Home for Christmas", and "The Preacher's Wife". Whitney Houston sings a rockin' hot version of JOY TO THE WORLD and Denzel Washington is the most handsome angel in a gray suit I have ever encountered. He can flash those pearly whites at me anytime!

On the fifth day of Christmas, I did get to host one of those holiday parties...for 140 of my closest friends...the ThayerWood Ward Breakfast. This year's menu was a breakfast biscuit bar...I had my doubts at first, but it worked out fabulously...biscuits with canadian bacon and cheese, or the best country gravy ever! ($1.00 a package at Walmart) Fresh fruit, yogurt, juice, and milk...nothing left over except 4 pieces of Canadian bacon, and two dozen biscuits. (We started wtih 240!)

On the sixth day of Christmas, I watched the First Presidency's Christmas Program. The music by the tabernacle choir was wonderful, and the messages inspirational. I was especially touched by a story President Monson shared about visiting a nursing home. He asked the question, "Is there someone who is awaiting your visit?" I hope that I followed those promptings this season and made a visit to someone who was waiting for me. I know someone visited me who I was awaiting to see. Ahh...the blessings of being loved!

On the seventh day of Christmas, my son received a letter from Santa. It stated that he had been a good boy for MOST of the year, but needed to spend a little bit more time respecting his parents and sister, or there would only be COAL on Christmas morning. This is the day OPERATION COAL COLLECTION began. More on this later! The receipt of Eli's letter reminds me that I have yet to compose our family Christmas letter, so my mind is a jumble for the rest of the day. Around midnight it is completed, except of course for the stuffing, stamping, and mailing of the envelopes. Blogging kind of removes the need for a family letter, but it's something I love to do, so I do it anyway!

On the eighth day of Christmas my shopping marathon began...nothing too complicated this year, just a few items for each member of the family that were easy to acquire, and even easier to hide...until the aforementioned family member who needed to work on respect went seeking 'gifts from afar'. Thus began his first experience with 'keeping Christmas secrets from sisters'. I have to say, he passed this test with flying colors.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my musical gift arrived. Cassidy sang in her last high school Christmas concert ever. It was lovely and inspiring. Combined with the school orchestra, they sang favorite carols, and ended with selections from The Messiah. From the first strains of the overture, to declarations of "For Unto Us A Child Is Born", and the promise of "And the Glory of the Lord" my heart swelled with gratitude for the knowledge of the birth of that tiny babe in a manger. As we stood for the "Hallelujah Chorus" tears flowed freely down my face. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that He is "Wonderful. Marvelous. Counselor. The Mighty God. The Everlasting Father. The Prince of Peace." Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

On the tenth day of Christmas, my house was now decorated, the gifts were all bought, the radio was playing "Sleigh Ride", and I was still collecting coal, due to the fact that my son was testing Santa to see if he would come through with that promise. After his bath, he came into my room and pointed to his head, now missing a LARGE chunk of hair. "Look what happened? How did this happen?" I asked him if he cut his hair. "No." "Is there a man upstairs giving haircuts?" "No." "Is there a lady upstairs giving haircuts." "No." "How about a hair-cutting ghost?" "No! No! No! I don't know how it happened!" Mom now reminds aforementioned son that at our house, you get in a lot less trouble for telling the truth than for lying. Twenty minutes pass. The son now admits, "I guess I did cut my hair. I didn't mean to. It just happened." Honesty is the best policy...even when hair cutting is concerned. I just hope Santa understands.

The next day is our church Christmas program. I will be playing the piano for the choir to sing approximately 5 numbers. My son with the newly coiffed hair will be front and center when the Primary sings, "Said Samuel, within five years, the night will be as day, and baby Jesus will be born in a land far, far away." I hope his hair cut doesn't distract from the spirit. It's kind of hard not to start laughing when you see it. And yet, I will make him wear it for a few days as a reminder of why we DON'T cut our own hair. TOUGH LOVE PARENTING! I'm all for it!

On the eleventh day of Christmas the family is all home and happy. It's almost time for our annual Nukaya Christmas Eve party. The snow is still falling and the wind is still blowing, but inside all is warm and well. Our friends and their four sons (one is on a mission making an even five boys in that household) come to enjoy the night before Christmas. This is our 10th year of the tradition. We have coldcuts and sandwiches. Irene brings spinach dip. We drink pop and eggnog. Gifts are exchanged and puzzles (500 piece this year) are put together. Ben brings his stuffed squirrel collection. Dusty and Cassidy spend the night trying to beat each other at games. After the company leaves, it's time for the Christmas story, read by Eli. Then we open the obligatory Christmas jammies. This year, Eli gets a robe in his box, guessing it before he even opens it, proving the theory from Day #8 that his sisters gifts were not the only one's he discovered. Unfortunately for me, the only part of the season I was unprepared for involved wrapping and wrapping and stuffing and tagging until 2:00 a.m. Next year I WILL NOT procrastinate on this project!

On the twelth day of Christmas we awoke at 7:30. Each year we seem to get up later and later and later. Everyone comes down and looks for the gifts from Santa. All Eli has is a big blue Rubbermaid tub, full of various types of coal and a book entitled, FUN WITH MANNERS WITH DICK AND JANE. He takes one look at the can of coal, opens it, pulls out the coal and says, "A LUMP OF COAL?" and proceeds to throw it at Whitney! Can of coal...$1.98. Coal bubblegum...$1.98. Book about manners...$3.95. Reaction from Eli...priceless.

Luckily for Eli, Santa also left a note that his real presents were in the living room. It may have seemed a bit harsh for the 2 minutes that it lasted, but it was a memorable moment in our holiday that we will talk about for years to come. Santa was good to everyone...Whitney got a watch and movies and clothes and cd's...Cassidy got scriptures and a camera and clothes...Eli got Legos and DS games...I got a new camera, (which is way cool and way complicated, thus the lack of more photos in this blog :) Phillip got a new camping cot and cold weather gear for winter camping with the scouts. We had our festive buffet...shrimp, hot wings, meatballs, cherry jello, killer potato salad, my dad's famous clam dip, divine punch, and Kimberly's hot wassail and Black Forest Cake. We played Buzz Word and Catch Phrase--the Music Version. We relished in watching Max enjoy Christmas. It's never more magical than when you are two.

That's our holiday in a nutshell. Nothing spectacular. Nothing over the top. Just everything we love to do, with all the people we love to do it with. It really is, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The new's all 'relative'

A few days ago while we were waiting for Cassidy, Eli told me that he had to take a math test on the computer to determine his accelerated math level. I asked him what was on the test. Our conversation follows:

Eli: "Well, first it asked us to identify math plus signs, minus sign, multiplication and division signs, and those dots called 'decimal points.' Then we had to do some easy adding and subtracting stuff.

Joy: "So, how do you think you did?"
Eli: "Okay, I guess, except one of the problems was kind of different. It said to write a hard math problem."
Joy: "Really? What hard math problem did you write?" ( I'm thinking some imaginary 2,0000 + 17 -45 = ir something like that)

Eli: "I wrote e=mc2." Joy: (gasping) "You wrote e=mc2? What did the computer say?"
Eli: "It told me that one was too hard and to try again, so I did. I wrote 10 divided by 10 equals one. Then it let me finish the test."

What AM I going to do with this boy?

(Photo courtesy of Phillip and my cousin Weston...they climbed on Einstein's head while we were in D.C. I wonder if Eli's head will ever be a statue for tourists to climb on?)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Oh, Christmas Tree...

Once again, the family tree has been trimmed. The lights are all on, courtesty of Cody, a six-foot-plus adopted son. I think we will keep him around for just this purpose. I was thinking a lot about the 'tree' last week, actually dreading the acquiring of, and then the decorating that comes after and seems to take forever. I was feeling a little out of sorts, observing all the beautiful and perfect trees that I was seeing in my midst. Cassidy works for a design firm and I am reminded everytime I pick her up just how beautiful professionally decorated trees are. However, last night, after the First Presidency Devotional, Eli's enthusiasm overtook me, and we decided to do the tree deed. As I pulled out all of the ornaments from over 25 years of life together, I was reminded that beautiful trees LOOK good, but trees like ours FEEL good. It is full of wonderful memories, each one invoking a smile or a laugh, or even a tear or two. The tree in all of it's glory. Yes, it's real, and yes it does smell wonderful. Phillip got rid of our fake trees years ago, citing the case, "We are denying our children one of the best scents of the season." I have to say I have a tendency to agree. An evergreen candle just doesn't cut it!

One of our most cherished wedding presents...a 'first Christmas together' ornament. It's usually the first one to to up, and the last one to come off.
I like this one of the Martin Handcart Company. It is a stark reminder of how blessed we are at this time of year (and all year round) to have a warm house and a bed to sleep in and more to eat than 4 ounces of flour. I like to reflect on that first Christmas the remaining handcart company members spent after being rescued and how it must have felt to be safe and alive. It kind of puts things in perspective for me.

One of Whitney's first ornaments. When she was little she looked just like this...curly blonde hair, yellow footie pajamas, and a bear that went to bed with her every night. I melt every time I hang this one up, remembering my precious little girl. She still has curly hair, although it's darker now. I doubt she takes a bear to bed and I know she doesn't wear footie pajamas. But I still melt whenever I see her, because she will always be my precious girl.

What can I say about this one? Cassidy was born on an April morning in the middle of the worst blizzard of the year. A lady I worked with at the radio station gave us this little snow baby ornament to remind us of that winter day when another beautiful daughter came to stay. She keeps our hearts warm and our lives bright!

My dear friend and fellow radio station employee, Wayne Richards, passed away unexpectedly this fall. These bumper stickers were circulating around town after his death. "Drive safely" was his way of saying to listeners and friends, "Be careful. I love you." I felt it very appropriate to find a place on our tree this year for a remembrance of a friend. May you and yours also, "Drive Safely" this holiday season.

No tree of mine would be complete without a touch of Mary Englebreit. Thanks to Miss Peg, each year a new "Mary" treasure is added to be enjoyed and loved. This one is my favorite!

Eli loves penguins. He wishes we could own one. We've taken him to Penguin Daycamp at the Zoo, and bought him every penguin book imaginable. Last year, we found this ornament and he just knew he had to have it. Until he gets that degree in Oceanography and Marine Biology and secures a job as penguin-keeper at Sea World, this is the closest he is coming to having a penguin as a pet!

When I was growing up my brother and I had a dog. J.J. the poodle. J for Joy and J for John. She was THE BEST DOG EVER for almost 14 years of my life. The day we had to put her to sleep was the first time I ever felt a loss of a pet. I've felt it several times since, but never as strongly. Now that John is gone, this ornament is just a little reminder of those fun days we had together, sister, brother, and dog.

Speaking of pets, we have a cat and her name is Gracie. She's really Princess Grace, but we shortened it down for convenience in calling her name when she is lost, which is quite frequently. We got her on a farm in Lehi when Cassidy was about 3, so we've almost had her 15 years. Most people don't see Gracie; she has a phobia for strangers. If you are at our house and you do catch aglimpse of her, count yourself lucky. It means she thinks you are safe, or you are in the way of her food. So, to celebrate her existence (or non-existence) we have some gray cat ornaments on the tree just for her. Sidenote: Our Gracie the cat doesn't wear clothes. We aren't THAT eccentric!
So, while the tree isn't up to Martha's's our tree, it's about us, and it's just the way we like it. Come over for some cookie and cocoa and I'll share a few more tree memories...