Sunday, December 30, 2007

Peaceful Christmas Morning

With Marc and Frances in New York for Christmas, it was just Rara and Papa coming to our house Christmas morning. On Christmas Eve, they asked Ryan what time they should come the next morning. He first told them 5:00! We negotiated a bit, and finally decided that 7:30 seemed fair for everyone.

It started snowing late afternoon on Christmas Eve, and snowed most of the night. I had shoveled twice on Christmas Eve, but got up early and went out to shovel again before Mom & Dad came Christmas morning. Instead of the normal morning sounds of people and animals and cars, it was extremely peaceful. There was not a sound the entire time I was shoveling. It was also quite beautiful outside. The sun hadn't come up yet, so while I shoveled, I watched the sky change from the darker colors of the night to the brighter colors of the day. The moon was still up in the west over the Great Salt Lake, and it was just a beautiful sight. Unfortunately, my pictures did not capture all of the amazing colors.
I was grateful for that time I had in the beauty and peace of Christmas morning to think about some things I needed to think about, as well as to reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas. I felt that it was a quiet little Christmas present to me.

Twelve Days of Christmas Calculations

Every year, I do the "Twelve Days of Christmas" for Ryan. Now, before you all think he's a spoiled brat, the gifts I give him are pretty small. For example, this year I finished buying the rest of the "Magic Tree House" books so he has the whole set. He got one new book for a few of the days. One of his gifts one Sunday was a tie with the Stripling Warriors on it, and another Sunday I gave him a Liahona toy that goes along with his Book of Mormon figures.

One morning before Christmas, he was sitting at the kitchen table with a piece of paper making rows and rows of tally marks. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, "Just a minute." A couple of minutes later, he said, "Mom, according to my calculations, you should be giving me 78 gifts for the Twelve Days of Christmas!" He had started with one tally mark for day one, and had gone all the way to twelve tally marks for day twelve, then counted them up. I laughed pretty hard, and then explained to him that he was pretty darn lucky to be getting ANY gifts through the Twelve Days of Christmas! I was NOT ABOUT to tell him that in the song, every day of Christmas also gets everything from the preceeding days!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Something Big and Red

When Ryan and I returned home after watching the AMAZING Las Vegas Bowl game, there was something big and red on our porch - and it wasn't Santa! Someone had left a HUGE red box on our porch while we were watching the game. We had our suspicions, but had to open it to be sure. It was so big, it was wrapped in one (or possibly two!) of those disposable plastic tablecloths! We started pulling things out of the box - all presents wrapped in red wrapping paper! As we unwrapped, our living room turned into a sea of red, much to our dismay. Here is a run-down of the contents (all extremely red): a gas can, a garbage can, a toilet brush, two red lamps, a colander, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a peeler, ketchup, an apple, a jar of maraschino cherries, a box of tinsel, two sippy cups, a box of Christmas ornaments, a candle, a bag of Twizzlers, a bag of cinnamon bears, a blanket, five plastic plates, thirty clothespins, fifty plastic cups, and a University of Utah hat!

Ryan kept saying, "It looks like a big red tornado hit our house!" Our living room, at least!

We knew immediately who it was! Enclosed was the following poem (with very red pictures):

'Twas the week before Christmas...
Santa was desperately tryin'
To justify gifts
For "Snippety Mel" and "Precocious Ryan."

Their stockings had been hung
By the chimney with care,
But did they deserve presents???
St. Nick just had to be fair!

He'd made up a list
Even scrutinized it twice,
To see if he could ignore their past practices
And label these two as "NICE?"

When in Bountiful, they're OK,
But when they sojourn to Provo City,
Their values become contorted
By disciples of "Cosmo...the Kitty."

The revel in miniscule football successes
And think it's just dandy
To give humble, meek (yet extremely good looking) Utah fans
Yucky "BYU" candy. (Actually it was somewhat marginal.)

They become pious and cocky
Quasi-arrogant too,
Hence no elves of Santa
Are allowed to wear blue.

That's why from the sole of his shoes
To the top of his head,
Santa will always...YES ALWAYS
Dress only in RED.

Red's the color of beautiful roses and cardinals,
And tasty strawberries too,
And just what kind of anything
Is colored "Goofy Blue"???

Blue apples? Blue cherries?
"Hey, how 'bout a blue steak?"
Blue tomatoes? Blue lipstick?
Boy, wouldn't that look just great?

And so my dear friends
This old issue now falls dead
Could you now please apologize deeply
To us who bleed red?

If you do, I'll tell Santa
You two will cease to be mean,
Perhaps he'll release your presents
From his North Pole quarantine.

But I wish you a Merry Christmas
And know, despite it all,
That Linda and I love you...
So bring us some freshly-baked oatmeal cookes with some blackberry Shasta soda!

You guys will always be my faves!


(Of course, our friend, JERRY, tried to pass it off as someone else. But naming Linda kind of gave it away!) ;) Refer back to October and November's posts for additional explanation.

I must admit, even through the torture, we value our friendship with Jerry and Linda. So, on Christmas Eve afternoon, Ryan and I dressed in every bit of red clothing we could find (Ryan even put the Utah hat on his poor little head), and we visited the Davies, bearing oatmeal cookies and Shasta.

(Note: Rumor has it that there was a photo taken of Melanie and Ryan in all red, including aforementioned Utah hat. If such a photo ever existed, it has surely now been destroyed.)

2007 in Review - December

Ryan and I always enjoy the fun events around Bountiful during the holiday season. One of our favorites is “Christmas at 2600” at Colonial Square. We love the carriage rides, roasting marshmallows over the bonfire, and going from store to store sampling their goodies. Oh, and of course, Santa.
An exciting event for our family was a reception held Friday, December 7, at the Rio Grande building honoring the Utah Arts’ Council “Emerging Artists Award” winners. Marc won the award for film! I teased him about his “major award,” hoping that he’d win a leg lamp (from “A Christmas Story” for those who are lost). Sadly, that was not one of the prizes. The evening was a lot of fun. The Rio Grande gallery was set up with sections for each artist. Marc had his film playing while people strolled through the gallery. We could tell that most people who watched it really enjoyed it, but there was one couple who watched it all the way through three or four times. They laughed hysterically all the way through it! We all enjoyed watching them enjoying it! Ryan was given the job of keeping the free copies of the DVD stocked in the bin on the wall. He did a great job!
Friday, December 14, we went to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concert. Every year they invite special guests – always well-known musicians. This year was The King’s Singers. It was amazing! For most events in the Conference Center, tickets are just for a particular section, not assigned seats. They usually open the doors between 60 and 90 minutes before the event, and seats are on a first come basis. We got there about an hour early and got some great seats. I took a notepad and colored pencils for Ryan to draw while we waited. The Conference Center holds something like 22,000 people. It was pretty loud with people talking until about 7:15, when everything went absolutely silent. Having been in the Conference Center for General Conference, etc. before, we knew what that silence meant. We looked to the side door, and President Hinckley, President Monson and his wife, and President Eyring and his wife were entering. Ryan LOVES President Hinckley, and always asks me to lift him up so he can see him (I’m not going to be able to do that much longer!).

The concert was wonderful. The King’s Singers are so talented. There were some very powerful musical numbers with them as the lead and the choir in the background. Lloyd Newell made a short announcement before the concert began that it was the one being recorded for the CD and DVD, so it will be fun to purchase it next year, knowing it is the one we attended.

As we were sitting waiting for the concert to begin, Ryan was wiggling a loose tooth. (Please refer back to March and June – Ryan has a fascination with pulling his teeth on important days or in unique places.) Of course, with a tooth that loose, he couldn’t resist. He worked on it the hour before the concert, and pulled it out about 3 minutes before the concert started! He showed the grandparent-couple next to us, the family behind us, and the family in front of us. It was hilarious. He actually asked if he could go and tell President Hinckley. He was very disappointed that he couldn’t.
After the concert, we walked through Temple Square and the Main Street Plaza and looked at the lights. It was about 20 degrees, but it was a lot of fun. It’s always so beautiful that it’s easy to forget how cold it is.

Christmas time also means it's time for potica! Potica is the Polish nut bread that the Cieluszak family (and other Polocks) have been making for generations. The grandkids used to love helping Grandma Jensen grind the walnuts and "pound" the dough. Now Mom and Aunt Dott lead the all-day potica-making marathon. Here are Mom and Frances rolling everything up before swirling it into the pan. I have taken on the responsibility of ordering the "Kronskis" (Polish sausages) for the whole family since Auntie-Anne died. I have done my part, so we are set for breakfast for the month of December!

Saturday, December 15, was Mom and Dad's annual "Orchard Place" open house. Ryan and I have become such good friends with so many of their neighbors, that we always join them. We have a great time visiting with all of our friends in that neighborhood.

Ryan is still enjoying creating art projects in different ways. Here is the "Winter Masterpiece" created by my little artist in MS Paint:
Marc and Frances spent the week of Christmas in New York City with Frances’ family. Her grandparents are serving a mission in the Manhattan Temple, and it is their 50th wedding anniversary the week of Christmas. The whole family traveled to New York to be together for the celebration of that wonderful milestone. Since Marc and Frances weren’t in Utah for Christmas, the Inman family had our celebration together for Family Home Evening on Monday, December 17. It was fun to have dinner together, exchange presents, and just hang out and have fun together. Most of us gave each other gifts relating to our upcoming return to Hawaii. It’s always fun when we have a family trip planned – we always give each other stuff relating to the trip.
As you can see from the above pictures, we have a new addition to the family – Max. (Gee, BYU fans, who could he possibly be named after?) Ryan has been asking for a little sister for quite a while. Since that obviously isn’t happening anytime soon, I caved and agreed to the other thing he has wanted for a long time - a Build-A-Bear. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that Max has really become a real member of the family; he and Ryan received matching Christmas Eve pajamas and Miami Dolphins jerseys (I know – I’ve gone too far.)

My friend, Julee, sent me a pretty funny e-card from her family this year. I went to the site and made a few adjustments. Here it is for your viewing pleasure.

As we look around our living room at the nativities that we’ve collected over the years, we are constantly reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. We are grateful for the birth, the life, and the atoning sacrifice of our Savior, and wish you all the love, light, and peace that He brings to our lives.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2007 in Review - November

The first Saturday of every month, Home Depot has classes for kids. They have a different project every month that kids can make. Ryan has been attending these for a couple of years now, and has made his own tool box, a couple of little planters for me, a double picture frame, a sports shelf, and a variety of other things. The kids also get their own Home Depot apron, and a pin each time they complete a project. Ryan has so many pins on his apron that he jingles when he’s wearing it. Every time he walks into the classes, the other kids (and sometimes the parents!) comment on how many pins he has! Here are a couple of pictures of his projects.
Saturday, November 3, the three generations of BYU fans traveled to the Colorado State game. Luckily the weather was much better for this game than it was the last game we attended!I continued to volunteer at Ryan’s school doing “Fun Friday” with all of the second graders. We did art projects/lessons about patriotism and Veterans Day, as well as several other projects relating to the holidays. Ryan was given an assignment in his music class to create a unique musical instrument. They also had to name it, and show how to play it. We created Ryan's "snake horn" using his marshmallow shooter, a funnel, and lots of duct tape!
Friday, November 9, the Utah quarter was released. They held a big shindig at the Rio Grande Depot. Ryan and I went in for the festivities, but by the time we got there, the “first day folios” that we wanted had all been sold. Luckily I have an in-depth knowledge of Internet shopping, and was able to purchase some sets from the U.S. Mint. (That's a giant replica of the quarter in the west wondow of the Rio Grande building.)
Since we were downtown, we stopped at the Gateway. We love the Gateway. Ryan always likes to find my name on the wall of volunteers from the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake. It helps that it is low to the ground. Rara’s, on the other hand, is toward the top, and can usually only be seen with high-powered binoculars. I spent all day Saturday, November 10, attending Cub Scout Pow Wow with my friends and fellow leaders. We actually all quite enjoy it. It’s always fun to get all of the ideas for the upcoming year.

Thanksgiving this year was Marc & Frances’ year to be with our family. We ate at Mom & Dad’s, and then the guys went to a nearby elementary school to play soccer and football. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ryan has a fascination with drop kicking. He and Papa drop kick back and forth across the street in front of their house. They decided to go to the school field where they could really go at it. They had a lot of fun. Mom and Frances and I stayed back at the house, and after cleaning up, looked through all of the ads for the next day’s shopping. We decided on a few places that we wanted to hit for a few good deals.

So, bright and early the next morning (which, for us is about 9:00 instead of 4:00), we went to the couple of stores that we had decided on. I know, we’re just not the die-hard shopaholics. After our minimal shopping adventures, Rara and Aunt Dott got the grandkids together for another holiday extravaganza. When we were all little, the cousins would get together and make candy bar trains. So the now-grandmas decided to start up the tradition again with the grandkids. When Misty found out what her kids got to do, she was a little jealous that she hadn’t been invited to participate! :)
One of our family traditions has always been to go downtown the day after Thanksgiving for all of the lights coming on. This year we went to the Gateway, where John Schmidt performed a concert on the main staircase by the Olympic Plaza. It was a lot of fun.
Of course, one of the highlights (that almost wasn’t) of the month was the BYU-Utah game. I won’t rub salt in the wounds of all of my Utah friends that read this, but you all know how it ended. (Let me just say that it's probably wise to wait until the game is REALLY over before calling and playing your "Utah Man" keychains.) After the game, Ryan and I dropped off a little bag of blue treats at the Davies’ house. They love blue. (I just realized that Ryan is wearing his BYU jersey in most of the pictures on this blog. That is fairly representative of his life. His BYU jersey and his John Beck jersey are his two favorite shirts. He would just wear those all the time if I'd let him.)

Friday, November 30 was Bountiful’s annual Light Parade. Rara and I took Ryan and his friend, Logan. I took a couple of light sticks for them, so they enjoyed waving those around. The various floats and cars are always cute, but this year included something very different from previous years. The boys almost lost their voices screaming about the Star Wars float that was coming down the street. At that point, they totally forgot that it was only about 17 degrees out! The glow of the light sabers warmed their little hearts! After the parade ended, we went into the Rec Center for warm refreshments and visits with Santa.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

2007 in Review - October

I celebrated (?) my 40th birthday on October 7. The Sunday sessions of General Conference were on my birthday this year. My dad is on the high council in their stake, and got tickets for us to attend the morning session of conference for my birthday. It was pretty cool. Ryan LOVES President Hinckley, so he was overjoyed to be able to see him sitting directly down from where we were. It was also the session where President Eyring and Elder Cook spoke, so that was really neat. Ryan loved it, too. He knew it was a very historic meeting, and was very attentive and reverent throughout the session. I was proud of him.

I volunteer in Ryan’s classroom on Friday mornings. Every Friday, they have “Fun Friday,” which is actually a combined lesson with an art project that goes along with something that is happening. We’ve done lessons on leaves and seeds so far, and anticipate more fun lessons as the holidays approach.

For Red Ribbon Week, Ryan’s school had a poster contest. Ryan won first place for the second grade! His prize was a HUGE shopping bag full of all sorts of goodies, including a bicycle helmet, a stuffed tiger, treats, UHP logo items, etc. Mom & Dad’s neighbor who works for UHP was the one that awarded it to Ryan. He thought that was pretty cool.

My little artist has also started creating masterpieces in MS Paint. Here is his Halloween creation. I'm not sure if the white things are clouds or ghosts, and I don't want to offend him by asking. :)
On Tuesday, October 30, our Halloween celebrations began. The South Davis Recreation Center had a big party that started at 5:00. They had games, spook alleys, treats, crafts, and all sorts of things. Our ward also had our annual Trunk or Treat. We went to the Rec Center for a while, then left to go to Trunk or Treat, then went back to the Rec Center until the festivities ended at 8:30. We’re such party animals!
Ryan’s Halloween costume was Anakin Skywalker, which should not surprise any of you who have met Ryan. I found the costume at one of my favorite online stores. It even came with the braid to clip in. Hilarious.
On Wednesday, October 31 (Halloween), I joined several hundred other parents in watching the school Halloween parade. It was pretty funny. A couple of Ryan’s buddies in his class were other Star Wars characters, so they made quite the little team.
Main Street in Bountiful always hosts trick-or-treating. Mom and I took Ryan down one side of Main Street, crossed the street, and up the other side. It’s fun to see what all of the merchants have. Colonial Square in Bountiful also has a fall festival/trick-or-treating event. After Main Street, we walked around Colonial Square for some of their treats and coupons.
Ryan went trick-or-treating around Rara & Papa’s neighborhood with some of his friends there. I swear the kid’s candy bag weighed more than he did by the time he got back!

We also have a couple of traditional Halloween visits that we make. We made our usual stops, including Jerry and Linda Davies. They have been close friends of ours for over fifteen years. Jerry works for Hostess, and they give out Twinkies and Ding-Dongs for Halloween. Ryan loves it, because we go in and visit for a while, and he leaves with a BOX of each instead of only one of each like other little trick-or-treaters. We have a fifteen-year-old rivalry with the Davies concerning the blue school and the red school. As you can see, they kidnapped my poor child and tortured him endlessly before finally releasing him to me (complete with a Twinkie-induced sugar high)!

2007 in Review - September

With the help of my entire family, I completed a fun home improvement project this month. My 40th birthday is next month, and I’d really like to spend it in Hawaii. But since we’re already planning to go in April, it’s not possible to also go for my birthday, darn it! So I decided to bring Hawaii into my house! My bedroom has had 20 year old wallpaper, the bed that I bought when I bought my first condo almost 15 years ago, one hand-me-down dresser from Mom and Dad, one hand-me-down dresser from Grandma Jensen, and Jon’s old nightstand. Obviously, nothing matched. I have had in my mind what I wanted my bedroom to look like, and have been buying things for about six months for it. Over Labor Day weekend, I took every single thing out of my bedroom, and Mom, Dad, Ryan and I stripped all of the old wallpaper off, and then painted. I also got a smokin’ deal on a 7-piece bedroom set, which was exactly what I had in mind. Marc and Frances, home improvement gurus that they are, installed new light fixtures for me. Here are a couple of before and after pictures (although the new light fixtures weren’t installed yet in the “after” pictures).
The second weekend in September was one of our favorite SLC events – the Greek Festival. We go every year, and enjoy the dancing, the choral concert in the cathedral, and especially the food.

Monday, September 10 would have been Steve Chase’s 40th birthday. Kevin and the rest of the family put together a wonderful memorial service held at the Eaglewood clubhouse. The most touching part of the evening was a home movie/slide show that Kevin and a friend put together. In true Kevin form, the presentation had perfectly-coordinated music and lyrics to go along with each period of time. I think everyone in attendance cried as we saw pictures and home movies of Phil, Jane and Steve. The evening was beautiful. Here is a picture of “Uncle Kevin” with Ryan and Carter.
While we were at Steve’s service, Grandpa Inman passed away (my last grandparent to go). There was a message at Dad and Mom’s house when they got home. He has been living in a care center in St. George for several years, but has really gone downhill since his wife, Catherine, died. Monday evening, he went to dinner in the cafeteria with his buddies, but then told them that he was tired, and was going to his room to lie down. When the staff made their evening rounds, they found that he had passed away. He was 92 years old. We all decided that was a pretty good way to go – 92 years old, after spending an evening with friends, in his sleep, and even on a full tummy! We traveled to Milford on Saturday, September 15 for his funeral. After the graveside service, we went to Janice's house (Dad's step sister) for a luncheon with the family. It was nice to visit with all of them.

Sunday, September 16 was our ward Primary program in Sacrament meeting. Ryan and I have been taking Jaye, my cub scout that was baptized last month, to church with us every week. His mother is not active, and so we invited her to go to Sacrament Meeting with us to watch Jaye in the program. She did! I hope that she was touched seeing her cute little son singing all of the sweet Primary songs. After Sacrament Meeting, I invited her to stay for the rest of the meetings, but she declined, so I took her home, and then joined Ryan and Jaye back at the church for the rest of our meetings.

Ryan’s fall soccer season has been great. His coach has decided that Ryan is the best goalie – not only due to his ability to stop the ball, but because of his amazing drop kicks! Ryan played goalie most of the season, but is a pretty assertive little player, too, so his coach gave him one quarter every game playing forward. We were excited to see him score! One particular game when he was playing goalie, he had a drop kick that went all the way down to the field, within just a few feet of the other teams’ goal! All of the parents were saying, “The GOALIE’S going to score a goal!” and “Look at how far that GOALIE kicked the ball!” Everyone was amazed at the power in his little legs! He has now decided that he wants to be the punter or field goal kicker for BYU.
Which brings me to another highlight of our month. For eleven years, Dad and I had season tickets to the BYU games. We never missed a single game during that time. When I moved to Las Vegas, we let our Cougar Club membership and west-side tickets go. Too bad – we’d probably be at the 50 yard line by now! Well, Ryan has become more and more interested in BYU football as he has watched the games with us. He started asking if he could go to a game. So, on Saturday, September 22, Papa, Ryan and I went to a game – homecoming. Three generations of BYU football fans! Even though it rained most of the game and we were drenched (right through our ponchos), we had a great time. Ryan loved being there!