Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

I have no pictures, but we just finished cleaning up after a big party with our usual crew (the Elliott and Williams families), and about ten of Ian's friends as well. We ate hot and honey wings, 7-layer dip (homemade this time since the last one was kind of spicy!), egg nog for the final time this season, fruit, veggies, caprese, fondue, cheese and crackers, cocktail weiners, drinks and drinks, and drinks (of the non-alcoholic variety, of course)! The kids played Rock Band/Guitar Hero and then watched Labyrinth and we just continued making food and visiting throughout the evening. Around 11:30, we took the adults downstairs to play Guitar Hero while the kids went upstairs to play the game, "Curses."

I got to kiss my sweetheart as we rung in and toasted the new year. Even one of Ian's friends, Randie who is a girl, got a kiss from a boy at midnight. Unfortunately, that boy was Wilbur the Beagle. I don't think it was quite what she was anticipating. Happy 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

My Anniversary Present

My sweet husband replaced my broken red Nikon with a cobalt blue Nikon (same model and everything). I'm so grateful to have a good camera again. It's enabled me to take a couple of pictures around the neighborhood of the various snow sculptures in front yards. (And being a man with foresight, he also purchased a two-year protection plan for it. It even covers being dropped and stepped on by an elementary school child.)

I, in turn, was able to get both boys' cars in to have their Christmas stereos installed today. I think they're pretty happy with the results!


19 Years Ago...

As I lay awake this morning courtesy of Griffin's new clock (which had an alarm set for 6 a.m.), I was thinking about the day John and I were sealed for time and all eternity, 19 years ago today. Boy, that was an early morning (4 a.m.), and what a way for John to be introduced to my brother, Chris, and his wife, Kim--from behind a camera as they filmed us getting ready (I wasn't the nicest person that morning; my apologies to everyone). John and Mom and I left for the Washington DC temple (it was cold!) and shortly thereafter, I began a new life, that of Mrs. John W. Asplund (or, as the kids around here--even in the school--call me, Sister Asplund). When things were over in the temple (we were the first of 85 sealings that day), we ran from the temple to the car (did I mention it was cold?) and took off back to the Marriott in Bethesda, Maryland. We all gathered to eat at Allie's Pantry, then, collapsed into bed (clean up your minds, everyone--we fell asleep).
The next day, we were heading back home for our reception. There was an ice storm and the driveway was a skating rink. Everything had been prepared beforehand by my sisters and mom. Months earlier I called in my measurements and some dress patterns that I liked, and they put together both my temple dress and reception dress. They decorated, baked, took care of all the arrangements, and all we had to do was show up and go where we were told. We never worried about anything. All I had to do was focus on the day.
We enjoyed amazing food (didn't get any of the chocolate raspberry wedding cake though until years later), lots of friends, and, one of my favorite parts, plenty of Christmas ornaments given as gifts that we still use to this day. I think about our reception every time we put up our Christmas tree. After a few days, we flew to Missouri for another reception, stayed for a couple of days, then drove straight to our apartment in Salt Lake so we could return for work the next day. (Not much of a honeymoon, although we did take our firstborn with us to Snowbird for our first anniversary [special thanks to Mom who watched him, though, so we could have dinner together at The Steak Pit]. That came four kids and ten years later when we went to Hong Kong.) To celebrate, we decided to recreate the first night we met. John was the new roommate of my friends from BYU. I came over to hang out with them and we were about to take off when John said, "I'll pay for the pizza if you guys stay here." So he ordered pizza from Domino's and we watched the original Parent Trap movie. One week later, we were engaged. Tonight we've ordered pizza from Papa John's (and a lot more of it!), will put in the DVD, and then watch that video from 19 years go (the kids made sure to mention, "Haven't we seen it before?"), making sure we transfer it to DVD so we can put a copy in our safe.
We were a lot thinner (and I spent a lot more time getting ready!) back then, but couldn't have been any happier than we are now. I remember when we were going to play the board game, Life, with our friends and I wanted the white car, one of them made kind of a snide comment. To this day, John makes sure I get the white car. (He even sent me white roses the next day to remind me that I deserved it!) He has always stood up for me. He is my very best friend. I can't sleep without him next to me.
I love him because he makes me laugh.
I love him because he'll watch the A&E Pride and Prejudice with me (well, he'll fall asleep to it).
I love him because he can read me like a book.
I love him because he supports me not only in my church callings, but in all my extracurricular activities.
I love him because he has warm hands when mine are cold.
I love him because there's nothing more peaceful than lying close to him and taking deep, relaxing breaths.
Isn't eternity great?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to All

I still remember waking up at 4 in the morning, sleeping in the same room with Pat and Chris, and wondering if we could go downstairs yet. I don't even know if my parents had gone to bed yet. This morning, I was awake by 6. (I couldn't go to sleep though, so I crept downstairs and was awake until about 3:30 and then up a couple of hours later.) I finally went upstairs around 7:30 to see if any creatures were stirring. I saw Mags and Ellie approaching my room, but Griffin and Ian were still asleep. I woke up everyone else and we had a quiet start, reading part of Helaman and then Luke 2. We got to talk about how times are a-changin' and what would happen if during the night someone had come into the house and taken all the presents. (I'm sure Griffin was quietly freaking out inside.) We talked about how good it was to help others at this time of year and how if that had happened we would still be fine because we had a house and food and clothes and warmth and each other. I think it set a great tone and really appreciated John's quiet and thoughtful start.

We went into the living room and spent the first few minutes, as is tradition, looking at the stocking stuff. And then the opening of presents began. The kids were a bit nervous that I didn't have much to open, but I continually reassured them that my gift was ongoing. You see, last week, the floors were replaced in both of our bathrooms. Yes, the carpeted bathroom is gone! The smell is gone! I have beautiful travertine (sp?) floors that John got for a steal three years ago (I had no idea they are usually so expensive--we paid $1 a square foot for them.) And mid-January the shower tile is being replaced! John has also, as I have mentioned before, been making a concerted effort to get everything up and going in the kitchen. It's the best gift of all to have a comfortable house. He has been working really hard and it was truly appreciated. His sister, Gigi, knitted us an amazing blanket for our front room that matches perfectly. It's so beautiful! (Later on she brought more fun presents for the kids.)


**Note: This is a list of their gifts mostly to be included in my blog publication for journal keeping. If you don't care what they got, skip to the next paragraph.**Griffin got a bunch of Star Wars Legos (and unbelievably he spent almost the entire day building them by himself), some books, and other stuff. Ellie got a bunch of Littlest Pet Shop toys and boots and a coat. Maggie got make-up, a My Sims DS game, a coat, and we made up for her counterfeit $100 bill with a real one to buy some clothes. Ian got a tripod and car stereo. John got a car stereo as well and for the family we got the entire collection of Calvin and Hobbes. As things were wrapping up, I ran back to the room telling them I forgot something and then haphazardly gave them each a box saying, "I don't know which goes to each person, so just open them up." They were thrilled with their engraved iPod nanos, and spent the rest of the day on the computers setting them up. Of course there were other little things here and there (including our annual haul of DVDs), but they seemed to feel it a successful year.

I was thrilled to find the missing Guitar Hero 3 game and spent an hour playing while the others were occupied. I took advantage of the additional down time to do some laundry and start cooking for our family gathering at the Roden home. We enjoyed another full feast and lots of laughs. The snow has been falling off and on through the day.

Gigi and Carl showed up a little before 5 and helped with the final food touches before we took off down the hill carrying egg nog (yes, we love it!), bruschetta, sweet potatoes, profiterole, and seven layer dip. Liisa had made everything for sandwiches, Gigi brought zucchini brownies, and Kirsti brought apple beer and more trifle! As usual, we ate and ate until we were nearly doubled over, and played another great game. By 8, it was time to head back home (although Griffin had left with Maggie about an hour before because he wanted to work more on his Legos and watch Mister Magorium's Wonder Emporium.) It was another fun evening and now I'm off to bed!

Check out John's dollar store "bling!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Now it's Christmas Eve

Today was another busy day, especially at work. Since interest rates have fallen, we are refinancing mortgages like crazy and it leaves little down time for much of anything. Ian was able to go caroling with the student council at the hospital, and the others were under orders to prepare the house for Christmas Day. We also took advantage of the break in between storms to try to get some of the ice broken off the driveway. (Two days ago we had 13 inches of snow; we're expecting another 14 tomorrow.)

In the front yard of one of our neighbors. Notice how much snow is still on the ground around it!

As a reward for their good work, I took them to the Nickelcade for a couple of hours. Everyone seemed to have a really enjoyable time there. (Mom, notice the jacket Maggie's wearing?)



We came home to make chili, finish cleaning, get Christmas pajamas, and for Santa to disappear into the living room to begin wrapping presents. I finished by 8 o'clock and am now waiting for everything to quiet down. (I know, silly me.)

Merry Christmas (Eve), everyone! We love and miss you all, very much.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

It's Christmas Adam!

My kids informed me that since Adam came before Eve, today is officially Christmas Adam. We celebrated with my friends and their families--the Elliotts and the Williams--as well as Nellie Myatt (Cherise Elliott's sister), and the Elliott family friend, Bob. It was to be a night of truths: a true pot luck and a true white elephant. So everyone brought what they wanted without telling anyone else or coordinating the meal, and you had to bring something from your house to swap (no going to the dollar store or anything).

It was a fun evening, just what I needed after spending the day out and about delivering gifts for work. Tomorrow I'm looking forward to a quiet evening at home, wrapping presents and preparing for another monster snowstorm that's scheduled to hit early Christmas morning.

We brought chocolate dipped oreos, Sarah's salad, Amish breakfast casserole, bruschetta and profiterole. Carma provided a turkey and ham, drinks, and assorted crackers and cheese. Cherise brought tempura vegetables and sushi. Nellie brought a gorgeous pie and some pinwheel wraps. I'm sure I've left some things out, but no one left hungry for sure!

The white elephant swap was truly entertaining. Carma read "The Night Before Christmas" with strategically added "rights" and "lefts" so we could switch our gifts accordingly. At the end, everyone opened up what they received. I got a box of used 3.5 floppy discs, Ian got 2 CDs (one of Gregorian chants--just the case--and one of Vladimir Horowitz), Maggie got a $100 bill in a small bottle, Ellie got an entire outfit from Hawaii (grass skirt, top, shell necklace, flower for her hair), and Griffin got a stuffed Hobbes doll which is absolutely perfect for him since he reads the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip all the time.





Nellie, Cherise and Carma's profile

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Finished!

I finished the Book of Mormon--in 38 days! I got really worried there when I was so behind, but since the kids started school early on Friday (8 instead of 9:15, I took advantage of that quiet 90 minutes before the Christmas sing to read and read and read! (The only downside was that my relatively new camera was stepped on and broken during the event. It's kind of like the opening of the doors at Wal-Mart on Black Friday, unless you get there 90 minutes early and get your pick of any seat in the house.)

I'm amazed that every time I read it there are parts that seem brand new. I understand why we are to make it part of our daily study because as our lives and circumstances change, so do our spiritual needs.

For Family Home Evening tonight, we watched the TNT/Patrick Stewart version of "A Christmas Carol." With everyone snuggled under blankets keeping warm (we were certainly worn out from shoveling 12 inches of snow!) and two dogs sitting on our laps, it set a really good mood for our upcoming multiple holiday festivities.
God bless us, everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Westmore's Holiday Sing

First of all, they now longer call it a "Christmas Sing." Are you kidding me? In a school where the kids always want to sing Primary songs, I find that surprising. Anyway, here are videos of Griffin and Ellie's performances.



video

video

That afternoon I helped with Griffin's class party where they made cards for a local care center and then played Christmas carols on the bells.


Now the kids are home until January 5. Yippee?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bah, Humbug!

Last night John and I went to the local movie theater to watch the live simulcast of Glenn Beck's Christmas show based on his new novel, "The Christmas Sweater." I was glad that he put it in theaters as well since the live show was so expensive and although this, too, wasn't cheap, it was a lot less money and easier than driving to Salt Lake.

I wanted so badly for this to put me in the Christmas spirit. I've not really felt it this year and kind of feel like I'm just holding on for dear life before my house and obligations swallow me up. On his daily radio show, so many people have called in to say how much this book has changed their lives, how phenomenal the stage show was. I was so looking for that to happen to me, too. I wanted to wait on hold for nearly two hours to say to him on the radio, "This was just what I needed." Instead, as the show ended and I watched on the screen as faux snow fell onto the audience, all I could think was, "You know, someone's going to have to clean that up." The point was obviously lost on me.

Every year I think, "This year will be different." I want that "Leave it to Beaver"-type episode where I spend the day in the kitchen cooking marvelous things to deliver to friends and family, where the ingredients are a prop and the cost didn't come out of my own pocket, and where the stage crew magically cleans up the mess that it leaves behind. Instead, my fingers are sore from tying over a hundred rubber bands around hot chocolate cones and I'm off to buy more mini marshmallows because they are Griffin's favorite treat and keep disappearing by the handfulls before I can get them into the cones. I'm rushed thinking I have to put tags on these and all the other gifts that need to be delivered by tomorrow because it's the last day of school before Christmas break. There is mutual tonight (an International Dinner for the elderly in our ward) where we have to prepare two desserts (one from Argentina and one from France) for we don't know how many and do a "heart attack" for one of our inactive girls. The snow is falling (pretty, but not fun to deliver Julie's presents to realtors in), my days are scheduled to the minute, and again, all I can think of is "Who's going to clean up the mess?"

Even my Beehive challenge of reading the Book of Mormon in 40 days has become a chore. Once you get 40 chapters behind, it's hard to find that much time to catch up. What had brought me peace just a month ago is now stressful.

And yet, just two days ago, someone arrived at my doorstep holding two dozen homemade rolls. You see, several years ago around Thanksgiving I purchased a whole bunch of fleece to make blankets to donate to whomever needed them. They have sat unfinished in my living room cabinet until last month when I thought it a perfect opportunity for the young women to finish so I could finally get rid of them. The cafeteria supervisor at Westmore let people know that she was part of a project that would be distributing blankets, coats, hats, etc. to people in need. I thought this a perfect place for the blankets to go and so I delivered them to her last Friday. She told me this about the family that received them. There was a young mother with a newborn there and she had mentioned that she had no way to keep this baby and her other children warm this year. They received all of our blankets and she broke down in tears knowing now that her baby would be warm. As a thank you, Linda made some of her fantastic rolls (that she bakes from scratch at least twice a week for the little elementary school kids' lunches!) for our family. I stood there dumbfounded thinking, "I don't need the rolls. You should take them to this family or other families who I'm sure need so much more than I do."

I know the true spirit of Christmas is in serving and giving to others. I knew at that moment that there could be no gift greater than knowing that we had helped not only her but other families in need through Sub for Santas. What a slug, I am. I have everything I need. My family has a roof over their heads, two working furnaces, HD on one of the TVs, two parents that love each other, and more food than we can store in our own house. What more could we want or need?

I think what's so hard is getting through the rest of it. I think the greatest gift of all would be everybody cancelling all the parties, concerts, sing-a-longs, and just freeing up time to be at home, with your family. Well, that and a maid to clean up afterwards.

PS: Don't be surprised if our Christmas cards show up around Valentine's Day!

Monday, December 15, 2008

My Worlds Have Officially Collided

The other night I had a bizarre dream (and it wasn't either of my recurring "house" dreams). I'll try to point out my various worlds as we go.

Carma and Cherise (two of my best friends) and I were going to the BYU Wilkinson Center (Ellie's Music Express performance) to get our picture taken with Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilight series (which I read and just recently saw the first movie). We were holding not a map, but like a 3-D model (I think this is Ellie's science fair) of the campus. We realized we were lost and ended up asking someone on the sidewalk, which turned out to be Stephenie Meyer. I struggled with asking if we could just take a picture with her there or respecting her possible desire for anonymity and just asking if she knew where this specific location was. She said, "You know, I'm headed there myself and would be happy to take you there." We were thrilled, but still didn't act as though we recognied her.

As we came to the place, we saw this whole set up like you would see in every mall around the country come this time of year: Santa and his workshop and presents and elves, etc. There was an enormous line already in place (this would be the unbelieveable line we saw at BYU for pictures with Santa). As we got closer to the front, I realized that people kept getting in line in front of me. I was so frustrated and someone pointed out that there was a sign at the front of the line which explained that anyone who came dressed as a princess, sporting a crown, could go to the front of the line. Each time we were next, someone could jump in front of us: firemen (um, no explanation for this), bratty pre-teens with their mothers, and even someone I can't really explain, kind of alien-looking. At this point, I was fed up and ended up pushing this person and her child out of the way. My friends looked at me and said, "I can't believe you just did that! It's so out of character for you!" (Um, this is probably my inability to actually say what I'm thinking I really want to say.)

I stood up on a chair and yelled, "WE ARE DAUGHTERS OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, WHO LOVES US AND WE LOVE HIM! (The Young Women theme) If that doesn't make me a REAL princess, I don't know what does!" A little boy from the back of the line came up, handed me a toy crown (the size of your thumbnail) and said, "Here, lady, just take it. It was my Happy Meal toy (we had gone to McDonald's the night before) and I think you need it more than I do."

I don't even remember if we actually got our picture taken with her. I just remember falling down and crying because someone finally heard me. Bizarre! (If you want a good laugh, maybe I'll tell you about my two house dreams sometime.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Annual Ward Christmas Extravaganza

This morning was our ward Christmas party, service project, and Primary pageant. Ellie initially had only the opening line, but she was also a "naysayer." No lines, but just standing there with a disbelieving attitude. (Some of us think it might have been typecasting. All she needed to do was to do it with a "z formation"--snapping her fingers in front of her.) Griffin was a shepherd. He didn't have any lines and wanted to be a wise man, so he settled for being what one of the sisters called a "wise shepherd." We thought of him more as Saib the Jihad Terrorist Shepherd as evidenced by the following picture:



Here are a couple of videos. The first one is of the opening number where they were told to sing "loud." (John pointed out that they didn't specify to sing "on key.") The second is Ellie's introduction. The third is just cute of how Ellie put her hands on Griffin's shoulders.

video

video

video
Ian took the ACT for a second time this morning and then took off to celebrate his birthday with his friends. I'm sure no one took pictures, but they went to the Quarry to go indoor rock climbing, then came back here to play video games for three hours. They just left to do something else, but I have no idea what.

When we got home, I got to working on my neighborhood gifts for the year while John started to fix some of our kitchen cabinets that have been broken by kids' climbing on them. This turned into a major project, however, when we realized that the paint that had been purchased to cover the repairs was not the same color. So now half of the cabinets have been repainted. I finished that part about a half hour ago and John still needs to re-hang them. At least they look fresh and clean even if the rest of the kitchen is a disaster.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

4-H is Done for the Semester!


YIPPEE!!!

Advent with the Asplunds (December 7)

Since I didn't get any pictures from Thanksgiving, I thought I'd try to make up for it by taking pictures at our annual Advent/Christmas carol celebration. It's really just Thanksgiving part two with traditional foods from Finland, Denmark, and well, whatever I bring. This year, I brought the traditional Terri's egg nog, Sarah's salad (from the Lion House cookbook), and bruschetta (we took caprese on Thanksgiving). We ate, watched the First Presidency Christmas Devotional, then sang Christmas carols.











December 6: Will This Day Ever End?

Sing along with me (to the tune of Billy Joel's Piano Man). "It's 6 o'clock on a Saturday. The regular alarm buzzes loud." No one likes the alarm going off early on a Saturday. But it's the last of Ellie's Music Express performances and the whole family is going.

So the President of BYU is hosting the President's Christmas Party for all BYU employees and their families and Music Express is one of the performing acts. We had no idea this is what was going on, so we were fortunate enough to have left with enough time that we could find parking and get front row seats in the Wilkinson Center Ballroom. John took some time to practice his photography skills and I tried to get in a few minutes of reading.



After sitting for about a half hour, there were some performances from the Nutcracker ("the most boring thing EVER" as Griffin says) and then a few minutes before Ellie's group came on.


She did an excellent job. After trial and error in a ton of different activities, she finally found something she enjoys doing and, not surprisingly, is good at.
After Ellie's performance, we returned home for a short time before Ellie had to go to the ward Christmas party rehearsal which was almost two hours long. A short time after she finished, I had to head to the Seven Peaks Ice Arena in Provo for the annual RMMG client party. Usually it's a nice evening with Santa, but this year, they decided to do Skating with Santa (even though our Santa doesn't ice skate). So with 600 clients in attendance and another "office" party on the neighboring rink, the line for skates went all the way through the building. If you hadn't gotten there within the first 30 minutes of the party, you probably didn't get your skates or on the ice. It's at these moments that I'm grateful I'm just a peon and not really in charge. Anyway, here are some photos (well, it won't let me put any in for some reason).

I got home around 5:45 even though they extended the party until 6 instead of 5:30 because I had left my coat at home and it was cold in there!

After a short rest, Maggie, Ellie and I took off for the Scera to see the musical "Plaid Tidings" with my friend and her family. (She volunteers there so she gets free tickets.) She had noticed that my life was crazily-hectic and that I just wasn't getting into the holiday spirit and was sure this was just what I needed. It was fantastic! In fact, we enjoyed it so much that she was able to get us more free tickets for the following Monday performance where we went as a family. This time, we were on the front row and were more interactive with the production. They asked Griffin what year it was (and he didn't freak out but answered, "Uh, 2008!" and then they grabbed Maggie to be part of the conga line and one of the characters kept hugging her. It certainly lifted our spirits.

We got home around 10 that night and I collapsed into bed.