Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas and Cousins

I'm sitting here all warm and cozy in Jeremy's incredible new office, watching the beautiful snowfall outside.  As if this home couldn't get any more magical, it somehow has.  There is something about winter and a warm house that is just so peaceful.   Sitting in front of our amazing stone fireplace while watching the sun rise over snow-capped mountains fills me with such happiness.  The kind of happiness that makes you sigh with contentment.  And I wanted to take the time to say


This home is even more loved than the first day we moved in.  The miracle of it all has not lost its magic.  We are so thankful every single day.  Life is still hard so much of the time, but it's so much easier here!  (:  My grand plan is to put together a video that shows you all how much we are loving this home, but in the meantime-- know that we are feeling very, very grateful!

While pondering on the amazing blessings that this year has held for our family, we decided to do Christmas a little different this year.  A few weeks ago we gathered our children around  ago during family council and talked about the tremendous blessings we have received this year and the many people who sacrificed to serve our family.  We talked about the many children around the world who not only have less, but don't even have families.  Obviously, this is not a new concept to our kids.  And we talked about how Christmastime for us can be particularly crazy-busy.  Shopping for nine children is not an easy task, nor is it cheap.  Add in having them shop for each other, along with all of the other fun things that come with Christmas and it can seem daunting, to say the least.  Don't get me wrong-- I think presents are GOOD.  I love, love, love Christmas shopping and I love that presents are part of Christmas.  I think there are great lessons to be found in both giving and receiving and it's obviously such a magical part of Christmas, especially for children.  But this seemed like the perfect year to try something I've always wanted to do:  have just one Christmas without presents.

You could see the despair creep into their eyes as we got to this part.  Sophi burst into tears.  It's not easy to explain to a five-year-old all of the ways that she has been blessed this year when all she can think about is that she wants a new baby doll for Christmas!  (Don't worry--as soon as I reminded her that she does have two grandmas, all was well.  I am sure that she will not go without her new dolly.)

The more we talked about it, the more the kids were on board.  Santa will get a letter this year asking him to find another family who can use some extra gifts.  Skipping presents this year would free up a lot of time and a lot of money.  We talked about what to do with that time and money and came up with a game plan.  Every day in December we want to do something that brings us closer to Christ. Those things can basically be divided into two categories:  strengthening our family and strengthening others.   Obviously, these are both things that are part of Christmas every year-- but this year they will get even more focus.   The kids have had some wonderful ideas:

read a Christmas story every night before bed
go caroling at a nursing home
send care packages to loved ones
babysit while other parents go shopping for Christmas
have a p.j./game day
try new recipes
pay for people's groceries
serve at the homeless shelter
go ice skating
decorate a Christmas tree and deliver it to an older person who doesn't have one
watch Christmas movies
go sledding
contribute to other families adoption funds
go to Temple Square

We would love if you would add any ideas you might have in the comment section!!!  We are especially wanting some secret service ideas-- things we can do both individually and as a family.  We have already started and it has been wonderful.

Now… onto something else.  There are so many things I want to write about and I only have time for one.  Hmmmm.  How about a cousin shout-out!   We have been lucky enough to have all of the cousins from my side over recently-- all on different days.  So much fun!!  Our kids have the cutest cousins in the world.  No really, they do.  Want some proof?

From Becky's family (big sis)
 L to R back row:  Taylor, Alissa, Bethany, Parker
middle row:  Jessica, Mariah, Cali, Bryce, Lexi, Charity
front row:  Alaya, Sophi, Graci, Brigham

 The three amigos

The three amigos plus one

This wasn't  taken at our house, but I had to throw it in there.  This is Bethany-- she's a SENIOR-- what happened????!!!!!!!!  I feel old!!!!

Parker and Nyah
From Danny's family (big bro) 

 We babysat Nyah for a day and she LOVED Jesi.  In fact, Jes was pretty much her mommy the entire time-- it was so cute.

 Jeremy with Matthew (my little bro)

 Jessica with Emery (Matthew and Megan's little girl).  Yes, Jes has a knack for little girls.

 Lexi and Megan (Matthew's wife)

 Xander, Treyden, Colton, and Lincoln (little sister Leslie's boys)

 "the other Jeremy" throws Sophi in the air
(yes, my sister married a Jeremy, too!)

me and Les-- best of friends  (:

And, I thought I'd throw this one in there.  Sophi's trying to make the peace sign like Graci.  (;

Have a wonderful day!  Don't forget-- we'd love some creative suggestions!



  1. What a great idea for your family!! We are all blessed to read your blog and know about your sweet, special family. (Loved seeing your video at Time Out for Women a couple of weeks ago!!) One tradition we have done a couple of times is tied to Jason Wright's novella called CHRISTMAS JARS. It's a quick read and one the whole family could enjoy. Or, you could read his children's book called PENNY'S CHRISTMAS JAR MIRACLE. It's beautifully illustrated and has the same premise as the novella. I know a lot of families that have received as well as given in this manner. It's amazing how it can change lives!! Bless you and your family!

    1. Ok, so I'm so glad you brought this up. We were actually given a Christmas Jar last year to help with our new home. It was such a humbling experience. We have been filling the jar to give this year, but I hadn't thought about the idea to read the book with the kids! I'm so excited for that and we will for sure do it-- thank you! I'm sure it will make giving the Christmas Jar more meaningful!

  2. Doing a 12 days of Christmas for someone is always fun! It's a great way to do secret service.

    1. We always did that growing up-- such fun memories. (:

  3. We love driving around the neighborhood and "judging" the light displays. We pick the one who we think is the best. Sometimes it really is the best in the neighborhood, or it could be the most creative, or the neatest, etc. etc. Then we knock on the door and hand them a box of chocolates or fun treat. We tell them we think their lights are the best around and thank them for taking the time to brighten our night! They are always so surprised! It's a fun tradition that dates all the way back to a date we went on in high school!
    P.S. Loved seeing the updates of your family!

    1. LOVE LOVE LOVE! I'm so excited for this one!!!

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  5. You asked for ideas, so here goes. As experienced adopters, your family may want to "adopt" a needy family this year and take over the role of Secret Santa. (Your bishop may be able to steer you to a family in need.) Using an intermediary to develop a wish list from the family, you could then involve your children in looking for sales, shopping with you, and wrapping gifts. You might even want to involve other charitable people in contributing to the purchase of presents for the family. Rosemary found that her Avon lady was very generous, for example. Such people generally love to be a part of something so much in the spirit of Christmas. Rosemary and I found that if you tell store managers what you are doing, they will even give you special deals. We once used a neighbor to act as the delivery man for us, so that we could remain anonymous. When he returned in his empty vehicle (from the 50-mile round trip) to tell us of the family's reaction, he was in tears. Thus, his life was blessed also. Jeremy may still have memories of helping other families as a small child. I think he was about two or three when we adopted our first needy family for Christmas. As I recall, we arrived at their home early Christmas morning, having made advance arrangements with the parents. We told the children in the family, who were very young, that we were helping deliver presents for Santa. So, in that case, we weren't exactly anonymous--only to the children. It is an activity that can actually be more exciting and fun than finding your own tree surrounded by Christmas gifts. And I can't help believing that Jeremy's amazingly generous spirit was cultivated to a great extent by those Secret-Santa childhood Christmas experiences he shared with us.

    1. Thanks, Allen. We have followed that tradition and been Secret Santas for most of the years we have been married. (: We love it, and we have also had some very tender experiences with the "Santas" we have borrowed to deliver the gifts. Thanks for starting that tradition! A couple of years ago we were blessed to be the recipient of this service for our family. Amazing.

  6. I've always wanted to (and still hope to someday) do a Christmas without presents! Here are a few of my ideas:

    We love doing Christmas play dough! You make play dough in red, green, white and use it for all sorts of things. White can be used to make toy snowmen with toothpicks for arms and noses. Green is used to make Christmas trees with a cookie cutter (decorate with buttons- Christmas-themed and regular- as ornaments. Sometimes we scent the play dough with mint or cinnamon. You could use it yourselves or give it as a gift to someone.

    Have the missionaries over for dinner. Make stockings for them with handwarmers, gum, candy, cds they are allowed to listen to (check with the mission president), snack foods like granola bars they can eat on the go, Christmas treats (maybe even a present to open on Christmas), etc.

    Give Christmas puzzles to families in need of some extra cheer- it gets them around the table together and is something they can do year after year.

    Go get the name of an elderly or developmentally disabled person off of an angel tree- they are often the forgotten ones at Christmas as many people are more eager to give to children.

    Give small gift bags to parents in the operative waiting rooms at Primary Childrens. Hygiene items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, wipes as well as snacks, drinks, mints or gum, and something to keep busy like Sudoku,crossword puzzles, etc.

    I hope you guys have a very merry Christmas! It's a wonderful idea!

    1. Love all of these ideas!!! Some of them feel especially meaningful to me right now-- thank you so much for taking the time to share them. We will add them to our list!

  7. Drive around and hand out treats like candy bars to the Salvation Army Bell Ringers.

  8. In reading through the comments, all my ideas were already taken! I have fun memories of Steven and I driving around the neighborhood giving out lemon bread to homes that had done an especially good job with their lights, caroling to Dad's home teaching familes (often older widows that loved it when we came), and helping mom wrap gifts for the family we had "adopted." And don't forget staying up late to watch "It's a Wonderful Life!" Because it IS a wonderful life!

  9. One of our favorite traditions by boys LOVE is...
    Having them get in their pajamas early and tell them there is a surprise on their pillow. A golden ticket to the Christmas Light Express. We Make homemade donuts and hot chocolate and pile in the car and drive around looking at Christmas lights. I have a list (from pinterest :-) ) of things to look for...like a giant snow globe, penguin, nativity, 3 deer together, blue lights, the grinch, you get the idea. I LOVE the idea of giving something to the family with the best lights, or even something small to each house that enabled you to check an item off. So fun!

    We get a new Christmas book every year that the kids get to unwrap the first of December, and then ALL our other Christmas books are wrapped up too and they get to unwrap one or two to read every night.

    Caroling!!! And we try to give a little candle wrapped nicely to each house we carol to, with a quote about sharing the light of Christ.

    We have the live nativity here at Tuacahn we actually get to participate in, but I'm sure somewhere has a live nativity you could go to!

    I liked the idea mentioned above about giving puzzles to families--and you could tie that in with thanks for your puzzle them home organization!

    I know you usually do Christmas for a family--that's wonderful!!!

    Gingerbread houses!

    and I LOVE this article from Deseret news:

    It's about doing the 12 days of service. It includes simple things like calling or emailing someone you haven't been in touch with for awhile, paying a specific compliment to someone, and then also things like sharing your talents--even if it's a talent show with just your family or caroling somewhere. And doing something for your community.

    YAY for extra time to do fun things!!!! :-)

    1. Thanks, Les! Wonderful ideas. I love you!!!! Can you PLEASE move closer?!!!!

  10. We read stories every night in December, we have a fun one called The Last Straw by Paula McDonald. The family draws each others names from a hat and then they do service for that family member all week! They make a manger and collect straw from a field, for every act of service they can put a straw in the manger for baby Jesus. We did this last year and it really cut down on the bickering between my children! It's an extra cute story too!

  11. How about taking hot chocolate, gloves, treats or something else meaningful to the Salvation Army bell ringers?

  12. You are my heroes! I have always wanted to do this but can't seem to get Buddy the Elf (aka my husband) on board. He just loves giving presents too much.

    One thing my brother-in-law and his family did one year was make sack lunches and drive around the Pioneer Park area downtown to hand them out to homeless people. I also knew a guy who would buy McDonald's Dollars and hand those out to homeless people on Christmas morning.

    I know the Road Home (or other homeless shelters) could use some donations. I think they especially need long johns and other cold weather gear at this time.

    Sorry, not a lot of great ideas myself but I'm so excited to hear how this Christmas goes for you.


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