Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Festivities

Dear Friend and Devoted Reader,

I am so sorry to have left you hanging without another chapter in the chronicles of my life for such a period. What can I say? December got away from me. I was busy Christmasing.

The more behind I got on my blog, the more daunting the task of updating it seemed to become. But I can't just jump into 2009 without recording our wonderful Christmas festivities. Excuse the belated news. And sorry if the writing is more to record events than to entertain. I'll try to do better in the future.

We spent the holiday this year with my family. Almost all of my siblings were in attendance with their families. My brother Joel's family had not been out here for four years! The reunion between all the cousins was love-filled, to be sure.

Before Christmas, my sister, Amber, and I took my kids and Joel's oldest three to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Joel's girls really love animals so I knew they would enjoy the Aquarium. All the kids loved getting splashed by the dolphins during the dolphin show and even got to help the trainer make the dolphin wave and dance in the water.

Christmas Eve, Amber entertained the seventeen grandchildren in attendance with some good ol' fashioned "Everyone's a Winner Bingo!" She found a fun bingo set at Costco and then bought a ton of prizes for the kids. She called out letters and numbers until each child won and then had them clear their cards for another round. You wouldn't believe how quiet the living room was with all those kids in it at the same time. Everyone wanted to listen up so he or she could win. Luckily, with Aunt Amber's rules, everyone is a winner every time!

Later, my extended family exchanged gifts. My mom spoiled my girls with beautiful new dresses. My sister, Amy, gave me a gift card to Ikea--and she didn't even know that I've had my eye on an organizing shelf thingy there! Talk about a Christmas miracle!

I proved that I am the coolest aunt on the planet by gifting my 16 year-old nephew with a shirt from Hollister. He didn't know I had it in me and thanked me for the spiffy duds. I think that's the first time Kaleb has initiated a conversation with me since he was three. If that's not blog-worthy, I don't know what is.

I stole away for the melee with Amber and our grandmother to attend Grandma's church's Christmas Eve service. I loved sitting with my grandma and singing hymns of praise for the Savior's birth. And I loved teasing Grandma about all the men who came up and kissed her.

Christmas morning was fabulous! My kids woke up at 6:45 and immediately began digging into their stockings. Then, Mackenna started opening her three gifts from Santa. She was thrilled with her new baby doll who came with her own car seat, stroller and bassinet.

Teensy was over the moon when she saw that she got her own camera and a make-up kit (something mommy has repeatedly told her she is not allowed to have). Rest assured, by the time New Year's rolled around, there wasn't a face in the family that hadn't been made over by Teense--including Grandpa and GG (Great-Grandma).

Mason had a wheeled Christmas: he received Heelys and a skateboard. His New Year's Resolution is not to break a limb in 2009.

Maia opened her two small gifts with happiness and awe but was elated and a little stunned when she unwrapped the doll she had been hoping against hope to get. It warmed my heart to see my children all so happy and thankful for their three gifts.

My Jorge was thrilled with his DVD's of 30 Rock, Indiana Jones Wii game and flight jacket like the one he wore in high school.

Christmas night, my mom had her annual party. A highlight for me was visiting with my cousins who I haven't seen in quite a while. Growing up, I saw my dad's side of the family every Sunday when we ate dinner together at my grandma's house. Now, I don't get to see some of them very often and that makes me sad so I quite enjoyed having some of us together again.

The day after Christmas, quite a few of us (as in 20 or so) went up to Hershey to visit Chocolate World. Nobody loves the ride with the singing cows like my Mackenna!

We had lunch, rode the ride a couple of times, watched the kids package kisses, bought everyone his/her favorite Hershey's treat, and headed home.

We ladies needed to get a good night's sleep because the next day was Girls' Day Out in NYC. We awoke at the crack of dawn, loaded up in my Amy's monster van and drove to NYC. I didn't know how Amy would manage her big van in downtown NYC, but she was a pro! She whipped that thing around like it was a Fiat. It was a little tricky finding a place where they would let her park it, but we eventually found one.

We filed into several taxis and went straight to Chinatown where the negotiations began. This was my niece, Tori's, first girls' trip to NYC and so she "needed" to get a purse on Canal street. She was also thrilled to purchase some fancy sunglasses. I opted out of a new purse this year, but grabbed a fun ring instead.

After a quick stop at Rice to Riches (gag) and Pinkberry, we cruised to our theater for our show. We saw Mary Poppins. Yes, it is different from the movie. The writers of the Broadway show read the original books and combined them with the movie to make the show. So, some parts are the same, but much of the show is different. I still loved it. I was utterly entertained and ready to swoon when Bert "stepped in time" up one wall, across the ceiling, and down the other wall. In a word, it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (Sorry, you know I had to do it.)

(Apparently, the nice stranger who took our group photo didn't realize that ALL of my mom was part of our group. Only a fraction of her is in the picture!)

After the show, we had dinner at a great little Italian place before heading back to the parking lot and trekking home.

The next day, we came home to give my mom's house a little break. Even though the six of us left, there were still twelve people staying there. I thought everyone could use a little more elbow room before the New Year's celebrating would begin.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

One Last Gratitude Post

Have you ever suffered from a broken heart, dear friend and devoted reader? Well, I have. It was so sad, as broken hearts generally are. When it became evident to me that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was no longer interested in me, I was completely bereft. I was sure that no boy would ever like me again, that I would never marry, that my eggs would all rot away inside my body, unfertilized, blah blah blah.

Even in the midst of my I-can't-believe-it's-over angst, I knew one thing for certain: that even if I did manage to find another boy who would succumb to my charming, womanly wiles, I would never love the new boy's family like I had loved the family of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

When I was with that family, I felt like one of them. I could stay up talking to him until one in the morning and then go into his sisters' bedroom and chat with them for another couple of hours. It was like chatting with my own sisters. We had so much in common and it was really easy to be with them. I loved the warm feeling in their house and enjoyed exchanging letters with one sister when she was on her mission. It was wonderful and unique and I knew that it couldn't possibly happen like that all the time. Frankly, it only added to my sorrow when he broke my heart.

I first met most of my Michael's siblings on my wedding day, after I had married their brother. We had no history of late night heart-to-hearts. I was right that my relationship with my in-laws is different than it was with that other family, but I don't know why I worried. I love my in-laws and wouldn't trade all their fun personalities for all the "we're so much alike!"-s in the world.

Cousin Love

This Thanksgiving we went to my brother- and sister-in-law's house to feast. The kids were all great as they played with their nine cousins in attendance. The adults had fun chatting, joking and laughing at each other, as we always do. We had soooo much food that even after 13 adults and 14 children ate until they couldn't eat another bite, it looked like most of the food was untouched. I even managed to make enough rolls that there were left-overs (a phenomenon that has never before occurred at a Hunter family gathering)!

Six of us crammed onto the couch sardine-style to aid in our digestion. We were trying to get ready to move on to dessert. And laughing at my Michael sticking out his belly. Seriously, you've got to click on the photo to see the full hilarity. It was awesome.

On Saturday, another brother- and sister-in-law treated all the nieces and nephews to tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's Kooza. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, the parents of the kids all bought their own tickets to see the show, as well. I wasn't sure if I would like it, truth be told, but I must confess: I'm a believer now! It was amazing! The show was so entertaining--for young and old. I'm sure I would have liked the show no matter what, but the whole experience was made more fun by sharing it with many of my siblings-in-law and nieces and nephews.

Two families escaped the Big Top area before I got my camera out, but here are the rest of us!

In this final post of my "BE Grateful" month, I want to explicitly declare how grateful I am for my in-laws. I love these people. I was right when I thought I'd never love my in-laws the way I loved that other family. I love them more! I love their generous hearts, their quick wit and their never-ending hugs. I never could have imagined a better group of people to have as a family when I married!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flashback Friday!

July 1994 found my sister, Amber, and I as college roommates. We were attending BYU's Spring and Summer Terms; it was the start of my junior year and the end of her senior year. We spent the summer eating chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and chocolate chip cookie dough for dinner. We ate lunch on campus where the Bookstore sold Kit Kat's--3 for $ .99. You do the math.

Clearly, neither of us was enrolled Food Science Nutrition. We were in the same French Phonetics class, though. That was an interesting experience!

Anyway, on to the photo. We had a long weekend in July (for the Utah state holiday of Pioneer Day) and decided to buy plane tickets to go to Arizona and visit our maternal grandparents. What a fun trip it was! We got to visit with cousins we don't see much and stay with our mother's parents. The above photo is of my grandparents, my sister and me on that visit.

Thanks to a plethora of photos I have of this trip, I know that we went to the lake to swim with cousins and that we went out for ice cream with my uncle. But I don't need a photographic reminder to pull this little beauty out of the recesses of my memory:

Granny was so proud that her two college student granddaughters had come to visit her and introduced us as "college girls" to whomever would listen. But the best comment of all came out of her mouth in her kitchen when she was talking to Amber and me alone. She gushed, "I sure am proud of you girls...going to college and all...keeping your legs shut...not like your cousins here..."

Amber's and my eyes got as big as monster truck wheels. We bit the insides of our cheeks to keep from laughing. Did Granny just say what we thought she said?

Yep! She sure did.

That was Granny. This visit was the last time I saw my Granny. Say what you will about her, but I left her house that summer knowing that she was proud of me for continuing my education. And please know that she did love all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren even if she sometimes made less-than-flattering remarks about some of us.

I am grateful for airplanes and the flights that allowed us to visit our family that summer. I am also thankful for grandparents and their ability to love beyond reason. I'm even grateful for Granny and her negativity--without it, I wouldn't have this funny story to share!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fabulous Foursome Reunion 2008

Last Saturday, I hosted a little dinner for my closest friends from high school and their families. You might remember when we got together last summer for a swimming party at Renee's parents' house. Well, we didn't start coordinating our calendars this year until July, which put the first Saturday when we were all four available to get together as November 15th. We are four busy gals, I'll tell you what!

Our visit was worth the wait; we had a grand time. Our eleven children are all ages 10 and under and consist of four girls and seven boys. My house was a little chaotic, as you can imagine. Thankfully, the kids seemed to get along well in spite of the fact that they can barely remember each other from year to year.

We heard a lot of comments like this: "Mom, the boy in the striped shirt is playing with me." Or "Someone is being mean to me." Renee asked a disqualifying question to that child, "Was it a boy or a girl?" "A girl." Renee proudly exclaimed, "It's not mine!" It was funny. Teensy seemed to take a liking to Renee's son, Joshua. There might have been some hero worship of Mason, as the eldest boy in the brood.

My favorite part about getting together with these girls is just how easy it is to be their friend. There is just an ease in friendships you've had for almost thirty years. We catch up on each other's siblings, check if there's some gossip on fellow classmates that one of us doesn't know yet, laugh about silly things from the past and laugh about current problems like preschoolers coming into our rooms at night.

Together, we've started elementary, middle, and high school; mourned the passing of loved ones; fallen in love; nursed broken hearts; gotten married; and become mothers. And I'm so thankful that we've kept in touch. Even if we only get to see each other in person one day a year, I'm thankful for that day and all the wonderful ones together that have preceded it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Girls' Night Out!

Last summer, I got myself hooked on a little television program called "So You Think You Can Dance." It's quite enjoyable to watch, I must confess.

Well, thirteen of the top dancers from last season's show were on tour and came to Baltimore last week. I just had to go. You might think that there were mostly young girls there, but I saw just as many groups of us "older gals" there to enjoy the show.

Tracy scored us some great seats right on the floor and I screamed like a school girl for my favorite dancers and dances. I seriously was hoarse by the end of the night. And I was half-convinced that I could so be a dancer (if I were at all flexible, lost 80 pounds and had ever studied a day of dance in my life). I mean, these people make it look so easy! And fun!

Highlights of my evening with the girls include:
* Alex getting enough Chinese food for Tracy, herself and me to feed Rhode Island
* Driving to and from Baltimore with Tracy, Alex, Kellie and Sara and chatting up a storm with them
* Alex twirling her fingers as she exclaimed, "He's wearing the pants! He's wearing the pants!" over Joshua's legendarily-tight Samba pants
*Tracy's mad-dash to the T-shirt tables to scope out something other than an Edward shirt for her new Fall wardrobe
*Alex turning to me--when Will's shirt was off--and saying, "He's like a Roman god!"
*Really seeing Chelsea and Mark perform "Bleeding Love"--Live!
*Alex forbidding me to post any of her other comments on my blog
*Sweet Gev--there's nothing he won't do to entertain the masses
*Waving at my sister, who was sitting with her friends, across the crowded arena
*Seeing my friend Jenni one more time before she went home to Colorado

I'm so thankful I have such fun friends and that we got to share this fun night. And I'm glad there are entertaining people on this earth who really know how to dance!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Judo Promotions

As you know, dear friend and devoted reader, my Michael and Mason started taking Judo together about a year ago. They did stop for baseball season and summertime, but they've been back in the swing of things for the past couple of months. Saturday was Mason's first promotional evaluation.

He was rather nervous, to say the least. He had trouble deciding if he wanted to do the test and participate in the tournament or just take the test. He went back and forth on this decision. After seeing the gymnasium full of hundreds of strangers he declared that he didn't want to do either.

We told him that it was up to him what he chose to do. In the end, he took the test and pulled his card out of the tournament. At first, he seemed very shy and unsure, but as the testing went on he became more confident. Before too long, he was throwing another boy onto the floor with gusto.

We are so proud of Mason, not for passing his first test (which he did, in spite of not having the advantage of showing his stuff to the judges during the tournament), but for choosing to take that test--in front of all those strangers--even though it scared him to tears.

In the spirit of gratitude, I would like to say that I am thankful for my Michael's idea that he and Mason take Judo together. I am grateful that they both just got promoted to the next level (the adult promotions are on a separate day, but Michael passed, too). And I'm happy that Maia has decided to join them on their Tuesday nights at the Judo club. I hope that she, too, will learn to do things outside her comfort zone.

Monday, November 17, 2008

In the Name of Girl Bonding

Last week, my sister, Amber, invited my little girls and me to come over to her house and play. It was a federal holiday, so she had the day off work.

Aunt Amber spoiled us with a lunch of delicious taco soup (recipe courtesy of my little sister, Whitney, who repeatedly called us during the day, justifiably accusing us of having sister fun without her) and a fresh batch of cookie dough. And some baked cookies, just for good measure. She also let the girls craft away with all manner of glitter and glue in her immaculate condo.

Teensy and Kenna cannot contain themselves when they are near Amber's rather extensive jewelry collection. They hardly know which necklace or bracelet to accessorize with first. Kenna excitedly reported to Aunt Amber that "these red earrings are beautiful!" while gesticulating with her little fingers.

Teensy eventually moved on to giving Aunt Amber a make-over. This girl is a natural born hair stylist, if you ask me. She gifted Amber with not one, not two, but four
ponytails at once! Then, she topped the look off with a pink feather boa. Amber was ready for a night on the town, to be sure!

I decided that I needed a turn to try a new curling technique I'd heard about. I had to twist Amber's arm to get her to let me play with her hair (yeah, right). Before long, I dazzled her with my newly-acquired hair skills and spoke of plans for our annual New Year's Eve make-overs.

Well, Amber wanted to reciprocate and try the curls on me. I tried to tell her that my hair is too short to put any kind of cascading curls in, but she wouldn't be deterred. What's a little sister to do? I took a turn on the floor sitting between her feet.

Long story short: she made me look like Betty Rubble. We laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my face and we both might have dribbled in our pants.

I was reminded of a time about twenty years ago when I let Amber wax my eyebrows and she dripped the hot wax on my eyelashes. I had a giant bald spot in my eyelashes and my mom scolded me! "That's your own dumb fault," Mom said, "you know your sister is an accident waiting to happen and you let her near you with hot wax!"

Well, the same prinicple applies here. I knew my hair was too short, but I let my sister near me with a curling implement.

It was worth it, though, to spend the morning with my little girls and their fun Aunt Amber. I am so grateful for sisters and lucky to have three of them!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Through Teensy's Eyes

A little while ago, I ran Janae to the airport and left my two little girls here in my sister-in-law's capable hands. After I returned, my sister-in-law confessed to me that Teensy had gotten a hold of my camera in my absence. I had forgotten the incident until I later downloaded photos onto my computer. I had a good laugh as I saw all the photos Teensy had taken before surrendering my camera to her aunt. Enjoy!

Here's a cousin eating lunch. This little guy thinks that all junk food originates at Aunt Mendy's house. In my defense, I fed him apple and pear slices and cookie dough for snacks!

Here's one of Auntie with her baby girl--clearly not registering that Teensy has my camera and is on a photo spree.

Your guess is as good as mine on this one. Who knows what the heck this is?

This is a jack-o-lantern she painted in preschool in October. It's on display on the fridge. Apparently, she thought that it's beauty should also be preserved digitally.

Here's a view of my dining room wall I don't normally see. I see the photo collage head on, but for Teensy it's from an angle.

Here's a close-up of one of Teensy's treasured blankies. She needs something silky to suck her thumb and this is one of the satin-bound blankets she uses.

Look at this baby cousin's big blue eyes! Adorable!

So, remember when I was telling you that Teensy loves her blankies? Here's another one! She really loves her blankies.

Teensy also really loves her little sister, who is featured in her next few shots.

Here, Teensy expertly captured the squishiest, most squeezable patootsky on the planet. I grab this thing about 3784 times a day. I just can't help it.

I can't help but (no pun intended) wonder: did her sister know that countless shots of her bum were being taken? If she did, I can only imagine the giggling that occurred between the two of them.

I guess Teensy likes my decorating; this is the second wall she photographed. At least my five year-old likes my vinyl lettering--take that, Seriously So Blessed!

Teensy snapped this classic picture of a picture. This is our family picture from two years ago. I actually was so rushed to get us out the door to this appointment that I forgot to put on a bra! Yep, I'm braless in this family portrait. Not everyone can get away with that you know. I'm just one of the lucky ones.

Here, Teensy made it back to the kitchen where she found her aunt feeding her baby cousin some mashed up peas. Look up, Auntie! There's a preschooler on the loose with her mom's good camera!

Finally, a self-portait of the artist/culprit. Clearly, she hasn't perfected this task yet. Don't worry, I see plenty of practice in her future; a camera is at the top of her Christmas list!

Quotation of the Month

There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.

-Jill Churchill