Friday, December 26, 2014

December Doings

An abnormally warm and dry first few weeks of December allowed me to finish up winterizing and spring prepping our yard. Since we will not be here in the early spring to prune trees I pruned all of the grapes and fruit trees early. Thanks to neighbor Jerry who shared his truck bed to haul away the clippings--which I usually would burn in our spring bonfire.

It was not great timing (is it ever) when our water heater of 17 years went kaput. While waiting for a new one to be installed I enjoyed watching a one legged magpie harvest some of our remaining walnuts.The walnuts we gathered, husked and shelled were made into orange candied walnuts that we shared as Christmas gifts. Pretty tasty.

As a family we made our first ever visit to the Festival of the Trees. It is an amazing affair. Families, groups and organizations donate fancy decorated Christmas trees with additional trimmings and gifts. These trees (hundreds of them) are then sold (for hundreds or thousands of dollars) with all proceeds going to Primary Children's Hospital--where Sarah had her surgery last year. A very worthy endeavor.

Many of the trees are donated in memory of or gratitude for patients who have been treated at Primary Children's.  For these trees you can read touching stories about the patients.

A LDS Young Women's group donated this themed tree.

Afterwards we drove to a city park in Sandy where a globe willow tree has been decked out with thousands of white lights. Locals have dubbed it the "Tree of Life." Pretty amazing. The Draper LDS Temple can be seen in the distance.

Next day Will celebrated his tenth birthday with some friends. They played football in the park, ate pizza and then watched a movie.

The next Saturday the kids played Christmas songs at a recital with other piano students of Sue Smith--who is a great piano teacher. That night we had a more than delicious Arab meal of falafel and fixings--including home made pita at the home of Ehab and Kim Abunuwara. I hope his dream to open an Arab restaurant in Orem next year happens.

The next day was a busy Sunday. We started out by attending the annual Mormon Tabernacle Christmas Concert with the Sesame Street Muppets and Santino Fontana. Thanks to family members on both sides who signed up for tickets so we could go. It was a lot of fun. Even skeptical Marie enjoyed it. We found out a few days later that Sarah was in the midst of the flu that day, which explains her troubled look. We got back to Springville just in time to attend our 1:00 meetings. I taught my gospel doctrine lesson on Daniel chapter 2.

We skipped out on the last hour of church so we could get to my sister Mary's home in Mapleton for the annual Emmett family Christmas party. It was a wonderful gathering--thanks Mary and Jim. No we are not praying in this photo, even though everyone seems to like standing with their arms folded.

Will is the youngest grandchild, but there is a growing string of great grandchildren right behind him.

Nativity cast, waiting "back stage."

Stone arch ways and authentic clothing from the Holy Land made for a very realistic nativity reenactment. Clark on the far left played the roll of Samuel the Lamanite. When he was pelted with "rocks" and 'arrows" while standing on the stairs (wall) prophesying of the birth of Christ, his adoring son Henry (in red kaffeyah holding his beloved stuffed donkey and who played the roll of shepherd) burst into tears fearing that his dad was going to get hurt by the tin foil rocks and plastic straw arrows.

Proud parents, great parents and great-grandmother. Mom (grandma Emmett) usually would play the piano for the community singing, but she willing passed on the roll to her son-in-law Jim.

 "Oh there's now place like home for the Holidays" and other songs.

Great grandsons singing.

Somebody dozed off during the singing.

Grandma Emmett gave everyone their ski boot stocking that have always hung on the mantle of the Emmett Twin Pine home in Logan. She also gave each of the six children's families a Bongo Board. One family (by drawing) got the original that was a Christmas gift to the six Emmett children years ago. The other five families got an e-bay bought bongo board. Bob discovered that the original boards are better made than the current new ones for sale, so he was able to round up five of the classics--at  price--on ebay.

Our Bongo Board has seen a lot of use the past two weeks.

The next Saturday was busy with an early morning indoor soccer game for Joel, the ward Christmas Breakfast--in which Sarah and the fellow Laurels sang, and an indoor soccer game for Will. On the Sunday before Christmas Sarah and her dad sang in the ward choir--six wonderful carols. Sarah sang a tender and sweet solo in the first verse of the new to me song "Jesus Lord at They Birth." Afterwards, I was in charge of a Christmas sharing time in both Jr. and Sr. primary. I showed Christmas photos of Nazareth, Bethlehem, Shepherds, camels (including how to ride a camel with a child on my back as I rock upward, back legs first) etc, Marie and Sarah then helped distribute a sampler plate of things Jesus might have eaten to each child and teacher complete with 1/4 pita, a green olive (most of the kids surprisingly liked them) and a date--all from Trader Joes, plus some of Marie's delicious homemade hummus for dipping.

The final days before Christmas included end of semester duties for me at work--with occasional nice views out my 6th floor window. It also included the kids finishing up their second term and withdrawing from school. Sarah in particular worked very hard this semester competing the second half of her US History and English classes on-line, while taking the first half in regular school. Marie has gathered lots of schooling supplies so that she can coordinate and monitor the kids' shipboard required home(ship)--schooling.

On the 23rd Joel had 8:30 am and 5:00 pm soccer games. He scored around 19 goals this in-door season. Will probably scored a similar amount in his games. Joel started and completed his Christmas shopping at 4:00 pm on the 24th at Walgreens.

On Christmas Eve we gathered with part of the Tueller clan (and our neighbors the Hodsons) at the home of Diane and Lant Pritchett (thanks for a delightful evening). Diane (at her grand piano) orchestrated a pipe choir and then a shadow play of the nativity.

The angel Gabriel (Maire) announces to Joseph (Sarah) that he should marry Mary. Joseph then gives a double thumbs up in approval.

Will (as the three wise men) follows the star (Joel).

Mary (aunt Jan) does an Indonesian dance as she ponders everything (hoisted by Chad) that has happened, including an angelic visitation. (you can see more photos of the Indonesian inspired shadow play on the previous blog post)

Marie's nine siblings surprised our family with some much appreciated technology gifts that will help everyone be entertained and educated while sailing for four months on a ship.

"Each of the kids got what?"

"For me?"

Her siblings (and their spouses) will appreciate Marie's looks of surprise. In gratitude for their kindness Marie is now officially the last of the crew to sign up for Facebook. Now they can communicate and share photos directly with her instead of going through me.

Before going to bed on Christmas Eve I gave each of the kids a gift. When they were young I kept a sporadic journal for each of them. I finally added a few photos and printed them out. Sarah's is by far the longest, but they all include fun stories that kept Joel and Sarah up late happily reading about their early years.

Will, in his last gasp of belief, left this note and a glass of milk and cookie for Santa. He plans to use his signature smiley face as part of his autograph signing when he is a famous soccer player.

Waiting to go see what Santa brought.

For the past few months,Will has been trying very hard (with just enough success) to be cooperative and obedient so that Santa would bring him a much desired i-pod. Santa hid the i-pod deep in Will's stocking which caused a few moments of additional anticipation and concern that his good behavior had paid off.

Happy for the one day in which their technology time is not time managed (Eventually they did go outside to shovel snow and play).

The kids' gift (orchestrated by Sarah) to their mom was a framed photo of them with many things that illustrate what their mom has taught them over the years. Very nice.

I got an artistic arrangement (thanks Sarah) of the "treasures" the kids and I excavated lasted summer in a Vermont stream. A nice memento of a very happy memory.

Many of the Santa and parent gifts focused on our up coming Semester at Sea: freeze dried fruits, nuts and granola bars for snacking when the cafeteria is closed.

On-board games for limited spaces.

Gear for snorkeling in Hawaii and Mauritius.

They also got a pile of movies and books that tie in to the countries we will visit. (Joel got the Bond movie because most of it is filmed in Japan!)

They will augment my pile of guide books to make it an adventure of fun and learning.

Sarah's creative muse of making gifts included this comic of her mom's seven sisters who she calls her fairy-god aunts--they will each get their own copy.

Our new nativity for this year was a gift to Marie from her long time friends Sue and Howard Bybee who brought it to her from their mission in the DR Congo. We put out limited decorations this year (only six nativities) in anticipation of having to be packed up and ready to leave on January 2nd.

Home made socks: Marie's below and new this year the ski boot socks made by Grandma and Grandpa Emmett over the years.

I grew up with an advent calander just like this that my mom and dad made. Years ago they gave me a replica (with dad's famous balloon writing). The first thing Will does on each day in December is pin up an ornament. Next year he can pin them down to count the days.

It finally snowed--a white Christmas. We all took breaks from our presents to do some bird watching. in our bird haven back yard. They love all of the trees,bushes, fruits, seeds and nuts.

Quails on parade.

A robin eating flowering pear fruit.

Resting in the walnut tree.

After present opening, a traditional breakfast of abelskivers and sliced oranges with powdered sugar, playing and shoveling, we went to visit Grandma Emmett and the Lundbergs in Mapelton. That evening we watched It's a Wonderful Life and then we lit our last advent candle, read the Christmas story and sang some carols. A very memorable Christmas.