29 August 2011

Such a BAD Blogger!

It's been over a year since I posted here. *sigh* So much for resolutions.

Anyway, the highlights of late:

Darin is no longer YM President. Phew! He's now ward finance clerk. Plus he's working, plus he's the Band Booster Board President, plus he's spearheading some renovations we're doing on our house.

Oh, yes. That's some news. We refinanced our house in April. It was an awesome experience. We'd though we had missed the boat last year on getting a better interest rate, but rates plunged again this spring. Were were able to drop from a 6 and 3/4% rate to a 4 and 1/8%, dropped from a 30 to a 15 year mortgage, cut 2 1/2 years off the life of the loan, picked up $11,000 in credit for home improvements, lowered our monthly payment, AND from the first payment we're paying more on the principle than on interest. So we're gotten a new roof, a new patio cover, we're getting new windows and doors, and we're considering what to do with the rest of the money. We still have around $2500 to spend. Maybe a new driveway or a furnace. All of them things that will make the house more appealing to live in, more economical, easier to sell at a higher price if and when we get to that point.

Suzanne has a new hobby. Beekeeping! I love my bees! Anytime you have a couple of hours to listen to me talk about my bees, just let me know. I'd be glad to oblige. I'm also getting ready to start a new school year and helping out with the marching band. Tonight we're finishing up the scenery/props for this year's show, which is Scheherazade. I'm SO excited. Rimsky-Korasakov's Scheherazade is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. I'm also starting a new homeschool project and a blog to go with it. It's called Jump-Start With Art. http://jumpstartwithart.blogspot.com
I'm pretty sure Maren's excited about that, but only mildly. It is, after all, school.

Hannah is in massage school and loving it. Of course we're loving it too because (DARN IT!!) she's required to do a lot of practice massages. She's also continuing with her fiddling, learning new songs, playing regularly. She and I play every Saturday at Ogden's Farmer's Market, and she and I and the band (Abby Brown, Helen Bride, Jessica Morgan, Ian, me and Hannah) play every Wednesday night at MacCool's in Ogden. We play for tips at both venues.

Ian is, well, just marching. When it's marching band season all he does is talk about marching band and spend time with his marching band friends. When it's NOT marching band season he complains that it's not marching band season. I don't know what he's going to do this year. It's his last year. He's a senior. Unless he joins the U of U or Weber State marching band, he will be done marching come November! Gah! He's also taking a more determined foray into the public school aspect. He's taking an AP US Govt. class at the high school. It'll be a good challenge for him and I'm pleased so far with the timbre of the class and teacher. I'll learn more about it next week at a parent orientation for the class.

Maren is starting band at the jr. high this year. She's VERY excited--not so much for jr. high band, but that she'll be ready to march in the OHS marching band in 9th grade. That's the goal. The jr. high band is just a means to an end. She's playing the trumpet and is taking trumpet lessons from the high school's band teacher, Mr. Gillette. We'll start out homeschool next week. I wish I could say she's looking forward to that, but...

Well, I've done my duty.

10 February 2011

2010 HIGHLIGHTS



Click on the Pic to go to our online photo album!

02 July 2010

MAY/JUNE

Ah, behind again.

You know how you have a busy month or week and you think, 'If we can just get through this week, things will settle down'? And you know how that never actually happens, because just when you think things will settle down something else comes up to make your life hectic again?

Yeah. That's us. That's our life.

For example, in May:

--Maren finished up her spring soccer season. Pretty good season, fun, thankfully no awful weather.


--Ian began a new era of torture. He had his first visit to the orthodontist for a consultation. Guess what? He needs braces. Needs, not wants. We've known that for years, but just now have the means to make it happen.

--Maren started track club in May. She enjoys it despite the hard work. This year she made a lot of improvement in her endurance, speed, and form. She did well at the Layton City meet on the 27th, though not quite well enough to advance to region.

--Our stake is involved in a gigantic church youth extravaganza to be held July 16th and 17th. There will be 3000 youth from 30 or so stakes in our area, dancing and singing at Weber University's football stadium. We've been told the prophet will be in attendance on the 17th. Cool beans! Darin, Hannah, and Ian have spent hours and hours at practices, some frustratingly ill-organized. But as the date gets closer and things start to come together, their excitement is building. Still, I think we'll ALL be relieved when it's over.

--We saw a production of the musical "Into the Woods" at the Terrace Playhouse. It's a musical we have seen and enjoyed, and the Terrace Playhouse version did not disappoint. Very well-done.

--For the fourth straight year, our family participated in the Komen Race for the Cure on the 8th. Ian, Darin, and Suzanne ran it, logging our fastest 5K time yet--31:41! Afterward we went to visit grandmas for Mother's Day and picked up some patio furniture from Uncle Darrel. That evening we had to be back in Ogden for Senior Prom. Yes, my two homeschooled children went to Ogden High School's Senior Prom. Hannah went with her boyfriend, Jacob Barton. Ian went with his then-girlfriend, Jackie Loveland. Good times.

--Suzanne's best friend returned home from a long absence--and a week early! Judy, welcome back!

--Two good friends were married in May. First Steve Yeates--a dear old friend from our college days--remarried a great woman, Jody. We were honored to attend the sealing and the wedding breakfast with them. Also, a dear neighbor, Brenda, married her true love, Tom.

--Suzanne held her annual piano recital, in conjunction with friend and fellow teacher Shelly Stephen--piano and clarinet. It was a great success and loads of fun. Our students all did very well, including Maren and Ian.

--Hannah actually graduated from Seminary! I know. Shocker.

--Hannah finished her schooling! We haven't come up with a snappy, clever name for what happens with a homeschooler finishes school. "Graduation" just seems so *sour smirk* 'public school.' ;-) We went out to dinner to celebrate. She wants a sword for her graduation present. Yes, a sword.

--Hannah and Ian played in the orchestra for Ogden High graduation. Afterward, Hannah went with some friends to the school's all night party where she had a great time. After the party, she and her friend came to our house, took a blanket, and went to the park to watch the sun rise. They decided that if they hadn't both been girls, it would have been very romantic. ;-)

--We finished yet another school year. All went pretty well, though we're on the hunt for a new Geometry curriculum for Ian. Think we've found it. But can I afford it? Ouch.

--The crowning event for May--Hannah's fundraiser yard sale for her trip to Valley of the Moon Scottish Fiddle Camp in August. We spent much of May driving from Lehi to Draper to South Jordan to Rose Park to Kaysville to Ogden gathering donated items from friends and family. We held the sale at Dee Memorial Park on Harrison Blvd. It went extraordinarily well, despite the rain. Between sales and donations, Hannah netted just over $1000, which paid for her tuition and a netbook computer with enough left over to meet some other smaller expenses that she'll need to deal with before she leaves, and spending money for the camp. We had an amazing array of stuff donated, including furniture and two treadmills. Thanks everyone!

--Hannah also found out she won a scholarship to Valley of the Moon, which took $350 off her tuition! Yay! We paid for her tuition, her computer, and her plane ticket all within about a week.

Then June happened, and we thought that things--now that school was out and summer was here--would be more relaxed.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

--Extravaganza practice continues and intensifies in June.

--Hannah had an appointment with a surgeon to be evaluated for her Pectus Excavatum. Good news. Her chest is not bad enough to warrant surgery. She does experience some fatigue and circulation restriction due to the compression of her heart, but all that can be improved through exercise.

--Another wedding. Suzanne's neice, Jessica (19), married a young man she met at BYU, whose family actually lives about five minutes from her family in Idaho. She had to go to BYU to find him. Nice day.

--While in Idaho (Idaho Falls/Ammon) we hooked up with an old friend of ours, Heather Swenson Kunz. Heather was Suzanne's maid of honor. It was so wonderful to see her and to see her children--all growing up so fast.

--Ian began the final phase of his driver's education--road driving. He did well enough that he didn't have to log any range hours, and he passed his driving test with flying colors. He came home from his last session and immediately dragged his mother to the Driver's License Bureau to get his license. Ah. No more driving him to marching band practice!

--Busy month for Ian. He also got his wisdom teeth out in preparation for braces in July. Poor Bunny! He survived it all, including a mild case of dry socket, with the help of Zelda.

--Maren went to a fun Activity Days event at Camp Atoka. She learned that she is a princess because she is a daughter of God. I'm not sure how my tomboy took that news. But she did have a good time.

--Ian started marching band practice in June. We've been enduring a countdown for months. "4 months, 18 days until Marching Band starts!" "6 weeks and 3 days..." "29 days..." "5 days..." Now we're enduring the countdown until Corps Encore in July. *sigh* Marching Band GEEK! ;-)

--Hannah went to girl's camp--for 1 day. She's 18, graduated, and pretty much done with YW. But she's reluctant to go to RS. But the RS is trying to lure her. We'll see.

--Maren has spent her summer so far marauding the neighborhood with her pack of friends. Thanks her friend Andrew's family for semi-adopting her. She goes with them everywhere--the library, the pool, shopping. It keeps her busy.

--Ian had his birthday a day early this year. He's tired of his birthday being pre-empted by other events--Father's Day, weddings, workshops. So he had that day all to himself. He's 16 now! That means he has a date--with his mom. With Hannah we started the tradition of our 16-year-old's going on a date with a parent--boys go with mom, girls with dad. It's a practice run for real dating. The girls learn exactly what we expect from them as the girl in a dating situation--respect, letting the boy open doors, making sure the boy comes to the door to pick her up, etc. The boy learns what is expected of him--opening doors, coming to the house to pick her up, treating her like a lady, etc. Part of this special date is a promise between the child and the parent to honor the law of chastity. Ian and Suzanne went to Olive Garden.

--Fortunately for Ian, it was AFTER his birthday presents were purchased that we had a run-in with Identity Theft. Wow. Don't get mixed up with that kind of garbage if you can avoid it. Unfortunately, sometimes it's unavoidable. But you should know that it DOES happen to regular people. We had a call from our Bank about a charge made on Father's Day on our Debit card. It was for an airline ticket on Emirates Airlines--as in 'United Arab Emirates'--to the tune of $913. There was also a small charge of $1.49 to The Bagel Basket that we didn't make. Often those who steal a card number will make a small charge first in order to make sure the number actually works before stealing your whole life. Anyway, after the airline charge, the bank put a freeze on our cards until they could verify the charge. Darin tried to buy lunch and had his card refused that Monday. So Suzanne spent most of the day Monday getting things resolved, including doing everything recommended to report it--filing reports with the credit bureaus, the Federal Trade Commission, the Utah Attorney General's office, the Ogden Police Department, etc. The bank also immediately canceled our cards--both debit and credit--and changed our pin #, AND resolved the fraudulent charge with the airline. Within four days we had our money back, and within a week we had our new cards. America First Credit Union did a great job--very efficient, very helpful--and we can breathe a sigh of relief. For now. Unfortunately, nothing much can be done. We have no idea how they obtained the debit card number. They did not use the pin, but used the debit as a credit card to avoid it. Anyway, be careful!!

--The end of May, Darin and Suzanne celebrated their 21st Anniversary. For most of our marriage we've taken turns secretly planning our anniversary activities. It's been fun and exciting and often adventurous. This year we spent a couple of days in Logan. Dinner at Logan's Bluebird restaurant, a play (Blythe Spirit by Noel Coward--delightful, by the way) at the Lyric Theatre, a night in a local hotel, and a drive up to Bear Lake. We had a great time. Two days unplugged. Nice.

12 May 2010

April!

So I'm a little late getting April in. Big deal.

You know how you keep thinking, 'Oh, if we can just get through (fill in any month), we'll be able to take it easy in (fill in another month--generally, but not necessarily the NEXT month).'

Yeah. We keep thinking that, too.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!

Looking back to my April calendar page, it looks absolutely BARE compared to May.

*Sigh*

April:

I think one of the most satisfying experience of April was reconnecting with old friends.

I found several friends from the past on Facebook in April, plus Darin and I reconnected with an old friend whose wife had divorced him.

I hate to admit it, but it wasn't entirely unexpected. In fact, we were happy for our friend.

We've known them since college days. They were neighbors and good friends of ours for a year or so. We had our kids almost at the same time. We spent some good times together, playing games, hanging out, helping each other. Darin and this friend knew each other from their mission. The wife was young.

Darin and I always really enjoyed our friend's company, but never could come to love his wife. She reminded me too much of my ex-sister-in-law. Selfish, demanding, vain. When we heard they'd divorced--from her in a Christmas letter--we were shocked, but not SHOCKED!

Anyway, it's been almost two years now since they divorced, and our friend is getting remarried to a FANTASTIC girl! He contacted us through his daughter through facebook, and we met he and his fiance for dinner. Their chemistry was apparent--something he had never really enjoyed with his first wife. It was WONDERFUL to see him happy.

We're going to their sealing on May 13th. We're honored and thrilled to be invited.

Of course there was Easter. Easter is hard when you're trying to lose weight. Suzanne is currently down about 17 pounds, with about 30 more to go to reach her goal weight. She gave herself Easter "OFF" and ate chocolate until it was coming out her ears. ;-) We also discovered a new way to dye Easter eggs that makes it EASY, COLORFUL, NON-MESSY, and FUN!!

For years we've dyed our eggs with onion skins. They're beautiful! I'll explain how in a minute. At any rate, this year I was at the story picking up my onion skins when we ran into a friend of ours. She told us about dying eggs with SILK TIES! Yes, you read that correctly.

Here's how to do both the silk tie and the onion skin eggs:

1. Buy a yard or two of inexpensive muslin fabric. Cut it into 8" squares or, if you're really ambitious, 9" circles.
2. Pick up onion skins from the grocery story. You should be able to take them for free. Just peel the dry outer skins from the onions on the rack. Ask permission first. Red or regular yellow skins (or both) work great. The yellow skins make the eggs brown/yellow/orange. The red skins make them deep maroon/blue. Tear the skins into small pieces.
3. Buy used silk ties at the DI or other thrift store. They MUST be 100% silk or it won't work. The more colorful and patterned, the better. Cut the ties into small pieces, OR cut large patterned sections out of the ties. The color and pattern of the ties will transfer directly onto the egg, so you can choose what kind of effect you want to create.
4. Begin with RAW eggs. For each egg, take a square of the cloth and place bits and pieces of silk and/or onion skin all over the center of the cloth. If you want to directly transfer a pattern or flower or something from the tie, cut that out and place it right in the middle of the fabric square. Place the egg on top of the tie/onion bits and gently gather up the edges, easing the tie/onion bits around so there is something in contact with (almost) every surface of the egg. Add more bits in the top if you need to. Close securely with a twist tie and place in a very large empty pot.
5. Once all the eggs are wrapped and in the pot, fill the pot with cold water. Add a couple of tablespoons of vinegar. Place the pot on the stove and heat to boiling. Boil for as long as you like to boil hard-boiled eggs and process as you normally would hard-boiled eggs.
6. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, unwrap the eggs and prepare to be AMAZED!!!
7. Shake the tie/onion bits out of the fabric squares and discard. Wash the fabric squares for use next year.

You want to see some? Whoa, NELLY!! Here they are!






April was also a month of fun experiences:

*Maren's first Soccer game of the spring season was held on the 10th. We WON!!! GO BLUE VENOM!!
*We attended a performance of "The Taming of the Shrew" put on by the Shakespearean Festival traveling company. They took Katherine and all the rest and plopped them down in Wild West America. Great fun! We all loved it.
*Our older kids began practicing for a Youth Extravaganza which will be held in July at the Weber University Football Stadium. We've been told President Monson will be there. It's a BIG DEAL--thirty stakes from the Northern Utah area. We're excited--for it to be over. HAHA. Just kidding. Sort of. ;-)
*Ian and Hannah both participated in Region and State Solo Ensemble. Both scored well and we're proud of them. Hannah played THIS Bach Partita (not quite as amazingly as this professional violinist); Ian played Sonata in B Flat by Rossini(better than this girl).
*Ian and Darin went on a rocketry scout camp in April. (Men + Boys) + Rockets = good times + mothers grateful to have their sons home with all their fingers.
*Maren and Suzanne went to Aunt Joan's Master Choir concert. She's been working SO hard to earn her Master's Degree in Choral Performance, and slaving an amazing choir that she put together from among her friends, neighbors, relatives and associates. She also included the UofU a capela choir and a string quartet. It was an amazing concert. Congratulations, Joan!
*Ian went to the dentist in April. No big deal, right? It is if the purpose of it was to get the Braces ball rolling--which it was. He'll be getting his wisdom teeth out in June and his braces on in July. He's SO excited! (Did you catch the sarcasm?)
*Suzanne joined a book club that USED to run by the ward Relief Society, but now just runs on its own. It's been fun, even though I don't always get excited about their book choices. But in April, Suzanne had the chance to do a reading! I read a very short story about going away and leaving my son on his birthday, and a longer retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. A seriously CREEPY retelling. I could feel the tension in the room as I read, and there was a very audible sigh of relief when it was over. One of the ladies (they're all older) said, "I'm going to have nightmares tonight!" But they all enjoyed it anyway. And THAT was my very first fiction reading! Fun!
*Oh, and Hannah has a boyfriend. ;-)

26 March 2010

How About February AND March? *Sheepish Grin*

I'm SO lame. Just ask my teenagers.

So it's not QUITE the end of March, but here I am, and I'm thinking about it, and if I don't do it now it probably won't get done until June. July maybe.

February for us is not too far removed from December, for the fact that we spend almost as much money on gifts.

Darin, Hannah, and I all have February birthdays, followed closely by Maren in March. Plus Valentines, and Darin's dad's b-day. Arg!

But we tried to do something a little different this year. We tried to DO birthdays more than GIVE birthdays. So on the day of Darin's birthday we dragged him off to the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Refuge so he could see the migrating bald eagles. We saw about thirty of them this year. One year we saw well over 100. Afterwards we took him out to lunch, then bowling, then went home for a dinner of Bratwurst and Sauerkraut and Spaetzle.

Hannah wanted to spend her birthday with friends, so we dragged everyone to The Pie for the best pizza in Utah, then back home for her favorite cake--raspberry brownies topped with caramel topping, cool whip, and crushed Heath bars.

Suzanne REALLY wanted to stay home playing Zelda on the gamecube, but things didn't go exactly as planned. First, Darin and Hannah left in the morning for work and school and Maren and I started up on our school day, but they'd all been keeping secrets from me. About an hour after everyone left, Darin and Hannah came home. They'd been fooling me. They dragged me down to Salt Lake to spend the day at the Planetarium--one of my favorite places in the world! We saw a show there and had fun playing with all the cool stuff in the gift shop. I bought a gyroscope and a gyroring, and we played with them all day. Then we went home and did I get to play Zelda? Nope. The TV wouldn't let me. It's been slowly dying for a year or more and it chose my birthday to have a stroke. How am I supposed to find the treasures buried under the sea when I can't hear the little treasure music that plays when you're right over the top of it? You can't. BUT, we did get a new TV out of the whole deal. Our first HD, Digital, flat screen TV. No more stupid little converter box. And yes, I did get to play Zelda.

Maren wanted to spend her day with her friends, too. Poor kid just happened to have spent her younger years during some of our hardest years, so she missed out on the kinds of birthday parties her older siblings used to have at that age. So we took all her friends to pizza and bowling. We had a great time. She got the 3rd Fablehaven book, even though she hasn't read the first one yet, and even though she's had the first two books signed by the author--which is another February story.

And THAT story is about LTUE--Life, the Universe, and Everything, which is a sci-fi/fantasy symposium held at BYU every year. This year I got to sit on a couple of discussion panels and teach a workshop on writing flash fiction. OK, I actually sat on ONE discussion panel, but was scheduled for two. Hannah and I were running late and missed the first one I was supposed to be on. Dang it! Anyway, it was a fun weekend, we had lunch with a dear friend of mine and spent the night with Aunt Sharon, watched the Olympic opening ceremonies there. Ian and Maren and Darin came down to join us on Saturday, which is when Maren brought book 2 of the Fablehaven series to be signed by Brandon Mull. Pretty cool.

I don't remember much else from February. We had grandparents up to celebrate with us on a couple of Sunday evenings. They came up and watched the Super Bowl with us on one Sunday.

March brought Maren's birthday, which I've already gone over, and St. Patrick's Day, which pretty much CONSUMED the whole first half of the month! Why? Because Hannah and her Ogden High Fiddle Group were in the SLC parade and played on one of the stages afterward. Darin and I went down to help. We pulled the trailer with our truck, which the kids decorated with glass markers and clings. We were, fortunately, near the front of the parade. We got through before it started to rain, and rain, and rain. By the time we were ready to pack up and head home after their show it was pouring and cold, and it snowed on us on the way home.

Fun times!

For Hannah, March will always be a memorable month. It's the month her dreams really started to come true. Last Sunday, Hannah received an email announcing her acceptance to the Valley of the Moon Fiddle Camp. It's run by her fiddling idol, Alisdair Frasier, a Scottish fiddler of amazing talent. She'll be flying out the end of August and coming home the Saturday before Labor Day. We're very excited for her, but nervous to be sending her out into the wide world all by herself. I know it'll be a great experience for her, and I'm excited for her.

By the way, she'll be hitting up our close friends and loved ones for donations to help her get there. *wink* She's already earned about half of what she needs, and a wonderful, generous couple in our ward have given her a sizable donation. THANK YOU!! She's going to spend the next couple of months street playing as much as possible, and planning a fundraising drive and yard sale to earn more.

Our next adventures involve getting braces on Ian and getting Hannah in for a check of her Pectus Excavatum. Don't know what that is? Google it.

That's all for now.

05 February 2010

January

February is finally here and it's beginning to feel as if Old Man Winter 09/10 just may go the way of the dinosaurs after all.

But back to January.

January, as is customary, is decidedly dull. There were a few highlights.

My father turned 77 this year. As is our custom, we met at his house and enjoyed one of our family's traditional desserts--carrot pudding with brandy sauce. This recipe is one that has been passed down in the family. It came from my father's mother, who probably got it from her mother.

In it's most traditional form it requires the purchase of kidney fat from a butcher or slaughterhouse (an ingredient you USED to be able to get at the grocery story), and Muscat raisins that have to be ordered from the Sunmaid company in California (an ingredient that ALSO used to be available at grocery stores).

It also requires the use of pudding molds. Pudding molds are hard to find and often expensive, and are impossible to find in the shape that we grew up with and for which the recipe is designed--two large pineapple juice-type cans cut to make a mold and a lid. Most molds look like jello molds or bowls, which may or may not have an impact on the cooking. As it stands, my father can make three puddings and steam them all in one stock pot. I don't see how that would be possible with the bowl-shaped molds. One problem of modern society is that all the juice cans these days are made with ridged sides instead of smooth sides like they used to be. The ridges make it somewhat more difficult to extract the pudding from the mold after cooking.

Anyway, my family and one of my sisters went to Mom and Dad's this year to observe, help, and learn the making of the pudding. Dad is very particular about the way it's made. It has to be done like his mom did it. Exactly. You have to use the right kind of grater to grate the potatoes and carrots. You have to make sure you seperate and coat each individual raisin with the flour mixture.

He directed our efforts like a master conductor, correcting where needed, bullying us out of the way when it wasn't being done quite right. :-)

Then we all relaxed while the pudding steamed for three hours, and until the rest of the family gathered.

As usual, the result was delicious, the company delightful.

Other highlights?

Oh, come on. It's January.

03 January 2010

December

I'm not even calling my posts "Catching Up" anymore, because that's really all they are--a monthly catch-up. So why call it that?

Anyway, December was busy--mostly because we didn't actually start our shopping until just after Thanksgiving. We had to figure out where the money was coming from this year. Life is getting incredibly more expensive. Next year we'll only have one kid to pay out the nose to put into high school--and part-time at that. Marching Band is worth it, Marching Band is worth it, Marching Band is worth it...

Hannah has decided to take a year off before considering college, which is fine--especially for our wallets.

We spent much of our time following our musicians around town--concerts and performances and taking Hannah downtown to do some street playing. Then there were the friend parties and sleepovers and such. I used to worry that my kids would be a little anti-social with the homeschooling thing, but the truth is far from that. They're busy with their social group all the time. All three of them.

Hannah's Fiddle Group recorded two CDs this month--one traditional music, the other Celtic Christmas music. Both Hannah and Ian play on that.

I think the biggest piece of news for this month was our cold, dark December Sunday. We woke early that morning, having fallen asleep with snow falling, to find the power out. We shrugged, figured it must be out in the whole neighborhood, and went back to sleep. A little while later we woke again, got up to get showered for church, and looked outside. Lo and behold, all the neighbors had lights!

As it turned out, the snow that night was extremely wet and heavy (backbreaking to shovel) and had pulled our power line down. We could see it out there, looped over the yard, the end of it buried in snow in the corner of the yard. The line had snapped about 8 feet from the pole, in among the trees where the line's insulation had probably worn off. The power company came in the afternoon to evaluate the outage, and called the tree service to trim the trees out of the way. Fortunately for us, the trees that caused the problem were in the neighbor's yard, so we didn't have to pay for the trimming. Yay!! We spent most of the day at a friend/neighbor's house, eating dinner and playing Wii. The power company finally came around 7 p.m. and had the power on my 7:30 or so. Still, we were without power for around 18 hours. It was an adventure.

Our second disaster/adventure involved the garbage disposal. It jammed and Darin couldn't get it going again. He cleaned it out, didn't work. So then he tried to take it apart, but the screws had become so corroded that they broke off. Which was OK. The disposal was really ready for replacement. The gaskets were corroded, the whole thing was full of rust. So we went disposal shopping. We were disappointed by the choices available locally--either crappy models or very expensive models. We started doing some looking around, researching on the internet, and found a WasteKing 3300 (VERY highly rated, best warrantee in the business) for just $20 more than the crappy, poorly rated Insinkerator Badger that Home Depot and Lowe's carries. The downside, obviously, is waiting a week for it to arrive. We've been using LOTS of paper and plastic dishes because we can't use the dishwasher without the disposal in place. We've also stuffed that side of the sink with towels to deter any temptation to pour water down that sink--since there's nothing there but a bucket. I've never been more excited to do dishes!

Also big this month, obviously, was Christmas.

We had a really special Christmas this year. We worked hard to NOT make it about money and presents. We talked with the kids about how we were short on money and wanted to cut back. They were gung-ho about it all and offered suggestions of ways we could simplify. That involvement on their part really got them into the Christmas spirit as they carefully chose presents for one another. We had a simple but pleasurable Christmas, in which no one received any 'stuff' that they just didn't really want/need. You know how you do sometimes--you spend money on stuff just to spend money and just to 'fill' the tree skirt? We didn't worry about that so much and it was nice.

We also decided to spend Christmas Eve with grandparents so we could stay home on Christmas Day. We first started doing this last year when we were snowed in on Christmas Day. We had such a wonderful time, we decided to make it permanent. We also like to go out to dinner on Christmas Eve. This year we went to Applebee's. It was WONDERFUL!!

I've also started doing something that involves everyone in important things, and gets everyone excited. I've started asking everyone what they just couldn't do without for such-and-such an event, then making sure that everyone has at least one favorite thing. So breakfast Christmas morning, I had asked everyone what they thought was an essential food for Christmas breakfast. We had a meal heavy on carbs, but delicious--scones with honey, crepes with Nutella, muffins, orange Julius, and bacon. I do the same for summer activities--what does each person really want to do this summer?--and we try our best to do everyone's favorite. I also did the same with New Year's Eve dinner. We had lime Pepsi, steak, shrimp, a cheese ball, and crackers. PLUS lots of other goodies.

We rang in the New Year with the five of us plus a friend of Hannah and Ian. We stayed up until 3 or 4 a.m. laughing and playing games and watching movies and putting together puzzles--and of course, eating.

I'd bet I've gained at least five pounds this month--the great food in combination with the lack of jogging--due MOSTLY to snow and cold, but not COMPLETELY. I have to admit, I've very much enjoyed the month of sleeping in until 7! But with new Saucony's for Christmas, I have no excuse to sleep in anymore!

New Year's Day we went sledding at the golf course. We had so much fun, took some great pics, and thoroughly chilled and exhausted ourselves. GREAT TIMES!

We spent our weekend putting away Christmas. It's a bit melancholy. But this year we had such a wonderful Christmas season, we still felt very much in love with all things Christmas--even though we did some Christmas decoration housecleaning and got rid of some old stuff that we just don't use anymore. Just in time to adopt some NEW things from my mom and dad. We ended up netting a reduction our Christmas stock by about 1 box.

There's something oddly therapeutic about getting rid of stuff!