Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

One tradition we have at our house is that Greg writes the Christmas letter. He enjoys writing it and I love reading it (and not having to do it myself). Most of you already received it but for posterity's sake here is the annual letter.

Family and Friends,

Budgeting season has sapped all of my brain power, which doesn't bode well for the quality of this year’s Christmas letter. Numbers, black and red, are definitely dancing through my head:

3,300—the number of miles for our round trip drive from Idaho to Iowa (to see Lisa’s sister). We took the scenic route which included a stop at Dinosaur National Monument near Vernal, UT and then the lonely state highways through northern Colorado to look for moose (we saw two), a stop for dinner with some old friends in Ft. Collins and then a late night stop in Nebraska. It took some effort but we entirely avoided I-80 across southern Wyoming. By the time we got there Natali and Mack knew all 50 states in alphabetical order and I was ready to get out of the car and leave the kids behind for a work trip. I came back in time for the drive home past Chimney Rock, Nebraska. At that point I couldn't really skip a chance to drive through Yellowstone so we took the northern detour.

2,100—the number of miles on our road trip Glacier National Park (to meet several of my siblings and parents) and then on to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada. It was definitely worth the drive as we saw spectacular wildlife and lots of bears. 5—the number of kids in our house after the birth of Emily Jane in April (named after two of our favorite authors Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen). Her red hair inherited from Lisa’s two grandmothers looks out of place with our blondes, but her easy going demeanor is welcome. She already has me wrapped around her finger and all she can do is look at me and giggle or smile. 6—the number of kids we’ll have next year. 100%--the likelihood that you believed that last false statement.

1—the number of cats in our household after Gimli’s disappearance and Perdita’s adoption. She joined the family three weeks ago and is making herself comfortable already. I’m struggling to type with her sitting on my lap. An hour ago there was a commotion by the Christmas tree and the next thing I knew Perdita was looking out at me from the branch beneath the star at the top of the tree. 55—the number of points BYU scored in the football game Mack, Andrew, and I attended. 16—the number of books read this year the best of which included The Path Between the Seas, Undaunted Courage and The Book Thief.

2—the number of hands Natali (now 8) uses when practicing the piano (that’s one more than I use). 3—the number of years Natali has participated in a Children’s Choir. 0—the chance for silence when Natali is around.

10—the number of goals Mack (now 7) scored in one soccer game this spring. 6—the number of times Mack used his season pass at the ski hill last winter. 4—the number of dollars Mack earned from the tooth fairy in one productive month this summer.

1.5—the number of hours it took for Andrew (now 5) to decide that it was better to go to kindergarten then to stay home as a child laborer. 167—the approximate # of animals that Andrew can identify. 33—the times he has asked this year to go to Alaska, Africa, or somewhere in between to look for animals.

It’s getting late and I should have sent this letter last week so I’m giving up on the numbers. Kate (now 3) still expects her blond curls to get her out of trouble. One night while trying to float on her back in the bathtub she said, “I need a kickstand for my bottom.” And I need one for my brain. As I reflect on another year gone by I stand in awe at the blessings we enjoy, the grace and mercy of our Savior that give us hope, and the peace to be found in an increasingly tumultuous world.

Merry Christmas, Love the Easton Family (Greg, Lisa, Natali, Mack, Andrew, Kate, and Emily)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Photo Shoot 2010

Random Happenings

This is my pile of pictures from the last few months.

Greg's best friend, Tom, lives in Utah so he and Greg went to the BYU vs. UNLV game in Provo. Our boys got new BYU gear and loved the game. Mack watched the whole game; Andrew played with Tom's girls.The Monday after the game was wear your favorite team jersey day at school. The Easton's represented for BYU. We may not have had a great season - but you can't call us fair-weather fans.
We love rollers!
This is Mack's last basketball game. He loved it - he loves any activity with a ball.
He was definitely one of the shorter 1st graders - but luckily some of the teams had some kindergartners and he was taller than most of them. He still managed to score about 2 baskets a game.
Don't be mistaken - Gimili has not returned! We got a new cat who looks eerily similar to Gimili. She is a female, a little smaller than Gimili, 8 years younger, and has a full face. She doesn't drool or barf - but she can climb to the top the of Christmas tree and loves to sneak attack you from under the bed. She came home from the shelter with the name Perdita and we just haven't come up with anything better - so I guess she is Perdita. Andrew carries her around like a baby (Gimili never would have put up with that) and he calls her his best friend. Snow, Snow, Snow! We have snow. It is actually sticking around and the kids enjoyed a legitimate snow day. They had snow cream for breakfast and played in the snow on and off all day long.

I lost the lens cap to the camera somewhere in the snow. I put it in my snow pants pocket and proceeded to pull the kids around the neighborhood in a sled - it could be anywhere - but we had a blast in the snow. Winter is here.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Candy Candy Candy

Based on the hour, Halloween has just begun, but with school parties, church parties, neighborhood booing, and trick-or-treating Saturday night - we are done. We only have half a bowl of candy left and when it's gone - it's gone. Our neighborhood is prime trick-or-treating territory so it will be gone in no time even though the sun hasn't set yet. I can hardly believe how many sweets my kids have already consumed.

Thanks to costume swapping with my sister, the kids had great costumes without any work. All except Mack who wanted to be a soccer player - really imaginative huh? At least it was easy.

Natali the Egyptian. The blue eyeshadow was a necessary part of the costume. But personally I think the wig is the best part.
For the actual trick or treating Mack decided to put on the old standby pirate costume.
It took a little convincing to get Andrew to be a spider because he wanted to be a cougar, wolverine, bald eagle... at least spiders eat other creatures.He still managed to get into character very easily.Kate waffled between Little Miss Muffet, Princess (again) and a Ballerina. Miss Muffet was my favorite. She love loved wearing make-up like Natali.Andrew loved being 'the spider who sat down beside her'. Kate, always ready with an ear piercing scream, played the part well.For the church party she was a princess (terrible picture- I know).Emily left the hat on just long enough for pictures.Halloween is gone with the rush of Thanksgiving and Christmas on its heels. It's always fun but I'm not sorry it's over. Now if I could only get them to eat veggies to offset all the sugar...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Emily at 4 Months

These pictures were taken two months ago when my baby was 4 months old. So yes they are late but at least there is some documentation of her life. We did get family pictures a week ago - so hopefully we'll have some 6 month shots soon.
She definitely has red hair. I get comments all the time about her hair. It is fun to have this little red head mixed in with my blondies.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's Rough Being #5

Today at church someone I don't know very well asked how things were going with the new baby. "That's number 3 for you. Right?" I always love to watch peoples faces when I say I have 5 kids. I could see him trying to calculate how close together all my kids are. Anyway, this made me think about how I'm doing with 5 kids. I'm a little crazy but that is nothing new, as for everyone else, well after an incident that occurred tonight I just had to document how hard it is to be child #5.

I am a fifth child. So I can relate to poor little Emmy. My dad tells about how he would come home from work and I would be wailing and he just loved to pick me up and love on me. His comment, "You just wanted to be held." This always seemed kind of sad to me, but don't worry mom, because I totally understand now! You can only put off dinner, dishes, phone calls, and other kids for so long - then the baby just has to cry.

Today Emily was all out of whack from short naps at church. She wanted attention but I had promised the big kids I would help them make snicker doodles. In fact, I had promised to make them two weeks ago and the kids were calling me on it so it was time for snicker doodles. I put Emily in one baby distraction device after another, shoving the pacifier in her mouth whenever it fell out, trying to hold her off. After the kids all ate their fill we started into bedtime routine when I looked over at sweet baby #5. The precious thing was fast asleep, standing up. It's a rough life.

Crazy Kate

Kate's jammies the other night win the award for best ever - what do you think?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Birthday Boy

Mack is 7! He had his first friend party where I learned that boys are so much easier than girls at a party. Mack just wanted to play soccer, followed by football. Basically, it was a play date with four friends and presents- what could be easier? Other than multiple trips to the neighbors back yard to retrieve balls, it went great. We even found a praying mantis for the boys to torment - that's almost as good as a clown- right? Mack was so excited to give silly bands as party gifts so hopefully no moms have issues with boys wearing bracelets.
His birthday cookie - a jersey with his number 10 on it. The boys checking out the bug.

All my kids loved the party. Hopefully the other kids didn't care that there were no organized activities - that is just a little over my head right now.

For dinner he picked little smokies in BBQ sauce, tater tots, and broccoli. However, he was so anxious to open presents that he really didn't care what we ate. While I was getting dinner ready he got to see his first present. It had been hiding in the back yard all weekend and somehow he hadn't noticed. I don't have a picture, but Greg got a soccer goal free from a friend at work. Mack loves it and has already spent a lot of time out there practicing.
Then he dug into the other presents. After seeing these pictures I realize he had remnants of cake batter on his nose - so cute.
You might have noticed that despite their loosing season we are still loving the cougars. This book was from his Grandma Nani. He sits up in his bed at night looking through it - so he'll be a BYU Football history buff in no time.

He wanted a football field cake again. I was thrilled with his choice (so simple).

Macky is such an easy kid to love. He is observant, easily taught, and focused. He can do anything he puts his mind to. I love to watch him tackle something new. He doesn't cause me much grief and entertains himself. Sometimes he spends so much time doing his own thing that I wish it would rain so he would be forced to stay inside and play Yahtzee with me. In general he just makes me happy. Happy Birthday cutie boy!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gimli is Gone

Thursday night, September 23rd our cat Gimli got out and never returned. After 8 days I have very little hope that we will find him. It is hard to imagine that he is really gone. The kids miss sleeping with him. Poor Greg is sleeping horribly, imagining he hears Gimli all night long or dreaming that he let him inside.

We've had Gimli since February 2003. Greg managed to convince me to get Gimli just weeks before I found out I was pregnant with Mack. If I had know I was pregnant I would have been too worried to get a cat. He has been a great pet and although I always make it clear that he is Greg's, I really am fond of him. He has moved from Oklahoma to New Hampshire to Chicago back to New Hampshire then to Idaho. During one stop on our move to Chicago he got off of his leash (yes we tried a cat leash) at the Hill Cumorah in New York and Greg barely managed to pull him out of the bushes and get him back in the car. He put up with 5 crazy kids, not to mention terrifying cousins and neighbors, and was such a good sport about it.

The kids are already asking for another cat but I groan at the thought. Gimli got lost once before, for a month, and we got a replacement. It was then that I realized I don't love cats - I love my cat. Gimli had his issues (drooling and barfing) but I was used to those issues. I worry about getting another cat and not liking it because it meows too much or too loud, has litter box issues, has issues with the kids.... The kids haven't stopped praying that he will come home safely so maybe I need more faith. We did manage to find him last time but it is hard to imagine that miracle repeated. Then again cats do have nine lives...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fall Is Here Again

Well I know fall is here because school and football are ruling our lives again. My kids are trying to wear BYU colors to school everyday and they are careful not to wear orange on BSU game days. Natali and Mack are so excited to be back in school. Natali is thrilled to be in the special third grade 'loft' classroom that has two classes together with two teachers. She is reading like crazy and has started piano lessons. Each day, as soon as she gets home from school, she runs in and practises piano. I hope her enthusiasm sticks. Mack is enjoying his first grade teacher, Mrs. Renfrow. He has already read 5 Magic Tree House books and is proving to me that he didn't forget how to read over summer break. His two best friends are in his class again this year and he is loving all the basketball they play at recess. Last week soccer started with Greg as his coach - he is very excited.

Andrew is in Kindergarten this year and they are trying out a new schedule. He goes all day Tuesday, Thursday and every other Friday. Well, I think the all day thing is a bit of an adjustment. His first day of hot lunch he took some plums. He sat down to eat and realized his plums were hard as rocks so he didn't want to eat them. The teacher on duty told him he had to eat them. I don't know what all happened, but he has no interest in eating hot lunch ever again. He thinks it is brutal that they can only go to the drinking fountain at certain times of the day and tells me that his class only has one good animal book - poor kid. After his first day he asked if he had to go back. Most days he has done fine, but Tuesday he refused to get out of the car. I took him home and put him to work. After a lot of moaning he decided it would be better at school than working at home. So back to school he went (with his blanket this time - I did compromise a little). Since then he has seamed fine - we hope it lasts.

Kate and I are enjoying our days together. We do a little bit of school every day where I have learned that my poor little girl's basic knowledge has been sadly neglected. But don't worry - she can count to twelve now without skipping three - most of the time. I have discovered that I am way less productive now because I am Kate's sole form of entertainment. I pretend to be a princess or a mean witch most of the day, but I think it is good for both of us, just not so good for my messy house.

However, our days with Andrew home are a bit of a challenge. He follows me around saying, "What can I do? What can I do?". If he isn't driving me crazy then it is too quite and I have to assume that something like this is going on.
Yes, Andrew painted poor Kate's face. She thought it was funny at the time, but once she was trying to wash it off she had a different sentiment.
Emily just watches all the craziness and keeps us all entertained with her smiles and giggles.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On To Canada

We said goodbye to all the family and added a few more miles onto our journey to drive up to Banff National Park in Canada. My one request was no more camping; our three nights in Glacier were alright but I was ready for a shower and bed. So we got a deal on a little condo. We were twenty minuets out of the park but had plenty of space. The kids loved the hot tub although Natali kept calling it a hot spa- yea no clue where that came from.

Canadian National Parks are way more commercialized that American ones, for example- in the town of Banff, right in the middle of the National Park, there is a Louis Vuitton store - can't get that in Glacier! There is a major Highway right through the park as well. All that aside, I can' t even express how beautiful it was. The glaciers- well lets just say when we left Glacier Natali still had no clue what a glacier looked like, but in Banff she had no problem recognizing glaciers. I loved it.
This is Crow Foot Glacier. The bottom toe has melted away but it still wasn't too hard to explain to the kids how this glacier got it's name.
Our first night we put the kids in PJ's and went for a drive. Here they are in front of Lake Louise with the amazing Victoria Glacier behind them. The lake was such a cool milky color from the glacial flour. The next day we rode a gondola up the ski hill and looked down on Lake Louis again. It was so incredible but also kind of rainy so the pictures from the top weren't great but the view was unbelievable. There were also some trails closed because of bears in the area - so Greg really wanted to go exploring (he bought bear spray before the trip just in case - I'm not kidding), but the kids weren't in the mood to hike. They loved the ride up and just wanted to go back down - I think they would have joyfully gone up and down multiple times but I was only paying for once. Natali even picked out which gondola she wanted ride and patiently waited till it was avalable. On our ride down she asked Greg, in the chair in front of us, to take our picture. He took the picture, but while taking care of the kids riding with him he forgot to zip the camera back in it's case. So when he got off the chair the camera crashed into the pavement. He picked it up to take another picture of Natali and I getting off and that's when Natali said, "Hey Dad your camera is all broken." So this picture is a little weird because it was taken through the broken glass. The filter was shattered but miraculously the lens only has a little chip. It still seams to work alright but it's hard to tell if the image is as good as before - all things considered we were very lucky.

Of course we spent a lot of time looking for animals and were rewarded with 5 more bears, elk, deer, big horn sheep, and a porcupine.We think this one might have been our only grizzly.My favorite part of the trip was our hike to Moraine Lake. It was a simple little hike from the shore of a seaming uninteresting lake up a terminal moraine. Yet, when you look down on the lake from up high you suddenly see the spectacular color of the water. I have never seen anything so beautiful. I love this picture of the kayak down below because the color contrast is so stark. The next day we drove up into Jasper National Park in order to see the Columbia Ice Field. Waters from this ice field drain to the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Ocean. The drive up there was spectacular- right up next to the Rockies. Once we got there we rode on what they call an Ice Explorer.This machine drove right onto the Athabasca Glacier. It was markedly cooler up there but the kids loved having their coats on and throwing ice at each other. They climbed all over the designated area and loved the ice explorer. It was amazing to see how thick the ice was and to learn more about glaciers. However, one of my favorite parts had nothing to do with glaciers. We were the only Americans in our group and at least half of our group were Asian. Well a family with 5 kids draws attention almost anywhere you go - but throw in the fact that most of the kids are blondies, and one less than 4 months old, and you are a magnet for Asian tourists. Every time I got on and off everyone pointed, smiled, touched, gawked at my baby and while on the glacier some people were taking pictures of our kids rather than the glacier. We even had one man ask to pose with our kids. It made me laugh. Natali thought it was so weird.

Everyone loved the ice explorer ride, and more than one kid came back with cold, wet feet from jumping in cold pools of melting glacier.

Well that day got a little crazy when Greg decided that since we'd already gone that far we might as well check out a little more of what Jasper National Park has to offer. Let's just say we put a lot of extra miles on the trip that day and didn't get to our condo till 12:30am.
The next morning the kids took one last dip in the "hot spa" while we loaded up our stuff. We headed home by way of Kootenai National Park where we stopped to see the paint pots. We were expecting bubbling pools of odd colored water like in Yellowstone - not quite. This area is covered in streams that leave behind minerals that make the soil a deep orange color. Apparently, the Native Americans used to come here and use the soil to make paint. Early English settlers also used this soil to produce paint. The bottom of our shoes were totally orange along with any pants, hands or knees that touched the ground.
It took us two days to get home but the kids were great in the car. I have to thank Barbie's Princess and the Pauper movie and the singalong extras on the Anastasia DVD - the trip wouldn't have been as smooth without these tools.
At summers end we have seen 48 of the 50 licence plates plus 9 Canadian Provinces, been through 7 states and 2 provinces, seen 14 bears, and spent too many hours in the car to count and we'd all do it again, but maybe not for a few years.