Monday, December 19, 2011

Annual Christmas Letter

Most of you have already read this - but someday my kids will read this and laugh at their father who enjoys his yearly letter maybe a bit too much.


Family and Friends,

If the letter is dramatically different next year, it is because Lisa and I are arguing over the contents as I seek her feedback the night before sending this out. She claims I don’t want her feedback, but why else would I have asked for it? She keeps getting caught up on the difference between facts, memories, and the artistic license required to make this mildly entertaining. And then she wants me to say positive things about our kids. It’s not my style, and for at least this year, this remains MY letter. Challenging Lisa on such important matters after 11 years of marriage is how a father of 5 lives on the edge. Actually a father of five always lives on the edge. (Editor’s note: there were some actual improvements made to the letter after Lisa’s review.) On to the year…

I crossed one cat species off my list and two countries. While in Chile for work I took a few days to visit Patagonia at the southern tip of the continent in hopes of seeing a puma. It was an adventure worthy of more than paragraph a in the Christmas letter, so if you ever head that way I have a few pointers on how to avoid $35/gallon gasoline, where to spotlight for pumas in Torres del Paine N.P., what guanacos and rheas are, and a highly recommended Spanish only speaking guide. (No, I don’t speak Spanish) While I was gone Andrew prayed, "Help dad see pumas on his drive home so he can take pictures of it, or in the morning when there is enough light, or when it is dark but with lots of flashlights." That’s how we spell love at the Easton home.

In between tours of ancient ruins in Mexico and Guatemala with Lisa’s family we watched BYU in the NCAA basketball tournament over the internet or with the Spanish speaking commentators on TV. Jimmer proved to be an international phenomenon. Mack and Andrew made homemade Jimmer BYU jerseys out of white t-shirts.

I spent 4 months successfully on the “get in and out of shape plan” and completed my second ½ marathon in the middle of the plan.

We took a late summer trip to Washington State to look for whales and to visit the mountains, rain forests, and beaches of Olympic National Park. After 3 hours on the boat straining to see through the pea soup like conditions we had seen nary a whale, but the boat captain and many of the passengers knew Andrew and Natali by name as they roamed the decks looking for signs of wildlife and striking up conversations with strangers. Suddenly we found ourselves in the midst of a pod of killer whales that frolicked around and beneath our boat for nearly an hour—what a memory!

In an effort to avoid the effects of global warming I scheduled two trips to Yellowstone National Park this year and managed to catch the last snow of spring season and the first snow of autumn. Our stalwart kids didn’t let the weather slow them down as our family of 7 completed a 3 mile hike in 39 degree weather. We proved that kids are scarier than cars by not seeing a single mammal during our hike but we did see grizzlies, wolves, coyotes, and about everything else from the road.

Natali (9)—received a perfect attendance award at school—I feel like a failure as a parent. She may have gone to school sick a few times to make sure she received the free bike prize for not missing a day. The kids must have too many days off of school if she can win the award and we still put so many miles on the car. She narrowly missed the perfect daughter award.
Mack (8)—was baptized in October and spent the remaining 364 days playing football, basketball, or soccer. He stopped playing long enough to attend a BYU football game and read the collected works of Roald Dahl. I think his life is good and so does he.

Andrew (6)—driving home one night with just Andrew in the car we had a deep conversation about the foreign species in his 1st grade class. Andrew confessed that at recess they always play “Girls chase the Boys”, and though one of his friends likes to get caught Andrew vehemently declared, “But none of them ever touched me!” Andrew conceded to attend school this year, but only until he learns how to read his animal books. He sleeps on the floor in his room nearly every night—except for the night he and I slept at the zoo next to the Lion enclosure.

Kate (4)—has found her 2nd home at dance class and is ready to perform at the mere suggestion. She still likes to snuggle and find an open lap for story time. She is not quite as into hiking (let’s be honest, walking on uneven surfaces can be difficult) and the outdoors as the boys are, but somehow I still love her just as much.

Emily (1)—has been taught by her siblings the appropriate sound for all 4 primary animals. (Editor’s note: there is no such thing as 4 primary animals, but she can growl, meow, moo, and woof woof). Her official vocabulary consists of 53% “no”, 45% “nuh-uh” and an assortment of other words that occasionally imply approval or acceptance. Look for her in the 2012 Toddler Olympics as a food thrower. Other than that she’s absolutely adorable and hasn’t lost her red hair yet.

Editor’s note on obligatory praise of children: our kids really are wonderful, talented, well-behaved, good-looking, and even love each other and their parents, but you probably could have guessed that.

Book of the year—The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival. Even Lisa enjoyed reading about a man-eating Siberian Tiger.

Author’s note: my apologies to the readers and editor for going beyond 1 page for the first time in Easton Christmas Letter history. The truth is I look forward to the chance to write fiction once a year way more than I should. I find myself reflective at this year end. What have I done with my time and talents? It is easy to be busy, but it is much harder to be good. To paraphrase Thomas Monson, may we all keep Christmas this year rather than just spending it.

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

Family Pictures 2011

Our good friend took our pictures again this year. The kids had fun eating apples and exploring the swamp. The boys were knee deep in water before we even got started. Emily ate a bunch of skittles and Kate did her best "smiles" far too often. But all things considered it turned out pretty well.























Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another one bites the dust...



I took Mack in for his annual eye exam. He has a amblyopia, fancy talk for a lazy eye, so we check on it now and then. When they put up the first row of letters for him to read I knew we were in trouble. He could only read the very largest letters accurately (the ones right under the huge E). My quiet little guy sits in the back row at school and of course never mentioned that he can't read anything his teacher puts on the board.

That officially puts us at 2 for 2 - kids getting glasses in the second grade. This is not a stat I am trilled about. I didn't get glasses till 4th grade and Greg only got glasses after Andrew was born. Technically, Greg doesn't even have to wear glasses. Mack's eyes are already twice as bad as Greg's. However, both of us carry the genes for bad eye sight. I was hoping some of our kids would get the good half of Greg's genes but alas...I guess I should just be grateful we live in a world where glasses are readily available so my little guy can see.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween

This year I decided to try out a Halloween Dinner. We started by played a few Halloween games intended for the kids to earn candy corns that would be traded later to pay for dinner. The games were silly and meant to be fun - but the night almost ended there because of all the complaining, whining, and full out Frisbee kicking fits - however, everyone finally pulled it together and we got to our dinner.

With the help of the Internet we came up with a menu full creepy Halloween items. At first the kids were hesitant to order anything because they didn't know what it was (and they only had so many candy corns to spend). But eventually, they got into it and by the end they were begging to do it again next year. It was a lot of fun and semi-easy because Greg took the day off to spend time with his Mom and Randy. So I had a lot of help; I guess we'll see about next year. Here are just a few of the menu items.Bat Wings (Chicken wings)Deathly Dip (Hummus with veggies and tortillas cut out in Halloween shapes)Witches Brew (the apples are supposed to look like teeth and the grapes like eye balls)And for dessert - Edible Eyeballs these frozen pudding balls were quite a hit.
Then it was on to the Trick or Treating. This year Natali convinced all the kids to be characters from Peter Pan. So I made a bunch of simple costumes to accommodate them. I spend $10 or less on each costume so I was quite pleased with my self. Yet, as usual, I forgot about pictures. In fact, we only have pictures of the dinner because Greg was thinking. Thankfully, he did take costume pictures, but the kids were supper bundled and none of the pictures capture the costumes very well, but here they are.

Peter Pan - Only Andrew can get away with wearing 5T girls leggings and never think twice about it. He cut up the bottom of his shirt himself, which he thought was pretty cool.Tinker Bell - Well I had been planning for Emily to be Michael wearing pink PJs and carrying a teddy bear, but three days before Halloween a friend brought me this costume she had made years before. Emily loved it. She actually wanted it on, wings and all. It really surprised me. She made it around to 6 houses then filled her diaper and went home. She couldn't have been happier with her six pieces of candy and the dum dums she keep sneaking out of other treat buckets.Wendy - I kept expecting Kate to back out of this costume because it wasn't pick, frilly, fancy...you get the idea. Yet, she bought into Natali's enthusiasm and only slightly wavered when she found some pink butterfly wings I made years ago. Princess Tiger Lily - Natali had fun picking out the fabric and planing this costume. She decided to paint the top part and it turned out so great. She really did a good job. As we were chasing the boys around the neighborhood, Greg and I decided that Natali and Mack could double as Sacajawea and Lewis (or Clark). Whatever works. Lost Boy - Mack originally wanted to be Captain Hook , but I just wasn't up to that much of a commitment. So he came up with this lost boy costume. He almost decided to be John last minute, which would have been a fun costume, but luckily for my sake, he lost interest and stayed a lost boy. He did pick out all his fabric and cut up his pants and shirt - so he was happy. You can't see it in this picture, but he is wearing a hat with a tail on it (one he borrowed from Grandma so it may seam familiar to some of you) which definitely added to the possible frontiersman look.Now we have way more candy that anyone needs and my laundry/sewing room has counter space again. I wonder what Natali will cook up for everyone next year...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Baptism

The last Saturday in October, Mack was baptised. We were so blessed to have so many family members there for the special occasion. He was baptised in the morning but this time I managed to get there early enough to take some pictures before the baptism.


Andrew wanted to get in a picture - he is excited for his turn.Mack with his Grandma and Grandpa Dame and Grandma Lula. We were to thrilled to have my Grandma there and to get to spend time with her afterwards at our house. She is such a wonderful woman and a great example of someone who loves the Lord. I was touched that she came because I know it was hard on her and she has been in such pain lately. It was a treat for us. Mack with his Grandma Nani and Papa Randy. They drove in Saturday morning with a few hours to spare before the baptism. It wouldn't have been the same without them.Me and my Macky! I have such a special place in my heart for my Mack. He can always brighten my day and rarely makes me want to pull my hair out. I love his diligence and quiet confidence. A mother of one of his friends told me that of all the kids her son plays with, Mack is the only one that hasn't ever gotten mad at him. When Mack went to school I was so worried that he would be quiet and never make friends. But I was so wrong - everyone likes Mack. I am so proud of him for choosing to follow the path of his Savior by being baptised and by being a friend to everyone.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Yellowstone - Always a favorite

The kids had a few days off from school and we hadn't been to Yellowstone yet this year so we had to squeeze it in before the season ended. I did manage to convince Greg not to camp. Twenty degree nights with a baby in a tent never sounds very fun.

We had a great time in our small little room with two beds, a sink, and the shared bathroom down the hall (at least they provided robes). Our kids are getting good at sleeping three kids the short way on the bed, and thankfully, Andrew always volunteers to sleep on the floor. But Natali is getting too tall and one of these days someone is going to call us out for having 7 people in one room. Actually, the room was a lot of fun and we weren't there much because we spent most of our time in the van looking for animals.

Our goal this time was to see wolfs. We did see wolfs through the scopes of kind "wolf watchers" but that just isn't the same for me. Someday we'll really see some. We did see several bears though. I loved watching this mother and cubs swim across the river.
This golden eagle was beautiful. We were even close enough that Emily was reacting to the animal. I loved her excitement. One of her favorite books right now is about a snow leopard (thanks Laura). She gets so animated when she sees pictures of animals - A little Andrew in the making. Speaking of Andrew, this little man hiked nearly 9 miles in one day! He is determined to enjoy every minute in Yellowstone. He and Greg did 5 miles together in on and off snow/rain showers. Meanwhile Natali and Mack earned their Jr. Ranger badges, we toured the visitor center, and hung out in the hotel room.We also took lots of little hikes together and one BIG one. It didn't start out big but I think Greg was secretly hoping it would end big. There was a 4 mile loop. The intention was to just start up the path and then turn around when they were tired. Amazingly, in spite of the 35-40 degree weather, they did really good. By the time they were asking to turn around we figured we were half way so we should just keep going. Kate got a few piggie backs and Natali needed a few pep talks, but they all made it.It was a beautiful hike right along a canyon. Emily didn't complain about her free ride and slept a fair portion of the hike. The last few of the river was so beautiful with the contrasting colors of blue, green, brown, and white. This picture doesn't really capture it. Here are the amazing hikers waiting for Greg to bring the car around. The last 1/2 mile of the loop was down the main road so Greg ran on ahead of us and we only had to wait about 5 minutes before he arrived with the warm van.
Per Natali's request, we did stop to see Old Faithful. However, near the time it was going to erupt it started to snow. Not just a little snow but so much snow that when it did erupt we couldn't even tell it had started. So glad we weren't camping.
On the way home we stopped at Wendy's. Greg bought one frosty to share. The kids were all holding their mouths open and squawking for their turn, especially Emily. It was so funny. I tried to capture it but failed to catch the moment.
Year after year I wait for one of the girls to complain about going to Yellowstone. They spend hours and hours in the car, freeze when they get out, whine about hiking...and yet they still seem to love it. They all seem to recognize the beauty and wonder of the animals, landscape, and geothermal oddities. The hours in the car helps create lasting memories. Like the word of the day. Each day we took turns picking a word, like bear. Each time bear was said we had to roar, but the best was Mack's pick of Elk. Instead of screaming or roaring each time it was said we had to say "stop the car". We saw a ton of elk and it was hilarious to hear the kids chanting "Elk! Stop the car." I want my kids to remember those silly times and the beauties of God's creations. I hope they never grow tired of Yellowstone.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Macks 8th Birthday

Mack turned 8! Yet again, Mack designed and decorated his own cake. My dad was there when I handed Mack the tube of frosting and his eyes said, "Are you really going to let him do that?". Without any hesitation on his part, Mack squeezed and did his thing. His total confidence in himself and his final product are typical Mack and make me smile. Wither decorating a cake or dressing himself, Mack doesn't worry about if it will look "right", if everyone else will like it, or if he did it the "right" way. He is just confident and pleased with doing it himself. I love that about him.Presents: remote control cars, scriptures, a Lego boat and game, a stack of $2 bills, hand held battleship, a pack of gum, and a Bey Blade. A happy boy!


Ready to blow...

A weekend before his birthday I told Mack he could pick one friend and we'd go do something fun. He picked Chuck E Cheese, so of course the Wilford's came along. I was having issues with the camera focusing - so you get what you get.

Blue rice crispy treats shaped like footballs, helmets, and the Y! Can you tell Mack likes football?

Fun times watching Emily and Rachel loving the little games, and the big kids trying to see who could get the most tickets. After Chuck's place we used some coupons and went to the Discover Center. The kids had a great time. Happy Birthday Mack!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Creative Play

When the big kids went back to school I had a rough time adjusting to just having the little girls home. The house was much quieter, which was nice, but suddenly the girls needed a lot more attention. Reading a friends blog reminded me that I used to actually play more with the kids; the kids used to get messy with projects. Poor Kate and Emily have missed out on a lot. We do a ton of reading but we don't have much messy time - even though Kate could sure use it. I've been trying to do better and here is one adventure. Painting with food colored cornstarch and water. Emily really loved dripping it all over her legs. Kate on the other hand preferred to keep it on the fingertips of one hand.


This picture makes me sad because I cut Kate's hair the other day and it is so much shorter. I miss her long locks (but not the crying that went with every combing). Can you see where she spelt her name on the cement, with a little help. Sorry the K is cut off. I just love these next two pictures of my baby. They are probably not great photography - but I just love that little face.


Clean up may have been the best part. Who can resist a hose?