Sunday, January 6, 2013

Christmas At Our House

This year we did our Gingerbread houses the first week of December.  I wanted to get them out of the way before the onslaught of other Christmas stuff.  The kids all had a blast, as usual.  Yet my favorite part by far was Emily's determination to "do it myself".  Her little house was so covered in frosting by the end of the evening.  The only place that saw more frosting was her belly.  I finally had to take the tube away because she had eaten so much of it - yuck - that stuff works like cement and doesn't taste much better. 

 The older kids creativity gets more fun every year.  Natali was making beds and using cinnamon bears as people.  Mack built a van going into the shop.  Andrew just wanted to do it himself and use as much candy as possible.  And Kate, well she just loved decorating her house and actually doing a lot of it herself this year.
On the 24th we always act out the Nativity.  The kids were so excited to get out the costume; they were all fighting over who got to be who so I promised we would act it out as many times as they wanted. 

Emily talked all week about being Mary but when the time came she dressed as a wise man.  Then by the time we got the story going she had decided to be baby Jesus.

Natali wanted to be Mary for the first half of the story then we traded so she could be a wise man.   A bit ironic that Mary was pregnant for the second half of the story.

Mack was Joseph and Andrew and I were shepherds listening to a very vivacious angel.  Greg was an excellent donkey, narrator, and wise man.  By the time it was all over no one wanted to do it again.  They loved it but decided they had tried on enough costumes and they were getting too hot. 

 The next morning was so fun just to watch.  I loved Emmy's pleasure in a simple purse full of plastic treasures.  But her favorites were my old cell phone and candy.

Kate was thrilled with her new microphone and loved modeling the skirt Natali made her.

Andrew had his usual stash of plastic animals.  Soon there will be no Schleick animals that he doesn't own.  What will he ask for then?

Mack with his loot and his BYU paraphernalia. 

Natali is getting so old she doesn't ask for simple toys anymore.  Her Kindle was a huge success and she has spent hours reading on it already.  This year I also made her 3 skirts (because I couldn't  find any that were long enough and skinny enough for my string bean).  I spent a lot of time on them and was so happy that she liked them and was excited to try them on.

We all had a great Christmas and I have loved just hanging out with all my kids, playing games, and being together.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Best Books of 2012

So this years reading started out pretty good, then morning sickness kicked in and well....  Actually I read more while I was sick because it distracted me.  However, it also distracted me from parenting.   So once I was feeling better I had to stop reading fiction and somehow I just never picked anything else up.  Although my totals are down, I did read some great books this year.  Here they are, in no particular order.
The Hunger Games Series - I had to group them together, because you have to read all of them.  I loved the characters.  I loved that they wanted to be good.  They wanted to do what was right.  They were characters I could admire.  I loved the authors imagination and ability to paint such vivid scenes and she really made me think.  Loved the series.

Edenbrooke - A modern attempt at a Jane Austenish novel.  I was a little skeptic starting it but I was desperate for a distracting novel.  I was pleasantly surprised, and even reread parts of it when I needed to kill some time.  The story was a captivating and clean romance that made me smile.

Poisonwood Bible - I listened to this book on tape about 10 years ago and decided to actually read it this summer.  I loved it the first time and loved it even more the second time.  There is such depth in the writing; I got a lot more out of it by reading the actual words.  The story gives you so much to think about and it reminded me of other books I had read about the Congo.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in this one.

Unbroken - As for non-fiction, my pick for the year is about an American POW in Japan during WWII.  The story was incredible and inspiring.  The man was an Olympic sprinter but when the Olympics were canceled he enlisted.  His story is so amazing it read like unbelievable fiction.  His sometimes horrific account is humbling and enlightening.  I don't want to tell much of the story because the suspense is so great, but it is a must read.

The Entitlement Trap - Yes, this is a parenting book and no, I don't think I'm any better of a parent (yet) but the principles in this book really spoke to me.  We have implemented some of them in our home and are still trying to work out the kinks but I love the ideas behind them.  I'm hoping what we are doing will better prepare our kids to be responsible.  The book is written by a couple with 10 kids (maybe it was 9).  Their experiences and ideas have helped me come up with a more calm and deliberate response to my kids.  It is a good reference for me.

The Continuous Atonement - This book helped me understand the Atonement more than anything I've ever read.  The author addresses 'grace' in a way that clarified things and helped me understand the true power of 'grace'.  The examples and stories told helped me see the authors point very clearly.  This writeup is grossly inadequate but the book is definitely worth reading.

Greg's Christmas Letter

Here is Greg's yearly literary effort.  He really does love writing the letter, but I have to say he gives me the title of Editor without any of the authority.  I am more like a consultant- I have no real impact on the letter.  Which I'm sure, makes it more entertaining.

Family and Friends,
While the author has been scheming about this letter for months, the editor has been dreading the effort to reduce the author’s verbosity to a maximum of 2 pages and the inevitable disagreements over the factual history of the narrative. Let’s start with the part we can agree on: Lisa got 2 (the other one was late in 2011) speeding tickets this year and was pulled over a fourth time while trying to race past the author. It was difficult to explain to Mack and Andrew why I was laughing so much as I looked in the rear view mirror at those flashing lights. The rest of this letter’s contents should be taken with a grain or tablespoon of salt.  3 years ago we spent a miserable few days on the Oregon Coast during spring break. It was so cold and wet we figured the weather would have to be better next time so we returned this past spring break. It wasn’t. But on our last day the weather broke just long enough to get in a boat. We caught glimpses of whales in between glimpses of the bottom of the barf buckets. The landlubbers’ stomachs were just settling back on shore when we got in the car to head back to Idaho. A few hours later on a snowy pass Andrew unloaded in our 3 month old minivan. Welcome to the family!

Undeterred by the distance or smells, we embarked on a more ambitious road trip this summer with stops in Reno to see a sister, a drive through Yosemite National Park, a day at Disneyland with another sister and a day at the beach before returning home via a stop in Mesquite, NV to see my parents and to have Uncle Brad graciously teach Andrew to ride a bike.

We broke down and went to our first Boise State football game, but only because they were hosting BYU. Though I lost my voice by half time I don’t think I said anything in front of my kids that I would regret (the editor may disagree, but I’m the one writing). I thought I would get over that by going to the BYU game against Notre Dame but another close loss didn’t help things.

Natali (10) made me almond rolls yesterday to avoid razzing in the letter, earned a perfect math score on her ISAT (40/40), sings in multiple choirs, began babysitting her younger siblings (talk about exploitation of child labor!), ran a 5k, spotted wolves on our family trip to Yellowstone in May, and can’t handle losing at card games (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Mack (9) played QB on his flag football team (Andrew was the center which led to some sibling debates whenever the snap was fumbled), played spring soccer, fall indoor soccer, winter basketball, and certainly would have added another sport had we consented. When he’s not playing sports or fighting with Andrew he can usually be found with his nose in a book. He, Natali, and Andrew were all named the top readers in their respective classes last year. Recently he and Natali have taken to reading on the toilet (must get that from the author) late at night. We often come upstairs and notice an empty bed. The toilet room has a separate door that shows almost no light to help keep their secret. For a little balance in life he started piano lessons and got glasses.

Andrew (7) and I enjoyed a trip to Yellowstone the last weekend in October. We just about had the park to ourselves as it received its first winter blanket of snow. One Sunday in church Andrew was looking through the hymn book and asked, “Why is there a song about old faithful (thinking of the geyser in Yellowstone)?” He was looking at “O Come All Ye Faithful.” One night I went upstairs at 10:30 in a rage to demand that the boys fall asleep, “Go to bed!” To which Andrew replied, “We are nocturnal!” It was hard to argue with that.

Kate (5) had the most fun at Disneyland without even getting on a ride. After the first month of Kindergarten she ventured from her teacher’s side at recess, but she has grown to love school. She switches freely back and forth between her big girl voice and the one that sounds like a chipmunk. She wears a dress almost every day and Lisa hopes that everyone knows that Kate picks out her own clothes—picture multiple combinations of colored stripes, sometimes mixing horizontal and vertical.

Emily (2) sings “Teach Me to Walk in the Light” every night with me at bed time, calls me Daddy-O, and recently finished potty-training (just when we were dreaming of the diaperless life Lisa got pregnant again). While I instinctively respond “no” to just about every request from the other kids, I remain an admitted and contented softy when it comes to our littlest “big girl.” I’d be more worried about the others getting jealous, but everyone loves to spoil Emily.

Lisa (32+7 months pregnant= approximately 60) has pink eye, a sinus infection, and probable strep throat, but there was no need to test for that since she was going on an anti-biotic anyway. Typing that last sentence made me a bit more sympathetic. The very least someone could do for her is pick a name for the daughter to be. On the first day of school Lisa was mistaken for a carpooler when 4 kids climbed out to attend the same elementary school. We are hoping to have a classroom named after the family.

Greg (34)—I’ve been working hard on a midlife crisis, likely to manufacture one if it doesn’t happen on its own. I spent my weeknights from January to May preparing lessons for an Economics course that I taught at Boise State. Though I loved teaching, it meant no time to plan adventuresome trips and my passport was unjustly neglected. That sounds like a good resolution for next year.

Favorite books of the year—Unbroken, Into Africa, Endurance, The Hunger Games, and The Continuous Atonement. Why do we like reading about people in such difficult circumstances? Hopefully it isn’t to prepare us for something similar!

I am thankful this Christmas season for a loving family. My kids don’t seem to realize they got the short straw when it comes to Dads, hopefully it will take few more years for them to figure that out. Lisa is a Saint—patient, loving, and capable—and I can’t imagine life without her. Our Heavenly Father is a God of miracles and though not always the miracles we want, or when we want them, they are there if we will look for them.

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