Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Letter 2015

Family and Friends,

2015 started off with a bang, or maybe more appropriately said, a clog.  After unsuccessfully using the snake to clear the boys’ toilet Lisa tried Siri’s help but she didn’t respond under water (the editor says that was an entirely different incident, but the iPhone ended up in a bag of rice and then at the repair shop).  Eventually we called in a professional who found a Hans figurine (from Frozen) playing with Pokemon cards.  As reward for their creativity the boys split the plumber’s bill. 

The Easton Life can pretty well be summed up by a recent episode at Taco Bell…
But first a little background.  Having just enjoyed Thanksgiving in semi-camping mode with my parents on their mission to an LDS church camp near the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, we were in the midst of an 11 hour trek home.  The temperature outside was well below freezing but my temperature was rising as the road conditions worsened and the bickering picked up.  Nearing the metropolis of Pendleton, OR, Lisa and I covertly discussed our dining options: KFC, Taco Bell, and…that’s about it.  Lisa wanted Taco Bell but didn’t want to stop at two places as we had done at lunch time, and didn’t want to tell the kids until we arrived so as to minimize the opportunity for complaint.  11 months into the year it was time for her to finally get her way.  In typical fashion I only heard part of what she said (due to the noise in the car…) and quickly announced to the kids we would be eating at Taco Bell in about 7 minutes.  You’d have thought I had ordered them to skip dinner and walk the remaining 200 miles home barefoot through the snow.  I marched the kids into the restaurant after forcing them to put shoes on. 

After finding refried beans on his nachos (that weren’t visible in the picture on the menu so he claims), Andrew declared, “Goodbye. I'm never coming back again,” and walked out the restaurant door in his short sleeves.  Let the rest of us eat in peace.  Natali’s taco didn’t have tomatoes on it like she expected (menu pictures be darned) and tasted like it had beans.  Mack confirmed that it was just taco meat but she wasn’t convinced—later I learned she had hoarded the leftover rolls sent home by Grandma but I foiled her plan by forcing her to share the remaining rolls.  Mack just wanted a slushy but I was in “absolutely not” mode by then.  Where do we turn for peace?  Emily.  When I turned to her she started singing, “Pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows!”  I have no idea where she learned that, but it was most definitely the appropriate time to sing it. Kate has matured to the point where she ate quietly without complaint, knowing that good behavior increased the odds of being promoted from the back row to the middle when the drive continued.  Apparently I forgot to order anything for Lily but she happily cleaned up the left-overs. Picking a restaurant is almost as traumatic for a family of 8 as picking which movie to watch in the car.  Definitely 1st world problems we tell our kids.

Natali (13) loves telling everyone that she is now taller than her mother, learned not to put her contacts in at the kitchen table when she lost one the first day as the cat rubbed up against her, earned awards for Spanish and Language Arts, ended the cross country season with a personal best in the mile and a half and is getting excited to have her braces removed in a few weeks. 

Mack (12) missed 23 days of school and still managed to get a single A (the rest were A+), came home early from a scout camp out when we learned he was allergic to amoxicillin—the rash covered nearly his entire body, went with me to the BYU vs. Michigan game at the Big House, ran cross country, played soccer & basketball.

Andrew’s (10) feud with the bus driver ended when the driver was transferred to a different route, but not before things escalated to the point where we fielded a call from the principal about a comment Andrew reportedly made on the bus—the note sent home with Andrew from the principal may have been found ripped in shreds and buried in our neighborhood…continues to complain about only going to Yellowstone once this year, likes to play MASH with Lisa.

Kate (8) was baptized in June, got lost one evening after school and had Greg combing the neighborhood only to find her 30 minutes later asleep on the floor between the couch and foot rest…saved her best for last by scoring her only goals of the soccer season in the final game (she may or may not have been bribed to actually kick the ball—maybe we should have tried that sooner). 

Emily (5) misses her quiet time with Lisa when she goes to Kindergarten but loves learning to read.  Saw another moose on Uncle Tom’s property.  Absolutely refuses to eat fruits or vegetables other than dried coconut, but when that’s the worst thing you can say about a child she must be a gem. 

Lily (2) told Lisa the Monday after Halloween, “Let’s go trick or treating again now.”  After a single exhausting day of tears, frustration, and puddles, Lily was officially potty-trained and our home is diaper free!  Got so tired of insisting “I not Bob” when Mack nicknamed her after the Minion that she decided it was fun to be called Bob and began calling her brothers Kevin and Stewart (I probably need to watch The Minions to understand my kids, but I’m afraid it would be obvious that I’m the Evil Master).  It is easy to forget that she is supposedly in the Terrible Twos!

Lisa (35) learned how to bottle pickles after discovering that it doesn’t take a green thumb to grow a bazillion cucumbers.  In discussion with the kids about dating standards she misread a phrase as “compassionate kissing” which explains a lot of things. She will miss her parents greatly as they spend the next 18 months on a mission to England but is excited for them.  Ultimately she enjoyed her involuntary alone (without the kids at least) time while serving on a jury while I was out of town for work.

Greg (37) let an entire year slip by with no new mammal sightings or countries (unless you count living with a teenager on either account). It really isn’t that bad, yet…Swam across the Owhyee River in March looking for Oregonian Crocodiles, failed to rent a car with an expired driver’s license on a business trip, and had a father’s compensation claim from picking a sleeping child off the floor—must be getting old. 

Best books of the year—Happiness is a Serious Problem, The Boys in the Boat, Lying

It is a sad irony that during a season meant to turn our hearts to the Savior, the world pushes our focus to material things.  The difference between holidays and Holy Days has never been greater.  We are too busy to feel the Spirit.  Truly as prophesied in Daniel 7:25, Satan seeks, “to wear out the saints of the most high.”  Like those in the time of the prophet Ether, we “fight all day and conquer not.”  We cannot conquer on our own. But fortunately as Isaiah wrote, “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”  He, the only one who can save us, will not cease to call after each of us.  I feel a greater need for a Savior, perhaps you feel the same.  

Merry Christmas, The Eastons (Greg, Lisa, Natali, Mack, Andrew, Kate, Emily, and Lily)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thanksgiving in Washington

For Thanksgiving we drove up to Zion's Camp in Washington where Greg's parents are serving as missionaries.  We got caught in holiday traffic and the drive was a few hours longer than expected.  We were grateful we had Lily's little red toilet- it saved us from trying to teach a two year old how to pee on the side of the road while stuck in traffic.  We did discover that some of our other kids needed some lessons though...but we eventually arrived and enjoyed our weekend in the forest.

 We managed not to get rained on too much.  It was a little cold but it was so beautiful.  We loved going for walks and enjoying the beauty around us.

 The kids had fun playing with cousins and grandparents.  And Papa put the boys to work hauling logs.  We slept in a huge cabin with thirty some beds.  It was a fun weekend but I was glad to get back to our home where I could walk around without a coat and hat on. 
My mother-in-law managed to make an incredible Thanksgiving Feast in spite of not having a real kitchen to cook in.  She never ceases to amaze me.  

Monday, November 2, 2015

Halloween 2015

 My candy hunting crew.   
 Cute Caterpiller and Einstien
 50's Girl and Scott Sterling (from Studio C)  We had a lot of fun with the make-up job.
My happy little frog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Family Pictures 2015

 This shot is kind of how things work at our house - give Lily what she wants and everyone is happy.

 Can you tell this was our last shot?  By this point Lily was striping down, Kate refused to smile or look at the camera and everyone was being eaten alive by mosquitoes.  However, this is still one of my favorites- That look of Lily's kills me.

 Too much glare - having four pairs of glasses makes the photographers job pretty hard.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mack is 12

He wanted gummy worms and plain chocolate cake for his bday - yuck I think, but hey- it's your day.  
Can't believe my little cowlick headed baby boy is 12 already.  He adds a dimension of calm to my life and makes me so happy each day when he says he needs a hug.  I love when he seeks me out to tell me about his day.  He amazes both Greg and I with his ability to wake and shower each morning on his own just because he wants to.  He brings me such joy - I love being his mom.

This is the day he received the Aaronic Priesthood. We were glad to have my dad there with us for this wonderful day.

Monday, August 31, 2015

School is Here Again

My Sunshine left me this year for Kindergarten.  She is gone Mondays, Thursday, and every other Wednesday.  Lily and I really miss her when she is gone, but it is exciting to see her learning to read.

 Mack was off to Middle School.  He was a little nervous the first few days but it didn't take long to get the hang of it.  He loved being on the Cross Country team.
 Kate -3rd Grade
 King of the school - 5th Grade

8th Grade - can't beleive next year is High School  
Here they are getting off the bus at the end of the day.  Lily could hardly wait for them to get home.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Summer - Blink and It's Gone

 Last day of school- we hit the neighborhood lake with the neighbor kids.
 Yellowstone with the Pierces was a blast
 Grandma watched the littles so Grandpa could fly the big kids and mom out to Iowa to see the cousins.  We had a wonderful time playing with the cousins and exploring South Dakota on the way home.  We drove all over but eventually found Andrew some bison - his first not in or around Yellowstone.  It was beautiful country.
 Swimming with the Easton cousins in Mesquite.
Left to right: AW, SW holding L, E, twins, EW, A, TE, ME, N, K
 Our visit to Olympic Park in Park City was such a blast.   

 We tired Lily out and she made an early exit with some other cousins but the older kids loved the zipline, slide, ropes course, and watching the ski jumping.
All of may family gathered in Park City to hang out for a few days.  It was so much fun but with 40 some people staying in the same massive house bed time was a little crazy.  Somehow, Kate and Lily managed to get in a few Z's.  My favorite part of the trip was the day Laura organized Ninja trials.  Some of the adults took different stations and the kids went around in groups trying out their ninja skills.  It was hilarious and even the older kids had fun.  I love all the time with family in the summer! 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Family Vacation in Hawaii

Greg and I got crazy this year and decided to let our kids in on the adventure of travel.  We used Greg's build up of frequent flier miles and headed to Hawaii, with a few detours along the way.  Greg and baby girl headed out early in route to Grandma Nani's house while the rest of us ran to Wal-Mart Vision Center where we begged a lady to open shop a little early to fix Kate's glasses that had broken during bedtime the night before.  Finally we were on our way.  The kids enjoyed every minute on the moving walkways in SFO and moaned and groaned about the mandatory reading and no electronics time, but we all survived.  Greg met back up with us in LAX and we endured the long flight to Kona in spite of not having an in flight movie (Apparently I needed to download an app to enjoy the movies.  Imagine much moaning.)

We were welcomed on the Big Island by the heat and humidity and darkness.  It was midnight our time as we got our rental van and headed to our rental on the beach.  We made a quick stop at Wal-Mart for the next mornings breakfast and the kids loved seeing the strange fruits and food.

Our place gave us a WARM welcome, as in no A/C, no windows open, stiflingly hot.  I began to doubt the wisdom of booking a place outside of a resort.  But by the end of the trip I wouldn't have traded our spot for any of the resorts.  I fell asleep that night to the beautiful sound of the ocean.  Morning light showed us our amazing view and we had to explore.  We got so caught up in the tide pools, geckos, and rocky beaches that we were a little late for church.

I soon learned that A/C in Hawaii is a rare commodity due to the expense of generating electricity.  I had expected to find it everywhere but in our 5 days we really only felt it in the van.  Anyway, at church there was a woman sitting in front of us with two beautiful little girls.  The 3 year old was pretty busy and eventually found her way to our bench, where Natali and Emily gladly welcomed a distraction.  After a while the little girl leaned over to Natali and said, "You are Elsa.  And she (pointing to Emily) is Anna."  I suddenly looked at my girls and couldn't help put smile.  Emily had asked for two braids in her red hair that morning and Natali although not blond had a long french braid coming over her shoulder.  I could see the resemblance.

After church we hit the road for Volcanoes National Park...(At this point I stopped writing to take care of kids and now 6 months later my recollection is not so great)  Volcanoes was so cool.  We loved seeing all the different rock formations but the best part was seeing the glow from the active volcano. No actual lava was seen but it was amazing how mesmerizing the glow was.  We watched it for quite some time.  The Park was Mack's favorite part of the trip.  I don't know if it was the volcanoes or the lack of sand and water.
Back at our place that night I realized I'd left the Dramamine at home.  We were booked to swim with dolphins the next morning and I wanted to enjoy it (last time we went on a boat in the ocean Andrew and I...lets just say we were so sick we didn't see any whales).  So Greg went on a late, long excursion to track some down.  Then we woke up all the kids but Mack (who seams to be impervious to sea sickness) and forced them to take one of the pills.  The tour company had advised us that taking the meds the night before and the day of is the best method.  We weren't taking any chances.  The late night wakings turn comical when Andrew refused to sit up or open his mouth.  Knowing he would be the first to throw up in the morning we were determined, but so was he.  I managed to put a pill in his mouth just to have him spit it out and throw it across the room.  Eventually we managed to get it in his mouth long enough to dissolve, but now I know not to mess with Andrew in the middle of the night.

We woke bright and early and headed to the boat.  To my amazement and relief the Dramamine worked like magic.  We motored around quite a while before we found a pod of dolphins.  Then we put on our snorkel gear and hopped in just in time to see dolphins flying by.  It was so amazing.  We could hear them and see them and swim by them.  Once they were out of sight we climbed back in, caught up with the dolphins and did it again.  I could have done it all day!  I can't even express how fabulous it was.  There was one time when I could hear them but couldn't find them any where.  I just floated and listened then realized they were right below me, just much deeper.  Emily and Kate preferred watching the dolphins spin and jump from the boat.  But everyone jumped in at some point and we all loved it.  Definitely a highlight of the trip.  My one regret was not buying an underwater camera.  I wish I could have captured the memory!

Here we are at the end of the boat ride.
Andrew and Emily spent many hours trying to catch geckos.
 We visited the Waipio Valley.  It was so gorgeous, but hat hike down was KILLER.  The actual distance was less than a mile but the elevation was a change of nearly 1000'.  The kids were troopers and the beach at the bottom was so worth it.

 There was a river floating right into the ocean.  So you could play in the sand and have a nice peaceful place to dig, or go jump in the big ocean waves.  The sand was so soft and beautiful and we all loved it and hated to leave, especially knowing we had that grueling hike back up.

One of Emily's goals for the trip was to see sea turtles.  Greg thought that would be a long shot but in the end we saw tons of sea turtles.  
One of our last visits was to Pu'uonua o Honaunau National Historical Park where we learned a lot about Hawaiian history and saw some sea turtles in the clear water.
We also did a lot of snorkeling, visited Hulihue'e Palce, souvenir shopped, visited a macadamia nut factory, swam in the pool, tried real coconut, took Natali to do baptisms in the Kailua-Kona Temple, and just enjoyed the ocean.