Tuesday, August 20, 2013

In Which We Get Away

When you are the parents of 5 kids under the age of 8, getting away for a week-long vacation alone with your spouse is usually next to impossible...but that's exactly what we did!  My amazing in-laws took the kids for a whole week while Seth and I spent a week in California attending the wedding of our dear friend, Ali, in Newport Beach and visiting my old stomping grounds in Santa Barbara.  Here is our week in pictures: 

First, we got on a plane, which meant I got to read a book the whole time. Yowza Yowza! 

Once we got to Newport we were able to spend time with the Brinkerhoff family before the wedding. I will always treasure that time, as it was the last time I got to see Jan and tell her how much I loved her.

Captain Malley steering in style
Jan rocking her fedora on the boat ride
The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at a little bistro--omlettes, croissants, and hibiscus lemonade. It was divine. Then we walked around Fashion Island in Newport for a few hours. 
The Jonathan Adler store kind of blew my mind. A total visual feast.  

That evening we had a wonderful time at the rehearsal dinner with the Stiles and Brinkerhoff families. The gorgeous park setting matched the feelings we had seeing Ali and Garrett so happy and in love. Is there any better feeling than seeing the people you love happy? Nope. 
I'm a total sucker for cute packaging.

This is my friend, Chelsee and her ridiculously cute baby, Harper. It was so fun to see her again after so many years. Our husbands had never met, but totally hit it off, too, which is always a bonus. The five of us had a great time chatting over cupcakes, and wishing we got to see each other more often. Hopefully we convinced them to come to Chicago for a visit!

When you hear the word Macaron, do you just think of that little pile of coconutty stuff? Or perhaps think I just left out an "o"?  Or do you think of the life-changingly delicious French cookie that is lightly crisp on the outside, yet chewy and tender on the inside filled with amazing flavors like violet cassis, lemon curd, pistachio and Earl Grey Tea?  You know, the ones that cost more than you've ever spent on a cookie in your life, but once you've had one it seems perfectly reasonable to spend 25 dollars on a small assortment?  Yeah, those are the ones.  I just took a Macaron making class with Chanel this week, and it is my new mission in life to perfect this technique (it ain't easy) so I can stop daydreaming about the ones I had in California!

Finally it was wedding day! Ali was stunning, everyone at the ceremony was crying like babies, and we felt honored to be there.
Their reception was just like Ali--classy, stylish, thoughtful and welcoming.

Seth asked why I was taking a picture of the silverware.  Duh! Look how cool those are! World's longest spoon! It was like a work of art. Just one of many touches that were super cool.

Ali hand-wrote a thoughtful note to every single person who came. Amazing.

Once the wedding festivities were over, Seth and I drove up the coast to Santa Barbara to visit my hometown and get together with old friends.  It's been almost 20 years since I graduated from high school! (no seriously...TWENTY YEARS).  I haven't seen these girls in ages and I honestly didn't know if we'd still be friends.  I know how much I've changed since high school, and I know they have too, so I naturally thought, "If I met them now, would be still be friends?" It was so much fun to realize that the answer is YES! I really love these girls, and reconnecting with them was a total gift. Seeing us all grown up and living our lives was really special.

I hadn't been home in almost 8 years, and a lot had happened in that time.  My family had gone through a really hard time, the house I grew up in was sold, and all my family had moved away.  For a long time, I didn't want to go home because it just felt so sad. I thought that if I went back the bitter would far outweigh the sweet, and yet I was so pleasantly surprised to discover that that wasn't the case.  It was just sweet.  The foggy mornings, the sights, the smells, the people....it all still felt like home, and I think it always will. 

Our days in Santa Barbara mostly consisted of getting together with old friends, eating good food, and enjoying the slow pace of having no obligations! One of the friends we were lucky enough to spend time with was Jackie.  Seth and Jackie both went to the Air Force Academy, and were both stationed at Dover AFB. Now she lives in California and is married to an amazing guy named Ryan.  It seems to be a common theme of this trip--but seeing people you care about happy in their life is one of the greatest feelings.  We had so much fun reminiscing and catching up.  If you ever have the opportunity to meet Jackie Space--beg her to tell you the cheez whiz story.  It will have you laughing until you cry, and you will find yourself giggling about it for the rest of your life. 
The top left picture was taken downtown, randomly sitting outside a store on a chair. I don't know what that store sold, because there was no way I was going in a store whose mascot was that creepy clown lady.  The top right picture is how to get around Santa Barbara in style!  Bottom left is the guest house of my dear friend, Peggy, where we stayed. And finally--bottom right is the obligatory In-N-Out picture one must take.  I know everyone has their opinions about In-N-Out, but for me it's nostalgic deliciousness. 

 Here's the thing that kills me about all the pictures I took: I stayed at Peggy's house for 4 days and somehow managed NOT to get a picture with her.  Or of her. Or near her! So this picture will have to suffice, since I took it while at the beach with her.  Spending time with Peggy was amazing and filled my heart up to bursting.  Peggy was my Young Women's leader when I was a rotten teenager, and her love and kindness towards me was priceless.  She always liked me, even when I was generally unlikeable. She was the ultimate example to me of what it meant to be a strong, powerful, feminine, gospel-centered woman, and I have kept that image in my mind all these years. I adore her.  We stayed up until the wee hours a few nights in a row, talking and laughing and crying. I can't wait until next time. Coming home to our sweet kids made leaving paradise a little easier, and getting a glimpse of the Chicago skyline as we flew in made me realize that I'm lucky enough to have two places that I'm proud to call home.

Friday, August 9, 2013

In Which We Run!

I need to start posting about all the fun we've had this summer, lest my children don't have documentation proving they are having the best childhood ever.  I will start with the Color Run! Earlier this summer, we "ran" the world's happiest 5K in downtown Chicago and had an absolute blast.  The word "run" is really used as more of a mosey in this case.  We overheard one lady, who was clearly in-it-to-win-it,  lamenting to her friend that "No one in this race is in any kind of hurry!"  Yup. My kind of race. If have a chance to do this run, you totally should.  We had all 5 kids in tow, and they did fantastic.

A Glorious Day in Chi-town.  Even waiting for the race to start was a big party.  Music, T-shirt cannons, free frisbees, bracelets, sunglasses, and lots of fun people. I promise you've never seen this many happy people at 7:30 am.

The Twinkies wanted a better view, so Seth (clearly in training for the World's Strongest Man competition) just threw them up on his shoulders. I seem to take a lot of pictures of Seth lifting very heavy things--like our children.  I make no apologies.

Oliver was far too fascinated with his own hands to look up for this picture. But you get the idea. Stuff got dirty. Awesome!

If you follow me on instagram, you've already seen these pictures. But since my mom doesn't even know what Instagram is, this is for her.  I hope my kids don't always have a fondness for face tattoos like they do now. Please bless they never pull a Mike Tyson on me.
Chanel makes everything funner.

The guy in front of me obviously took the brunt of that purple dye.

We made it!

Right at the end of the race Bennett's tooth fell out! He was pretty stoked to have a green tooth--not something generally encouraged in the dental industry.

After the race we headed over to Millenium Park to play in the Crown Fountain.

The front of the fountains (there are two huge ones facing each other) have pictures of different people's faces on them, that make different facial expressions.  Every few minutes the face spits out a huge blast of water from the mouth.   

Seth and the kids waiting for the mouth to shoot out the water....

the mouth water cannon. Both creepy and super cool.

The lesson learned from all this is:  My family is awesome, Chicago is awesome, 
The Color Run is awesome.  The end!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

In Which I Honor Jan

Yesterday I lost a dear friend/mentor/mother figure and kindred spirit, Jan Brinkerhoff, to her battle with cancer.  In losing her, my mind has gone back over the memories, lessons and example she was to me--and I wanted to write them down.  I know my words will be inadequate in expressing everything she was and everything thing she has meant to so many people, but I hope it gives the slightest glimmer into the woman that she was, and the legacy she left behind.

As a girl, I knew all my friends' parents. I would happily greet them, and them me. I enjoyed being in their homes, and felt like they enjoyed having me there.  But being in the Brinkerhoff home was different. None of my friends' parents greeted me with hugs and kisses, asked how I was doing, and genuinely cared about the plights and joys of an 9 year old the way they did.  Being in their home was magical, and I felt like family.  I remember Phil taking us to Chuck E. Cheese (where I first discovered that Ali hates cheese, a dislike she has to this day), and Jan getting Cinnabon (the new big thing in the 80's!) on Saturday mornings after a sleepover.  We swam in the freezing pool and played our favorite game--where you couldn't touch the ground, so you had to come up with very clever ways to get around the perimeter of the house.  My memories of being there are all happy, and I cherish them.  In my mind's eye I see Jan at her kitchen counter, talking with me and sharing insights and advice that has stayed with me my whole life long.

Jan was the epitome of class. Her elegance and style was impeccable. She was never flashy, but understated and perfect.  I recognized this at a very young age, and I remember complimenting her on the way she always looked so pretty.  She then explained the basics of building a wardrobe with timeless pieces in neutral colors, then adding accessories to add flair and style.  I was 10.  I also had a mullet and a mis-matched outfit on, so you can imagine that it seemed like a world away when I would ever "build a wardrobe". But wouldn't you know---I think about what Jan said almost every time I go shopping.   As a tween I went through the "uglies" something fierce.  You know....that time when you are no longer a cute little girl, but you haven't hit puberty and everything is just a little askew? There was no part of me that could have been considered cute.  And yet, Jan very thoughtfully held my hands as I sat on her couch one night and told me how beautiful my fingers were, and how perfectly shaped my nail beds were.  I'm sure she never gave that conversation another thought--but I have held that compliment with me my whole life.  Years later after I had my first baby, I visited with Jan and Phil in Jennica's home in Philadelphia.  Bennett was about 6 weeks old, and I was embarrassed at how big I was. I had gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy, and I felt ashamed at my size.  When I saw Jan, she of course hugged me, and complimented me on how nice I looked.  I told her how I felt about my body and she told me I needed to be patient with myself.  That it takes time, and that I should enjoy this time with my baby instead of worrying about fitting into my old jeans.  I've had 4 babies since then, and I remind myself of her advice every single time.  She had such a gift of making people feel so valued, and loved.   Being with Jan made me feel like my best self, and I came away from every single interaction with her feeling happy and uplifted.

There are certain things I didn't realize about Jan, and her incredible grace and strength until I became an adult myself.   The house the Brinkerhoff's lived in when we were kids was high on a hill in Hope Ranch.  It was gorgeous. It was Jan's dream home, and to me it seemed like a castle.  When I was in junior high, they moved from their hilltop castle to an apartment in town.  It honestly never occured to me to question why.  I enjoyed hanging out at their apartment just as much as I did their big house on the hill.  It was still the gathering place for tons of friends and activities--and to me, nothing had really changed.  It wasn't until much later that I learned about how Phil had lost his job at the bank, and how they struggled.  Monetary status defines so many people, and the loss of a house like that would cause so many people to become bitter and angry.  Not Jan. Her home was a place of love and warmth and happiness--not because of the size of it, but because of the people who lived in it.  I didn't fully appreciate the measure of her character until I understood the details surrounding their move years later--though none of it surprised me at all.  She handled their challenges with optimism, grace and faith. As always.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of having Jan and Phil in my home, where they'd come to visit and support Ali as she ran the Chicago marathon.  I was going through a really rough time with my family following a very painful estrangement.  She listened as I told her about how hurt I'd been, and how I had lost hope of things ever being repaired. There was never any judgement as she listened and gave some excellent advice that helped change my perspective--and ultimately led to healing my heart.  I replayed that conversation so many times in my head as I tried to apply her message of forgiveness.  My ability to move forward was, in large part, because of Jan. It wasn't long after that that she started her battle with cancer. 

Less than a month ago I was reunited with the Brinkerhoff family as we celebrated Ali's wedding.  I was able to spend a little time with Jan, and tell her how much I loved her and how grateful I was for her friendship.  It was painful to see her in a wheelchair, struggling in her own body.  So much of what made her Jan--her amazing conversational style, her smile, her wit---was gone, but her spirit was the same.  I felt so blessed as I sat in the sealing room of the temple with their family as Ali was married for time and all eternity. The spirit of love that filled the room was overwhelming to the point that tears ran down everyone's faces.   I was so comforted as I was reminded that families really are forever, and that our relationships will go beyond the veil of death. 

In a few days I will fly to Texas to celebrate her life, and laugh and cry with my friends as we remember Jan as a wife, mother, sister and friend.  She was an angel on this earth, and while I am so sad she's gone, I can't help but feel profoundly grateful.  I'm grateful for her life, her love, her legacy, and most of all, grateful for the knowledge I have that I will see her again. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

In Which We Homeschool: Part II

For the second part of this post I thought I would address the most commonly asked question I get about homeschooling, and give a run-down of our daily schedule.

"Don't you worry about socialization"? 

I have several answers for that one.  First of all--If you've met my kids, you probably noticed they are incredibly social. I've never been concerned with their social abilities. They have social skills in spades.  But in answering the question generally I would say that school does very little to foster socialization. 99% of the time in school they are told to STOP socializing. They get maybe 30 minutes in a school day to just socialize without being told to stop.  Kids socialize in spite of the school structure, not because of it.  Additionally, my kids have neighborhood friends, church friends, sports-team friends, and friends we've made being part of our homeschool group.  Most important to me is the fact that they are friends with each other.  Their bond as siblings has gotten so much tighter in the last year. They are all on team Malleycat, and it's awesome.

So what does a day-in-the-life-of-a-homeschooling-malleycat look like?

Once everyone wakes up and gets dressed we do breakfast, chores,  and then we get started with school around 9 am.  We all start with prayer and read scriptures. Then I give Bennett some independent work--like spelling, handwriting, or journal assignments while I start Lincoln and Eloise on Math. While they do their worksheets while I get Bennett started on Math.  As he works on his worksheet, I read with the Twinkies, after which they do handwriting or journal assignments.  Then they take a break while I do grammar and writing with Bennett. Then we take a break for lunch.

What is Oliver (age 3) doing during that whole time you ask? And what about Cooper (age 1)?  I haven't required anything formal from Oliver this past year--but he is all about "school"! He loves to be in the room with us (at our dining room table) working on puzzles, drawing pictures, doing his preschool workbook, or playing with the math manipulatives.  As a result he has learned a TON just being in the room with us.  In fact, he has started reading!  It's amazing how much of a sponge he is.  I plan to start working with him more this next year, and I can't wait! For the bulk of this first year Cooper has napped during a big portion of our schoolwork. Now that he's given up his morning nap, he is generally content to either watch Sesame Street, have a snack and play while we get our stuff done.  I'm not quite sure how that will change this next year, but we will go with the flow.   After lunch we do history a couple days a week, and the other days we do science.  All in all, we are totally done with school within 3 hours. It's fantastic! We have the rest of the afternoon to go on field trips, play, read, run errands, or whatever else we want.

Having that extra time makes things like sports practices or other evening obligations so much easier.  Gone are the days of feeling like we were constantly in a rush, with barely enough time to get home from school, do homework, go to practice, eat dinner and go to bed---only to repeat it the next day.  Gone are the days of Bennett coming home from school and starting a fight 5 minutes later. Nowadays it's actually pretty rare for there to be fighting in our house. Our home is peaceful, happy and calm.  It's my favorite place to be.

Another reason I love homeschooling is that I have time to teach my kids "life skills". My kids (ages 8 and under) can make their own lunch, chop veggies, vaccuum, clean bathrooms, change sheets, unload a dishwasher, fold laundry and put it away. We have the mentality in our house that everyone pitches in and the work gets done fast! When we were dealing with the hustle and bustle of the regular school day along with all our other obligations there just wasn't much time to dedicate to life skills--and the burden largely fell to me to do those things.  That's not to say I couldn't have found time to make sure those things happened with the kids, but more often that not I would find myself saying, "It's just easier if I do it..." thus depriving my little darlings of cleaning a toilet! Not anymore! When they used to complain about putting laundry away I implemented the rule that if you complained about it, you put everyone's laundry away. That only happened a few times before they learned that complaining about it never makes it better! Most of the time they do their jobs happily and sometimes without being asked. That makes for one happy mama.

Of course it isn't all rainbows and unicorns.  Teaching 5 year olds to read is possibly the most frustrating thing I've ever done.  I've made my kids cry during math because I lost my patience.  Sometimes I wish I had more alone time to just go to Target by myself in peace. Sometimes my house is messy because there are so many little bodies dirtying it faster than it can get cleaned.  But at the end of the day, teaching my kids at home has been the most rewarding job I've ever had. I am constantly learning right along with them, and I love that feeling.  I love seeing them excited about what we're doing, and being part of that process.  It is my absolute honor and privilege to be their mom.

Raising and educating kids is all-consuming for any parent, regardless of how you choose to do it.  I'm a big believer that what works for one family, doesn't necessarily work for another--so I hope this is read with the understanding that I in no way think that my way is the only way one can successfully raise bright, hard-working kids. I'm just thrilled to have found such happiness and joy in taking our journey into homeschooling, and thought maybe this would provide some insight into what really goes on in the life of a homeschooling family! 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

In Which We Homeschool: Part I

I am frequently asked about our decision to homeschool.  Answering the question why we decided to homeschool can be a tricky one to answer.  People sometimes assume that when someone expresses an opinion about what's right for them, that automatically means they think everyone else is doing it wrong.  Saying, "we didn't feel like public school was really meeting our kids' needs" can sometimes be interpreted as, "Public school isn't good enough for our kids."  Or if I say, "We wanted to have more involvement in our kids' education" people hear, "We just want our kids to be sheltered, weird, socially illiterate oddballs." Which, of course, is completely and totally true.

As a result of the many questions and comments I receive, like...

"How do you know what to teach?"
"I could NEVER homeschool!"
"My kids would fight all the time if they were home together all day"
"Do you use a certain curriculum?
"How do you teach different ages all at the same time?"
"Aren't you worried about socialization?"

I've decided to write a two-part blog about the journey we took to get to homeschooling, and report on how it's gone this first year.   I asked those exact same questions and made those exact same comments before we started, and now I feel like I can answer each of them! To start though, let me tell you how it is we came to homeschool:

The first time I started considering homeschooling was when Bennett started full-day Kindergarten.  I always thought I'd be thrilled when my kids started school, but the reality was very different.  It surprised me how the feeling of sending him off to school didn't sit well with me.  I chalked it up to just being sad about my baby growing up.  But it was more than that.  It was a feeling I couldn't shake.  I occasionally toyed with the idea of homeschooling, but would quickly talk myself out of it.  During that school year, I observed every single day how Bennett resisted going to school. And how every single day he would come home and within 10 minutes there would be a fight in our house in an attempt to re-establish his dominance as alpha-dog. It was totally frustrating, and I had no idea what to do about it. I figured these were normal growing pains, and hoped it would change as he started 1st grade.

The next school year started out much the same: I had a sinking feeling in my stomach and I hated that every morning he became upset at going to school.  By this point academically it was clear that Bennett was very bright, and ahead in a lot of areas.  He often finished his work before others, which led to a lot of free time for him to get into trouble.  It was out of character for him, and getting worse. It was at this point that I began to seriously consider homeschooling, and not just imagining, "What if..."  I could see that school was made to be one-size-fits-all, and I knew it wasn't fitting. 

The real clincher for us though came when it was time to register the Twinkies for Kindergarten. Having twins provides a unique perspective. You can see clearly how two kids, born at the same time, can be so vastly different. They each had their own strengths and weaknesses, and it became obvious that one style of teaching wasn't going to help them achieve their own potential.  The thought of sending them to school made me really uncomfortable.  I never considered myself over-protective or a "helicopter parent", so I couldn't quite figure out why I was having this reaction.  I finally started praying about it, and that's when things become clear.  I remember the night we decided to make the leap.  Seth and I were talking and he said, "the idea of sending them away all day just makes me sad." We realized we would never know if this would work for us unless we did it.  We were comparing school to a hypothetical situation, so of course we couldn't know exactly how it would turn out. But I knew how I FELT, and once we made the decision, I felt like a weight had been lifted. There were still so many unknowns, but I knew we were doing the right thing for us.  There are statistics and studies about homeschooling, there are tons of resources, groups, blogs and opinions--but nothing was as important to me as the feeling of peace I had as we took that first step.  I sent Bennett to school on the last day of 1st grade with a letter withdrawing him, and haven't looked back.

Next began the research phase.  I thought about how different it is to homeschool now than it was 20 years ago. Back then I imagine the resources were hard to come by.  Now, in our digital age, the challenge isn't in finding resources, it's sorting through the endless amounts of it! I read a stack of books 4 feet high about homeschooling, started researching different curriculum, reading blogs, reaching out to friends who homeschool--anything I could to learn more.  I came to learn that the styles and methods of homeschool were as different and varying as the people homeschooling.  There's everything from "unschooling" to the "Classical method", and everything in between.  Finding what fits your style, and works for your kids is probably the biggest challenge to start with. There isn't a right or wrong way--and what works for someone else, might not work for you.  That's the beauty of homeschooling--you get to make it what you want!

Of everything I read, watched, listened to and learned--the single most valuable resource was the book, "The Well-Trained Mind".  It completely jived with me, and I knew I had found my teaching style.  It addresses how a child's mind operates, and allows you capitalize on the different phases of development, while suggesting lots of options for materials to use in each subject. It is my homeschool bible, and I refer to it often.  Though I don't always do things exactly like the author outlines, it has been a great starting point for me while I gain the confidence to create my own path.

In my next post I will go through a Day-in-the-life-of-the-Malleycats, since that was what I wanted to know about homeschooling families before we started, and I'll answer some of the questions about socialization that frequently come up.

Monday, March 25, 2013

In Which We Take Care of Each Other

Recently Seth and I were talking about his mom, Susan, who has been gone for 8 years now, but whose influence will always remain.  Each time we left the house she would always say the same thing: "Take care of each other".  They were also the last words she ever said to us.  Simple words that left a big impact.

In the last few weeks I have heard more bad news from and about people I love than in the last two years combined.  My dearest childhood friends and their family are struggling as their mom (and absolute inspiration, role model and kindred spirit to me) is battling the final stages of cancer she had triumphed over a few years ago.  Another friend just suffered a miscarriage after being completely shocked to find herself pregnant following years of fertility treatments, losses and the difficult pregnancies and births of her two children.  My sister is currently fighting an unknown illness that no one can diagnose (House, where are you in real life?!) A friend of ours with three little boys is still reeling from the shocking diagnosis of stage three breast cancer at age 34.  Our other friends find themselves unemployed and wondering how much longer this stage of limbo can last.  The sweet woman I visit teach just lost her 40 year old daughter to cancer while dealing with her own cancer diagnosis.  In this life-- tragedy, heartache and suffering will touch each of us, but it seems like it's touched the lives of so many people I know and love lately that I feel overwhelmed with the feeling of helplessness as I watch them navigate their way through their trials.

This morning as I read scriptures with the kids, we found ourselves in Mosiah--reading about the covenant of baptism, and the promises we make when we're baptized. I read this very familiar passage, but understood it in a very different way.

"....and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light: Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn: yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God"

Instead of using the words "one another" and "they" and "those", I substituted the names of all the people I know right now who are struggling--so it read like this:  "Willing to bear Meredith's burdens, that they may be light"..... "willing to mourn with JoAnn"....and "comfort Liz who stands in need of comfort".  It definitely made my role in other people's suffering very clear: I may be helpless to change the circumstances, but I am not helpless to ease the burden.

One of the most powerful lessons I learned after having my miscarriage was the blessing it is to receive.  It was such a sad time, and the friendship and kindness of others absolutely buoyed me up.  I learned that the simplest gestures made me feel loved, watched over and not alone. I learned that people sometimes don't say or do anything because they don't know what TO say or do--and that it's unintentionally very hurtful. Having gone through my own suffering has helped me know how to help someone else when they are suffering.  Feeling like someone cares, and that you are not alone is universally important to someone who is struggling.  Being able to use that experience to help someone else gives meaning and purpose to the suffering we've gone through.

I'm not sure what else I could possibly say on the matter that hasn't been said by so many before me. I guess I just had this amazing moment when I realized for the umpteenth time that this is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. We are here to help each other get through the tough times.  He made the way possible for us to return to him...but getting there requires the love, help and support of all of us.   And for every bitterness we endure, it makes the sweet that much sweeter.

Susan's words are an echo of the Savior's.  "Take care of each other" is the legacy she left for us, and it's the legacy I hope to leave for my children. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

In Which We Ring in the New Gyro!

 Each year we pick a country and learn all about it in preparation for our "trip" there on New Year's Eve.  We decorate, dress the part, feast on traditional food, listen to the music of that country, and play some sort of traditional games or sports.  Last year's visit to Mexico somehow resulted in the kids pretending they were donkeys and took turns giving each other rides.....so please understand I use the term "traditional" somewhat loosely.  This year's celebration went like this:

Location: Ancient Greece
Costumes: Toga Party!
Menu: Gyros on homemade pitas with tzatziki, spanikopita, roasted lemon-garlic-oregano potatoes, Greek salad, baklava, and ryzogalo (greek rice pudding)
Music: Zorba the Greek Pandora station
Excitement Level: Very!

The feast was a total success.  By total success I mean everyone tried everything willingly and without any resistance at all.  That's kind of a huge deal---because spanikopita is not generally high on the list of things Lincoln is excited to eat. 

After our feast, we prepared to participate in the Olympics! Wrestling was up first. Each kid got the chance to wrestle Seth Greco-Roman style. Luckily they think it's hilarious to get completely pummeled over and over again.

The next event was archery

Our last event was a very official game of ring toss. Also, you're welcome for the sneak peek at Oliver's bum. 

To conclude our festivities, we always end by lighting sparklers and counting down to the New Year (even if it is only 8 pm)

If you'll indulge me in a moment of reflection-- 2012 was an amazing year for us. Cooper joined our family, rifts were mended, memories were made, friendships were strengthened and above all we felt the love of God in our lives each and every day.  Each year of my life gets better and better, and I cannot wait to see what 2013 brings.  Happy New Year!