Christmas Review 2010

Rachel had a haircut yesterday and was asked how her Christmas was. She excitedly told him what Santa brought her and talked about some of her other favorite gifts. When he asked her what she's been doing over her holiday break from school, she said, "Taking care of my sick mom."

I really hope that's not all she remembers.

This isn't the first year I've been sick over Christmas. And it probably won't be the last. Although we had to cancel/modify many of our plans, we were still able to fit a lot of things in. Special thanks to my mother-in-law, Gloria, for helping me pull things off.

A couple of days before Christmas, we went down to Salt Lake with Mike & Angie's family to play at the Discovery Gateway Children's Museum and to see the lights at Temple Square. Those aren't the best places to go when you're not feeling well, and Thaifoon definitely isn't the best place to eat when you are sick to your stomach, but I survived, and we all had a good time:

(All of my holiday photos are pretty pathetic. The battery charger to my camera was not found until after Christmas.)

On Christmas Eve day, we had a really nice lunch at my parents' house with all of the Malouf Family present. Speaking of the family, this picture shows most of the Ron Malouf Family after Thanksgiving dinner at Rickenbacker's:

But back to Christmas. My mom always does a quick little reenactment of the nativity with the kids. Lucy had been talking about it for a few days prior to Christmas Eve. "Every year, I always have to be the angel. Always the angel. Never anything else. I think Grandma gives us their parts based on our personality, so that's why I always have to be the angel."

Sure enough, she was assigned to be the angel. But a special request was made, and Lucy had her debut as Mary. She was fabulous. The kids also decorated sugar cookies. It was more like they used sugar cookies as a plate for their candy. Whatever you want to call it:

We went home a little early and I went to bed. Steve fed the kids a super-festive meal of pizza and soda. See the red and green:

Steve put the kids to bed. (I do remember that he asked if there were any special Christmas Eve pajamas for them to wear and I moaned back to just get them to bed.) After they were asleep, I got up and we went to work. We finished by 11:45 pm, a new record.

And then it was finally here, Christmas morning:

The little kids at 7:00 am, not wearing cute pajamas, but still cute:

The tree and the stockings:

Steve's traditional favorite-cereal gifts, usually opened on Christmas Eve:

Lucy and Adam, showing his stocking loot in his new wheelbarrow that Santa left under our tree: (I love it when gifts are so perfectly suited for a child that there is no need for a label and nobody has to question who they are for.)

And then it began. The reaction to Lucy's ipod was definitely my favorite. I can't get the video from my phone to upload, but it went like this:

Lucy: A fake iPhone!!!
Rachel: No, it's a charger for it!
Steve: Are you sure? Are you sure. . . ?
Lucy: Is it an iPhone?
Rachel: It's a real iPhone!
Lucy: It's fake!
Rachel: It's an iPod Touch.
Lucy: It's an iPod Touch?
Rachel: See, it's an iPod Touch!!! Lucy, guess what that is? That is like SO COOL.

Derrick even popped out of his chair to see it if was true. Rachel admitted she was a little jealous. Until she opened her own.

Derrick's opening of his Jordan shoes was a close second. You could see his eyes do a quick little double-take when he saw the box.

"What! Are you serious? I was joking. You know I was joking the whole time. I've said that for years, right? Holy crap! Sorry. But thank you! Wow. Wow! This is awesome."

(For the last three or four years, every time the girls have asked him what he wants for Christmas or his birthday, he has always told him he wants Jordans.) He gave the kids some high fives and spent the next ten minutes grinning from ear to ear, carefully inspecting each shoe.

And then it was time for me to open my humongous stash of presents that were To: Mom, From: Your Family:

My favorite was this small little treasure box filled with chapstick and custom modified with a lock on the side. (The lock is to prevent Kaleigh from eating all of my chapstick.)

My other present was a small little refrigerator (well, big enough to damage our kitchen floor) full of drinks. Steve's plan was to put it in our bedroom closet to avoid going downstairs to get me a drink on a nightly basis. I'm still getting used to this gift. (He refuses to let me return it.)

And then we were off to Steve's parents' house for lunch. The kids sat at a big table and got to use the fancy Christmas plates. Gretchen was way too cute not to take a picture of her:

The food was amazing. Absolutely perfect. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling well and didn't get to enjoy it. Everyone opened their gifts, and then I spent the next few hours sleeping.

Another notable gift. Ever since Adam was a baby, I couldn't wait for him to get a train for Christmas. Well, that day came and went a couple years ago, and it didn't turn out at all like I had dreamed about. He rarely played with it, and when he did, there was no excitement, no love. This year, Adam got a Hot Wheels 4 Lane Raceway from Richard and Gloria. Adam loves it! He lines up all of his new cars and races them over and over again. It has definitely been his "train". And yesterday, for the first time ever, Adam did jobs around the house to earn a new race car.

Some of my other favorite Christmas memories. . .

My beautiful new tree. The one that I waited three years to finally buy. And now I have to return it because of a recall on the lights. (Of course.)

Our pretty white poinsettia, purchased through the Junior League of Ogden:

Our string of cards at the front entryway. We have a new bench just below the cards, and I find Kaleigh standing on the bench, looking at all of the pictures on the cards multiple times per day. She never damages the cards or tries to pull them down, just looks.

And probably my favorite thing of all. Watching happy kids share their new toys with each other:

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas. I am finally feeling back to normal after going to the doctor yesterday. I have an abdominal CT scan in the morning and meet with a surgeon about removing my adhesions in the afternoon.

I only completed three out of nine of my top secret Christmas projects. So I guess that means I should get to work NOW so I can have them all ready for next year!


One of those days

Do you ever have one of those days where you have a million things to do and can't figure out how in the world you are going to fit it all in. And then you get sick and accomplish absolutely nothing?

That was yesterday.

I was looking forward to being ready for Christmas a little early (earlier. . . as in before 3:30 am) this year. But I still have the second half of the Christmas cards to address and mail, neighbor gifts to deliver, stockings stuffers to prepare, and other really fun stuff, like laundry so my family has clean clothes to wear. (Overrated.)

And if I ever find my camera charger, I might share some new pictures of fun things we've been up to. . . like Kaleigh's birthday party and a wonderful Ballard Family Dinner that turned into an early Christmas for the kids.

Until then, I'll leave you with some wonderful news for all fans of Burt's Bees lip balm. Western Family has come out with this generic version of Beeswax Natural Lip Balm. I bought a twin pack at Macey's the other night for some ridiculously low price like $1.29. And it's wonderful.


Resurrection of the iPhone

This is Steve's original iPhone. Well, technically, it's his third iPhone. But since he went through number one and number two in a matter of months, we call it his original iPhone.

This first-generation iPhone has been through a lot. It was dropped on the ground hundreds of times and was even lost out on the golf course for a night. When Steve went back to see if they had found a phone, the groundskeeper returned it, soaking wet from the sprinklers. Over time, the shattered screen caused some visibility issues and Steve even got tiny glass splinters in his thumbs a few times. Amazingly, the phone still worked.

But when The iPhone 4 was released in June, Steve eagerly replaced his battered phone and tossed it in his nightstand drawer.

About a month or so ago, I was reading on the internet about jailbreaking iPhones and came across an article about how to operate inactive iPhones as. . . basically, an iPod Touch. All I had to do was charge the phone, connect it to my computer, and open iTunes. . .

. . . And voila, we had an iPod Touch. Perfect for careless kids since, well, it had already been broken by their careless father.

The old iPhone has been the source of much entertainment, education, and far too much fighting. Before the resurrection of the iPhone, I didn't have any games downloaded on my phone. I didn't want the kids to have any more reasons to like my phone. (Rachel has a bit of an obsession with checking the weather forecast, sending text messages, checking my calendar, etc.) But now we have all sorts of amazing apps for kids downloaded on our phones. Here are our current favorites:

1. Talking Tom Cat (Free) Tom is your pet cat, and he responds to your touch and repeats everything you say in a funny voice. You can pet him, poke him, grab his tail, and give him a glass of milk. I actually don't really like the other features; the voice recording/repeating function is what I love about this app. I need to go back to the folks at Early Intervention who tested Kaleigh and show them what a difference Tom Cat made with her verbal skills. She likes to talk to/yell at the cat on a regular basis.

2. ConnectDots (99 cents) The Preschool Connect the Dots Game bridges the gap between traditional "Dot to dot" game and 21st century technology. Kids can tap or draw to connect sequential numbers, upper case letter, and lower case letters. Joining all the dots forms the outline of the shape and reveals the illustrated image, a sound effect, and the object name spoken by a speech therapist. With over 200 puzzles, children can randomly play from a number of different categories. Adam cannot stop playing this game and has learned the letters of the alphabet and how to count to twenty.

3. Ant Smasher (99 cents) We downloaded this app back when it was free, but it's definitely worth a buck. It's a basic game that helps develop hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. But to be honest, I love it for the awesome sound effects of the bugs splatting against the screen. And that Adam (accidentally?) figured out how to change the background to this picture of Lucy eating a worm all by himself. He really pulls off some amazing things every once in a while.

4. DoodleBuddy (Free) Electronic finger painting. What could be better than that? It also has cool backgrounds, stamps, and funny sounds.

So there you have it. We love our iPhones. Even the old broken ones.


Looks Like We Do Have Some Skills & Pay Your Tithing

I tried to take a nap this afternoon. It didn't work out too well. My phone kept ringing and buzzing, and then someone rang the doorbell.

"Mom! Rebecca's here!" Rachel yelled.

"Tell her I'm asleep," I mumbled.

"She says it's important and you can earn some money."

That woke me up.

Rebecca has a knack for finding good jobs. Like scrapbooking jobs for famous people that require her to sign confidentiality agreements not to disclose their identities that pay $50 per hour.

And I've had my share of easy money too. Steve and I used to walk down the hall of the TSC and have our financial aid counselor stop us. "Why don't you stop by my office? I found some extra grant money, and I think you two will qualify for it." And I'm pretty confident we made more money off of experimental studies at Utah State than any other students in history. Prescription coupons, Gap Rewards, I could go on and on.*

Anyhow, this afternoon, we all got to be models for a Similac advertisement. Twenty-five bucks a person. (All those kids come in handy every once in a while.) Each one of us spent maybe 45 seconds in front of the camera. We were back home within thirty minutes. . . with a wad of cash in my back pocket. It was pretty awesome.

(I really wish I would have thought to take a picture/video of Adam. Based on his performance today, he might have a future in the modeling business.)

*We have been given unexpected money and been blessed with strange ways to earn money, over and over and over again, immediately after paying our tithing. (Ten percent of our income that we contribute back to our church.) And even though I didn't just write out a check for tithing, what a great reminder this was of all of the times we have been blessed with situations like this right when we needed it most. I know that if I pay my tithing, things will somehow work out. They always do.


Skills to Pay the Bills

I hired a lady to come braid Kaleigh's hair last week. It cost $50 (a good price) and took her all of 35 minutes (and that was with an uncooperative child).

Do the math and that works out to $85.71 per hour.

(My mother-in-law says braids in the south can cost more like $250.)

Forget college. Law school. Medical school. And even pharmacy school. Just start training your fingers to braid hair.

(And you are welcome to practice on Kaleigh anytime.)



Rachel had her first ski lesson at Snowbasin on Monday. (Take a lesson on a Saturday and there are lots of kids in the class; go on a school day and there aren't any other kids in the class.) Rachel told me that I should stay home and clean the house so it would be nice like Angie's. And that it would be easier to find things if our house wasn't so messy. But I didn't want to miss out on the fun at Snowbasin, so. . . . well, sorry kids.

I packed a lunch and took the three younger kids up to cheer Rachel on. She quite enjoyed the audience and, after completing her two hour lesson, went up the Little Cat lift all by herself. The temperature was fairly warm and the slopes were empty. . . my kind of skiing. Too bad I am stuck waiting till next year. (Again.) We are really excited about Snowbasin's new Learn to Ski and Earn a Season Pass program and hope they do it again next year when Lucy is old enough to participate.

P.S. I updated to Blogger's new post editor to create my first draft of this post. (Dashboard>Settings>Select Post Editor>Select Updated Editor) At first, I thought it was going to be wonderful since you upload as many pictures as you want at once and can resize photos with the click of a button. But I didn't like the limitations with sizes, alignment, or that I couldn't figure out how to eliminate the spaces that showed up in between some photos. So I switched back to the old editor and started over. Maybe I will play around with it more later. Or maybe I will cross my fingers and hope Blogger fixes the issues.


Milligan Family Christmas Party 2010

On Saturday, we went up to Logan for the 2010 Milligan Family Christmas Party. It was held at the American West Heritage Center, and the views were beautiful. Ever since we went to Kyle & MaRea's wedding dinner in the Opera House six or seven years ago, I've thought it was the perfect venue for a reception. . . and even a Christmas party.

All six Milligan children were in attendance and 22 out of the 27 Milligan grandchildren were there with many of their spouses and children. (If somebody will email me some of the group pictures, I'd love to post them.) All together, there were about 100 people at the party. So many cousins were in attendance that regrettably, I didn't get a chance to visit with everyone.

The food was delicious and the games and entertainment were great. Too bad David didn't give in and show us his MC Hammer dance moves. Then it would have been perfect.

Kaleigh wouldn't sit still on the wagon long enough to wait for the carriage ride, so it left without her. She sure was mad and chased those horses clear across the field.

Sam threw a snowball at Lucy and made her cry, so I recruited her some help to retaliate. My kids sure had fun playing with many of my cousins' children. (I think you all should move closer.)

Thanks for the great party, Marilyn!


Happy Birthday to MFS

Happy Birthday to My Favorite Sister.

We look a lot alike in this picture, don't you think?

P.S. Thanks for the new blog header!


A Girl and Her Shoes

The first thing Kaleigh asks for when she wakes up in the morning is her shoes.

As opposed to Rachel, who used to wake up saying, "Book, book, book, book."

Or Lucy, who wanted food.

Or Adam, who still wakes up and immediately wants to watch Curious George.

Kaleigh plays with shoes all day long. Which means that I put away shoes all day long. Oh well, it keeps her from eating my chapstick.

. . . . . . . . . .

Okay, back to work on my top secret Christmas projects.


My Friend, Pam

I wish everyone could have known Pam.

She worked as a mental health counselor at the Ogden jail.
She moved away from her comfortable home, near family, and bought an old Victorian house down the street from me.
She drove a white Volvo wagon and looked like one of those classy ladies featured in Real Simple Magazine.
She showed up at her first neighborhood watch meeting with a new Blackberry phone and interrupted the officer to ask him if she could take his picture.
She and her husband bought matching cruiser bicycles and rode up and down the neighborhood, meeting everyone they passed.
She took the girls on bicycle rides and introduced them to the secret paths at the Eccles Art Center.
She called her Lucy of Narnia; both girls beamed whenever she was around.
She, very lovingly, wrapped Rachel in a warm blanket when she fell asleep on her bench at the neighborhood barbecue.
She walked to visit her handicapped son at the care center.
She looked everyone in the eye and greeted them with sincere kindness.
She wouldn't tell me the colors she had picked to paint her house; it was a secret.
She brought flats of chives to the neighborhood white elephant garden exchange. Enough to share with everyone.
She never said anything negative about anyone, or anything, for that matter.
She had plans to run for city council.
She had a way of telling me what she thought I should be doing differently, without being the least bit offensive.

And then she disappeared for a while, and I knew something was wrong.
She had been diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer. Stage 4, metastasized.
She was the first of a long list of our family and close friends who faced cancer that year.
She started her treatment and went back and forth to the hospital for chemo, tests, more chemo, and radiation.
She got a wig and told me how convenient it was not to have to do her hair.
She went on walks and told me she could feel herself getting stronger.
She texted me from Sonora Grill to say she had four generations of her family there for lunch.
She went to an auction and made me try on her new fur coat.
She cautiously showed the girls her chemotherapy port and explained what it did; she didn't want to scare them.
She listened to the girls recite the Articles of Faith, over and over and over again.
She told the stake president that of course her husband could serve in the bishopbric; it would be a great blessing to their family.
She told me I worried too much about her.
She came downstairs to answer the door, even though she was physically weak and exhausted.
She told me I was amazing in such a way that I believed her.
She was the only one left to pray for. Everyone else had finished their battle with cancer and won.
She hung on for 18 months, far longer than she should have survived.

And then she passed away. With courage. And dignity.

At the funeral last week, it was evident how many people Pam had touched in her life. She and her husband had a combined family of twelve children. Her best friend since middle school spoke and said, "She looked for the best in people and brought out the best in people."

For a long time, I thought Pam would somehow survive. She certainly had the faith. And Rachel and Lucy's nightly prayers were so sincere and humble. But more than that, I really felt like she was going to beat cancer because she was supposed to be my neighbor. She was supposed to be my friend. I just knew it.

Her son talked about the possible reasons why she lived longer than expected, enduring such great pain. And then suddenly I realized how amazing it was that Pam had such a great influence in my life in such a short period of time. She was my neighbor. She was my friend.

And I was so lucky to have known her.



No, I did not participate in November's 30 Days of Gratitude. And yes, I know it is December.

But I would like to share a few things that I am feeling very thankful for today.

#1 I am so thankful all of those spam emails have stopped. I was getting seven or eight of them a day sent to my regular email address and dozens sent to my yahoo address. And then when I passed them on to all of the contacts in my yahoo address book, I got even more emails (and phone calls) from people notifying me of what I had done.

Derrick was the first one I knew who got the virus. I told him he must have accidentally clicked on a link, even though he promised me he hadn't. (He was right; I was wrong.) I had never seen a computer virus spread like that before! And then we realized it was affecting Macs too. What?!? Which brings me to number two.

#2 I am thankful for technology, and more specifically, Apple products. I honestly don't know what I would do without my computer. I am also happy that so many friends and family members have converted to Macs, even though that means Mac users are increasing so quickly that viruses are now being written to target my computer. (More on my other favorite devices later.)

For now, you can enjoy a re-post of Rachel's video from March 2009. I just changed the setting of this video to make it available to the public. Last year, we received a few horrible comments (touchy subject?) and decided to make it private, but I just made it public again and disabled the comments and ratings. This is for you, Audrey:

#3 I am thankful to live in Ogden and be surrounded by so many wonderful neighbors. I don't think there are very many people in the world who can really say that their community is improving. Homes are being restored, crime is dropping, a city is being rebuilt. And I get to live right in the heart of it! (It isn't going unnoticed either.) I am so excited to see what the future holds. A new recreation center with an indoor water park and a Hilton hotel right across the street from Sonora Grill sounds good to me!

#4 I am thankful for Derrick. And that this miracle of bringing him from South Africa to join our family in Utah worked. Steve and I watched a special edition of Nightline last night that told the story of a reporter helping an Iraqi teen come to the United States to go to college. Things didn't turn out so well. You can read the story here: Reporter's Notebook: When Dan Met Dan.

Derrick has grown from this scrawny little boy we picked up at the airport into a responsible young man. Watching the reporter's story reminded us how different our outcome could have been.