Thursday, December 29, 2011

Kindness to a Stranger

My in-laws are awesome.
In our ward here in Moody, a young man, Kevin Jackson, just left for his mission. He was called to serve in Australia. He left Tuesday for the MTC in Provo, UT. His parents were unable to make the trip to Utah with him and I'm sure they worried about him finding his way from Salt Lake down to Provo. In comes my father-in-law. Spencer called his dad a week or so ago when he found out that Kevin would not have his parents with him in Utah. He asked his dad if he would be willing to go pick him up at the airport (they live about 50 minutes from the airport) and then let him stay at their house (to avoid hotel costs). Steve, with no hesitation, said "of course". Steve went into work on Monday so that he could take Tuesday off to pick him up.
Tuesday afternoon Steve picked up Kevin at the airport and then went with him as he toured around Temple Square and the Conference Center (Kevin had never been there). My mother-in-law met up with them to eat at In-N-Out Burger (another place he had never been). At one point, Spencer called his dad to see how everything was going. And he asked how Kevin was and all Kevin said was " good but it's so cold here. It's so cold." Then they took him to their house where he was able to Skype with his parents and say goodbye. On Wednesday morning, they made sure he got to the MTC on time.
I am so thankful to have wonderful examples of kindness. Steve and Barbara had never met (or even heard of) Kevin before this and yet they were more than willing to take care of him. I know his parents are thankful for all they did for Kevin. And we are thankful for their service. Thank you, Steve and Barbara, for your kindness and your example of service and love. We love you!

Christmas Day pictures

Here are some of the pictures we took while opening presents Christmas Day.
Ayden helping Tate open the gift he got for  him
she was confused why her grandparents gave her a book with a guy on it
Spencer sporting the new shoes my sisters gave him
My mom made slippers with silly eyes on them and Tate didn't like it
Ayden opening Madden NFL 2012 from his aunt
Tate finally got into opening presents and wouldn't stop. He plowed through them
Tate opening his very own Minion from Aunt Katie and Uncle Adam
Ellie was so excited for her new ballet slippers
All 3 showing off their Nana slippers. Tate didn't like them and through a fit

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas 2011

Our first Christmas here in Alabama was great. It was weird having Christmas without snow or family (but family says there wasn't snow in Utah anyway). It's a tradition in my family to drive around looking at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve and us Shaws added hot cocoa and donuts to that. While driving around we noticed things that are different from Utah such as: the life size Santa mannequins that seemed to be at every house (some were creepy stuck up in the attic window with a spotlight) and how people will put lights around their yards... on the ground. With no worry of snow that is an option! We listened to Manheim Steamroller and had fun.
Once we got home, we finished making cookies for Santa, read a few Christmas stories (The Polar Express, some from Nana James) and then we read from Luke while the kids acted out the Nativity. Ellie was Mary (of course), I was Joseph (ayden didn't want to be), Ayden was a wise man, and Tate was a Shepherd. It was a true family Nativity with kids not listening to their part and the Shepherd kept stealing the Baby Jesus and laying in the manger.
Christmas morning the kids got us up at 7am and we had a family prayer before going out to see what Santa brought. I never used to believe my parents when they would say that seeing our excitement was gift enough for them, but I truly understand that now. My kids LOVED their gifts and were so excited. Ellie has long wanted a Rapunzel Tower and Santa did not disappoint. Even though we were up early, we didn't open all our gifts before church. We only let them open 2 gifts before and had to wait for the rest. But they were really good about it
At Church, we enjoyed a music program which included the ward choir, primary and a few solo pieces. I accompanied a friend while she sang O Holy Night. The accompaniment is 6 pages long and I needed a page turner so Spencer went up with me and sat by me at the piano. Amy did a great job and I did pretty well too (only 1 mess up at the end). After the meeting everyone kept congratulating Spencer on his great job. He thought it was funny that they would say he did a great job turning pages, but then they said "I didn't know you could play the piano. You guys sounded amazing." So it made it even funnier that they thought Spencer was playing with me! Nope, just me. I really enjoyed all the Christmas songs and the Spirit touched me.
Once we got home, the kids were ready for presents. We thought Tate would dive right in, but he really wasn't interested at first. He kept playing with Ellie's stuff (much to her annoyance). It was so fun to see the kids excitement at their gifts and to see what family had given us. We were blessed by so many this year and our Christmas was amazing.
We were able to Skype with my family and Spencer's. It was nice to see everyone, but it did make us more homesick. Spencer ended up having to go into work for a few hours so we had a late Christmas dinner. Our first Christmas in Alabama was wonderful.

p.s. I'll put pictures in another post.

I'm so happy I'm crying

Last night during dinner, we were trying to get Tate to say everyone's names and also to learn who he is. We kept asking him to point to "mama, dada, Ayden, Ellie, Dani, and where's Tate." Then when he pointed to himself we'd all clap and get excited for him. He LOVED it. It was so adorable.
Then we had him say the words. The only ones he can say are mama and dada but we kept asking him to say them. When he says Ayden it comes out more like "ayd". And then we had him say Ellie and he actually did. He said "Eh yee" and we all flipped! Ellie was so excited and laughing and that turned to tears. As she wiped tears away she said, "I'm so happy, I'm crying!" It was so adorable. It meant so much to her to have her baby brother say her name. Then she ran over and gave him a kiss. So precious.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The 12th Day of Christmas

On the twelfth Day of Christmas, my Heavenly Father gave me:
12 wonderful blesses throughout the year,
This year has been eventful for our little family with many changes and new experiences. There have been so many wonderful things among the struggles. These 12 are only a few and don't begin to count the many blessings we've been given.
1. New employment. We have been blessed with the job Spencer has in Marriott. It has provided us with many opportunities we never would have had. It's been good for Spencer to expand his abilities and push himself toward working up in the company. He started as a maintenance manager and has worked up to Asst. General Manager with goals to keep going.
2. A safe move across country. When we first contemplated moving our family from Utah, the thought of having to move everything we own, seemed daunting. We were very blessed to that the Marriott paid for our moving truck and expenses. And everything (and everyone) was moved from Utah to Alabama with very little trouble. 
3. Family and friends we left. The hardest thing about moving so far away was leaving family and friends. We have lived close to Spencer's family our entire marriage and my family was only a 11 hour drive away. We've been with family at every holiday including birthdays. And my family has been able to come visit throughout the years. We took for granted the blessing it was to have family nearby. Our families have always supported us in our decisions (or kept their mouths shut when they didn't! ) and have helped us through many struggles. Our kids have never known a life without their extended family and that is such a blessing. 
Friends. Our neighborhood in Utah was amazing and we had so many good friends. I was literally a wreck the day we left. I could not stop crying! We have grown so close with people there. Our children grew up with the kids next door (or a few houses down, or behind us, or across the street, or a street away). We were so blessed to have amazing neighbors who would look out for our family when we needed it. The Lord blessed us with truly amazing people.
4. Safety through tornadoes. Spencer left us in March to move to Alabama. And in the end of April was when the day of tornadoes hit. Spencer was a part of it, but only at a distance. He was kept safe while we were apart. And also our house we would be moving into. There was no damage to it. All would be well for us.
5. Happy children. Our 3 kids are amazing. A big move away from everything they knew could not bring them down. They have been so happy here. They grew closer over the summer months as they relied on each other for companionship and entertainment. They have comforted each other when one misses friends back home. 
6. Wonderful new friends. Once again, the Lord has blessed us with wonderful people in our lives. The first Sunday we were all here, many people warmly invited us to the ward and asked if we needed anything. Only a week after being here, new friends started emailing information about good doctors, dentists, mechanics, hospitals. And anything else we asked for or about, friends stepped up to make us feel welcome. We have settled in to life here very well because of the blessing of good friends.
7. No broken bones. I know the year isn't quite over yet, but I'm claiming this one! For the past 5 years, one member of our family has broken a bone. We've had broken legs, wrists, collarbones, toes, and elbows. But not this year! I think the Lord knew we already had enough on our plate and gave us this blessing of health!
8. Skype. This has been a wonderful gift and blessing for us. My father in-law gave us the web-cam last year for our birthdays and also a matching one to my parents so we could talk to them. I don't think Steve knew how handy Skype would come in! Our kids love being able to see their grandparents and aunts/uncles and cousins. Helps us feel close to our family far away.
9. Good school/teacher. One of our biggest concerns was Ayden being in a new school. But his teacher has been great in helping him adjust. She says he was so shy (and even a little scared) the first few days, but he has opened up more. She says he will never be as loud or "obnoxious as some of my native Alabamans". She's very direct and upfront with what she says! All the kids have questions for Ayden about snow and mountains. And he's even been a good missionary.
10. Funny kids. Every day one or all of my kids will say or do something that is so off-the-wall and hilarious. I love that my Heavenly Father blessed me with these wonderful spirits. Sometimes I forget what a blessing they are and they will do something to remind me. They make our lives what they are: happy and full. 
11. Christmas season. We have been so blessed this Christmas by family who have made our Christmas away so wonderful. Our kids have anxiously waited for packages from each grandparents and aunts/uncles. It's not just the present they are excited for but that their grandparents have thought of them. We have been blessed with wonderful music, movies, stories that have helped to bring the Christmas spirit in our home. We have felt the love of friends and family and it has made our Christmas happy.
12. The Gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true and real. No matter where you are. Our testimonies have grown as we've been tested and tried this year. We know that each struggle or trial is given to help strengthen us and teach us. We have leaned on the Lord and his Spirit more than ever this year. We know our Heavenly Father is mindful of us and has watched over us. He has blessed us in so many ways. 

The 12 Days of Christmas have been fun to do this year. Some have been silly and others more meaningful. But each day, I have been reminded how wonderfully blessed I am.
  

Friday, December 23, 2011

The 11th Day of Christmas

On the eleventh Day of Christmas, the TV holiday schedule gave to me:
11 Christmas movies to watch
So here's a confession: I love Christmas movies. Ok, that's not much of a confession, but this is: I love corny, cheesy Christmas movies put out by Hallmark or Lifetime. Don't know why because each one is the same, but I love them. I can't wait until after Thanksgiving when the holiday movie schedule begins and my corny movies start showing up. There are always new ones, but the same ones from years before too. My husband teases me and it's become quite a tradition for me! Here is a list (in no particular order) of the Christmas movies I've watched this holiday season, some are from Hallmark or Lifetime but others are from TCM.
1. The Santa Clause
2. Holiday in Handcuffs
3. White Christmas
4. Trading Christmas
5. The Polar Express
6. The Ultimate Gift
7. Holiday Affair (1949, a new favorite)
8. Undercover Christmas
9. Christmas Vacation
10. Holiday (1938, another new favorite)
11.Scrooged
I didn't include a lot of the Christmas movies my kids and I have watched together. We just love Christmas movies and the holiday season always keeps us entertained and feeling the Christmas spirit.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The 10th Day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas, the Alabama weather gave to me:
10 minutes of a good rain in which my kids just had to play
They begged me to let them outside and play in it. And since it's not cold outside I let them. They raced cars in the gutter and jumped on the trampoline.
And when they came inside, it was time for a warm bath. After their bath, we all cuddled up on the couch with hot chocolate to watch the Polar Express.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The 9th Day of Christmas

On the ninth Day of Christmas, the family gave to Tate:
9 different readings of the same book!
Tate loves to be read to, particularly from a certain counting book. Nothing fabulous about it but he will randomly bring the book to you and sit in your lap for the story.
(the pictures are all from different days over the past 2 weeks)
Today was no different: he started off the morning by bringing the book to Spencer in bed and snuggled up for a good morning read. And then throughout the day, he kept bringing that book to us. No matter where we put it (or hide it), he finds it and immediately wants to read it. We probably read Tate this book more than 9 times today, but I lost count!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The 8th Day of Christmas

On the eighth Day of Christmas, my marriage gave to me:
8 years with Spencer.
Ok, so today isn't our anniversary but we have been married for 8 years and today is Spencer's birthday. So I  just combined the two.
I love this guy! I am glad that I married someone I love to spend time with and who can make me laugh even when I don't want to.  Spencer is so good with our children and they are so eager to spend time with him. They adore him! I love that he strives to do what's right and set a good example for others, especially at work. He is always sharing little bits of the gospel with them. He can be such a goof sometimes, but he has a strong spiritual side that I have learned to love and appreciate. 
I am thankful that we could spend his birthday together and hope he knows how much we love him.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The 7th Day of Christmas

On the seventh Day of Christmas, Moody Elementary gave to Spencer:
7 (plus 8) singing kids at a school Christmas party
Spencer was able to go to Ayden's class party and got to experience all the fun and chaos that can be!
Ayden's teacher, Ms. Isdell, also teaches the piano so she takes every opportunity to get them to listen to and sing to music. So they sang Christmas songs as a class. Ayden was not that enthused. The song is set to BINGO and says "who is the man in the big white beard? Could SANTA be his name-o"
video

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The 6th Day of Christmas

On the sixth Day of Christmas, I made for my Taters:
6 pages for a quiet book.
Tate isn't the most reverent child at church so I decided to make him a book to help.
buttons and peek-a-boo numbers
zippers and buttons
peek-a-boo letters and peel the fruit
I just used left over scraps from a baby blanket I made Tate. As usual, I didn't have a pattern, I just went for it. So some things turned out great and others not so much. But the whole purpose is for Tate to have a quiet book so it doesn't have to be perfect. Merry Christmas little dude.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The 5th Day of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas, my family gave to me:
5 perfect birthday moments
Today is my birthday and my family gave me a wonderful day.
1. I was woken up at 7:30am with a finger poke to the forehead (from Ayden) to breakfast in bed. Ayden and Ellie had prepared breakfast for me: a waffle with strawberry jam, strawberry yogurt, and bowl of cereal (common things I eat for breakfast). They sang out "happy birthday, mom" and then before I had time to react Ayden snapped a picture. (I refuse to post it, for my own dignity) This was the kids' idea. Spencer was at the temple for an early session and Danielle had already left for work with instructions to let me sleep in for my bday. But they had other plans, and I'm so glad. It was one of the best birthday presents I've ever had.
2. It has become a tradition in our house to do birthday posters (homemade, hand drawn) and the kid were so excited to make sure I had mine!
3. While drawing the pictures, Ayden said because he was writing the number 28 so many times he kept thinking he should be writing 828. And he said, "but Mom would be really old." And Ellie goes "uh, she'd probably be dead."
4. Spencer made my choice of dinner. And prepared it all, I didn't help with anything. He wanted me to relax and not have to do anything. During dinner, I made a comment (don't remember what) and Ellie goes "Mom, you crack the crap out of me." We were all so confused and finally figured she meant "you crack me up"!! the giggles didn't stop for awhile.
5. Spencer and the kids made me a special birthday treat: Jello Chocolate Mousse. They made me go upstairs and wait for my surprise. I loved this birthday treat for several reasons: it's chocolate! and Spencer told me he picked this one because #1 he had a coupon and #2 it was 110 calories. Love it!!
I love that Ellie is plugging her ears
Right before bed, Ellie said "Mom, I looked out the window and wished on a star that you would have the best birthday. Because I love you."  It was the best birthday and I love my family so very much. Thank you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The 4th Day of Christmas

On the fourth Day of Christmas, my family gave to me:
4 uninterrupted hours with my hubby.
We went to do some shopping while my sister stayed at home with the kids. It was so nice to just be alone and to spend time together.  Spencer has a crazy work schedule and we don't get much opportunity to do things without kids. But tonight we left around 7:15 and when we got back the kids were in bed so we still had the rest of the evening to spend with each other.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The 3rd Day of Christmas

On the third day of Christmas, my family gave to me:
3 quiet, content children watching a Christmas movie
They really love the Santa Clause movie and have watched it multiple times. Throw in a bowl of popcorn and they are in heaven!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The 2nd Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas, Alabama gave to me:
2 frost free cars.
These cars were parked outside overnight and there was not a bit of frost or ice to scrape off this morning. As much as I do miss snow, it is nice not to wait 15 minutes while the car warms up and the windows defrost. Today our weather is sunny and warm in the 70s. Ayden wore shorts to school and we will probably go to the park to ride bikes. Gotta love it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The 1st Day of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my family gave to me:
1 HUGE STICKY MESS
courtesy of Tate
Tate showing off his messy face
I found Tate this morning playing in the sugar. Ellie got out the sugar and didn't put it away and Tate found it. And he helped himself to it
And then he decided to get a big drink of water (from Ellie's cup) and water + sugar = sticky mess
The only way to get him clean and unsticky was to put him in the bath, which he loved. Maybe that was his plan all along.

Christmas Parade

A parade in December? Definitely not something that happened in Utah. But our town has one every year and the kids were excited to go.
Taters and Danielle
Ellie hates the sirens from the firetrucks and plugs her ears and leaves them plugged until any sign of the truck is gone. But she still managed to fill her candy bag!
Our friends the Hoppers joined us at the parade and Ayden and Ethan were so quick to grab candy.
Tate's favorite part was the suckers. It was really fun to celebrate the holiday season with a parade. And it was nice to get to bundle up (it was actually chilly that night) in coats and hats.

Christmas Party

Our church had a Christmas party on the 9th. It was great to get together and eat and enjoy games and music. Spencer and I were asked if we would do a musical number for the party and I agreed. I kind of threw him under the bus on that one! But he was a sport and we played a piano guitar duet. It was Spencer's first time playing in front of people and he was a little nervous. But he played great and we received several compliments. They had a few games for everyone to play (hilarious). The first was a game with balloons: the first group to fill Santa's bag with balloons was the winner.
It was hilarious to watch everyone's cheeks puffed out! The next game was called Dancing Reindeer and everyone was given a reindeer headband and the best dancers won! Our table actually won: we did the chicken dance and the macarena. After the Youth did a short skit, a special visitor came!
The kids got to visit with Santa in Santa's workshop.
Ellie refused to go sit on his lap, she had a sudden case of shyness.  We really enjoyed the ward party and had a great time as a ward family.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Snow... where art thou?

For the first time in my life there isn't snow on the ground in December. Growing up in Wyoming (and spending the last 9 years in Utah), I have gotten very used to the beautiful white stuff that falls from the sky during the winter months. Many a day after school was spent sledding or building snow forts. Every morning you scraped sheets of ice and snow from your car windows while you prayed it wasn't too cold for your car to start. And each night the snow looked beautiful against Christmas lights and trees looked artfully draped in beautiful white. Oh how I miss it. 
Alabama has it own winter beauty but I will always be fond of these snow covered mountains.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

O Tannenbaum

We put up our Christmas tree a little earlier than usual this year, right after Thanksgiving. Usually, we wait until the first weekend in December. But this year I am missing the holiday winter wonderland that I grew accustomed to in Utah. So I decided to put up the tree to get me in the holiday spirit.  We have a fake tree and it takes some time to get it set up. So we put on some Christmas Manheim Steamroller and got to work.
You can't tell by this picture but they were so excited to just have the tree up, no decorations or anything.
This looks like an old fashioned photo where no one smiles! And how formal she's dressed and posed, it made me giggle.
All 3 kids were so excited to put on the ornaments that they were pulling them out of the boxes faster than I could get them ready. And Tate kept taking them off the tree once we put them on.
The little stinker would not leave them alone! We had that chair for us shorties to reach the top and Tate used it as his personal spot to play. 
Through the whole process, Ellie would exclaim "oh, this is just gorgeous. don't you think Mom?" Finally, we got it decorated to perfection, well as good as it was gonna get with Tate going behind and reversing the process.
Once again, don't know why their poses were so formal! I'm glad we got the tree up and that we did it together. Were there times I wanted to pull my hair out? Were there times they were fighting and I wasn't as patient as a mom should be? Of course! But there were times we were all laughing, singing, and smiling. And all those things make it family time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Visitors

Our friend Meghan and her husband, Brian, came to visit us this week. I actually met Meghan my freshman year of college through my friend, Tash, and then after Spencer and I were married she was roommates with my friend(again Tash). So we got to know her more and eventually became really good friends. And that friendship has grown over the years. 
They have been on a cross country trip for a few weeks and were able to make a stop here in Bama. We hadn't met Brian until this week and were very excited to have them here for a few days. As soon as they were settled, the kids including Spencer were begging Meghan to show them gymnastic tricks(she was a gymnast for BYU and coached for San Jose State). And of course the kids got into it too.
Brian was a huge hit right from the start! He has so much energy and the kids thought he was very funny. I guess at first, however, they didn't quite get all his jokes. But they still thought he was awesome.
Tate, was a little wary of him at first, however.
I love that grumpy face! 
Ellie almost instantly fell in love with Meghan and wouldn't leave her alone. She found a friend. She loved to cuddle with Meghan, color with her, and especially do Meghan's hair.
They brought their dog, Bo. And we were a little concerned about how the kids would handle that. My kids are freaked out by dogs. And to top it off, Bo is a german shepherd/husky mix which equals BIG dog. To my kids he was a horse!  But they loved him. Well, Ellie and Tate did. Ayden tolerated him really well. Tate kept following him around saying "Bo Bo Bo Bo". And Ellie kept wanting to pet him and play with him. Poor Bo rarely was left alone. But he was so good with them, very gentle and patient.
On Wednesday we all went to the park for the boys to play football and let Bo run around. Ellie wanted to ride her bike so Meghan and I walked around the walking path with her while the boys got LOTS of energy out. Later that night, we "roasted" marshmallows on our patio. Brian brought out their little camping stove and we sat out eating s'mores. 
that's Brian all wrapped up in the blanket. 
Thanksgiving Day was spent watching football, eating snacks, and making the whole turkey dinner. Spencer and Brian got a little cuddly on the couch
look at that caress
almost a little awkward! After dinner, more football and naps. To be honest, it was only one nap...mine. I thought everyone was going to lay down and nap, but when I woke up after 2 hours (oops) I found that I was the only one that actually did. You know you have awesome hubby and friends when you get to sleep while they take care of the kids. Thanks guys!
We had such a good time with Brian and Meghan, and don't forget Bo. It was nice to visit and goof around and share some fun memories. We can't wait to do this again.