December 29, 2009

Sweet Stache*

Look what we found in our stockings! Santa knows us all too well.

* defines a sweet stache as a mustache that is totally gnarkill or just looks devilishly good on someone. Yep, we got 'em, and they are mighty sweet!

December 28, 2009

Christmas Eve '09

For Christmas Eve dinner, we like to eat food from different cultures around the world. This year, we decided to go to Christmas Island and have a festive luau complete with Kahlua pork and fresh pineapple. The kids raided the dress up and decoration boxes to add to the ambiance.

Mele Kalikimaka!

Following dinner, we each opened one present. Our Christmas Jammies!

  • Tomas–Lego Stars Wars PJs for him. Santa then brought him a light up, double-ended, blue light saber that makes sounds!
  • Liam–They have to have snowboarders on them. These will be nice to get into and sit in front of the fire after snowboarding lessons.
  • Chloe–These jammies are perfect for Chloe who is really into graphic design and typography.
  • Katie–Katie's pajama pants are her favorite color, green, with cool looking Christmas trees.
  • Me–Plaid PJs for me, and you can never go wrong with flannel.
Oma and Opa joined us for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

After we took pictures, it was time for one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Several years back, Chloe and Liam decided to put on a Christmas show for us. They performed it up in the loft overlooking our living room where we sat below. The first couple of years, it was a variety show of different dances and musical numbers. Two years ago, they performed a puppet show of the nutcracker, and last year they put on a puppet version of Charlie Brown's Christmas.

This year, we were treated to Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. This is a movie I remember from my childhood. It's been put on many lists as one of the worst movies ever made, but as a kid, I remember really liking it. Last year around Christmas, a local TV station actually showed it, and I introduced the kids to this fine cinematic holiday classic. We all had a good laugh, and we sing the theme song throughout the year.

A very dear friend of ours used to join us for Christmas Eve, but she has since moved to North Carolina. Because she couldn't be here, I videotaped the production. This is for you, Tracy!

Click here for the synopsis. I highly suggest skimming over it before watching the puppet show. Otherwise, I think you'll get kind of confused. Don't feel compelled to watch the whole thing. To get the whole effect, you really had to be there.

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to present Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!

Here's a close up of some of the puppets.

The Martians are coming!

All in all, a wonderful Christmas Eve! Great food, great entertainment, and most importantly, great family!

December 27, 2009 a Buggie in a Ruggie

When it comes to Christmas, and gift giving in general, Katie and I have had to do some adjusting over our 20 years of marriage. Katie likes to receive more, shall we say, practical gifts. While I, on the other hand, like to receive gifts I would typically never buy for myself but would love to have. It's actually a little more complicated than that. I like to receive a gift that I know the giver has put some real thought into. So, over the years, I've learned that Katie doesn't really want that collectible porcelain Christmas figurine, and Katie has learned I would rather buy my own dress socks.

This year, Katie and the kids scored a home run, and got me this...

...a Jack Skellington Snuggie! (photo taken with the webcam while blogging) Ever since I first saw that thoroughly obnoxious commercial for the Snuggie, I've secretly wanted one. Our family loves the movie, Nightmare Before Christmas. Tomas picked out the pattern just for me, and knowing that, makes me love it even more. I know I'm going to get a lot of use out of this Snuggie–blogging, TV watching, reading, napping, etc. Hey, this thing is so comfortable, I'd wear it at work and church if I could. Here's hoping it one day becomes socially acceptable!

Thank you, Katie, Chloe, Liam, and Tomas!

For all you naysayers out there, "Don't knock it till you've tried it."

December 26, 2009

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

As always, things around Christmas are hectic, so we didn't make it to see Santa until Christmas Eve. Sadly, I think this tradition only has a couple years left–three if I'm lucky. Chloe and Liam went along to humor me. They have been threatened within an inch of their lives not to spoil anything for Tomas, and I reminded them of the rule in our house that if you don't believe in Santa, he won't bring you anything. So, here is Santa Picture 09. Tomas made the comment, "I don't remember Santa being short." He was a bit vertically challenged, but very jolly.

Another tradition is that the kids have always written letters to Santa, and I'm sure we have them all stashed away somewhere. Since Chloe and Liam believe Santa already knows what they want, they didn't write letters, but Tomas, who is five and just learning to read and write, decided to write his completely by himself.

Here is a scan of the actual letter. Below is a transcription and translation.

Dear Sata,
I woot a Play Mobile
and I woot a Nerf
and I woot Army man sdaf

Dear Santa,
I want a Play Mobile
and I want a Nerf
and I want Army man stuff.

Tomas asked me if it was perfect, and I answered, "For a five year-old, yes, it's perfect." 

December 24, 2009

Special Daddy-Daughter Bonding

Christmas Eve 2009

Why? Why is it that Chloe always says I'm embarrassing. I plain just don't get it!

December 22, 2009

America Gets Slammed!

A student I work with is leaving soon on an LDS mission to Sydney, Australia. One day last week, she was talking with a couple of other students. I wasn't trying to be nosy, but when I overheard words like "cookies," "chocolate," and "hot cocoa," my ears immediately perked up. I went over and found out they were talking about the Tim Tam Slam, a supposedly famous Australian custom.

The Tim Tam Slam is the practice of sucking hot cocoa, or some other hot drink, through a Tim Tam, an Australian chocolate covered cookie. Once the cookie begins to melt and collapse, you eat the cookie. The students said that Tim Tams were now being sold in the U.S.

Well that evening, I happened to be in Walmart. Usually, I avoid going into Walmart at all costs, but it was late, and it was the closest store open. As I headed towards the checkout, a sale sign caught my eye. And, there they were–Tim Tams made by Pepperidge Farm! I had to give them a try.

At home, Katie, the boys, and I gathered around mugs of hot cocoa with the Tim Tams. We each bit off the corners, counted down, inserted one end of the cookie in the cocoa, and then sucked away. We were surprised how fast it went, but as soon as we felt the cookie begin to collapse, we shoved them in our mouths. Although this first attempt was a bit messy, the best way Katie and I can think of to describe the experience is "a flood of chocolate bliss in your mouth." It was so amazing that we couldn't stop! We finished off the package, so nothing was left when Chloe came home.

I've since been spreading the news about the Slam. Last night, we had the Mc's over for gourmet hot cocoa and Tim Tams. Here I've posted the experience for posterity.

Later this week, my in laws are coming to town. I can't wait to introduce them to the Tim Tam Slam.  And of course, I know better than to video my mother-in-law doing the Slam and post it here. I would lose my hard earned status as favorite son-in-law. (Sorry, Jon. It's true.)

So America, go out and pick up a package of Tim Tams and slam away!

And to that blessed soul in Australia who thought this up, thank you!

Unrelated side note: HOLY COW! That bald spot on the back of my head is bigger than I thought. The next time an infomercial comes on for the Hair Club for Men, I just might pay attention.

December 18, 2009

Squawkin' Around the Christmas Tree

This week, Liam's guitar class performed with the school band, orchestra, and choir for their Christmas concert. Most of the kids have only been playing their instruments for three months. And although they did a great job, there was a heck of a lot of squeaking and squawking going on. Each clunker note was very endearing.

It brought back memories of my first band concert. My elementary school band played the slow movement from Dvorak's New World Symphony. As I remember it, I was pretty good at the trumpet, and our band wasn't half bad. However, this memory might be a little faulty. My guess is that, in truth, we sounded very similar to what I heard at Liam's school.

Here is Liam's class playing "Jingle Bells." The video quality's not so great because I used our old digital camera, but you'll get the idea.

Liam's class also played "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." The kids had to sing while playing, which proved to be the undoing for many of them. But still, I loved every strange chord. I'm looking forward to many more concerts.

To show off Liam's true guitar skills and send out a little holiday cheer, here's a little something we recorded using the webcam on our computer.


December 12, 2009

A New Christmas Tradition

When I was little, I remember my mom making an elaborate gingerbread house each Christmas. After the holidays were over, she would pack it away to be used again the following year. However, I would always find out where the house was kept and secretly break off pieces of candy and frosting to eat. I always started with tiny little icicles on the back thinking no one would ever notice. But, it never took very long before I was systematically removing all the M&Ms first and then moving on to the gumdrops. By the time the next Christmas came around, it looked like a derelict abandoned gingerbread house. To think about it now, my mom could have gotten one more use out of the house if she had created a couple of candy and frosting ghosts, added some candy corn and black licorice, and displayed it for Halloween.

This year, the Mc family invited us over for Family Home Evening to make gingerbread houses. We bought a kit from the store since we had no clue what we were doing. Mary Ann, however, made theirs from scratch complete with real "glass" windows made from melted Jolly Ranchers.

Below is what Tomas, Liam and I came up with. With the kit, it goes very quickly. Tomas and Liam's strategy was to pile on as much candy as possible. This proved problematic especially with the chimney which kept sliding off. I think next year we'll be adventurous and try making ours from scratch, but I think the boys and I will have a few architecture and engineering lessons first.

(click to enlarge)
Tomas and Liam can hardly wait to get their hands on this.

The Mc's built a series of three attached houses and decided to go for the Hundertwasser style. Hundertwasser was an Austrian artist and architect. He came up with some pretty wild things. We saw several of his works in Vienna this past summer. You can read about it here. When Katie, who arrived late because she was teaching class, and Chloe, who joined the fun later because she had a lot of math to finish, the Mc's let them help with Hundertwasser gingerbread house.

In my opinion, the final result is a culinary masterpiece. Hundertwasser would be very proud. I think next year we should try Gaudi or Gehry. Or, I would love to try something in the style of Otto Wagner, the art nouveau architect. His buildings are some of my favorites in Vienna. 

That amazing detail is going to be fun to pick at!

We had such a great evening together. I think this needs to be a new tradition. So, the first Monday of December is now gingerbread house building for FHE. However next year, we'll invite the Mc's over to our place. I felt kind of bad for the giant mess left in their kitchen.

December 11, 2009

The Christmas Season Can Begin

For most of the past twenty years, we have attended the BYU German Department's Adventsingen* in the Provo Tabernacle. This is a program of German Christmas music and readings held on the first Sunday in December. Katie and I have also sung with the men's and women's choirs for probably more than half of those performances. Last year, Katie took over the direction of the entire production, and she does a great job. This year the evening was especially wonderful because it brought back many wonderful memories of our Austrian trip this past summer.

Here we are in our Trachten (traditional German clothing). Katie is one of the few women who can pull it off and look mighty sweet in a dirndl.

And my jacket actually fits! Katie brought it back from Germany when she and the kids were there three years ago, and I had to stay home because of my new job. Somehow she got the wrong size, and when I tried it on, there was no way I was going to get it buttoned. I figured one of the boys could have it when they got older. However, since losing some weight this past year, I can wear it.

I look forward to Adventsingen each year, a wonderful tradition. I know the stores, advertisers, and crazy people in my neighborhood who turn on their Christmas lights the day after Halloween would like the Christmas season to begin earlier and earlier each year. But, for me, this is when it starts. The music, the reading of Luke 2 in German, and the setting–it all just puts me in the right mood.

*There's a little controversy here about whether it's spelled with one "s" or two. I vote for only one since this program was originally patterned after the Salzburger Adventsingen, and that's how they spell it.

Who Needs a Snowblower?

It snowed during church. When we got home, I asked the boys to help me shovel the walks. We did a quick job of our sidewalks and driveway and then moved on to the our neighbor's sidewalks on each side. After clearing a path on the sidewalks, Liam and I decided we had done enough and wanted lunch. As we headed indoors, I looked back and saw Tomas still going at it. I told him he could quit and come inside, but he answered, "Dad, the job's not done until it's done."

Whoa, hold on! Where did that come from? I know I probably never said anything remotely like that to my parents, and I'm pretty sure Tomas probably didn't learn it from his older brother and sister.

Tomas said he wanted to finish the neighbor's driveway. I said OK and went in for lunch. Ten minutes later, I went outside to check on Tomas, and he was still going strong. I asked if I could help, but he told me he wanted to do it all by himself, so back inside I went continuing to check on him every ten minutes. After about an hour, he had completely cleared the neighbor's driveway with his little kid-sized shovel. And, he did an excellent job, too.

I believe this behavior is to be strongly reinforced. I have been praising him up and down (and ignoring the eye rolling of his siblings). I keep telling my kids the reason we had them was to help with chores. Why is it that Tomas is the only one who gets it? Maybe we can rent him out.

Think about what he'll be able to accomplish when he graduates to an adult-sized shovel!

December 08, 2009

Turkey Day Thanks

We FINALLY have our computer back. It's been gone while HP was fixing the left click button on the touch pad. Why I had to send it in to them and couldn't get it fixed at an authorized repair place (like a car) is beyond me and still irks me, but the main thing is that it's back and I have a lot of catching up to do.

First of all, Thanksgiving happened. Over the river and through the woods we went to Oma and Opa's house in Preston, ID.

We took a chance and brought Scooter with us. For the most part, he was well-behaved except for constant barking at random things.

(click to enlarge)
Is that a mop? He does have eyes. I took him to Preston's Plush Puppy for a haircut, but I haven't taken an after shot yet.

Uncle Jon took Liam, Tyler and Isaac to the field across the street for the Turkey Bowl. It was Liam and Tyler against Jon and Isaac. Since I wouldn't have been a help to either team, I was the sports photographer. I don't know what the final score was, but Liam said his team won. And that, of course, would be thanks to Uncle Jon.

    And man, it was dang cold!

    After the Turkey Bowl, I ran in the annual Preston Turkey Trot. This year, I won my division. Actually, I came in first overall! (Of course, I was the only one who ran the race.) I actually did a 5K Thursday through Saturday. I signed up for the Skinny Santa Challenge at work. To win, you can't gain more than two pounds during the holiday season.


      "I am the champion, my friend!"–but what a dumb look on my face.

      Here are the kids at the Thanksgiving table. If you look closely, you can see they obviously loved the rolls. I think that was their main food staple for the weekend. Well, rolls with pie. But hey, it's Thanksgiving.

      The cousins had a great time together. In the pictures below, you can see them playing in a tent they set up in the basement with Katie's help. Another classic Thanksgiving tradition is the annual trip to visit Toyland in the local Kings. Each kid gets a few dollars to buy something. Liam and Tyler got suction cup dart guns, Isaac got refills for his cap gun, Audrey got a princess crown, purse and earrings, and Tomas got a Speedracer car. Fun treasures!

      Kings is the kind of store that has a little bit of everything in it, and some of the stuff you wonder why they have it and how long it's been there. And the really fun thing is how you can find the most random items next to each other. For example, it would not be unusual to find florescent orange hunting caps next to ceramic cartoon character figurines next to knitting yarn next to hard boiled egg slicers. You can even find things like these.

      Now, don't they just look purty? I wouldn't let Katie and Chloe buy them though. It's too close to Christmas, and who knows what Santa might bring them.

      So, those were the parts of Thanksgiving that I remembered to take pictures of. Here are a few memories I didn't have the camera out for.
      1. Playing Bananagrams, a game introduced to us by Jon and Kristen (very addicting)
      2. Not shopping on Black Friday, but opting to sleep in instead (aaah, sleep!)
      3. Watching BYU beat the University of Utah (BYU should have won by a lot more, but a win's a win.)
      4. Putting on a skit for the family get together talent show where Katie was the Swedish Chef and the kids and I were fat turkeys (I sure hope no one was videoing.)
      That was Thanksgiving 2009. It was a nice break spent with family. To close this entry, I leave you with this picture.

       Ah, what a classy family. I'm not sure why it's black and white. That's how Opa sent it to us. Either that's how I set the camera up by mistake, or Opa changed the photo to have that old timey Keystone cop silent film look.