As you're aware, I took a completely unannounced break from the blog during the last part of December. I was far from sitting useless, though, as I spent my time finishing gifts, wrapping gifts, crying about this, cleaning house, packing suitcases, and just generally running around with my head cut off.
I mentioned this was the first time since we moved to Wisco almost 5 years that we've been back with the mr's family for Christmas day. The kids were very excited to take a plane ride out the Grandma and Grandpa's, and even more excited to have a visit from Santa while we were out there.
The flight was cancelled due to a tremendous snowstorm. We weren't able to leave until two days later, which was a bit of a downer for the kids. We tried to make it up to them by showing them the lights around town,
rolling up giant snowballs,
and just generally trying to take advantage of the storm. It in no way made up for the delay, according to the kids, but at least we had fun.
We had an enormous amount of fun and flurry of holiday-ness once we arrived in Utah. On Christmas Eve, the family decided to act out the nativity.
We had enough people to cover the major roles, with the exception of multiple innkeepers and wisemen. The two parts were double cast. I thought the kids enjoyed themselves actually, and though I wasn't sure little mini quite understood the significance, I simply couldn't resist this sweet moment between "Mary," "Joseph," and "Jesus."
Afterwards, we opened a few presents. Earlier in the trip we had made some gingerbread (graham cracker?) houses, a car, and a circus train, so we let the kids dig into those as well.
Christmas day was low key. So low key I forgot to take pictures, apparently. But the next day we hopped on the new Frontrunner train up to Salt Lake:
We stopped at the City Creek Mall (which was new to my little family). The highlight there were the escalators and water fountains - I wish kids STAYED so easy to entertain... I loved how you could see the Salt Lake LDS Temple through the courtyard of the mall...
We walked to temple square and showed the kids around. It was their first time there and I loved their excitement when they discovered something new... the lights! The life-sized nativity! The Christus statue! The temple! The candles! It was wonderment and beauty to them, and it was contagious - despite the slush and freshly falling snow that soaked through even our wisconsin-hardened skin...
I told bug that the Christus was my favorite statue ever. He was enraptured with the stars, planets and clouds painted on the walls around the statue. Mini approached and made friends. Ever since seeing a replica of this statue in the visitor's center in Nauvoo, Illinois, I've been in awe. It strikes a cord deep inside me when I see the expression the sculptor was able to capture in Christ's eyes... how he molded His arms in an open gesture as if about to encompass me in an embrace.
After some time inside the visitor's center, we walked around the temple to view the reflecting pool. It was something I'd talked about to bug and he'd seen it in pictures, so he was excited to explore and really find out what it was like.
Sometimes I find myself wondering if those living in Salt Lake (or Provo, or American Fork, or tons of other cities in Utah) realize just how lucky they are. I wonder if they take the culture and proximity to the heart of the gospel for granted - like mr and I did when we lived there. It was just LIFE, you know?
Then I shake myself out of it and remember those in Africa who give up their livelihoods to take their family to the nearest temple - days and days worth of traveling away. Or those in countries who aren't free to practice the religion they truly believe in. And I realize I take things for granted out here in Wisconsin, too. My nearest LDS temple may be almost 4 hours away, but we are blessed to have even that.
And THEN I realize how ridiculous it is to think that the "heart of the Gospel" is in any particular city at all. I mean, isn't my "proximity to the heart of the Gospel" entirely up to me? Of course it is. It doesn't matter where you live. Christ is alive everywhere.
I admit, I could have spent much longer at the reflecting pool in front of the temple. The intimate manger scene set in the middle - where husband and wife marvel over this brand new life; this amazing soul entrusted to their care - reminded me of this talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, which is, quite possibly, my favorite talk of all time. I know Christmas is over, but it's still worth a read.
Unfortunately, it really was very cold and we were all incredibly wet by that point. The kids were hungry and tired and we needed to run to catch the trax that would take us to the Frontrunner and back home.
Later, mr's friends came over (some of whom he's known since fourth grade, which is amazing to me that he still considers them his best friends. How lucky we are!) We decorated cookies that mr's sister made and graciously let us use. We talked and munched and just generally enjoyed each other's company. The manly men made cookies in homage to Sesame Street.
A rousing game of Balderdash ensued - played via "weird Orem boy rules." It was all enough to make us wish we could pack up his family and friends in our suitcases and bring them back to Wisconsin with us.
All too soon it was time to return home. Delayed flights, running to catch connections, kids "dying" of hunger, fighting sleep, and driving home in snow later we reached our humble abode.
Then began a marathon painting and building frenzy with my dad to finish the kid's big presents. We had decided not to celebrate our own Christmas until we got home, so the kids wouldn't want to pack up every single one of their toys and take them with... so that meant I had a night and a day to finish everything...
Thanks to my dad's help I was able to present them with their highly anticipated (by me) DIY gifts. So big, I simply threw a blanket over them instead of trying to wrap them in any way:
For bug, a workbench, complete with "real tools" that he can pound on to his heart's content.
And for mini, a fully customized play kitchen, made trendy with stripes and mustard colored pom-poms so she can cook away.
Unfortunately, mini got sick as soon as we returned home, so the gift was met with only mild enthusiasm. The lukewarm reception, however, has been forgiven since. The kids are cooking everything they can get their hands on, and then washing the dishes to boot. That is, when they aren't nailing random "nails" into random toys.
Which, of course, makes all the insanity worth it.
And that, folks, is a fraction of what I did when I was away from the old blog. And now? I'm officially done looking back and ready to move on. Let's go!