The Real Meaning of Christmas

I’m trying to keep the “Real Meaning of Christmas” a priority in our household.  So, every morning before school, I’ve been reading a bit of Luke II or whatever as part of our daily dose of Scripture Power. I expected this to keep the holiday Christ-centered, not as commercial, etc.

What I did not expect was the following conversation . . .

ME: ” . . . and the angel did speak unto the virgin Mary . . .”

JEFF: Mom, what’s a virgin?

ME: Erm.

ELEANOR: Yeah, Mom.  What is it?  They are always calling Mary that.

ME: [looks at watch; 10 minutes until school bell rings] It’s a . . . woman who is young and innocent?

JEFF: So that means you’re still a virgin, Mom?

ME: [nervous laughter]  No, no, I’m not a virgin anymore.  It’s . . . a woman who has never been married?

JEFF: [thinks]

JEFF: [thinks]

JEFF: So is that why people get divorced?  Because they want to be a virgin again?

ME: No, that wouldn’t make you a virgin again.  A virgin is a woman who has . . . never BEEN with a man [rolls eyes at herself] Or, a woman who has never had relations with a man [rolls eyes at bad Monica Lewinsky flashback] or, erm . . . erm . . . errrrururuuruuuummmmm . . .

And so on.  I think I kept stumbling over myself for a few more seconds, and then declared that “this doesn’t have anything do to with Christmas, anyway,” smacked the Bible shut, and sent them off to school.

I friend suggested that I say a virgin is someone who is “pure,” but that’s not true.  I’m not a virgin, and I consider myself to still be pure, honest, faithful person.  All it really means is a person who has had sex, and the emphasis in the Nativity is about the miraculous aspect of Immaculate Conception, but that wasn’t something I wanted to get into right before school (geeez, who knows WHAT note Jeff’s teacher might send home) or in front of my four-year-old.  Ack, ack, ack.

Thanks a LOT, St. Luke.

Turkey Trot

My in-laws took us to “Eat Like a Pilgrim” at Thanksgiving Point this year.  It’s supposed to be an “authentic” Pilgrim-y experience, and I think the emphasis is on the quotation marks.  Want to party like it’s 1699 at home?  Then do the following:

  • Put no forks on the table
  • Provide napkins the size of Rhode Island (men wear ’em on their right shoulders for easier hand-wiping)
  • Put a baby goat in a nearby pen, thereby ensuring that no children stay seated for longer than 2 minutes
  • All women wearing jeans will be put in the stocks
  • Halfway through, a thoroughly oily-chested Squanto should come in and macho-goad everyone into a tug-of-war contest
  • Serve a berry pudding with a lot of refined sugar.  Trust me, the 10-month-olds in your party will LOVE this.  In fact, mine screamed, banged her hand on the table, and occasionally grabbed my arm while screaming and banging if I didn’t stuff berries in her mouth every 15 seconds.

Unless you are suffering from a sinus-pressure headache (which I was) the evening can be rounded out with stately Pilgrim dancing.  Jeff’s History Face was on full throttle.  To tell the truth, I was rather impressed by the setup.  They even had a calligrapher on hand — a CALLIGRAPHER! — to write out whatever you wanted on little slips of paper.  In retrospect, I regret not taking the chance to get something like “PWNED” written in swirly whirly script.

But, anyway.  Real Thanksgiving was just as much fun.  It was at my parents’ house this year.  We ate this many pies (I made a chocolate chess pie, a mango pie [not pictured] and a pear-frangipane tart):

. . . which was pretty much the only photo I took of the entire holiday.  Oh, except baby Emmy!  She’s my little niece and apparently the only other thing I found as beautiful as pie:

Meanwhile, we gave Katie her own little bowl of whipped cream for dessert.  I love this picture; it’s the epitome of post-Thanksgiving stupor:

Annnd . . . that’s it.  No pictures of turkey, no happy people seated around a table, nuttin’.  I snapped this photo when I got home so I wouldn’t feel so bad.  It’s a display of Thanksgiving crafts and whatnot that I put on our mantel:

Eleanor made this little ceramic dish at school, of which she is rightfully proud:

In other news, during Thanksgiving weekend, the kids were taken to three movies in three days.  All Hail the Muppets.  For them, I am truly thankful.

July 4th . . . Celebrated on the Actual July 4th

I love visiting my parents’ town, West Point,  for Independence Day.  Here’s reason #1:

Awwww.  Who’s cuter?  I can’t decide.  My dad took on the awesome task on Saturday of giving me a golf lesson.  He’s a great teacher — I actually made a ball go up in the air!  In the direction I wanted!  Sweet.

But here’s the main attraction in West Point:

THE PARADE!  As you can see, the Casket Man made a featured appearance, along with the plumbing-themed float.

Annnnnnnnd let’s not forget the candy. My kids quickly learned that jumping up and down and yelling “candy! candy! candy!” got results. The people in the parade threw gobs of the stuff down on us.

You know what I learned?  A piece of saltwater taffy thrown from the height of a fire engine can really sting when it lands on you.

Eleanor had brought her parasol along and found it handy for collecting loot.

Who can blame her?  Here’s the result:

Now, keep in mind that this is just 2/3rds of the candy they collected.  It wouldn’t all fit in that big bowl.  I picked out the lone chocolate item (an Almond Joy) right away.  Lollipops were put into service later that afternoon during our family viewing of Cars 2.  The rest was hauled off on Monday by Brian to fuel the endeavors of clinical pathologists at ARUP.  (Excepting the handfuls of stuff the kids grabbed when we weren’t looking.)

Dinner that evening featured a strawberry pie.  Featuring fresh strawberries from my mother’s garden.  It couldn’t be more perfect.

In the evening, we headed to the back of the West Point park to see the local fireworks.  West Point has grown enough in recent years to merit its own fairly impressive July 4th celebration.  I mean, they had a Beatles tribute band and everything.

The back of the field is mostly empty — the crowds are all at the other end of the park — so we had room to romp.  I threw a Frisbee around with Dad, Brian, and Alex (I haven’t Frisbee’d in eons).  Arial fireworks became legal in Utah this summer, and we could see mini-fireworks blasting into the air all along the horizon.

In the meanwhile, the kids ran around with glow sticks.  Many, many glowsticks.

My mom had found a big package of something like 30 glowsticks on sale.  There were enough to share with other kids nearby, and enough for experiments.  They made a giant ring to throw a football through.  Later they connected a dozen of them to make a glow-in-the-dark jump rope.  William looped them on all on his arms and legs, and Eleanor piled them around her neck and danced around.  Even Katie had a few wrapped around her car seat, to prevent people walking on top of her.

Katie, remarkably, was not afraid of the fireworks at all.  She just sat on my lap and smiled at them.  Eleanor, however, was once again curled in Daddy’s lap.  The rockets were going off right over our heads, it was fabulous.

The sad thing is that my camera ran out of batteries before I could take any pictures of the glowy-ness.  But perhaps it would be against Fate to have a  completely perfect day, right?

History Face

How long is July 4th?  One day, you say?  As in, that’s why it’s called The Fourth of July?


In Provo, July 4th is at least a week.  A week.  Which is why we spent the first half of our holiday weekend there, taking in “Colonial Days.”  This is an exhibit sponsored by a local printing press museum.  There’s a Civil War encampment on the lawn, an exhibit about the Mayflower, some guy making lead bullets over a campfire, and ladies in 18th-century dress knitting doodads with acrylic yarn.

Brian and I agree that this mismash of time periods should lead the organizers to rename the event “Olde Tyme Days.”

Need I even say that Jeffrey was in hog heaven at Olde Tyme Days?  He insisted on coming in costume — the tricorner hat was a Christmas present from Uncle Michael and Aunt Natalie — and once Eleanor and William got wind of this, they insisted on costumes, too.  That’s why, in the picture above, she’s wearing a pioneer dress two sizes too big, and why William is sporting a leather vest (Grandma came to the rescue with those.  Whew!).

Oh, and Katie was dressed as Napoleon:

As interesting as the various exhibits were (one was a big collection of famous peoples’ autographs, including letters from Mark Twain and Helen Keller), my favorite part of Olde Tyme Days was this expression:

We call this Jeffrey’s History Face.  He wears it whenever he’s learning about the past.

Even kicking back in an Olde Tyme chair is no reason to let down your History Face:

Eleanor, meanwhile, was given this little cornhusk doll:

And William got a snow cone.  A slushy, slushy, snow cone:



After Ye Olde Tyme Days, the kids got to visit our friend DeLynn and visit her horses and donkeys of various sizes.  Jeff made the mistake of walking into the stableyard with a bucket of oats.  DONKEY MOB!

I stayed at home and made a blueberry pie.  And then spent the subsequent hours chasing Jeffrey away from the pie.

This was probably not necessary, since the pie, while pretty, was not my best culinary success.  I don’t think the recipe included enough cornstarch in the filling.  It was more like “blueberry soup pie.”  But dinner also included a lovely spice-rubbed pork tenderloin.  It pretty much made up for soup pie.

After dinner we headed to a hillside in my in-law’s neighborhood to watch the firework display over BYU’s stadium.  (On July 2nd!  See?  I told you it was a week long thing!).  Eleanor, who is usually skittish with fireworks, was relieved to be so far away.

“Not too loud, not to soft — these fireworks are just right,” she explained before the display.

She ended up running to my lap for comfort anyway.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The best thing about St. Patrick’s Day is how easy it is to celebrate.  Just slap somethin’ green on your kids, and voila!  Done!  Putting green food coloring in everyone’s food is another good option, but I always forget.  I alwas intend to make my Irish-American Soda Bread, too (it’s sweeter and cake-ier than regular soda bread, mmm) but I forget that, too.

You know what I don’t ever forget?  SHAMROCK DONUTS.  From the Banbury Cross Bakery.  Them’s good stuff.

How about one more picture of cute kids for your pleasure?

I love Katie’s combination smile/raspberry.  It’s like she’s simultaneously thrilled by the attention and grossed out by cooties.  Love it.

Halloween Roundup

Halloween is a big deal in Utah, more so than anywhere else I’ve lived.  Maybe it’s because of the high number of children per capita.  Back when I was a children’s librarian for the Murray Library, our annual Halloween children’s program was the absolute #1 most popular thing we ever did.  To the point of where we had to issue tickets because otherwise so many people would come that it would violate the library’s fire code.  And then we ran out of tickets within the first two hours of giving them out . . . and so the next year, people began lining up outside the library before it was even open to get tickets.  All for a dinky Halloween storytime with Little Debbie snack cakes at the end!

If that ain’t a tale to send chills up your spine, I don’t know what is.

But.  Anyway.  Halloween: a big deal in Utah.  So we tried out some of the local fare, like Gardner Village’s “Breakfast With a Witch” program:

It was . . . odd.  The witch seen here is named “Brazzilla,” and like all Gardner Village witches, speaks English with a Ren Faire Folke dialect (eurgh).  But the kids enjoyed getting her autograph, and we also got to have all the pancakes we wanted, so it evened out.

Halloween is also the only time of year when I really enjoy making cookies.  I think because at Christmas it feels like an obligation, but at Halloween, anything you do is Bonus.  Years ago my mother-in-law gave us these puzzle-piece cookie cutters that can make little haunted houses.  We decorated these with the kids and gave them to neighbors:

And then we let the kids decorate these on their own.  Note the three-inch layer of frosting:

Our neighborhood did trick-or-treating on Saturday, Oct. 30, but unfortunately it poured rain the entire evening.  So this is the only photo we got that night:

Brian let Jeffrey carve his pumpkin himself.  Can you guess which one was his?

My mother and I made Eleanor a Sleeping Beauty costume this year.  Mom is amazing with children’s costumes — she even found this little spinning wheel at a thrift store for her.  Eleanor didn’t like posing with it, though.  Here is her “Okay, Mom, have I held the spinning wheel long enough?” pose:

But she loved wearing the costume at the school Halloween parade:

Jeffrey is wearing a knight costume that my mom made for my brother when he was eight.  Jeff was too wrapped up in Pretend Fantasyland to realize that I was taking his picture:

On Halloween proper, we went down to Provo so the Great-Grandma could “trick-or-treat” with the kids.  She is a big fan of the William, pictured here in a dragon costume my mom found at DI.  (Yes . . . my mom found all of the costumes this year.  Because she is Made of Awesome).

William was very proud of his costume.  Whenever someone complimented him on it (say, at preschool), he always puffed out his chest and exclaimed, “Yes, my dragon costume has FLYING WINGS!  And [turning around to show] A POINTY TAIL!”  My favorite part was that when he wore his costume in the car, the little purple horns poked up high enough for me to see them in the rear view mirror.  Just the horns.  Love it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day because there really isn’t anything else to do in mid-March.  The kids are very into it; they were thrilled to slip on green shirts this morning and tune in to the “Celtic Traditional” station on Pandora.

This is the inevitable result.  Enjoy: