Saturday, December 31, 2011

Live & Love Life 365 (December)

Day 335: Cousin Mikey came over to play with the boys this evening, and they were so glad! Kanyon has been praying every day for a few weeks that "his friend Mikey could come play"! I rented movies for us to watch tonight (one for the boys and one for Josh & I), and I enjoyed laying in bed with Josh watching our movie.

Day 336: Saw the high school play tonight with John, and we went for a bite to eat afterwards and sang karaoke with Amanda and Dustin. I had a wonderful evening out of the house. I loved seeing a theatrical production, eating some soup, and singing on stage!!!

Day 337: I stayed home all day and got projects done around the house, and it felt so good! Tonight I went over to John's and he fed me yummy dinner and I put up his Christmas tree. It was a delicious trade-off!

Day 338: I really enjoyed the Relief Society lesson today about miracles, and my lesson in Sunday School was about service and I loved giving it, too!

Day 339: Made peanut butter cookies tonight to have for dessert at Family Home Evening. I haven't baked cookies in a really long time, and they were good!

Day 340: My first class of the day was surprisingly wonderful--they're usually the opposite, and it started my work day off in a good way!

Day 341: Wednesdays are usually a very long and hard day for me at work. My last two classes were so well-behaved today, and it ended my work day in a good way!

Day 342: Josh and I went to my work Christmas party tonight and there was a lot of good food! It was delicious!

Day 343: Soaked in the hot springs tonight with Amanda, John, and Josh after we came home from Ammon's basketball game. It was hot, and we've never gone when it was so cold out! Walking out of the hot springs and dripping water on the cement caused it to form ice! We were alone there, and it was so relaxing for me!

Day 344: I got a lot accomplished today with projects, and it felt good! The boys helped Josh load wood and shoot pumpkins this morning, so I had the house to myself in order to accomplish more! Tonight, Josh took me out for dinner and karaoke and Amanda and John joined us, too. We had a good time together! I love dancing with Josh; it makes me so happy.

Day 345: Josh spoke in church today, and I enjoyed listening to him speak about keeping Jesus the center of our Christmas celebrations. As a family tonight, we watched the Amazing Race finale together. I sure love that show, and it's fun that the boys all like to watch it with us, too!

Day 346: I had a rough day at school, and I was so happy to come home and see that Josh made dinner and he gave me a big hug.

Day 347: Ammon's band concert was tonight, and he did a great job! I was so proud of him! His band group sounded awesome! I played the piano for the show choir at the concert, too. I was so nervous--that was the first time I've played piano at a performance for an audience since I was in high school! I messed up during two measures, but I was so grateful that I didn't screw it all up!!

Day 348: Today and tonight were crazy-busy. I had lunch with Josh and Kanyon, and it was nice to have some time {nearly} alone with my husband!

Day 349: The Kindergarten Christmas program was this morning, and it went so well! I was so proud of my students! Tonight was the ward party, and we sat by the Hobbs', Linger's, and Amanda and John and we had a good time visiting. After the party, John and Amanda and I hung out, and I haven't laughed that hard in a long time!

Day 350: Ammon played his last basketball game of the season tonight, and he did awesome! He scored 20 points and it was so fun to watch him play! After the game, we took the boys out for ice cream treats! When the boys went to bed, we went to Amanda's to watch a movie, and John came too. I just love being with my friends and family! I had an incredible night!

Day 351: I worked on the neighbor Christmas gifts this afternoon, and we took them around to our friends and family in Salmon tonight.

Day 352: We had game night tonight with Amanda and John and the Pace's and Malachi. It was so much fun! We snacked, and drank John's eggnog concoction, and played "Things" and "Music Scene-It". We laughed and had such a wonderful time together! I loved tonight!

Day 353: I was so grateful that I didn't have to go to work today. We are out on Christmas break for 18 days, and I got so much done at home! I completed my Christmas shopping, wrapped gifts, did errands for the golf course, went grocery shopping with Josh, and finished handing out our neighbor Christmas treats. It felt great to relax and not stress about work!

Day 354: I went to a birthday party for our friend Kevin tonight at John's house. We sang karaoke and snacked and talked and laughed, and I had a wonderful time!

Day 355: We drove to Utah today, and the boys were so good in the car ride. We visited Grandma Kathy in the hospital on the way. Tonight, we saw some really neat Christmas lights at a Tremonton home that were coordinated to Christmas music. Afterwards, I spent some quality time with my mom in her kitchen!

Day 356: We went ice skating this afternoon with Mick's family. Josh and I hadn't been ice skating in 15 years, and we've never gone together!! It was the first time the boys and I have ever skated in an indoor ice arena, and it was awesome! For two hours, we skated with Jen and her girls, and we had such a great time! I'm a terrible skater, but the boys steadily improved as we were on the ice. It was Kanyon's first time in skates and by the end, he could skate 20 feet unattended! I had so much fun!! This afternoon, I went to the temple and it was peaceful and quiet. And tonight we had a family Christmas party at Tawna's huge home. It was a delicious dinner, and we had a good time exchanging white elephant gifts and watching the kids do a nativity puppet show. It was a wonderful day today!

Day 357: This morning my mom helped the boys decorate gingerbread sleighs. After lunch, Josh and I took the boys to SLC. We went to IKEA first, where I bought the red leather loveseat that I've wanted to buy for years! I was so happy! Then we drove to Temple Square, and walked around for a couple of hours seeing the Visitors Centers and the Conference Center and the lights. We watched half of the "Testaments" movie, too. We went to eat at Costa Vida afterwards, and the boys had never eaten there before but they liked it as much as Josh and I do! Then we dropped the couch off at John's parents' house in Ogden so that he can deliver it to Salmon in his truck. Our last stop was driving through the 'Fantasy at the Bay' lights at Willard Bay. The line was extraordinarily long, and it took us over an hour to get through, but it was a good show! When we got back to Tremonton, the boys watched "The Christmas Story" in the living room and slept. It was a long, but full and happy, day!

Day 358: The boys opened a few of the gifts from Grandma this morning, and then we packed up and drove back to Salmon. The boys were good in the car for most of the drive, which was nice and unexpected, so I napped a lot as Josh drove. It was a peaceful Christmas Eve tonight. The boys watched a movie, then we read Christmas books, wrote letters to Santa, and acted out the nativity scene with figurines as I read from the Bible.

Day 359: Today was Christmas. We started out the morning at 7:30 with the boys looking at their stockings and Santa gifts. Then they took turns opening gifts, and had half of them opened when we stopped to eat breakfast, get dressed for church, and go to Sacrament Meeting. Church was so nice; I liked going for just the hour and fifteen minutes today! After church, Josh and I made dinner and his parents and Malachi joined us for the meal. Then we all took turns opening the remainder of the gifts, and we didn't finish until around 2:00. I loved having Christmas in my home today! It was a wonderful day!

Day 360: I put away all the Christmas decorations today. It took all day, but it felt nice to reclaim our home again. Josh burned the tree and wrapping paper in a bonfire and the twins loved watching it burn so fast! I also moved around furniture and changed pictures on some of the walls to change things up.

Day 361: I rearranged furniture and deep cleaned, and it feels so good to be in a new space! John brought over the red couch I bought at Ikea, and we put it in the family room and changed couches and chairs all around. It looks great!

Day 362: Tonight I went over to Denise's to create some vinyl lettering for the family room wall. I spent a few hours at her house and I enjoyed chatting with her. I felt sad today for no reason, so it was nice to get out of the house and create something with my dear friend!

Day 363: I put the vinyl lettering on the family room wall this morning. I love the look of it! I also cleaned off the desk in my room and made a few scrapbook pages, and I feel so decluttered and creative now!!! It rained last night, and it was so warm today. All the snow melted and the sun was shining. When Kanyon woke up, he put on his beach shirt and swimming shorts and couldn't wait to go play in the warm weather outside! He was so excited for dad to come home from work so he could jump on the tramp with him. Kimi came over this afternoon and I loved being with her! We talked, made food, ate dinner (Mikey came, too), played games, and watched youtube. I've misssed her!

Day 364: I deep-cleaned some more in my bedroom today, and it feels and looks so wonderful! Tonight I went to Kerry's house and we watched two movies and ate snacks, and I enjoyed watching chick flicks I haven't seen before!

Day 365: Josh drove us to the top of the mountain pass, and we went sledding on the ridge road where there was snow. Gid & Lys and Malachi came with us in the truck, and we spent two hours there. We packed down a trail on the road so that we could sled, and everyone took turns sledding and snowboarding and penguin sliding! It was so much fun! On the way home, Ammon and Malachi were pulled on their sleds behind the truck, and they rode for over 5 miles that way. I loved watching them! Tonight, we had the New Years Eve radio contest at Josh's parents house, and we won! We got all the songs and artists in the medley right! We did a few sparklers and fireworks, and worked on a 1000 pc. puzzle, and ate snack food, and played games. It was an awesome day!

Friday, December 30, 2011

12th Day of Christmas Memories

Before I began the 12 Days of Christmas Memories, I pondered in my mind the memories of which Christmases to share on my blog. Although I knew I probably couldn't remember things about 25 Christmases in my life (like I originally thought I would blog about), it was hard to choose just 12.
There were a few Christmases that I didn't blog about, like the Christmas when I was in 4th grade--the first Christmas we lived in Tremonton. A neighborhood Santa came to our home and surprised us for a visit on Christmas Eve. Afterwards, my dad told us that he had seen Santa on his rooftop when he was a kid. I questioned him over and over if that was true, and he stuck by his story. After we went to bed that night, I stay glued to my window to see if Santa really was real and if I could see him flying outside. After a few hours with seeing nothing, the anxiety got to me, and I threw up.

There were so many Christmases since we got married that I didn't share, so many good gifts that Josh has surprised me with over the years, and so many fun memories we have with our the Christmas of 2009 when we had to put the Christmas tree in our kitchen because there was no other room for it in the house. And we went sledding on Christmas Eve in Logan with my sisters and my brother Mick's family, and we had so much fun together! And the boys finally got a wii from Santa, and they played it all morning at my mom's house.

But I just decided that for this final blog post in this 12 Days of Christmas series, I would share with you our Christmas of 2011.

Now that I work full-time at the elementary school, my life revolves around the school schedule. December was a crazy-busy month. Our last day of school was December 15, and everything was crammed into those first two weeks of December. We were gone to multiple places every single night. The stress was getting to me, and I didn't think I would make it to Christmas Break as a sane person. The last day of school began with the big kindergarten Christmas music program in the morning, and I had so much to do for it. I'd had nightmares and couldn't sleep well for a week before it because of the anxiety it brought me. Thankfully, the program went wonderful and smooth and I was so glad! But around 11:00 that day, I realized that I'd forgotten to plug in the crock-pot that morning of soup I'd made and refrigerated the night before for the twins' class party at 11:30. I couldn't hold in the stress of the last two weeks' nightmarish and stressful schedule any longer, and I burst into tears in front of the 4th grade class I was teaching. I finally fell apart, and only 5 hours short of the arrival of Christmas Break.  Thankfully, my mother-in-law Kathy and my friend and fellow employee Kit came to my rescue, and it all worked out. So when school got out that day, I've never felt happier about beginning the long 18-day Christmas Break. Because the first 2 weeks of December were so over-the-top stressful for me, I've made it a point to just relax over Christmas Break. And that aspect alone has been the biggest influence on me enjoying this Christmas holiday.

Josh's work schedule is very slow in the winter. The golf course officially closed on November 1, and through the winter he works on equipment and trimming trees and winterizing the course and buildings. He's able to determine what hours he works, so he's been helping me a lot more with Kanyon. He babysits Kanyon in the mornings, then feeds him lunch, then takes him to school before he goes to work all afternoon. Because he's spent so many hours at home in November and December, he had time to do all the Christmas shopping. He spent a lot of time on ebay and other online stores purchasing gifts. I didn't feel any stress over shopping this Christmas because, for the first time in our marriage, he did it all. I never asked him to do it, he wilfully chose to. And since he likes shopping, it worked out well for both of us!

Also, for the first time in our marriage, he put all the lights on the Christmas tree. I usually do it, because I'm sort of anal about how I want it done. But I simply didn't have the time or energy to do it this year, and after the tree was in our house for a few days without any lights on it, the kids were begging to put the decorations on it. So one morning when he was home, he put up the lights on it. And he did a great job! When we came home from school that day, we were all so happy to see the lights on the tree, and the boys went right to work decorating it. Jonah, Micah, and Kanyon completely did it by themselves, which was also a first. Usually the boys only decorate their own little trees that they put in their rooms and I decorate the big tree, but they wanted to do the big one this year, too, and I let them. And they did a fabulous job! They brought chairs over from the kitchen so that the ornaments would be spread all around the tree: on all sides, and on the high and the low branches! I was so impressed with the job they did! The lighting and decorating of the tree was truly a gift to me from my husband and sons, and I loved admiring their work!

We went to Utah over Christmas Break the week before Christmas. On our way there, we stopped in Pocatello to visit Josh's mom who was recovering from surgery in the hospital. The boys did so well in the car, and it was nice to visit his parents and sister and take a rest from driving. We were in Utah for 3 nights, and we came home the day of Christmas Eve. Besides Katrina, we were the only ones at my parents house, and the house felt very calm: I talked with my mom and my dad alone, we watched movies, and the boys decorated gingerbread sleighs.

We also looked at lights together. There is one home in Tremonton that has a light show on their house that is coordinated to six songs. We loved it so much, we went there twice!

We went to Logan on the 22nd. We went ice skating in the indoor arena with Mick's family. Josh and I haven't gone ice skating in 15 years, and we've never gone together. It was the first time me and the boys had ever ice skated on indoor ice, and it was the first time Kanyon had ever worn ice skates. Josh was amazing! He got on the ice and whizzed away. He could do little tricks, too, which was fun to watch! Ammon did really well, too--he looked just like his dad on the ice. The twins looked like comedians on the ice--they were always falling in dramatic fashion and bouncing right back up. It was so funny watching them! And Kanyon was slow and steady--he started out with a walker, but by the end of our 2 hours skating, he could skate 10 feet without needing help or falling. I was so proud of him! I will admit that I was the worst one--I used a kid walker for the first hour, and I looked like a caterpillar without it, just inching slowly along the ice. I'm a terrible skater, but I had so much fun skating with my family. Jen was a pro, like Josh, and she looked so graceful on the ice. Aspen and Libby were good little skaters, too, and we were so happy to spend the day with them!

We had lunch together at Mick's house when skate time was over, and the kids played with their cousins while I went to the temple and Josh went to finish the Christmas shopping. I was glad to be able to attend the temple, to complete my temple goal for the year. It was peaceful and I had quiet reflections as I read the book of mormon while waiting for my appointment.

That night, we had dinner at Tawna's huge rental home in Logan. My siblings all came, and after the filling dinner, the adults and kids had separate white elephant gift exchanges. Then we watched the kids' puppet Nativity show. It was fun to have a pre-Christmas party with my family since we weren't going to be there on Christmas day when everyone else was getting together again.

On the 23rd, we went to Salt Lake. We went to Ikea, and picked up the little red leather loveseat that I've been eyeing for years. It was my Christmas gift to the family, and I was so excited to finally be getting the piece of furniture that I've been dreaming about for so long! Then we drove to Temple Square, and we walked around for several hours. We toured the conference center, and we went in both Visitor's Centers. We watched part of "The Testaments" movie, and we saw the lights as they were just coming on. The boys loved the lights, and especially the reflection pool.

I wanted to go in the Joseph Smith building too, but by that time, the boys were tired of walking and they were all hungry. So we left and went to eat dinner at Costa Vida. It's one of Josh and I's favorite restaurants, but we've never taken the boys there. Ammon loved it just as much as Josh and I! Then we drove to Ogden to drop off the couch at John's parents' house, because he was going to bring the loveseat home to Salmon since he has a truck. I finally got to meet John's family, and they were so nice! On our way home to Tremonton, we stopped to see the light display at Willard Bay. There was a huge line of cars, and it took us an hour to drive through it, but they'd added some new items to the display and Josh drove slowly so we could enjoy every bit of it before heading back to Tremonton. It was a full, but good, day.

We came home on Christmas Eve day. When we got home, we put everything away and went to the store to get a few things to make Christmas dinner the following day. As I was doing all the food prep work, the boys watched a Christmas movie. Then we re-enacted the Nativity with figures, read Christmas stories, wrote letters to Santa, and then the boys went to bed. I was glad to be home for Christmas.

On Christmas morning, everyone was up at 7:30. They played with their Santa gifts and then they started taking turns opening wrapped gifts.

We stopped at 9:00 so we could eat breakfast and get ready for church at 10:00. It was Sacrament meeting only that day, and it was so lovely to not have to take a ton of bags and manuals and kid activities with us since it was for just one hour. The services were so beautiful, and I loved listening to all the Christmas music that was shared.

After church, we came home and Josh and I made dinner. Josh made the ham, and I made the potatoes and rolls and salad. His parents and brother Malachi joined us for the meal. It was the first time we've ever had Christmas dinner at our own house, and I loved it! After dinner, we finished opening gifts with his parents and Mal, and we were done around 2:00.

I loved that the Christmas Day festivities took all morning and most of the afternoon. I was glad that we had family come and share it with us in our home. I loved being together, and feeling the magic of the Christmas spirit in my own home! Christmas 2011 was a beautiful one for me.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

11th Day of Christmas Memories

Christmas of 2008 was a pleasant and meaningful one for me. It was centered around the reason for the season, and I enjoyed all the festivities.

At that time, I was in charge of ward parties, and the theme I chose for the Christmas ward party that year was "In a Manger". The dinner, decorations, and program all centered around that theme. I had members bring their nativity scenes early and set them out on tables at the entrance of the church, so as people came to the party that night, they could walk through and see a variety of nativity scenes. As centerpieces on the tables, I set out gift boxes with the nativity scene printed on them. Inside the boxes were candy and trinkets for the children to take home as their Christmas gift from the ward. I wrote the program that was performed after dinner. A bunch of older boys in the primary came onstage all dressed as ancient prophets, and they told of their revelations of a Christ child that would be born. Then a bunch of older girls in the primary were the angel choir, and they sang a song. Then a narrator read the Luke 2 story, and it was acted out. I created a donkey, and had 2 primary kids dress up as Joseph and Mary and he pulled her through the gym on a donkey to the stage. Once they arrived at the stage (Bethlehem), there was a Stable all set up, and I'd painted a whole bunch of pictures for the younger kids to hold up. I absolutely loved that program, and several people told me that was the best Christmas program they'd ever seen at a ward party.

December 2008 was the first time (and only time) I'd ever made home-made Christmas cards. I made 48 of them and it was a huge time endeavor. It took me 7 hours just to craft all the cards, which doesn't include the time it took me to come up with the unique letter that the card revolved around. It was truly a labor of love. I loved those cards! One of my friends told me that receiving that card was like receiving a gift, which made my heart happy.

We delivered goodie plates to our neighbors and friends. I had only started the tradition of doing that just the previous year. I like to have a common theme for my neighbor treats each year. That year, the theme was cookies with candies. I made sugar cookies with M&Ms in them, and peanut butter cookies with Reese's Pieces in them. It is always so fun to deliver the goodie plates to people who've been influential in our lives throughout the year.

 We got our Christmas tree later that December instead of right after Thanksgiving. We had to get a scrawny tree to fit into our living room, and we found the perfect one! It had a flat side to push up against the wall, and it was round on the side that was visible.

The boys requests to Santa that year were very simple. It made my heart so happy to hear that they wanted such simple things, and it made shopping for them SO easy! When we visited Santa at the library pajama party, and when Santa came to the primary party, and when they wrote their letters to Santa, each of the 3 older boys requested the same thing every time:
(If it's hard to see the words in their Santa letters in this photo, Jonah said he wanted a toy tape measure, Micah said he wanted a snow shovel, and Ammon said he wanted lots of presents--at Santa's discretion.)

Christmas morning was awesome! The boys were all happy with their Santa gifts. Santa delivered: sleds to the 3 older boys, bikes to the twins, a battery-operated 4-wheeler and Tonka Truck to Kanyon, the Guitar Hero DS game to Ammon, and a snow shovel for Micah and a tape measure for Jonah.

After they played with their Santa gifts for a while, and revealed everything in their stockings, we opened gifts at our house. It was the first time we'd ever opened Christmas gifts at our own house--we'd always taken the wrapped gifts and opened them at either grandparents' house (we alternate Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays with the Tolman and Perkins families). We took turns opening gifts, but since Kanyon wasn't interested in unwrapping and Josh and I didn't have many presents, it didn't take long before all the gifts were unwrapped. It was a very quiet, peaceful, calm Christmas morning at home. The boys played in the living room, and Josh and I just sat and watched them. We went down to Josh's parents' house for lunch and opened their gifts from us there. Then it started to snow, which was perfect, since the boys had received sleds from Santa! They went sledding on the hill next to our driveway for a couple of hours and loved it!

Josh was really nice to me that Christmas, too. I had purchased myself a laptop on Black Friday, but I didn't open and use it until Christmas time because it was my Christmas present to myself. I told Josh that since I bought that, I wouldn't have any money to buy him a gift that year. I thought that he would understand, and not get me anything, either. But he surprised me with a new camera and new house phones and a new router. I felt unbelievably undeserving, and incredibly in love with him for being so thoughtful!

Christmas 2008 made my Top 12 memories because of the happiness I remembered feeling for a majority of the season. Focusing on the Savior at the ward party really set the tone for the holiday. Working on the cards to give to family and friends felt worthwhile. Delivering cookies to neighbors was rewarding. Hearing my children's simple requests filled me with love. Being home on Christmas morning was peaceful. Seeing the snow and watching them sled in it with family on Christmas afternoon brought joy to my soul.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

10th Day of Christmas Memories

Christmas of 2000 is remembered for its sadness.

In July of 2000, Josh and I moved from Tremonton, Utah to Chubbuck, Idaho for work. Mowin' Ranger was expanding and had purchased a business in Pocatello; we moved in order to manage that extension. We were the only ones who worked out at the Idaho business--Josh did all the fertilizing, I did all the office work, and we worked together on tree trimming. We rented out our home in Tremonton, and we began renting an apartment in Chubbuck. Ammon was born in January, and he was just 6 months old when we moved. I took him to work with me during the day, and it worked well for us to run the business that way.

We both got second jobs that fall, since fertilizing lawns stops in the wintertime when snow covers the grass. Josh worked a night job at a gas station, and I worked in the evenings as a typist at the Idaho State Journal. When I worked at ISJ, Josh would stay home with Ammon, and then I'd come home from work and he'd leave for Forde Johnson while I stayed with Ammon. I didn't like our life schedule, but I felt like we did what had to be done. It was hard for Josh, too, and he felt financially stressed. In October, there was a job opening in Salmon for a golf course superintendent. His Uncle John works as a sales rep for products in the turf industry, and he discovered the job opening and told Josh about it. Josh didn't know the first thing about golf--but he did have experience with growing and maintaining grass and working on equipment. We decided to apply for the job. In November he had an interview in Salmon for the job. Because he was raised in Salmon, he knew several of the people on the golf board and he felt like he had a good interview with them. In December, Josh and I had a huge fight over money (or the lack of it) and we didn't get along for weeks. The argument put such a damper on the Christmas season.

During that same month, his grandparents came down to Blackfoot to visit his Uncle John and Aunt Linette and to stay for a few days with them. His Grandpa Rex had had cancer many years earlier, and he'd had chemotherapy and radiation to rid the cancer. Over time, though, his body developed some terrible side effects from the treatments, and when he and Grandma Beth came to Blackfoot, he was very sick and in a lot of pain.

Josh and I decided we would take Ammon to Salmon to spend Christmas. It was our first Christmas as parents, and we were excited to celebrate the holiday with our son for the first time!

We left two days before the holiday, and on our way to Salmon, we stopped in Blackfoot to visit his grandparents and Aunt & Uncle. We arrived as they were making preparations to take Grandpa to the hospital. Josh helped his Uncle John carry Grandpa to their van--he was so weak from all the pain in his body that he was having difficulty standing up. Josh said he was barely squeezing his grandpa in order to carry him, and his Grandpa was wincing and saying "not so tight". Josh felt so terrible that his Grandpa was in such pain. I was helping Grandma inside get dressed and ready because she couldn't concentrate on what was happening. John and Linette drove them to the hospital, and Josh and I continued on our way to Salmon. Little did we know that was the last time we would ever see Grandpa Rex alive.

It was strange for me to be in Salmon over was the first time that I hadn't spent Christmas with my own family. On Christmas Eve, after Ammon and Josh's brothers went to bed, I worked on setting up a car track for him, and assembling a child's toy. I remember Edward was setting up something, too. Josh and I, and Edward and Kathy were the only ones in the living room. I was talking and laughing, trying to keep the spirits up in the house, because everyone seemed so depressed.

The next morning, after all the presents were opened,  Edward and Kathy broke the news to Josh and his younger brothers that Grandpa Rex had died the night before. They had decided to wait to tell the children so that their (our) Christmas morning wouldn't feel marked with sadness. It was then that I understood why the house felt so sad the night before as I was laying out my son's gifts.

Josh loved his Grandfather so much, and it was difficult to know that he was gone. Josh kept reliving the image of carrying his sick Grandpa to the van, and seeing him wince in pain. It broke his heart over and over again, seeing him that way. I was so grateful that we had stopped in Blackfoot, grateful that we had seen his grandparents, grrateful that we told Grandpa that we loved him. Grandpa James Rex Tolman's funeral was on December 28. It was one of only a handful of times I've ever seen Josh cry. It was sad to lay his body to rest in the cold, hard, bleak and frozen ground.

We spent New Year's with my family in Tremonton, which also felt strange; that was one of the few times we've ever done that in our married life because we usually celebrate it with the Tolman's in Salmon. In January, we were notified that Josh did, indeed, get the golf course superintendent job in Salmon. Although we were excited for our future, we also felt sad that we wouldn't be living by his Grandpa now. One of the reasons Josh wanted to move back to Salmon was so that he could help out on the family ranch, and so that he could be closer to his aging grandparents. We also felt sorrow that Ammon would never get to know his great-grandfather, who is the namesake of his middle name "Rex". At the end of January, we moved from Chubbuck, Idaho to Salmon--which is where we remain today!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

9th day of Christmas Memories

"On the 9th Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me..."

Christmas of 1998 was the first Christmas that Josh and I spent together as a married couple. We were married in April, and we lived in a small home that we had purchased in Tremonton. We didn't have a lot of money as newlyweds, so on our small budget, we needed to buy an affordable Christmas tree. Josh always grew up with a real tree, so he wanted us to get one for our first Christmas. We went down to King's because they were selling some live ones in their parking lot. But, after looking at the trees, we didn't think we could afford the $40-$60 that they cost. When he was growing up, his family always took a trip to the mountains to cut down a tree, so we had no idea that trees sold at lots cost so much money. So, we went inside King's and looked at other tree options. He didn't want to get an artificial one, because we didn't want to store it all year and he didn't think we would use it in future years. We settled on the only tree we felt like we could afford: a little 3-foot artificial tree. I convinced Josh that it would be fine to use as our Christmas tree the first year, and it would store easily and we could use it as a decoration in future years. Because it was small, it was easy and cheap to decorate, too! We used ornaments that Josh and I were given when we were children from our parents and grandparents, and I used one strand of lights to illuminate it. I set it on a box in the corner of the living room, and I fell in love with it! We still have that tree--the boys each have a 3-foot artificial tree to decorate with their own ornaments and display in their own rooms.

To save money, I made our own stockings out of felt that year. My mom had a lot of felt, and some patterns, so I cut and glued colored felt and ribbon to create the angel and cowboy stockings for Josh and I. We discovered on Christmas Eve, however, that the stockings are too narrow to fit a lot into. So, now they are just used as decorations and I've made 4 more individualized stockings for each of the boys. And we've since purchased bigger stockings to use on Christmas Eve instead.

A few weeks before Christmas, I went with my friend Kimberly to go see "The Forgotten Carols" by Michael McLean in Logan. It was my first experience seeing the production, and it changed me. I loved the music and the beautiful message that the story told. I could just feel the Christmas spirit that night--it felt like magic was in the air. My favorite part of the night was at the very end, when Michael sang "Hold on, the light will come" and then he began singing "we will be together forever someday" and he had the audience join with him in singing that a couple of times. It wan amazing experience and I remember thinking that it felt like heaven to me. It's hard to explain in words exactly what I felt--the spirit was so strong in that room. When we were leaving that night, I purchased the CD of the Forgotten Carols music, and I listen to it every Christmas season now--it always puts me in a good mood!

The anticipation of Christmas that year was exciting for me. I'm terrible at surprises--I'm like that girl in the skits on Saturday Night Live who can't keep a secret and always ruins the surprise! Josh had gotten me something big a week or two before Christmas, and I knew that because he put whatever it was in the shed--and then he bought a lock and put it on the shed's door so that I wouldn't find out what was inside! Unlike me, Josh really likes surprises. The anticipation of what was inside that shed just killed me! I quizzed him about the surprise every day, trying to see if his facial expressions would give away whatever it was that he was hiding from me! And he was like an iron soldier--never revealing anything. He is SO good at keeping secrets!

Christmas morning was a little different that year because my dad flew out of Salt Lake to go to the World Jamboree in Chile, and he'd asked Josh to give him a ride to the airport. When I found out, I was mad because that was our first Christmas together and I wanted to be with Josh at our home together! It snowed on Christmas morning, and that made me even more worried for him to be driving to Salt Lake and back. But he was only gone for about 2 hours, and everything was fine, so it wasn't so bad. We opened presents, and he revealed his big gift to me: a set of skis and boots and poles. I was SO excited and happy!! Nobody had ever gotten me something so big, and I felt so loved.

Christmas 1998 was wonderful--Josh had given me awesome gifts, we were living in our new home together, and we got to spend time with both families over Christmas and New Years.  I felt so blessed!

Monday, December 26, 2011

8th Day of Christmas Memories

The best memories I have of Christmas 1997 actually happened the week following the holiday.

In June of 1997, I graduated from high school. The spring during my senior year, I began working at my friend Angela's parents' company Mowin' Ranger. I continued to work there all summer until I left for college at SUU in Cedar City in August. Tremonton is on the northern tip of Utah, and Cedar City is on the southern end. I was excited to attend the college that I'd grown to love, and I couldn't wait to move to a city that was HOURS away from my home town!

Josh returned home to Salmon in May after his mission to England, and in June he moved to Tremonton to work for his cousins that owned Mowin' Ranger. My first encounter with him was one he still doesn't recall. I was leaving work one day, as he was arriving. I walked out the door as he walked in, and my whole inside became filled with butterflies. I instantly liked him! In August, we began dating each other--which was just 3 weeks before I left for college.

After I moved to Cedar City, we talked or emailed almost every day, and we visited each other occasionally on the weekends. Our love for each other grew rather rapidly, and we soon became tired of our long-distance relationship. I didn't know what to do about it--I had 2 full scholarships: one academic, and one theatric, and I didn't want to leave SUU where my schooling was completely paid for. Josh wasn't planning on moving to Cedar City; he liked his job in Tremonton, and he didn't want to leave Mowin' Ranger. We discussed marriage quite often, but what was the point of getting married if our living conditions would remain the same. The stress of being apart soon brought a lot of arguments and discord between us, and I began to doubt our relationship a lot. I wasn't sure if marriage between the two of us would be right. I prayed about it frequently, but I never received any answers...which was hard on our relationship, too.

In December of 1997, I came home to Tremonton for Christmas Break. Josh and I decided that after Christmas, he would take me to Salmon to stay with his family for New Year's. Christmas morning I spent at home with my family, minus Cody who was gone on his mission. My favorite gift I received that Christmas was the dozen red roses that Josh gave me. They were a wonderful surprise! I had never received a dozen red roses before, and they, along with a beautiful hand-written card from him, made me so happy!

Sometime during the week between Christmas and New Year's, he picked me up and took me to Salmon with him, where we stayed for four days. We spent the majority of our time during the days playing games: a lot of Rummikub, and a lot of Nintendo 64 with his younger brothers.

His older sister's in-laws also came, so there were a lot of extra people in the house. I remember sitting on the couch with him as the family opened late Christmas gifts, and I remember feeling like I belonged with his family. I remember sitting alone with him on New Year's, and seeing and hearing complete chaos all around us, but feeling peace inside.

After spending so many days in a row with him, and not being interrupted with schooling or curfews or work, I knew that I wanted to spend the remainder of my days on earth with him. New Year's 1997 was when I finally knew that I wanted to marry Josh. There wasn't a defining moment, but rather, a feeling inside of me that grew over the days we spent together between Christmas and New Years. And Josh had felt the exact same way. 

I will never forget the Christmas Break of 1997, and I reflect periodically back to that time spent with Josh that made our relationship grow and flourish. It was the first Christmas season of many that I shared with the love of my life.