Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 2013 on FB

Feb. 2: Finally saw Les Mis tonight. And now I have mixed emotions...great cinematography, amazing score performed by the orchestra, excellent child actors but it got so cheesy towards the end with the actors' wide range of mixed voices that didn't blend well together. It was difficult to watch after about 2 hours.

Feb. 3: I won the superbowl prediction! I've never won it in all the years we've played it. I guessed Ravens: 32 - 49ers: 27. The real score was 34-31, but I got the closest guess! I'm stoked! Yeah, baby! I get to keep the bag of chocolate I bought as the prize!!! Also, thank you Doritos, Taco Bell, Oreos, Tide, and M&Ms for providing good commercials that were acceptable for family viewing during the superbowl.

Feb. 7: whew. what a day. what a week. Trying to get ready for 3 different upcoming musical shows, totalling 12 different performances in the next month, with 8 different elementary classes is exhausting!!! I'm beginning to lose things (like sleep, my mind, my hair, my voice) and I'm gaining things too (like weight, an ulcer, huge to-do lists, and props taking over my office).

Feb. 9: Kanyon is having his first friend birthday party ever today! He's been looking forward to it for months! I'm on the opposite side of that spectrum--I've never felt so unprepared for one of my kids' birthday parties ever! So much to do...

Feb. 10: It's the Grammy's tonight! I made up a ballot for my 5th grade music students vs. their 5th grade teachers. I got the inspiration from my own high school drama teacher Michael Bahr--he used to do the same thing with us theater students for the Academy Awards!

Feb. 12: After a final rehearsal today, I'm ready for the 3rd grade's Disney Display tomorrow! They are a great bunch of talented students! It will be a fantastic show with all their singing, dancing, instrument playing, and a funny script written by the students themselves!

Feb. 14: 15 years ago today, Josh Tolman proposed to me. Saying yes was the greatest decision of my life. Our lives together have been the best and worst years, but there's nobody else I'd rather have experienced the good and bad times with.

Feb. 15: I love me a 4-day weekend. It's a welcome respite, and a badly needed one!

Feb. 17: hot springs last night, homemade ice cream today, sleeping in tomorrow...these are a few of my favorite things!

Feb. 19: To say or not to say, that is the question...I've retyped my status 5 times already, but stating how I really feel on facebook right now doesn't seem like the right thing to do, so delete delete delete delete bleep bleep bleep bleep blah blah blah blah. Now I've edited it all for you. You're welcome.

Feb. 22: I truly enjoy taking action photos of my kids...I think when this point-&-shoot camera dies I'm going to get myself a nice, big one because I am so passionate about photographing my family's life.

Feb. 23: One of my goals for this year is to take one of my boys out on a date each month. The first round of dates, I'm taking them each to nice restaurants. Last night, I took Jonah to Bertrams, and he's never had such a big burger in his life! He came home so happy about eating the "biggest burger he's ever seen, so much bigger than McDonalds and Burger King!" It was a highlight for me to see him so happy!

Feb. 24: The biggest, most stressful week of the year at my work is here: the 4th grade plays are this week. 3 classes doing 6 different performances of "Schoolhouse Rock". I'm crossing my fingers, and hoping my students all break a leg!

Feb. 28: After experiencing technical problems, missed cues, and missing students in all of their dress rehearsals, the 4th graders came together and performed so well for their parent shows! I am so pleased with them and all their hard work on our play Schoolhouse Rock!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Small blessings

Every time Kanyon says a prayer, he thanks Heavenly Father for our trampolines. It is so sweet! I admit that I also am grateful for the trampolines, as they truly have been a blessing for Kanyon.

He loves jumping on the big trampoline outside in the summertime, especially with Josh. He likes the rhythmic motion, and it seems to be therapeutic for him.

Late this last fall, there was an advertised trampoline on the radio's local "swap & shop". So, I took Kanyon and we went and checked it out at a residential home. It was in great condition (an older fellow used it for exercise in his garage). Kanyon knew he wanted it, so he gave the gentleman his own $10 to pay for it. We brought it home and put it in the family room, since it's the only room with enough floor space for it to fit. Now whenever Kanyon plays the wii, he frequently jumps on it. It has been so good for him to have one indoors!

Since he was 9 months old, Kanyon's been a head-banger. He still does it, but it's a lot less frequent now. We discovered early on that constant rhythmic motions are a way for him to relieve stress--after he began head-banging, then he also picked up on hitting his leg and hitting his head over and over. Jumping on the trampoline is a safer alternative for him to relieve stress! So I'm glad that he is able to jump year-round now since we have both outdoor and indoor trampolines!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 Goals

I like to make sure that I set goals within different areas of my life. I consider myself a list-making, goal-setting, organized person. So at the end of each year, I think hard on my life and the goals I've accomplished, and the areas I need to improve upon, and then I make lists accordintly. I gave a talk in the Stanley branch at the end of December about goal-making, and this is my talk:

"Since we are at the closing of 2012, and a new year is dawning, it’s the time of year when I think about goal setting. Ever since I was a young child, I was taught to make goals and to work towards those goals. I was looking in an old journal of mine, where it was recorded when I was 3 ½ years old that my goals for the new year were: write my first name, attend swimming lessons, count to 20, memorize 1st article of faith, and learn the alphabet song. At the beginning of each year we all had to pick 5 goals to work on throughout the year. My dad followed the pursuit of excellence program, and had us choose goals within the categories of: physical, spiritual, social, intellectual, and character-building. 

"I follow that same tradition that my dad instilled in me during my youth, and our family now makes goals at the start of each new year at Family Home Evening. We talk about goals, and how they help us work towards bettering ourselves. For the last two years, I’ve had the boys pick their own goals in 3 categories that I thought they needed more work in: Love at Home, Respect at School, and Reverence at Church. Josh and I use different categories, like: financial, physical, spiritual, service, etc. When we have all finished making our goals, I write them all down on dry-erase boards and post them on the fridge for the year, so there’s a constant visible reminder of what we are all working on. After a while, we don’t even see them on the fridge anymore, but when visitors come to our house, it’s what they always see and they ask us about them, and I love the reminders from outside sources to help us stay on track for working towards completing our goals. 

"I raise my children to be independent, and while they are under my care, I want to instill in them the importance of learning and completing tasks on their own. Pres. David O McKay taught: 'The home is the first and most effective place for children to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self-control; the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home.'

"Today I want to share with you some of our family’s goals, and how they follow, and are in line with, this statement from the family proclamation: 'Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.' I’m going to talk about each of these individual principles and how they’ve been applied into our family life and the goals that we’ve set.

"FAITH. One of the goal-setting categories for the boys is “Reverence at Church”. We’ve taught our boys that church attendance is important, and we bring our children to worship at church with us each Sunday. There were multiple times when the boys were younger that I didn’t even want to go to church because I felt like it was more of a WWF fight with them to keep them quiet during Sacrament meeting than a religious time of spiritual upliftment. I remember one Sunday coming home from church feeling exhausted and asking Josh what we should do…the boys were so noisy and naughty and had been such a disruption and I was very upset. He thought I should ask Sister Jean Hobbs what she did to help her kids be reverent. Sister Hobbs is a woman from our ward who raised 8 kids and they were always so quiet and listened and were model citizens on the church bench during Sacrament Meeting. So I did just that. And when I asked her for her opinion on what she thought I should do, she laughed! She couldn’t believe I was asking her for her thoughts, but her reply was something like “Just keep going to church, it’ll get better”. Children learn in different ways, and one of those ways is repetition. If I just kept going to church, even though it was almost always a struggle, my children would learn that church attendance is important. I made a goal to keep going to church, and just as Sister Hobbs said, being there with the kids did improve! As the boys have gotten older, I felt that it was important for them to set their own goals and work towards learning to be more reverent. This is what the boys’ 2012 reverence at church goals were: Jonah—use whisper voice at church, Micah—don’t goof off at church, Ammon—don’t play with brothers at church. And I am happy to report that the boys did SOOO much better this year showing reverence during Sacrament Meeting! 

"PRAYER. Every day at dinner, and once a week at Family Home Evening, we have family prayer. At mealtime, I ask for volunteers who’d like to say the prayer, and I almost always have to make a choice since several raise their hands each time. It’s nice to know that my boys are eager to say prayers, and I love to hear them say the prayer, especially Kanyon, our youngest. He says he’s thankful for snow even during the summer, he says he’s thankful for the trampoline even in the winter, and he say he’s thankful for the missionaries who come eat with us—even when they’re not there. He accidentally substitutes in the words “thankful for” instead of “please bless”, so he will say “Thankful for dad drive home safe, thankful for grandma to be healthy”, etc. At Family Home Evening, either Josh or I say the prayer. And when Josh isn’t gone to School Board Meetings, and he’s there to say the prayer, I love listening to him pray too. I love hearing the heartfelt words he says to our Heavenly Father, and I’m grateful for the example he is to our sons.

"REPENTANCE & FORGIVENESS.  Sometimes I feel like I fail as a mother, because no matter how much I teach them and tell them what’s right and wrong, they still choose the wrong…and I think to myself “where did I go wrong”. But I am learning that no matter how much I teach and tell them what is right, they still have their agency to choose; it is a gift from God to all of us. Even though I give them consequences and show them the error of their ways when they make wrong choices, they occasionally make the exact same wrong choices again and again. I know that I cannot force them to do what’s right, but I can always help them and teach them about repentance and forgiveness and express my love for them even whey they choose the wrong. This goes hand in hand with the next principle…

"LOVE. Regardless of what decisions my boys make, I will always love them. I love them for the good choices they make, and for trying to improve themselves. I am proud of Ammon for choosing to receive the priesthood and for being worthy to have it. I am proud of Jonah and Micah for choosing to be baptized, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. I am proud of Kanyon for coming to church and listening to his teachers. I love them despite the bad choices they make, because I know their potential. I still love Ammon when he sasses me, I still love Jonah and Micah when their teacher reports to me that they’re not following all the school rules, and I still love Kanyon when he bangs his head and cries because he doesn’t want to go to church. The most important thing we can ever do as parents is to love our children, and let them know that we do, too. In the “Love at Home” goal category, each one of them had identical goals: don’t be physically mean to brothers. My hope was that they would learn to show more love towards their brothers. I know that they are all boys, and boys usually show more physical aggression than girls, but I feel that it’s important for them to learn to hurt less, and to help more. All 3 of the boys are still working on this specific goal!

"RESPECT. This is a principle that is becoming more rare as the world is becoming more selfish and disrespectful. As a teacher, I see disrespect at such a young age, even from kindergartners. So, I feel that it is very important to teach to my own children that listening and obeying teachers and leaders is respectful. Another of the goal-setting categories for my boys is “ Respect at School”. Jonah’s goal in that category was: “don’t get in trouble with the principal at school”. He made that a goal because several of his classmates have had to, and he didn’t want to be in trouble like he’s seen them be. He knew that by showing disrespect, the principal’s office is a natural consequence at school. Respect goes beyond the school of course, and I hope that the respect they learn to have at school will infiltrate into the other areas of their life.

"COMPASSION. One of our family goals we are all working on this year is to do service for someone else every day. At the start of the year, I got little notebooks for every member of our family, and every day at dinner, we talk about what service we did for others that day. The rule is that no 2 services can be the same in one week. I record what they did in each of their service journals. It worked really well for about 3 months, and then there was a week when we didn’t have dinner together for whatever reason, and unfortunately the habit of recording the service stopped. I feel it is an important principle that the Savior lived and taught, and that we should emulate that aspect in our lives as well. Sometimes when Josh goes to do an Elders Quorum service project, he takes the boys with him. When I bake cookies to a neighbor, I take the boys with me to help deliver them. I want them to see that service and love are not only important to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, but that they are to Josh and I, too.

"WORK. My husband is a true believer and exemplar of this principle. He was taught to work at a very young age on the ranch, and working hard is ingrained in his blood now. Each of our sons is responsible for indoor and outdoor chores. On Fridays, they help me by cleaning their own rooms and washing their own laundry. They also have a rotating chore chart of common rooms in the house that they are each in charge of cleaning, too. In the spring they help change pipe on the ranch. In the summer, they have to help Josh and I weed the garden and mow the lawn. In the fall, they help cut wood in the mountains, and pick, carry, & sell pumpkins from the pumpkin patch. In the winter, they help Josh haul wood for our wood-burning stove. Working together as a family helps unite us, and it gives them something productive to do, as well as teaching them useful trades.

"WHOLESOME RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES: This is the boys’ favorite principle, I’m sure! Since Josh works overtime hours in the summer at the golf course, we can’t go on long summer vacations like most families. So in 2006 we purchased a camping trailer so that we could take advantage of visiting all the beautiful places so close to home and still feel like we’re on vacation. We love camping together! We relax, hike, swim, cook around the campfire, and we enjoy being with each other surrounded by God’s beautiful creations. I’ve made it a goal that as a family once a year, we go visit one of the boys’ great-grandparents, so they can know our extended family better. When we make the yearly trip, we also incorporate going to a fun site for the boys to have opportunities to see new places and do exciting things together. Every other year, the boys alternate between having a family birthday party and a friend birthday party. When it’s the family birthday party turn, the birthday boy decides what activity we’ll do together. We’ve gone to Lagoon, camped at Hot Springs, 4-wheeled at the Sand Dunes, gone bowling, gone swimming, and golfed together. It’s fun to do things together, and it also makes each of the boys feel special because they got to pick what it was that we did.  

"Parents have been given the sacred duty to bring up children in the nurture of the Lord, as stated in Ephesians 6:4. Sometimes, I feel like my duties extend beyond that of just a parent. My dad asked me once how we run our household. At the time, I was a stay-home mom and I told my dad that Josh is the governor, because he makes all the big decisions as the priesthood holder, and I’m the mayor, because I make all the day-to-day choices since I was home more. Now that I work, I often feel like our family is a business and I’m the CEO, and Josh is the CFO—I manage everyone’s schedules and he manages our finances. Sometimes on weekends, I feel like I’m the police officer and Josh is the lawyer: I put the boys in time-out (which they feel like is jail) and he talks to them and helps them rectify the situation and then they are allowed out! But regardless of whatever it is that I feel like I am, I am and will always be a mother. And I will always be their mother, whether they like it or not!

"And as a parent, just as any of you who are parents or will someday be parents, it is important to remember that we must regard our children as gifts from God. As parents, we need to be committed to making our homes a place to love, train, and nurture our sons and daughters. By setting personal goals, and helping our children set theirs, we work towards bettering ourselves in different aspects of our lives. This assists us in bringing our children up in light and truth like it says in D&C 93:40, and preparing them to receive the priesthood, go on a mission, becoming model citizens, and eventually being parents themselves.

"I am grateful for the opportunity I have to be a mother, and for the chance I have to teach and raise my 4 boys in the gospel. I know that I am a child of God, I know that my sons are precious gifts that God has entrusted in my care. Each year I make personal goals that will help me grow closer and to be more like the Savior. I know that Jesus is my Savior and it is only through his atonement that we are able to live together someday. I know that through the temple ordinances, we will be a forever family. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

My 2013 goals are based upon different areas of my life that I know I need to improve on, just like I did when I was 3 1/2 years old...

1. PERSONAL: Never be more than 2 months behind on the blog.

2. SPIRITUAL: Go to the temple 6 times.

3. INTELLECTUAL: Finish reading the Book of Mormon.

4. FAMILY: Take one of my children on a date each month.

5. MARRIAGE: Go on a trip alone with Josh twice during the year.

6. PHYSICAL: Get my weight under 200 pounds.

7. FINANCIAL: Pay off my credit card.

8. SOCIAL: Invite others to my home for a group gathering once per season.

Friday, February 22, 2013

"I don't know if I should go sailin down no hill with nothing between the ground & my brains but a piece of government plastic."

I was sooo grateful to have snow on the ground over Christmas vacation. On New Year's Day, we went sledding on the little hill by our house with Uncles Gideon & Malachi while they were still visiting. I personally had such a great time trying to take action photos of them sailing down the hill, and watch them flying through the air after hitting the jump that Edward made!
Gideon & Alyssa tubing together:

 Malachi had some hilarious moves on the sleds & tubes...

Micah's favorite vessel was the flat-bottomed sled:

Jonah preferred gliding down on the tube:


Kanyon didn't go sledding, but he tried to keep Shorty busy so that he wouldn't keep racing and biting people as they came zooming down the hill.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"I can't believe you're standing in my living room, Eddie. I never thought the day would come."

This is what New Year's Eve looked like at the Tolman household:
It's practically the exact same sight every year! Gideon, Josh, and Malachi are on their laptops. Edward is manning the radio. Kathy is writing information down. Josh is perusing the big book of Billboard Hits. All for one purpose: to win the radio station's annual montage contest.

There is only one radio station in Salmon, and on New Year's Eve every year, the station has an Oldies Music Contest. Every half hour, they play a montage of short excerpts of twelve songs in a row, and you have to guess the song title and artist for each song. And to make it more fun, every year there's a different "theme" to the songs, and if you can figure out the theme, it's helpful in figuring out all the songs titles and/or artists too. Themes in the past have included: women's names, football teams, deck of cards, cartoon characters, states in the USA, and numbers, just to name a few. This year's theme was "Old and Young". With the musical knowledge that Ed & Kathy have, and the help of looking up lyrics online, and looking through the big book for songs and artists that would be included in the theme, we have won the radio contest several times. The winner receives $20. It is a fun activity, and I love how the family works together to achieve the goal of winning! It took 7 of us working on it this year for 5 hours, but we figured out every single song title and every single artist, and we won the contest again!!!

In addition to the contest, trivia about Oldies songs is announced all night long, and if you can call in fast enough and get the answer right, you can win items donated by local businesses! It is always so much fun! While we listened to the radio, we put together a 500 piece puzzle, ate food, and played games.

Once we figured out the entire montage, and finished the puzzle, we relaxed, and enjoyed visiting the rest of the night together! We actually went home a little early, and were all in bed by midnight. It was a pleasant and calm night together, and the crowd was smaller than usual at the Tolman house...Grandma & Grandma T., Uncle Tim & Barb, neighbor Frank & his daughter Becky, Gideon & Alyssa, Malachi, and our family.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"Clark, Audrey's frozen from the waist down." "That's all part of the experience, honey."

In December, Josh started a huge tree-cutting project along the 9th fairway at the Salmon Valley Golf Course (where he works). He decided that over Christmas Break, he would have the boys help him with the project. There's a long line of aging willow trees that needed thinning and removal, and he thought he'd have the boys help carry the branches that he'd cut to the big burn pile. The older 3 boys helped Josh with his work project for 3 long (to them) days.

 While he and the boys were at work, I was at home with Kanyon working on indoor projects. But two of the days, I went into town in the afternoon to check their progress while I was doing errands. One day, they'd been playing by the frozen shallow creek, and the ice had cracked, and Micah had fallen in. He was freezing! Josh took him down to his shop to warm up for a while as he sharpened his chainsaw, and he was able to dry his clothes and boots. The boys were eager to tell me all about it when I visited them!

Most of the trees that Josh cut were sooo old, that they were completely hollow on the inside, like this one:

 He used his chainsaw a lot to cut down big branches, and overgrown limbs. He also used it to cut around bases of complete trunks that needed to be removed.

For some of the thicker, heavier trees that he was unable to cut completely through with his chainsaw, he pushed over with his tractor after weakening them around the base with cuts.

And for some of the taller trees, he used the long-arm chainsaw to cut down branches that he couldn't reach. He's very daring here...
Josh worked on this project for weeks, and when he was all done cutting branches, there was a massive pile of branches and trunks to burn.
When the trunks were laying on their side, some of them were taller than Josh, who is over 6 feet!
He tended to the fire for one complete day, and the fire continued to burn for a couple days thereafter. Burn, baby, burn!

Although the boys were never pleased when they found out they had to go help Josh at work with the tree-cutting project, it was so good for them to be out of the house and productive! They were great little workers, and Josh was grateful for their assistance. As parents, we use the fun Christmas Break to make our kids work, too!!!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Dad, this tree won't fit in our backyard." "It's not going in the yard, Russ, it's going in the living room"

Over Christmas Vacation, we took our traditional annual overnight trip to Stanley, Idaho. Stanley is about an hour north of the famous tourist spot of Sun Valley, Idaho, and is about 2 hours southwest of where we live. From Salmon, the drive follows along the winding Salmon River almost the entire way there, so there's inevitably a puking kid in the car every time. Stanley is traditionally the coldest town in Idaho every single winter, so the negative temperatures we experienced while there were to be expected. 

Josh's Aunt & Uncle own a motel & the Jerry's Store in Stanley, which is who and where we stay when we visit. Josh's brother Malachi took the 3 older boys on the Friday following Christmas, and they stayed an extra night. The boys went sledding with their Forsgren cousins and played and had a great time. Josh and I took Kanyon on Saturday, and arrived there late that afternoon. Five of the 7 Forsgren kids were home that weekend, which made it fun (Jonathon was at work in Twin Falls, and Eric is on his mission). Weaton's fiancee Clerissa was also there, as well as Uncle Malachi, so there was quite the crew.

The Forsgren's have built their home around and in between the C-store and Motel, and it's so big and fun for the boys to play in. Because their home is sandwiched between the highway and the River, they built a large room for their kids to play in since there wasn't a lot of outdoor space. In the summer, they bring a trampoline into the big room, and in the winter, they always have a huge Christmas tree in there!

On Saturday night, we ate a yummy homemade pizza dinner with the "big cousins" (that's what my boys call them because they're all tall), and played games. Some of the boys spent a lot of time in their "game room" with all their electronics games. I also brought some board games, and we played them at the table after dinner.

We spent the night in one of their nice motel rooms that night, but Ammon opted to sleep in his sleeping bag in one of the cousins' rooms instead. The boys watched a movie, Kanyon played on his tablet, Josh read a book, and we had some nice down time relaxing before bed.

On Sunday morning, we got up and got ready for church. My mom had sent the boys really nice church outfits for Christmas, and it was the first time they got to wear their nice new clothes. They looked so handsome, so I took some pictures of them on the back deck in the freezing temps, and they were good sports about it!

I just loved the views from the back deck of our motel room! It is so gorgeous!

Going to church in Stanley is a unique experience. They don't have an LDS chapel. During the summer months, they use a community chapel, and in the winter months, they use the community center. Both buildings are too small for their congregation, so after Sacrament meeting, the youth go across the street to meet in a home, and the primary children meet in the kitchen for their class.

The annual tradition is that the Tolman family from Salmon provides the Stanley branch's program for the last Sunday of the year. This year, I was a speaker as well as Kathy, my mother-in-law. Malachi did the special musical number, a song he composed and played on the piano. It was a lovely program. I really enjoy going to church there! After church ended, the boys played with some of the ginormous icicles outside before we headed back to the motel.

After we changed our clothes, and got packed, we ate dinner with the Forsgren's again, and visited and played with them for a few hours.


We returned back home to Salmon that evening. We had such an awesome visit with our family! It was definitely an enjoyable part of our Christmas vacation!

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Clark, that's the gift that keeps on giving the whole year"

We spent the entire Christmas day at our house. We were all by ourselves for Christmas morning, and I loved it. It was so quiet and calm and relaxing.
The boys didn't get up too early (around 7:00), and they waited (like good boys), for everyone to wake up before coming out to the tree together.

Santa gave them each something they wanted, something they needed, something they asked for, and stockings full of chocolate and bath soaps.


Josh and I both got stockings full of goodies from Santa, too. I got a new watch with a beautiful beaded band (love it!!!), some scratch tickets, socks, and lots of good chocolates.

Josh got scratch tickets, too. He also got lots of Reese's PB trees, some cheese curds & cheese rolls, and some Rihanna CD's.

After we opened up our stockings and saw what Santa brought us, we ate breakfast. I tried a sausage/egg/hashbrown casserole that my sister made last Easter. I let it cook slowly in the crock pot overnight. It wasn't as good as Tabbi's was, but I liked not having to worry about making food on Christmas morning. I had wanted to take Christmas morning slowly this year, especially since it was just us and we had no schedule to be somewhere at a certain time. After breakfast, we took turns opening up gifts one at a time.


It was so much fun! I loved Christmas this year! I felt like we didn't spoil the boys; we got them items that they needed, and they were grateful for their gifts. They enjoyed giving and receiving gifts from each other, too. We are definitely going to continue that new tradition of drawing names and having them choose their own gift for a brother. Before they started putting all their stuff away, I had them take a mandatory photo with their new goods...

 Then the boys got to playing with all their new games and toys, and spent the better part of the day doing that. Between the new board games, wii games, DS games, and tablets, they kept pretty busy!

We hosted Christmas dinner at our house, and Grandma & Grandpa T. and Uncle Tim & Barb came over and joined us for a bit. Then the boys opened the gifts from them. Grandma & Grandpa gave all the boys SD cards (for extra memory on the tablets) and colored cases to hold their tablets. They are so wonderful to have and keep their tablets safe!
Tim & Barb gave the boys these socks, which turned out to be a huge (and unexpected) hit!

I love having Christmas at my own home! I love watching the magic and excitement on Christmas morning on these boys' faces, and I treasure the memories of good days like this one spent together.