Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Top 10

It being the end of the year and all, I've noticed lots of "Top 10 of 2011" lists.  Movies, books, albums, fashion, news stories, etc.  Some of my favorite design blogs have even been doing their Top 10 projects of the year.  I decided that I would do my own version of a Top 10 list...that being my Top 10 favorite blog posts that I have written this year.  They may not correspond with the Top 10 blog posts that have received the most hits or views...just my own personal favorites for one reason or another.  In no particular order....   

New York City: Day 2
Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Time Square!  Broadway!  The city that never sleeps!  Being hit on by native NYC businessmen....!?! 

Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay!
Monday, 20 June 2011

The brutal "I will NEVER do this again!" lows and the exhilarating "Who's up for doing this again next year?" highs...and everything in-between.

Ode to my iphone
Sunday, 13 November 2011

Where I enthusiastically extol the wonders of my new iphone...

Misplaced Vanity
Friday, 18 March 2011

Speeding down the freeway...hey, is that guy checking me out??

Gloria was glorious!!
Monday, 28 November 2011

Singing Lex de Azevedo's "Gloria" in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

Sunday, February 27 2011

My exit from the "Never been skiing club"...with full disclosure of the SIX times I biffed it.

Monday, 12 September 2011

LOgan TO JAckson
206 miles, 3 states, 1 day

I win "Mother of the Year"
Thursday, 13 October 2011

Off to preschool with mismatched clothing, ballet slippers for shoes, uncombed hair...and missing one very important thing...

"Receive These Things"
Monday, 14 March 2011

The reason why I will never be able to sing "The Spirit of God" without crying again.

Too well?
Wednesday, 13 April 2011

One of the very best parts of being married...

And just in case you are is the list of top 10 posts with the highest pageviews:

That's a pretty big "Ooops" 
"Gloria" was glorious!!
I love my geek
Another "man cave" update
Same picture, two different years
First date
THS class of '91 reunion
Too well?
Christmas can now come...
Day 2: What I Wore

Friday, December 30, 2011

Favorite Photo Friday: Snow?

November 2010

Dear Mother Nature:
This picture is a reminder of what this time of year is supposed to look like.  I can only assume you must have forgotten seeing as it's 54 degrees outside right now.  Or maybe you've just got us mixed up with some other state that spends winter a little more warmly than we usually do?  We here in Utah have four distinct seasons...remember?  We're setting a state record for having the least amount of snow in December EVER.  This is not a good thing, in my opinion.  I ADORE winter...but even if that doesn't make you take pause, how about this?  Water tables and the skiing industry (Best Snow On Earth!) all rely on you as well.  New Years Day is fast approaching.  Maybe a resolution to churn out more snow and cold weather is in order....just a thought.
In the meantime, I'll try to be more patient.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A preschooler "rite of passage"

 Lilian begged to get in the shower with me.  She didn't need her hair washed because she'd taken a bath just the night before but I told her she could climb in anyhow.  I had my eyes closed while washing my hair when I heard her shove the shower curtain aside and climb out.  I just figured she was done and didn't think too much of it until a minute or two later when she climbed back in again.
"What's up, Lilian?" I asked.  "Did you have to go to the bathroom?"
"No, " she replied.  "I wanted to check in the mirror to see if I had a hole in my head."
I whipped her around and found that she did indeed have a "hole" in her head....and it was bleeding.  While my eyes had been closed and my back turned, Lilian had quietly grabbed hold of a razor and decided to experiment with it on the back of her head.
The blood wasn't too bad, really.  Just a little scrape, but Lilian was equal parts fascinated and horrified that her head was bleeding.  She had a small bald spot where she'd shaved her hair away but other than that, it didn't look too bad.
Nah, it wasn't until I got the bleeding stopped and tried to brush through the rats nest in her hair...only to have that whole knotted rats nest come out into my hand....that I realized how much hair she had lost.  It's very thin back there...but it is BACK there which means it'll be much easier to hide than if she had shaved the top of her head.  I put her hair in a pony tail today.  It was very thin...but it at least covered the worst of things.
I'm starting to think that cutting their own hair is some rite of passage that all preschoolers must go through.  Of course, usually it's a pair of scissors rather than a razor they take to their heads...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

More Happy Christmas Chaos...

We had a Christmas feast and more celebrating with Bryan's family later Christmas evening.  18 kids and 10 adults makes for a lot of noise and chaos but it was happy and contented we-love-each-other-and-are-so-happy-to-be-spending-Christmas-together sort of noisy chaos so it was all good. 
Brandon played the part of a Wise Man in this year's family nativity.  Lilian and Julianne were part of the angel choir.  (I especially love that I caught Lilian in a very non-angelic yawn.)  Rebekah started to dress as an angel but decided against it and did a quick costume change, opting to go the shepherd route this year.

Here is Megan, Julianne and Rebekah pouring over the awesome books that Grandma and Grandpa made for, stories and experiences coming from the various adventures they had taken them on throughout the year.

Julianne was a bit giddy over the stack of crisp, new $2 bills she received....

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Eve and Morning

 Friday night I sang with the Sally Bytheway Chorale at the Assembly Hall....which meant an evening viewing the incomparable and awe inspiring light display on Temple Square! Throw in a huge, standing-room only audience for the concert and tons of aunts, uncles and cousins in attendance along with all that Christmas ambiance...and you've got yourself one heck of a magical evening.

Christmas Eve was a completely relaxing day with no one to entertain and nowhere to go.  It was heavenly!  Despite the fact that it was just our little family, we still went all out for Christmas Eve dinner.  Julianne created a beautiful, festive "tablescape" and all the kids pitched in to help with the cooking.  On the menu: Roasted Salmon with Macadamia Cilantro Crust, Grilled Butter Herb Shrimp, Grilled Veggies, and Loaded Mashed Potato Casserole.  It was the most fattening dinner you can imagine but boy, was it Y-U-M-M-Y!!

After dinner we put on our Christmas pajamas and cuddled on the couch reading Christmas stories.  Eventually we made our way to the TV and watched "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas"...the original animated version...before putting out a treat for Santa and then heading to bed.

Christmas morning came much earlier than usual this year.  Strange as it may seem, our kids don't generally wake us at the crack of dawn to see what Santa brought.  We tend to see the whites of their eyes closer to 8:00 or 9:00 on a typical Christmas morning.  But this year Christmas was on a Sunday and we had 9:00 church.  It was all I could do to get Lilian up at 6:45.  The poor little thing could hardly keep her eyes open, declarations of it being CHRISTMAS MORNING, notwithstanding.  It took some time but the evidence of Santa's visit eventually penetrated her brain and gave her the jolt of adrenaline she needed to fully wake.  "Look Mom!  I must have been on the nice list because Santa brought me a Lalaloopsy doll!!"  Santa, that smart, jolly elf, also left the kids new outfits to wear to church that morning. 
Oh, why can't we have Christmas on Sunday every year?!  Truly, in my opinion there is no better way to celebrate Christmas than by being in church, together with our families, neighbors and friends....praising God and the birth of His Son in scripture and song.  It just brings the whole day into sharper focus.  By the time we sang "Silent Night" as the closing congregational hymn, the emotion that had been threatening throughout the morning, overflowed and I wasn't able to get myself pulled back together until the end of the 2nd verse.  It was a beautiful meeting.

After church we changed back into our pajamas and then made German pancakes with all sorts of various yummy toppings for brunch...testing 4-year old Lilian's levels of patience with all the waiting, waiting, waiting...and then FINALLY (with Lilian just short of self-combustion) sitting down in the living room to open the presents under the tree.

 When I asked Brandon if he had any Christmas ideas for Julianne, he surprised me by saying that he actually did!  He knows that his older sister is a little bit obsessed with any and all things french right now and thought it would be fun to get her a "chocolate Eiffel Tower."  I squashed his excitement a bit by telling him that a chocolate Eiffel Tower might be hard to come by.  All the same, I typed "Chocolate Eiffel Tower" into a google search and to my surprise, found Eiffel Tower candy molds on Amazon.  I ordered them and Bryan helped Brandon make 6 Eiffel Tower chocolate suckers while Julianne was away one evening.  She was completely surprised and touched when she opened Brandon's gift Christmas morning.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas letter 2011

25 November 2011

Merry Christmas!
{I can now officially wish you holiday greetings because Thanksgiving is over...}
It's Black Friday. The day that many Americans are working off the calories from all that turkey and pumpkin pie by running from store to store in frantic hopes of getting killer deals on the items detailed on their Christmas gift list. I think they're crazy. {No offense intended...} I am wrapped in my bathrobe and still sitting in bed {at noon, no less} typing my Christmas letter rather than face the hordes of holiday shoppers...pumpkin pie calories and killer deals be damned. {Besides...I made a preemptive strike against those calories by going on a 3 mile run BEFORE turkey time. So I'm good, right?}

I feel I should start off with an apology. Many of you know that I write a blog. And if you've checked out that blog, you know that I am rather prolific. Which means that anything I detail in this Christmas letter will most likely be repeat. For those who find news of my blog writing,, I could just direct you to my blog address
{} and then leave you with a generic “Merry Christmas!” But even if you did venture on over there...I think the 195 blog posts I have written thus far for 2011 would likely be more than just a little overwhelming. Which is why I am using my Black Friday to summarize and hit the high points of my year in this letter.

I'm finding myself feeling a little bit old this year. Not so much in a bad way, necessarily...yes, I've been fighting those pesky gray hairs for quite a few years now despite the fact that 38 years old still seems way too early to be dealing with that sort of thing. No, this is in more of a “Holy wow...time is really passing!” sort of way. We've had quite a few markers this year that force us to acknowledge our age, even if we don't necessarily feel it.
*Bryan and I went to my 20 year high school reunion this year. And though I feel like I look better now than I did then, more than one person had to look at my name tag before exclaiming, “Sarah! I never would've recognized you!” because the changes were, apparently, extreme. {It's the whole hair color thing. Oh, and probably the fact that I'm not a scrawny 95 lb, 5'1”, 17 year old anymore.}
*But even more than a 20 year reunion for making one feel older, how about your oldest daughter entering high school and learning to drive? Yes, Rebekah is 15 and a sophomore at ----- High School. She challenges us frequently with requests that leave us floundering as we try to decide how to respond...seeing as she is our oldest and we've not come up with a parenting plan for everything yet. She's with friends more than she is home but she's a good, sweet girl and still somehow finds time to get enough of her homework done to pull a 3.8 GPA. Now, how to deal with those ever-present boys who are constantly texting and wanting to hold her hand at parties??
*Oh, oh! How about this? Bryan turns 40 in a couple of weeks. 40! FORTY! The big four-oh! This is a black balloon-worthy birthday coming up. How is it that even though he is two years older than me he still doesn't have any gray hair?
*I've also realized this year that when I sing Lex de Azevedo's “Gloria” tomorrow, it will have been 13 years since I first started singing with the Millennium Choir. Julianne was a 5-month old newborn when we started.
*And unlike when I played a young teenage “Mabel” falling in love with equally young “Frederic” in Pirates of Penzance a couple of summers ago, this year I played the part of “Ms. Susan” a wealthy, southern plantation owner that is the mother of a teenage daughter in the musical Harriet. Times are a'changing.

Maybe the reasons Bryan and I don't necessarily feel our age, despite all evidence to the contrary staring us in the face, is because of these things:
*I continue to run and bike in an attempt to ward of the results of my lack of willpower in the fight with my sweet tooth and my ever slowing metabolism. Numerous weekends this year were spent adding race numbers to my growing collection. Sleeping in vans and gym floors were not uncommon. Endurance races like Ragnar and LOTOJA, among others, tend to swing you pendulum-like from miserably brutal lows to the highest of adrenaline highs, all within one race. Which, amazingly enough, translates to exhausted awesomeness in my book. {Did I mention that I am the captain of my Ragnar team for 2012?}
*I also tried skiing this year for the first time. Ever. Worries that I wouldn't make it off that mountain without some sort of injury were unfounded. {Julianne came home with a sprained wrist a few weeks earlier after attempting snowboarding.} Apparently I bounce well...something that was repeatedly proven to me seeing as I fell on my backside 7 times!
*Bryan keeps himself active and young in mind and spirit by target shooting as much as humanly possible. The man gets practically giddy when packing all his gear. A week trip to Front Sight in Nevada, a day trip to the desert with his brothers or just a few hours up the side of the matters not. He's just happy to be shooting. Have I mentioned his up and coming “man cave” in the backyard? Not yet? Oh. Well! This detached garage-type building will house not only all his power tools and weight equipment but also...wait for it...a shooting range. With a main floor that drops 6 feet down into the ground, the building is within -------- code for personal shooting on your own property within city limits. He can now shoot more or less whenever he wants to. Giddy, I tell you.

But what really keeps us feeling young is trying to keep up with our children and their schedules. {A contradiction, really, because their rapid growth also makes our own years all the more obvious.} I mentioned already that Rebekah is in high school now. What is unique about our children's schooling, however, is that we have four children in four different schools. Julianne is 13 and in 8th grade at the Jr. High, Brandon is 10 and in 5th grade at the elementary school, and 4 year old Lilian is our caboose attending her 2nd year of preschool. My brain gets a workout trying to keep all those start and end times straight...not to mention early out Fridays and late start Tuesdays. I drive 6 carpools! Because beyond getting the kids to and from school there is also gymnastics, ballet and drama. I'm starting to feel like I run a taxi service.
*Brandon's gymnastics is the most time consuming, certainly. He is at the gym 5 days for a total of 12 hours weekly. Factor into that meet season in the winter where one meet can take up a full get the idea. But the determination, discipline, strength, confidence, friendship and pure joy it brings to Brandon makes it all very worth it. This year, beyond the various local meets, we had 2 out of state meets in Boise and Las Vegas and then the state meet in St. George. All good excuses for mini-vacations, yes?
*Rebekah and Julianne are involved in --------- Theatre...a youth acting troupe here in -------. They put on a rousing rendition of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat {try saying that 5 times fast} in the spring and are now in rehearsals for Beauty and the Beast. They also performed in the stake play Receive These Things in March...a show that I was heavily involved with also, as a ward director. Whereas Rebekah has embraced singing and performed often with the Choraliers {the 9th grade show choir} and has now fully embraced the music program at the high school, Julianne is kind of rebelling against type. Though she still loves the acting, I think she is tired of people pigeon-holing her with singing...and has branched out into other interests. She refused to take choir this year...something that made my jaw drop Sebastian style {from Little Mermaid} and instead, took acting, French and art. However, she claims one of her favorite classes is history...I don't fully know yet if she truly does love it, or if she's trying to make peace about the choir thing by buttering up her mother who has a BA in history...hmm.
*Besides preschool, Lilian also takes classes at a local ballet school...a more beautiful ballerina you've never seen. She is growing in both stature and personality. {My favorite Lilian quote this year? When handed an apple at Disneyland she looked up with equal parts innocence and suspicion...and asked, “Is it poisoned?”} Lilian seems to think that life is not complete without a playmate and has developed some serious wanderlust in her quest to find friends available for play. Luckily for her, we live in a neighborhood where there is an abundance of little friends her age.

Another thing that made me feel a little less than my years? Disneyland. The land where the child inside reigns...often with a crown of Mickey ears {or in my case, a Mad Hatters hat.} While the other kids had a summer full of camps ranging from gymnastics and science, to AFY at BYU Idaho and Retreat for Girls at Utah State University...with girls camp and a couple of trips with the grandparents thrown in for good measure, Lilian stayed home. She'd help them pack, wave goodbye and help them unpack again when the week was up. In August it was her turn. She packed her own bag this time, waved goodbye to her siblings and, with Mom and Grandma in tow, boarded her very first airplane. It being a Lilian paced trip, we spent four days doing exactly what a 4-year old desired. And if that meant we went on the Little Mermaid ride four times in a row, so be it. We had a joyously child-like time.

Funny enough, mine and Bryan's trip to NYC also made me feel young. Seasoned enough to feel only slight trepidation walking around the city on my own while Bryan worked...notwithstanding, I still turned circles in child-like awe when I found myself in Times Square for the first time. I pinched myself, literally pinched myself, when I sat down to watch Anything Goes on Broadway to make sure I wasn't dreaming. And received the ultimate compliment proving that I don't look anywhere near as old as I sometimes feel when a native NYC businessman struck up a conversation with me on the street and eventually asked me out for drinks...fully admitting to hitting on me only after I confessed that I was married.

But realistically, feeling older is a good thing. Because it means Bryan and I have been happily married for 18 years now. We've been rocked this year, watching some very close friends struggle in their marriages and contemplate divorce. Through our tears and despair we've also found ourselves clinging to each other and our little family ever more fiercely and thanking Heavenly Father for our ability to plow through when we've had problems of our own over the years and come out stronger.

We are incredibly thankful for the relationships we have with all of you! What a treasure family and good friends are! We hope you are all having a glorious Christmas season!

Bryan, Sarah, Rebekah, Julianne, Brandon and Lilian

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas Chaos

All 13 grandkids.  I had a hard time getting a picture where all 13 of them were smiling and looking....despite Grandpa's silly antics behind me.

 Scott, Jeremy, Dad and Spencer (missing Bryan and Ryan)
Dad with the sons he may not have raised but that are just as dear to him now as if he had.

Lilian, Abby and Ally opening up their gifts from the grandparents...
I'm especially liking the animated look on Julianne's face as she responds to and tries to match Lilian's excitement.  "Oh wow!!  Rain boots!!"  (And Brandon's equally bored face...)

 Joyful Christmas chaos....from both sides of the room.

 Beautiful Mommy...  seriously, I have the best Mom EVER!

 Mary and Melissa...awwww.  
Mary's husband Ryan is a basketball coach at a high school in Idaho and, unfortunately, for us...he had a game on party evening.  Mary said she would drive down on her own with the kids...but only if there was no snow.  So as much as I wish for, hope for and crave a white Christmas, this year I was praying for the opposite so we could have Mary and her and her kiddos with us.

Bryan and Scott made themselves comfortable at the beginning of the evening and then didn't budge the rest of the night.  

Spencer and Rachel flew into town from Atlanta where they are living while Spencer is in pharmacy school, to celebrate with us.  We've SO missed them!  I especially enjoyed talking with Spencer who I've never felt that I got to know very well since he and Rachel have lived out of town ever since their wedding 4 years ago.  I have to say that he is pretty cool!  And makes an awesome and welcome addition to our family.

Brandon and Grandpa discussing gymnastics skills and the periodic table of elements....Brandon's two very favorite topics.


Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply...  ~Jane Austen

More than Santa Claus, your sister knows when you've been bad and good.  ~Linda Sunshine

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Home Tour

I thought I'd take you on a Christmas decoration tour through my house.'s a little bit of picture-palooza....


I've been enamored of anything Jim Shore lately.  I love how colorful his statues are and the detailed picture carvings within each piece.  This year I bought this nativity and set it up in  my front entry way.

These are the shelves in my study/computer room.  For years I'd been trying to figure out how to decorate them in a way that was festive and pretty...but had some consistency rather than just random decorations placed on each shelf.  This year I found some unfinished picture frames at Hobby Lobby, spray painted them red and filled them with favorite Christmas photos from years past.  I'm quite pleased with how they turned out and how they tie everything together amidst the other various carolers and Santas I have up there.  (See my Jim Shore Santa?  My friend Mylissa gave me that one last year.  I've decided to start a collection and add one each Christmas.)

I looped garlands all across and down the banister and then added poinsettias and berries.  Julianne spent oodles of time making that huge pom pom out of newspaper...mostly just to see if she could.  She hung it there and although I never intended to leave it up the whole month, I've never got around to taking it down... 

Remember my epic Christmas tree fail a few weeks ago?  My big and grand pre-lit tree that we bought when we moved here specifically to take over the corner next to the fireplace wouldn't light, no matter what we tried.  My plan B had been to bring the small Christmas tree that we use downstairs...the one that we bought for our very first house 16 years ago...and just have a smaller, more simple Christmas display upstairs this year and then buy a new, big and grand tree on after-Christmas-sales.  Well, I will definitely be buying a new Christmas tree next week...but not a big and grand one.  I'll be buying another small tree for downstairs because I couldn't be more pleased with  how my living room turned out this year!  I've loved having the tree look more full of ornaments because it was smaller.  I've loved being able to keep my little apothecary chest in the corner and have my Willow Tree nativity on it.  I originally thought the smaller tree would be dwarfed by the vaulted ceilings but somehow it's not.  I don't think I've ever had a year where I've been more happy with my tree.  Go figure.    

Here's a close-up of my Willow Tree nativity next to the tree.  I added a bunch of spanish moss...which will be super messy to clean up but gives me the look of hay in a stable for right now.

My mantle is rather simple....a lit green garland with brown, twiggy balls and berry sprigs, two red taper candles in tall candle stick holders...and then all my sweet Willow Tree angels that I brought up from the basement.  (Normally they spend the rest of the year on fireplace mantle downstairs.)


 I wrapped berries around the pendant lights over my counter and also around each light in the chandelier hanging over our dining table.  Can you tell I've got a berry/poinsettia theme going on?

This is my mantle downstairs with our stockings.  My original plan had been to make all the kids matching stockings.  But after the two years it took me to get Rebekah's done (only after much help from my friend Lori) I decided to bag that plan.  A couple of years ago I let go of the unfinished stocking plan guilt and took the remaining kids shopping to pick out their own stockings.  Done!

This is the door that leads to our storage room downstairs off the family room.  I love hanging there, all of our Christmas cards and pictures that we receive in the mail.

I have to admit, I have greatly missed having a Christmas tree downstairs.  It's absence meant that I did not get to bring out all of our sentimental ornaments this year...the ones that my mom handed down to me when I got married, the ones that I've made over the years at my Aunt Jana's party, the ornaments that my great-grandmother made for me, the ones that the kids made in school when they were very young, etc.  I am looking forward to remedying that next year and have already been running through options in my mind.  Three skinny alpine trees all arranged together in that corner by the fireplace?  A flocked tree?  Maybe we buy a REAL tree for downstairs every year??  Ahhh...wouldn't that be awesome?  I think it would take a lot of persuasion to get Bryan to agree to that.  Stay tuned next Christmas to see what I decide.  :)