Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year...
Heaven help me. I'm staring at this blank, white page on my computer, willing my brain to come up with some brilliant way of recapping our yearly highlights in what will be this year's Christmas letter offering. I've seriously considered not writing a letter at all this year. (GASP!) Going letter-less...crazy thoughts, right? Most likely coming from either sleep deprivation or laziness...I'm not sure which. But in the end, I couldn't stand the thought of breaking my Christmas letter streak. One every single year since 1994. (That's 18 years for those of us who are counting on our fingers...) Plus, I think my parents would be decidedly displeased. And it's never good to disappoint the parents, yes?
I've already made the yearly list. You know the one...where you think back throughout the year and pick out the potential mentionables? Anything that could remotely be used in forming a nice, newsy little piece of holiday cheer. They're all jotted down in red pen. And you know what? Maybe this year my list, specifics and random details combined, is just going to have to be a letter in and of itself....
*I could tell you about the time I carted Rebekah and Julianne and a few of their friends down to the Hindu Festival of Colors where we inhaled a whole lot of chalk dust and ruined a few white t-shirts....while jumping up and down to the Hindu music with random strangers.
*And then there was that time we sat under a big tarp outside on a big hill while the lightening flashed and the thunder boomed and the rain poured...all so we could listen to The Piano Guys perform. It was especially memorable when the lightening flashes coincided with big musical moments.
*Or how about the time we had the whole neighborhood frantically searching for a missing Lilian...only to find her peacefully asleep in her bed, oblivious to the panic she had caused.
*We watched the skies for asteroids, a super-moon and an eclipse. (It'll be so much easier this next year after Brandon gets that telescope for Christmas. Shhh....don't tell!)
*We went to our very first REAL Salt Lake soccer game (hopefully not our last) and we went shopping to pick out our very first real Christmas tree. (See how I cleverly tied those two together? Ha.)
*We spent much of August watching the Olympics. And then much of October watching political presidential debates. We were disappointed on both fronts. The USA mens gymnastics team and our presidential candidate of choice were both better than the world got to see.
*I could tell stories of the buckets of tears I shed when my parents decided to move out of my childhood home after 34 years. And the buckets of books I brought home when my mom decided she needed to thin her home library so as to not have to move so many book-ladened boxes.
*Which means OUR home library is growing. Not only because of the books we inherited from my parents, but also because we have our own book collecting book worm. (And no, I'm not talking about myself...although a book worm, I certainly am as well.) Julianne Dlora devours books. A trip to Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago resulted in Julianne coming around the corner of the teen section, a huge grin on her face and her arms laden with a good 10 books. “Mom!” she exclaimed. “It's like this aisle was created just for me!” How were we to know that naming Julianne after her grandmother would prove to be so apt?
*We went to iFly and experienced the feeling of skydiving. Bryan and Brandon both acquired jumping stilts and the skill it takes to actually jump in them. I ran over 17 miles in the Ragnar Relay. (You should see the scar on my knee from when I biffed it running over Avon Pass.) And don't even get me started on the muddy, wet and foamy craziness that was the Foam Fest 5k.
*I could tell you about Julianne's EFY trip where she realized that being where the boys were was, and I quote, “AWESOME!” In all caps.
*Or how Rebekah recntly took the ever important ACT test and is anxiously awaiting her results. Realistically, she expects to take the test a couple more times as she gets ready to send in college applications. Oh my. College applications. What a reality check.
*More reality checking....Bryan turned 41, Lilian turned 5, Julianne turned 14, I turned 39 and Brandon...11. But Rebekah? Rebekah turned the magical age of 16. She had a date the very next day. And many more since then. Age 16 also means driving. I have discovered this year that as distasteful as it is to potty train a child and as glad as I am to be done with that very literal mess....teaching a teenager to drive is harder and more stressful! But our oldest daughter has a drivers license and a new-to-her car to drive. (We pray a lot when she's gone.)
*16 also means big high school date dances which include things like formal dress shopping, boutonnieres, day activities, creative asks and answers...you know, all beyond the actual dance. But when Rebekah wants me to climb in bed with her after she gets home so she can excitedly tell me all about it (till 1:40 AM) I count myself fortunate, even through the yawns the next day.
*The thing is, Julianne is hot on Rebekah's heels...daily regaling me with stories as to which boy said what to her in school or at the theatre that day. ----------Theatre...it's kind of a second home for Rebekah and Julianne. “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Music Man,” “Into the Woods,”...these are a few of the shows they've become extremely familiar with this past year. Beyond the plays, Julianne takes tap lessons and Rebekah, voice lessons. Julianne also auditioned for and made it into a subgroup that went to Disneyland the first week of summer to perform. It's probably needless to say that there is a lot of singing going on at our house...all the time, constantly.
*Because though I didn't think it was possible, music has become even a bigger part of my life than it already was. In February I was asked to join a women's quintet called Higher Ground and these women and the rehearsals and performances we engage in have quickly and surely become a pretty major part of each week. Beyond the various Relief Society programs we have put together, we've also performed with or for Cherry Hill, the Davis Arts Council, Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband and Deseret Book. Only time will tell where this group will go. We're still growing and working out bugs, but it's been a great blessing in my life.
*Another blessing...I was called to be the Stake Music Specialist. I was so overwhelmed I cried, literally cried. But though it's been busier even, than I had expected, well wow...turns out I really love my calling.
*From one calling to another (see my nice little segue there?) Bryan's has nothing to do with music, but has equally blessed his life. He is the gospel doctrine teacher. And though it is also overwhelming at times...the self-induced pressure he feels to make absolutely sure that he is doctrinally correct in everything he teaches and his hopes and prayers that what he says and how he teaches will be conducive to the Spirit...he too, loves his calling.
*And I believe it is the spiritual growth and fulfillment from his calling that has led him to seek another calling...this one as an ordinance worker at the Bountiful Temple. His shift is Friday mornings from 5-11 AM and if you know Bryan and are aware of his night owl propensities, you realize that an early morning shift like that goes against his nature. But it is the highlight of his week and he gets up every Friday without fail.
*Like her father, Lilian is also a night owl (or maybe it just has to do with the fact that she's living in a house of teenagers)...which also translates into rough early school mornings. Because glory be and hallelujah...our little caboose is in Kindergarten! And she likes it! It just takes a little while each morning to remind her of that fact....usually under threat of missing the bus.
*Did I tell you about Rebekah's 16-year old trip with her mom and dad to San Diego? Four days of nothing but beach. And though no one had informed us of the whole “June Gloom” thing San Diego endures, we still had a glorious time despite the grey-ish skies and slightly chillier weather. Ocean waves. Seriously, couldn't you stare at them forever? Maybe that's just the land-locked Utahan in me talking.
*And we can't forget mention of our champion gymnast! I can say that and not even blame it on biased motherly bragging because you see, he is actually a champion. He took 1st place All Around in not only the state meet but also the regional meet in Colorado as well! Brandon the champion....FACT! This kid eats, sleeps and breathes gymnastics. Truth be told, I'm pretty sure that if asked to list his role models in order of importance, his dad would be the top of his list, Coach Adam would be next....and then me. And I'm okay with that. Because I gave birth to the kid, and feed him, and drive him to gymnastics 5X a week...so I'm pretty sure he loves me a great deal. Plus, Coach Adam is pretty awesome.
I think I made it through my mentionables list...the specifics and even the most random of the randoms. Maybe there's something to be said about a bullet point themed Christmas letter. (I find it somewhat humorous that even without a clear cut idea of what I was going to say in this letter, I still filled up two pages.)
A couple of weeks ago we held our big stake Christmas fireside. After a program filled with glorious holiday music, we ended with a closing congregational song. I had the privilege of directing the chapel and cultural hall full of people in a beautiful arrangement of Oh Holy Night, accompanied by piano, organ and violin. And as the music swelled and the congregation focused on the meaning of the words and sang with their hearts, I found myself weeping. Of the many holiday programs, concerts and plays I have been to or performed in the past month, it is this that has stuck out to me the most. So I leave you with the lyrics of the first verse of Oh Holy Night along with our sincere wishes of a Merry, Merry Christmas!
Oh Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining, it is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!
Fall on your knees! Oh hear the angel voices! Oh night divine, the night when Christ was born!
Oh night, Oh holy night, Oh night divine!
LOVE......Bryan, Sarah, Rebekah, Julianne, Brandon and Lilian