Monday, January 27, 2014

New Year Summaries

Since we didn't quite manage Christmas cards this year, but I still wanted to take time to remember where we were all at... here's our kind of close to the New Year newsletter :)

Landon (7) is in 2nd grade, learning Portuguese in the dual immersion program at our school. An amazing big brother, he is full of energy and ideas. He loves to share or to offer help, especially when it's a big deal and he can really save the day.   He loves to learn about animals and share all the interesting things he learns. Play days with friends, special breakfasts, computer time (especially with Jordan) and snow days are some favorites. And reading! This is a boy who loves to read. Landon loves to hold Porter too and is awesome at keeping him cheered up in the van.

Ellie just turned 5 (!) and loves to make and do. Paper creations are her specialty these days, and she's becoming an excellent little artist too. Ellie loves to figure things out and sees life in patterns and numbers and sizes. A new toolbox (built with Jordan) is a favorite - as was helping to put together all of our new playroom shelves. Ellie loves to sing, draw, help make dinners and desserts, and mostly be close to Mom. She just started a Portuguese class and is proud to show off "Head, shoulders, knees and toes (in Portuguese) in super-fast mode. Ellie also surprised us a few weeks ago by calling us on the phone (she learned our numbers?!) and now has Grammie & Grandpa's number memorized from their frequent phone chats.

Owen (2) is our little happiness maker. "Wait, wait!" He'll yell at bedtime... "I love you so much too!" Owen is happy to follow along and play along with whatever adventures or fun the other kids can come up with. Playing tag or hide and seek, coloring pictures, playing cars... he'll happily join in. He's an awesome helper at dinner time and loves to help set the table with a frequent "What do I do next?" He was proud to learn how to climb out of his crib and come out of his room to say hello during naptimes...(which we didn't mind too much, since he waited till almost 3 to start practicing this trick!) And Owen still fills us up with love with his amazing hugs.

(3 months)
Porter (5 months). Oh our little Porter boy is a sweet precious little one. (He's been crying himself to sleep tonight as I write, so my heart is feeling a bit broken for him right now - poor guy!) He is thoughtful and watchful and delights us all with his smiles and giggles. Several wake-ups each night still have him leaps and bounds ahead of the other kids sleep schedules at this stage, so we're hopeful for a day when we'll all sleep again.  Little though he is, he's the center of our world right now and we are so grateful to have him in our family.

Jordan is loving to work in his new 'office shed' in the back yard. With walls made almost entirely of windows and the sun shining through, this Logan January has felt like a beautiful Spring for him.  Still enjoying work at Animoto, while also thinking of a possible change in the future, Jordan has been busy as an awesome employee as well as lining up phone screens and interviews on the side. A bit of unicycle riding, desk-biking, running and other adventures and he's a happy guy. Jordan's also gotten hooked on Duolingo and is loving to practice his Portuguese and think about traveling there with our family someday.  At church, he's continued as the executive secretary with a new bishop who is very grateful for him. And Jordan is especially grateful to Debbie for letting him sleep these days!

Debbie - A new calling as the primary chorister meant farewell to the Webelos scouts (and sadly to a weekly visit with a really great friend!) but also a welcome back to my favorite place to be (primary).  And nursery singing time is still a highlight of each week.  I've been content these days to follow Porter's lead and let him rock my world for this little time while he is so little. Grocery shopping trips are the big events (which I usually bring Jordan along for as back-up!) A few projects from my craft room here and there, some good books to read, DuoLingo to practice, treats to make, laundry to wash... these fill up the minutes in between. I love being a mom to these little ones and feel so grateful for the happy life we have.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A sweet moment tonight

Another day, Princess Ellie in her little house with Porter and Sheepy
I sat down to play the piano tonight for a minute, My cup runneth over, and Ellie quickly joined me in the front room with twirls and jumps, spins and sweetly swaying arms.

         "Let's pretend there is a show with a princess dancing and I'm the princess!"

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Christmas Vacation

Christmas 2013
With a few little mishaps at near completion, we ended up doing this puzzle about 3 times over the Christmas break. :) It was pretty great to have a nice quiet Christmas vacation this year. With our big trip to New York, and a December full of sickness (sadly including Christmas day!), it was just so nice to stay home and watch the snow outside and play lots of legos and Monopoly Deal and have some movie parties and  just be with our little family.

snowman/ellie presents

Ellie and her snowman
One of the sweetest parts of our Christmas were the gifts under the tree from little Ellie. All through December she worked hard at gifts for everybody in our family. Cards and notes. Various papercup/green tape/ plastic bag/ drawing creations... and my favorite,  a 'jingle baby costume' for Porter. Ellie's birthday is coming up and a few times she has mentioned (in a planning ahead/calendaring sort of way) "people will need to be working on making some presents for my birthday!" I love to know that she is imagining all of her family hard at work on our own creations made with such love for her (I hope we can come up with something fitting!)

A sweet Ellie gift!

A Merry Christmas and a sweet treat

Christmastime 2013 
Jordan and the kids surprised me with such a sweet treat for Christmas.  They set out to recreate one of my very favorite Christmas time treats (which have been impossible to find for the last few years) - Chocolate covered mint oreos. But, not just any chocolate covered mint oreos (which would have been amazing - my sister Kelly gifted me with a homemade batch a few years ago and I absolutely loved them!)   Jordan and the kids went all out though with 7 different varieties covered in every different kind of dipping chocolate they could find! We had a tasting party and the 'Ghirardelli  dark melting wafers' came out on top for me (followed closely by the Bakers dipping chocolate and Candi Quik chocolate). Such a fun sweet surprise!

A box full of Hand-dipped Chocolate Covered Mint Oreos (with carefully written  labels by Landon)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Sights and Sounds and Smells of NYC

Manhattan view from J. Owen Grundy Park 

Our December trip was our longest New York adventure yet, and possibly our last (who knows what the future may bring!) And since I've found that I'm not going to have any long focused time any time soon to write all about it, but I really do want to remember...  here's a really long list (put together in spare minutes over the last few weeks!) with lots of pictures mixed in :)

My favorite sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings of New York:

I loved the sight of:

- Owen and Ellie standing up on their seats, watching out the ferry windows at the bubbles in the water as we rode to the Statue of Liberty.

- Jordan and the kids all bundled up against the snow as I dropped them off at Rockefeller Center for a return trip to the Lego store (to build a few more of their own lego guys - so fun!)
On their way to the Lego store while I take a driving tour of the city in search of the Sarah Jane Studios Nutcracker display

- Christmas trees for sale at corner stands all through the city

- Garlands and bright red bows decorating the row house buildings. 
- Owen standing at the 'ball machine' activity for about 30 minutes at the Liberty Science Center, sending balls up through the maze of the machine (just exactly like Landon did about 3 years ago!)
Owen 2013
Landon 2010
- Bags full of M&M's in our favorite picked-out colors. Jordan and Landon with one of each color, Ellie with pinks and purples, Owen with light blue and dark blue and regular blue.

- The Manhattan skyline from our apartment, buildings disappearing right up into the clouds on the snowy/rainy days.
View from our Jersey City apartment
- Taxis. Driving around Manhattan (!!!) just felt so cheery with all the bright taxis surrounding our little minivan, like we ought to be a part of a children's illustration.

I saw this picture just before we left... it made the crazy traffic on our trip in more bearable to imagine us as one of those funny little legos (this is exactly what traffic is like at that spot!)
- April and Landon loving the animal exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History
(And Owen too!)
- J. Owen Grundy Park, and the stage I've often taken the kids to play at on previous trips  (right by our apartment.)
(Poor sick Ellie "I want to go home!" Owen not understanding why he keeps falling down on the slippery ice, Porter happy in the stroller, and Landon thrilled to run and play and slip and slide in the ice and snow)

- All the kids best colored pictures that April hung up on the door to decorate.
- Crate and Barrel everything
- Jordan (amazingly!) piling all of our luggage onto a cart at the airport to get us from one spot to the next
Our crazy circus caravan - welcome to NYC!

- The policemen directing traffic near Times Square, stretching caution tape between 2 officers to hold people back from crossing the street as the cars drove by one way, then stopping the cars and yelling a  "go! go! go!" to the rush of people making their way across -- suddenly crossing the street was a big event!
- And similarly, the so funny ridiculousness of pushing 3 strollers through the super tightly packed crowds in Rockefeller plaza.
On our way to the Lego store on the other side of the plaza, we made it halfway across through the crowd before we could even see that the ice skating rink was there in the middle of our path! 
- Watching a few minutes of a  firework show on the Hudson from our apartment living room.
- Santas - hundreds of Santas, all around downtown one Saturday morning (for a less than noble event -  but still such a funny and festive sight!)

- The little plaza by the Statue of Liberty where someone took a few pictures of Jordan and me dancing in the rain on our first trip to New York, 9 years ago. (I wouldn't have ever thought then that we'd be returning again and again!)
-  The Max Brenner's kid menu with things like (our choice) "Max's Palace Famous Chocolate Mess Party" (which sadly, our poor sweet treat-loving Ellie was too sick to really enjoy!)
- A spray paint artist who painted a city skape picture for April in about 5 minutes with only spray paint and a couple of regular old tools.
(Porter hiding out in the backpack snuggled right up in Jordan's coat)

- Landon playing with his 'paper city' nativity on a stay around the apartment day

- Watching out our apartment window at all the boats coming and going, night and day. We listened to the song at Christmas time  "I saw 3 ships come sailing in" and Ellie said "We would have to go back to New York on Christmas day to see the ships!"
- A few extra enthusiastic Salvation Army bell ringers, complete with a fancy little dance.
- Watching the Radio City Christmas show (from the comfort of our apartment thanks to Netflix!)
- Landon and Owen reading at the Strand bookstore (while Ellie sweetly slept)

-Owen and April playing with the bubble wall at the Science center
- So many missionaries coming and going on our flight home

And the sounds of
-April reading to the kids, especially "Miss Rumphius" to little Owen.
- The Christmas program at church on Sunday at the Manhattan ward. Each time we've visited, I've been amazed at how strong and loud and joyfully and beautifully the congregation there sings its hymns. And their Christmas program was like attending a professional Christmas concert (I had to google the chorister afterwards and sure enough she was a former broadway performer!) What a powerful missionary tool for any who stop by to visit - to hear so many testimonies shared just through the sacrament meeting hymns.

And the smells/tastes of
- all the 'Nuts for Nuts' carts with their yummy cinnamon almonds.
- an ice cream cookie sandwich from "Mighty Quinns" BBQ - molasses/gingerbread cookies with pumpkin pie ice cream - yum!
- our Max Brenner kids dessert
- Mama Sbarros pizza (another favorite from our first NYC trip years ago)

And the feel of
- excitement and busy-ness and creativity and possibility of the city
- and some nice calm, quiet time at the apartment

- and smallness and wonder at how big the world is, of how many, many people there are in the world - so many different lives going on, of how wondrous it is that  Heavenly Father still somehow knows and loves each of us.
- familiarity and remembering and not feeling worried about getting lost
- of not losing Landon (!!!)
- Meeting many of Jordan's coworkers and friends and getting to see how much they value him and think he is so great.  Having faces to put with names now, and also seeing familiar, friendly faces.

And also
- All the super kind and helpful people - I'm amazed every time we travel to New York how often people stop to help out with the kids.  Stretching out their arms to hold elevators, helping carry strollers up and down stairs at the subway stations, offering what they can to cheer up tired kids... I always find such kindness.
- A friend of Jordan's from work inviting him over one night for dinner after work. So nice!
- Spending time with April! And all of her amazing help with the kids, too.
- Having extra time before and after Jordan's work week to do things all together.