Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Casdorph Christmas Eve

On Sunday as I entered the rehearsal location for our ward choir practice, I got to hear the tail end of a Mecham-brothers rehearsal.  I know they aren't famous except in our ward and their own family, but they are definitely two of my favorite singing brothers, so I was curious what they were practicing for.  "Our family  program tonight," was the reply, and I felt slightly less unique knowing there are other families out there who celebrate Christmas with a good old fashioned family talent show.

This was always the tradition on both sides of my family growing up.  Whether we spent Christmas Eve in Arizona with the Casdorphs where the talents included strings and saxophone or at Aunt Enid's here in the valley with the Nelsons where the talents ranged studiously practiced to... (well, we all remember some pretty interesting programs with Cameron and Justin's improved fun).

It's been a tricky tradition to implement with our smaller family unit, but this year the kids were actually well prepared to share something I didn't have to beat into them just for this occasion.  I simply asked Adam to choose one of his recently practiced Christmas songs (thanks, Ms. Shayla), and Alex happily agreed to sing along.  Both brothers agreed to help Dylan perform a David Archuletta sing along live, and when upon request, Alex reprised a previous performance of "Little Donkey."

It was fun to have the additions of Sumon on violin playing "Good King Wenceslas" (unfortunately not video recorded) and Damber singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" with my dad.  I had suggested that maybe dad bring his trumpet, and it was a hit with the little boys.  I shared a poem written by a ward member who is currently serving a mission, and Lisa shared a quote via Skype.

I've highlighted just the best moments in this clip.  Feel free to enjoy  :)

We ended the evening with a less-than-traditional puppet show rendition of Luke 2.  Let's just say that between my three little ones and the "help" of two somewhat reluctant Nepali's, the behind-the-scenes (couch) action was more than a little crazy.  But despite the crazy, we seemed to manage to get the message across that Christmas really isn't about Santa.

That was evident in Adam's bedtime prayer.  "Please Alex, Dylan, and I - and Mom and Dad - that we can remember that Christmas is really about Jesus's birth."

And the next morning Alex commented, "I know Jesus really gave all these presents to Santa to deliver."

Yes, for me, the spirit of Christmas Eve really captures the spirit of Christmas.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Christmas Ever

A whole bunch of stuff combined to make this my favorite Christmas ever. Part of it is finally feeling settled enough as an adult to truly enjoy the giving. (I realize most of you probably made that transition long before 31, but I am a bit of a late bloomer.)  Part of it is having all three children old enough to participate in the gift getting.  Part of it is the generosity of grandparents and great grandparents who helped us spoil three deserving boys rotten.

And part of it may be the perspective I received reading Sumon, Damber, and Kuron's letters to Santa Claus.

"Name = Kuran Pakwal
Dear Santa,

I hope you are doing fine.  I am doing ok.  The following list item I need for this Christmas are:

1. Money, Happiness, Love, Health
2. Good, better job, full hours, better pay, car, making more money
3. Blessings, faith"

"Dear Santa,

Today I got a golden chance to write a letter to you.  I am so happy.  All I want is new church [clothes], school [clothes], and [couldn't read this part].  That's all I want.

Thank you,
Your lovely boy
Damber Pakwal"

"Dear Santa,

I hope you are fine.  Here is my list.

1. I want basketball and soccerball.
2. I want basketball and soccerball shoes.
3. I wish I would speak English clearly so everybody understand me clearly.
4. Bless my mom that she would be happy.

From your lovely boy Suman Pakwal.
I live in [address here]
Draper, SLC,
Utha U.S.A."

With new-found gratitude that for this blessed family, Christmas is all about wants, I present to you the best moments of THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.  (In installments, because that is really a lot to blog about in one day!)

Tomorrow: Christmas Eve!

Friday, December 21, 2012

On the Lighter Side

I've been reading this guy's blog off and on for awhile now, mostly because I enjoy his writing style as much as I enjoy the variety of the posts he writes.  I like his humorous stuff.  I respect his serious stuff.  Mostly I like that I really think he writes just to write.  He just happens to have readers in each of the 50 states as well as 137 countries.

Anyhow, enough creepy adulation.  The point is that I just read one of his older posts about wanting to keep a bit more upbeat on his blog.  He urged his readers that if he got too heavy, they should send him a message with the word "wenis" as the only content.  It amused me - and reminded me that I had some lighthearted videos to post that I haven't got around to, since I seem to have just had a lot to say lately.

As videos, they are super boring.  But hit play and then check Facebook or something.  You might get some enjoyment out of my kids singing their two new favorite Christmas songs, each included on the David Archuletta album (Christmas from the Heart) we received from Paul and Joan Mecham as a Christmas gift.

Adam's Top Pick: Track 9 - Pat a Pan

The loudest vocals are Adam, with Dylan joining in full force at about :45, singing what we like to call "the right note."  Al's best contribution is the beat boxing at about 1:30.  Alex actually sings both songs very well, but was quite tired this particular evening.

Al's Top Pick: Track 11 - Riu Riu Chiu

It's a bit harder to separate the three voices on this one, since Adam's Spanish very closely resembles Dyl's standard jibberish.  Best moments are at 1:40 and 2:04-40.

In all honesty, I'd recommend the whole CD.  But I've become pretty fond of the three-boy sing-a-longs!  I'm not sure the CD will sound the same to me without the backup group.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In the Silence

They called this morning's scheduled activity a "lock down drill."  We've done them before, and this one was apparently scheduled in advance to happen today.  But even though the drill was routine, how could it really be the same?

This time we notified the students of the drill, explaining that the purpose was just to practice procedures.  We discusses the students' anxiety over potential threats.  Then we waited for the "LD mode" call to come over the intercom.

It really didn't seem much different to the students huddled quietly in the corner.  But as the adult to whom young lives have been entrusted, it didn't feel much like a drill to me.

It felt like a moment of silence.

Up to this point, I've been fairly successful at keeping the "what ifs" at bay.  While others posted on Facebook about hugging their children tighter, I remained carefully detached from anything that might stir genuine emotion.  I've avoided television news coverage and read only a few articles.  I've participated in this tragedy in only the barest of intellectual capacities, intentionally distancing myself from the despair.

I guess it's my coping mechanism.  Not to pretend that bad things don't happen -- they certainly do.  But to interpret them as though they happened in a fictional book to fictional characters.  To inspect and disect only in a sterile environment, free from connection.

But in a moment of silence with students in a corner, how could I remain detached?  How could I stave off the "what ifs"?  How could I not let my all-too-vivid imagination interpret the procedural jiggle of the classroom handle as the real deal?

I am a planner.  I have mentally planned for the eventual passing of both of my parents.  Funeral and financial plans have been mentally made and reviewed every so often in solitary moments in my car.  I've imagined the aftermath of Kirk's untimely death as well.  It's not that these events aren't painful to consider -- just that I feel more comfortable, more in control, knowing I at least have a plan.

I plan for other stuff, too.  If I ever was attacked in a dark alley, I have mentally formed a plan to scream.  The next time a large object attempts to fall on me, I have planned to get out of the way.  It turns out I have a shortage of self-preservation instincts, so I practice these things in my mind.  Based on life experience, I worry that if I haven't made these plans, I may think of these important steps a moment too late.

I know bad stuff exists in this world.  And the only way I can reconcile that is to plan for it.  I tried so hard to keep the realities of the school shooting from affecting me emotionally, because once that seed takes root, will I have to plan for that, too?

My friend Ben, a fellow University of Phoenix student, told me this past week that any bad guys would have to go through Mr. M first.  He says that in the event of an intruder, he would break the leg off a desk and wait by the door.  He's planning for it.

Is this a thing we plan for now?  I mean -- obviously it is -- we had a lock down drill.  But is it a thing so real that I plan for it?  Do I consider the scenarios?  Do I let my mind wander to the "what ifs"?  The "what if" someone came into my classroom?  The "what if" one of my own children was in there with me?  The "what if" I heard gunshots in the classroom across the hall -- the one labeled "Mrs. Casdorph"?

This is why I keep my thoughts and emotions so carefully separate.  Because this is not a world I can plan for.  This is not a world in which I can mentally live.

Please give me my emotional bubble back.  Because reality kind of sucks.

Monday, December 17, 2012


I wish I had the resources to be able to present this as a full scale video production mimicking the ever popular crime dramas.  The episode would start with me sitting across from an internal affairs investigator, or a psychologist, or a judge, trying to explain why I shouldn't be fired | committed | hanged.  As I told my story, there would be flashbacks, subtitled with words like "2 Days Ago..." or "11:53 a.m."  And you'd all be dying to know how I got to where I started.

Let's see if this picture sets that mood:

"You see, Mr. Investigator | Dr. Psychologist | Your Honor," I might start.  It's not that I don't have Christmas spirit.  I just show it in a different way.  What you might see as a coffin leaning against my house and an absence of Christmas lights is... well, it's a coffin leaning against my house.  But what you have to understand is...

Saturday, December 15th, 1:23 p.m. (okay, that's a total guess...)

I am sitting at the tech table at the Dickens Festival, running the music for our matinee performance of Oliver!, happy to be watching 15 pickpockets and Fagin explain the lucrative benefits to crime, when suddenly, the lights flicker and the power goes out.  Buddy, the professional technician running the equipment for our show quickly runs to the front of the stage, checking cords and equipment, while I sit observing Proud Director Moment (PDM) #1: each of the 16 children and teens on my stage has chosen to freeze in their current position until directed to make a different choice, never breaking character or showing concern.

Buddy determines that the power is out in the whole building, and before we begin to troubleshoot that, I suggest that perhaps it is out at the whole fair park.  A quick text later, we find out that the problem is nothing we can fix.  The power is just out.  

I ask my actors to step back stage and be ready to come out again at a moment's notice.  I announce to the audience that we are uncertain of the situation but that we will get the show up again if at all possible.  Someone suggests that I should have my orphan choir take the stage, since their music is all acapella.  I agree that this is a great way to entertain our now-dwindling audience, and 31 children take the stage.

We receive notification from the powers that be that the power will be down for at least a half hour, and we reluctantly cancel the rest of the Oliver! performance, inviting our audience to come back at 3:00 for Scrooge and at 5:30 for our evening performance.  I begin to consider the options, because in my mind, "The show must go on."

Saturday, December 15th, 2:15 p.m.

A plan has been hatched to run our 3:00 p.m. show using an emergency battery pack with inverter (similar to the picture), borrowed from the back of the Richardson family vehicle.  Buddy the Great has hooked a CD player (also provided by the very prepared Richardson) family, and the scheduled dance performance is taking place on the stage.  But it is becoming apparent that A) the music from the CD player is nowhere near loud enough to run our show and B) the power from the battery pack is dwindling rapidly.

I make a few phone calls and get ahold of Marie Nugter, a staple at the Empress Theatre.  She agrees to let me borrow her Tailgater, a rechargeable amp and speaker that was loud enough to use on the Magna parade route and happened to be sitting fully charged on the Empress prop table.  Cast member Shawna Pierce offers her phone, which we hope at 58% battery will last long enough to play the tracks she has fortuitously loaded into a playlist.  I send assistand director Perry Whitehair to get the Tailgater, instruct cast members to look as nice as they can sans curling irons, and to be ready for the 3:00 p.m. curtain time.

Saturday, December 15th, 2:55 p.m.

I hear that the power has come back on in one of the fairground buildings.  I check in with Buddy the Magnificent, and pose the theoretical question, "If the power comes back on, how long will it take for you to get all the equipment up and going."  He pauses, deep in thought, then replies, "Have your people wear and trade their mics as if they are working.  If the power comes back on, distributing the mics would be the worst part.  But this way, if it comes back on, they can just keep doing the show while I work to get everything going."

Buddy and I determine that we will run the show from the battery pack for as long as it lasts, in part to get a higher quality sound and in part because Perry isn't back yet.  When necessary, I will switch to the Tailgater. I announce to our large gathered audience that they can expect to see a great show despite strange circumstances and explain that they are to ignore me as I sit at the back corner of the stage, visibly operating Shawna's phone.  I position my mother/music director Jackie Casdorph in the audience to be my ears and give me signals to balance the accompaniment volume against unamplified voices, and we begin.

The show continues as Buddy makes preparations in case the power returns.  We discuss remaining battery power as Perry arrives with the backup machine.  We determine that I can probably get one more song from the battery pack, and discuss a plan to get Tiny Tim a corded microphone (run from an output on the amplifier/speaker combo) for his solo.  I make the determination to switch to back up power, and carefully watch the phone battery, now down to 48%.

Saturday, December 15th, 3:27 p.m. (another guess...)

The Cratchit family has taken the stage, setting their table and stools closer to the audience as suggested by Jackie, and they are deep in the dialogue that sets up their family song, "Good Times," when the stage lights flicker.  Soon the lights are up, and the audience gasps.  Infused with that bit of extra energy - pun intended - the Cratchits begin to sing.  Buddy the Amazing hurries quickly from equipment box to equipment box, readying the microphones, and by mid-song we have both lights and mics.  PDM #2: I look out through the Cratchit family who despite their relatively young ages (Kortnee Linnett - 5ish, Soda Evans - 8, Brynn Hill - 12ish, Cami Whatcott - 15ish, Alisa Woodbrey - 23ish, and Christopher Kennedy - 25ish) are continuing to perform as if nothing has happened, and I can see between their kick line to the audience.  I look at the faces of the mothers who've been to every performance, who have volunteered back stage, who have brought me offerings of chocolate and moral support, and whose faces are currently alight with overwhelming pride.  And I have to turn my face away as I choke back tears.  As the song ends, I power down the Tailgater and Shawna's phone and head back to the tech booth to watch/run the remainder of the show.

Saturday, December 15th, 3:48 p.m.

The entire cast of Scrooge takes the stage for a final bow, and I mentally will the audience to give a standing ovation.  This cast deserves it.  This performance deserves it.  PDM #3: I recall all this season's "The show must go on" moments and remember with pride the night that Colton Jensen, fighting a losing battle with the stomach flu, hurried on stage right after throwing up backstage to make sure he didn't miss his solo.  I remember the night when a cast member was stuck in horrible traffic and had to miss the show.  I sent light technician Miki Davis, one of last year's pickpockets, on stage in his place with absolutely no rehearsal, telling her simply, "Break a leg, and I think he stands two people to the right of center in the front row during the 'windmills.'  Other than that, just rely on the other kids."  I think of Travis Hymas whose intelligence on stage gives me the trust to know that a simple, "Cover for him, Trav," will do the trick, and each line and solo is delivered with confidence as Trav reworks his blocking to cover the conversations of two characters.  I think of Kylee Ogzewalla who, after an unfortunate fall in a rehearsal, jumped back up on stage without so much as a moment to go composer herself.  I stand, even though no one will notice.  I give this cast a standing ovation.

Saturday, December 15th, 4:00 p.m.

We begin our cast party, high on the adrenaline of a crazy - but successful - performance.  Shawna charges her phone, just in case.  We laugh together, eat together, and then prepare for our closing performances.  The 5:30 showing of Oliver! goes off without a hitch, which is especially great considering we hadn't been able to give the matinee a conclusion.  We return to the green room and begin preparations for the closing performance of Scrooge.  We check in any Oliver! specific costumes, and I send my littlest orphans home for the last time (as they are only in the one show).

Saturday, December 15th, 7:15 p.m.

The power goes out again.  This time it is too dark and too cold to just announce, "The show must go on."  We reluctantly close without a final performance.  We collect costumes in the dark.  We send home the volunteers who had signed up to help sort, organize, and load props, sets, and costumes.  We ask for new volunteers for an 8:00 a.m. Sabbath Day work party.  We say our goodbyes and go home at an unprecedented 9:00 pm.

Sunday, December 16th, 8:00 p.m.

I arrive to see the Jensen family (three year Dickens veterans), the Pierce family (two year participants, and work colleagues/students), Brett Hansen (this year's Fagin), Arlee Heslop (one of my best friends), Nate Kennedy (recently returned missionary and great addition to this year's cast), and of course - my parents.  In only two hours, we accomplish all the work that has to be done, including loading up the props that don't go to St. George for storage.  My dad drops them off at my house, following my exhausted instructions to just, "leave them in the front yard."

I arrive home to see a coffin leaning against my house.  I leave it there.  In part because I have to get to choir practice in 45 minutes, and I am definitely currently in my favorite orange sweatpants and yesterday's unbrushed hair.  I leave it there.  In part because I truly don't have a solution of where it needs to go.  I leave it there.  Mostly because it is a symbol of this year's Christmas spirit.  Of the fact that I am so tired that I keep welling up at the slightest thing.  Of the fact that this year's Dickens Festival has somehow brought me to a point where the Holy Spirit seems to be constantly right at the surface, keeping me in tune with tender emotions that I often overlook.  I leave it there in memory of the final performance my amazing cast didn't get to give.

So please don't fire | commit | hang me for my completely bizarre Christmas decorations.  Just consider this a final curtain call for the incredible 67 people with whom I have spent the last several months.  Well done, my friends.  Well done.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Reason for the Fight

I'm trying to hold my tongue here, but it just isn't working.

Here's what I don't get about the whole "wear pants to church" thing.  What exactly are these women trying to change?  There is no church policy that says women have to wear dresses.  In fact, I am fairly certain that most of us wear dress for one or both of two reasons:

  • Our mothers (and Western culture) taught us that when we want to show the ultimate respect, we wear a dress.
  • We want to show respect.
It's all a choice.  It's always been a choice.  So I just don't get the point of making a big fuss.  With no policy to change, I have to assume these women are trying to change perception.  

Good luck.

I really couldn't possibly care less what someone else wears to church.  That is their business, and who am I to say that a pant suit doesn't show equal amounts of respect?  But that doesn't mean I won't do a double take.  And it doesn't mean I won't judge.  

Not because I'm a judgemental Utah Mormon, either.  No, its because I belong to a society in which women wear dresses when they want to show respect.  Not all women, true.  But most women wear dresses to weddings, to funerals, to dances.  And when someone does something different than what most do, it is human nature to take notice, to consider the reasons for the differences, to pass personal judgement on the difference.  

Now my personal feelings are based in what my mom taught me.  The church is Heavenly Father's house.  When I am going to be in the chapel, I wear a dress.  If I am going to step foot in the building except for the purposes of sports, I wear long pants.  That's what my mother taught me, and it makes sense to me.  I dress up for job interviews.  I dress up for family pictures.  And so I'm totally okay with dressing up to go visit Heavenly Father's house.

I also remember clearly that when my school changed to uniforms and required the girls to wear a jumper on Mondays and Wednesdays, my mom would not allow me to wear shorts under my dress.  "If they wanted you to act like you were wearing shorts," she reasoned, "they wouldn't be requiring skirts."  So I guess I was just raised that you dress a certain way not just for outward appearance, but because dress affects behavior.

And I admit to being a bit more judgemental than the average bear.  I really don't think women or girls should wear leggings under their dresses to church or that boys should get away with a polo shirt when girls have to wear dresses.  I also don't think flip flops have any place at church.

But I totally get - and respect - that the definition of dress up is a personal one.  And so of course I'm not going to act differently.  I'm not going to base friendships differently.  But I am going to notice.  And some organized pants day isn't going to change that part of my nature.

Besides, if the plan really is to get people to stop noticing women wearing pants, I think they're going to have to go a lot further than an LDS Sacrament Meeting.  We're really talking about changing an entire culture, here.  That's a pretty big uphill battle.  And I'm saddened by the few who choose to fight it where I go to worship.

Wear pants if you want to.  Your choice.  Always has been, always will be, and no one but you can know your internal motivation.  But please consider the purpose of the organized pants day, and consider that bringing a fight to church may not be a way to prove respect.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


They say one man's trash is another man's treasure.

I found a few other variations:

  • One woman's trash is another woman's boyfriend.  (Laura Ruby, novelist)
  • One man's vulgarity is another man's lyric.  (Supreme Court Justice John M. Harland II)
  • One man's saliva is another man's mousse.  (Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men)
  • But one man’s caution is another man’s passivity and inaction.  (Michael A. Walsh in the New York Post)
  • One man's remorse is another man's reminiscence.  (Ogden Nash)
  • One man's theology is a another man's belly laugh.  (Robert A. Heinlein, sci-fi writer)
  • One woman's tramp stamp is another woman's declaration of undying love.  (Alexis Munier in The Little Red Book of Very Dirty Words)
Well, I don't have a cute little way of saying it, but:

One person's super annoying singing elf doll is another person's chance to hear her three year old sing at Christmas.  And yes - all elf singing is also accompanied by a mad dash around the nearby furniture.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2012 Christmas Letter

I've been receiving annual Christmas letters from friends and family in the mail, and I've enjoyed reading each - even from those whose lives I follow step by step via blog.

Well, I'm an unfortunate combination of lazy and cheap this year, so there will be no mailed tidings of great joy.  But I would love to commemorate a great year in pictures and words.

So here it is...

The First Annual |BoyTrapped| Christmas Letter
With Photographs by Jami Marshall

If you had been a fly on our wall this year, you would probably have seen a whole lot of coming and going with brief moments of craziness between.  I've seen a quote that says, "In this house... we do real, we do mistakes, we do I'm sorry, we do forgiveness, we do hugs, we do fun, we do second chances, we do really loud, we do love, we do family."  

While I hope that we do all those things, too, I'd have to write a pretty specific one to describe the Fifes.  "In this house... we do busy, we do community, we do crazy, we do support, we do friends, we do party, we do welcome, we do responsibility, we do yes, and when we can get around to it, occasionally we do clean and food."

KIRK is still working for the Internal Revenue Service as a revenue agent but has begun to take on additional responsibilities which have sent him to Vegas for training and to the exotic location of Idaho Falls on several occasions.  Whenever he gets the chance, he enjoys golfing with his buddies and playing basketball with the guys from the ward.  Kirk has recently been called to teach Gospel Doctrine and is blessing his home with the additional spirit that comes from preparing to teach his lessons.

ANDREA is plugging along in her Masters program, working toward a teaching certificate.  It has been quite a feat to log the 100 hours of observation required for the degree, but she has enjoyed getting to watch friends and family teach.  Andrea is glad to have major projects like Trek, EYT, and Dickens behind her in 2012 and intends to focus on school for the next several months.  Andrea is still teaching music at Navigator Pointe Academy, and has particularly enjoyed having Adam along for the ride for many of this year's pursuits.

ADAM won't stop growing.  He eats everything placed in front of him and outgrows everything he tries to wear.  In addition, he has grown in intellect, spirituality, and talent.  He is excelling in 2nd grade at NPA and especially loves science.  He is preparing to be baptized in April, having chosen to wait until Aunt Lisa will be in town.  Adam has participated in three musicals this year and also enjoyed playing Flag Football for the first of probably many seasons.  He played in his first piano recital and likes to play for his own enjoyment at home.

ALEX continues to light up the lives of all those he meets.  He's doing very well in Kindergarten, and his teachers comment cheerfully about all the stories he tells.  He has continued his love of music, participating in two musicals this year and stealing the show in The Empress's Oliver!  With Adam gone at school, Alex has started to develop a close relationship with his younger brother and has started to exhibit at least occasional compassion for others.  His parents may jest about his antics, but they know life would be a bit boring with Al!

DYLAN has had a huge year, finishing out 2012 by finally learning to talk.  He has made big transitions from being the baby of the family to welcoming a brand new niece and learning to be the big boy.  He will soon be entering Primary, and he will hopefully soon reach the milestone of potty training.  Thankfully he's kept the ginger hair, but his mom is a bit sad to admit that his blue eyes have turned green.  Stubborn and adorable, this Fife family caboose has just as much steam as his older brothers!

Though some would say we're crazy, each progressing simultaneously toward individual goals, we know that as each of us improves, our whole family grows!  And though we may spend a pretty hefty amount of time apart, nothing beats the time we get to spend together.  Whenever possible, we can be found all piled together on two cushions of our five-cushion couch, because we just like each other that much!

Merry Christmas from the Fife Family!

Monday, December 10, 2012


Last year we set up the Christmas tree downstairs.  It was beautiful!  And I never saw it, because when I finally got home from Dickens each night, I went straight to bed.

I was bitter, and didn't even realize it.  Until this year rolled around, and for the first time in 11 years of marriage, I was not up on Thanksgiving morning begging Kirk to start setting up the tree.

In fact, the entire Thanksgiving weekend came and went, and I felt not even the slightest bit of Christmas spirit tugging at my  heartstrings.

Well, I guess it's just going to have to wait until after Dickens this year, I grumbled.  Not too busy.  Not too tired.  Just too grouchy to put it up.

But when I realized the real lack of motivation was not exhaustion and schedule related, I approached Kirk.  "I know you really liked having the tree downstairs, but I didn't even get to enjoy it.  What would you think about moving it back upstairs."  Loving husband that he is, we decided to return the tree to its former position of front room pride.

That decision in mind, I've been secretly antsy to put up the decorations.  But, grouchiness out of the way, exhaustion and schedule still prevented me from acting very quickly.  But a few key decisions (including skipping the class hours of church yesterday in favor of much-needed family time) gave me a rested, open block of time to begin digging through the boxes.

And I got happier and happier as I went.  With each item placed proudly where I could see it all season, I felt every last bit of Grinch and Scrooge melt right away.

The best part is that I even felt creative enough to try a few new things this year, leaving us with a collection of sentimental Christmas all around.

Favorite handmade ornaments from G.Gma and G.Gpa Nelson

A proud new location for my favorite picture
"And Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart."

Last year's impromptu gift from my dad,
a picture of Mary with little-boy-Jesus,
absolutely precious to this mom of little boys

A new porcelain doll from Kirk's mom
My favorite porcelain doll ever - from Jack when he was about 9
New candles - donated to the cause by Mariah

A Thankgiving decoration made years ago with Heather Case
Re-purposed as a starry night at the manger

A new craft project using the vinyl that Marie Fountaine gave me years ago.

A unifying theme for Christmas and life (again handmade by G.Gma & G.Gpa Nelson)

My Christmas doll collection (from my mom over the years) displayed proudly
on a shelf made for Kirk by G.Gpa Fife, lit for the first time by Christmas lights.

Go ahead and laugh at my laziness... the important part here is the voice.
G.Gma Casdorph's gift to me last year.  Which made me cry.  
And will probably make me tear up every time my kids sit down
to listen, which so far has been frequent.

Everywhere I look, I see something that I love.  Something that means something to me.  Something that I hope will mean something to the kids.  Something that reminds me of someone I love.

I think my descroogification is complete.

Now to work on Alex, who is walking around singing "I Hate People" and introducing himself as Alvineezah Scrooge...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Am and Ax

When Al arrived in the world, we adopted an easy shorthand for labeling their things.  Big A = Adam, little a = Alex.

But when Al started to recognize his letters, that changed.  Adam kept the A, but as Alex started to identify with the distinctive letter X, we adopted the current A | X system.

But now that D has come along, and is talking more and more, he has started to classify his brothers using his own system.

He has started to direct questions, requests, demands, and complaints to a specific brother, starting or ending many sentences with "Am," or "Ax."  Add that to his growing propensity toward complete sentences and his steadily improving diction, and we have one adorably communicative redhead.

The only problem is that Dylan calls Alex, "Am," about 75% of the time.  Sometimes, he'll even refer to them as "Am" and "Am."  I feel kind of bad for Adam, because his name gets inadvertently included in sentences like, "Am!  Geh ah!"  (Adam, get off!) and "Grunt, grunt, Am, grunt, hih me ah hea!"  (Loosely, Adam hit me on the head.)

But when he does actually remember Al's name, he stands at the top of the stairs, hollering down at his brothers, "Am!  Ax!"

It's pretty much my favorite thing in the world right now.


Another favorite thing:

My dad taught Dylan to poke people, then hold his hands out to his sides and say, "It wasn't me!"

Yep.  They're both favorite.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Playing Favorites

There was a recent episode of the tv show The Middle where the family vied for the title of "favorite." Favorite child.  Favorite parent.  Well, you can watch if you want...

In support of the life-imitates-art-imitates life conundrum, I submit the following:

Adam: "Grandma, can you buy me the video game that you rented on Thanksgiving for Christmas?"

My Mom: "Well, I don't know... maybe if you write me a letter that says, 'Dear favorite Grandma...'"

Adam: "But what if you're not my favorite Grandma?"

My Mom: "Then I guess I don't need to buy you that video game..."


Alex: "You're my favorite Grandma."

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Festival

...The festival? The festival?  The King's Festival?...

And I digress already.

I've been kind of too busy doing Dickens to remember to mention Dickens.  But here's the details and my suggestions:

The Dickens Festival is open from Friday, December 7th to Saturday, December 15th.  Admission is only $6 for adults and $4 for children/seniors.  With the price of your admission you get to:

  • Visit the booths of TONS of unique vendors (Christmas Shopping!!)
  • Stop by Mr. Bumble's Buns (delicious cinnamon rolls generally located across from the main stage)
  • Interact with famous Dickens characters, and maybe even Mr. Charles Dickens himself
  • Enjoy free entertainment by local dance and performance groups 
  • Get photos taken with Father Christmas (extra charge)
And {most importantly} for only the price of admission, you get to come see both of the awesome shows I've been working on.

Evenings at 5:40 = OLIVER (featuring my kids as Orphans and my dad as Mr. Bumble)

Evenings at 8:00 = SCROOGE (featuring my dad as Marley)

There are also matinee performances on Saturdays.  You can catch OLIVER at 1:00 and SCROOGE at 3:00.  

"But I've come before.  Why should I come again?"

  • It's a great family tradition, and there's so much more to do than just see the shows.  Plus we've added a few fun features to the shows this year.  Trust me... you don't want to miss Charlie in Oom Pah Pah.
  • More seating!  That's right, folks... the fair park has extended our audience.  If you didn't get a seat last year, come a bit early for the show and see if your standing ovation can be optional this year.
"When should I come?"

Well, we've never done weekday performances, so I'm not entirely certain what to expect.  But here's my best guess.
  • The matinee shows have less effective lighting.  But they are great for kids who don't want to stay up that late.  If you're going to hit a matinee, I'd suggest maybe doing the 3:00 pm Scrooge, heading over to the food court for some dinner, and then hanging around for the 5:40 Oliver.
  • If you want to avoid the crowds, try the Tuesday or Wednesday shows.  My prediction is that there will be more available seating.
I hope to see lots of friends and family at the festival this year!