Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Merry Christmas, Blogosphere!

Because we have run out of Christmas cards far before we ran out of people we would love to keep in touch with, I present you with the e-version of this year's Christmas card. Merry Christmas to all!

Just a Few More...

Couldn't let the posts close without showing off all this cuteness. 

Pretty sure the couples shots were my idea, but I have a willing (and handsome) husband. I'm one lucky girl. 

It's been too long (like 9.5 years, probably) since we took a kissing picture. Hard to believe we've been married that long!

Now, I present you with my attempt at a "maternity" photo. Turns out I'm not so good at posing to show off da belly. I feel foolish being the sole subject of any photo, but I'm glad that we gave it a go. Here's the only usable photo from the bunch, but I am happy to record how excited we are to welcome baby #4 into our family. We'll keep you posted...


John was less than thrilled about posing for the family photo shoot, but as soon as we let him loose to run around in the leaves with his cousins, he was one HAPPY boy. Kate followed after this rambunctious fellow to capture some pretty precious photos.

John is my little buddy and his Dad's biggest fan. He regularly interrupts Dad at work for a quick game of police (where he dons his England-style police cap and puts Adam in "jail") or a little wrestle time. This boy has more energy than our other two combined. He pores himself into playtime with full fervor but can also be sweet and snuggly when the mood strikes. John is a happy fellow, big fan of all the neighborhood kids, and loves playing with his big brother and sister. He loves the park, emergency vehicles, talking about school buses, and playing with the big kids. We are so glad to have John in our family. He is one cute little man. Seriously...you need to hear him say "Merry Mish-mas." Nothing better. He has brought joy to a lot of friends and neighbors this season with that little phrase, often delivered with a jump and a smile. Love you, Little Man.


Presenting our beautiful 5-year-old Emma...

Emma is kind, never forgets the needs of others in her prayers, has tons of spunk and a huge vocabulary, speaks with confidence but loves being close to those she loves and trusts, is imaginative in her play and patient with a very busy two-year-old brother. Can you see why we call her "Lovie?" Can't help but snuggle this sweet girl.


Spencer is one handsome boy. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of how cute a 7-year old can be. 

This one (below) is my hands-down favorite. I really, really love this boy. He is kind, creative, smart, and has just the right mix of hyper to keep things interesting. He is a good friend, exceptional older brother, hard worker, superb Lego-creator, and doesn't complain when asked to help clean up/practice the piano/do homework. 

Family Pictures 2012

In November, my sis-in-law Kate Weaver was out visiting for Chocolate Days. We took advantage of a Sunday afternoon and the Coxes' lovely backyard to have a family photo session. I've never been good at editing when it comes to pictures of people I love. Fortunately, Kate was good enough to send us the boatload of images I requested from the shoot. Now, because this is my blog and I will binge post when I want to, I present you with some of my favorite family photos. The story behind the picture is that the quick lunch we fed John and the approaching nap deadline made for a very cranky John. We had Gpa strategically placed behind Kate and her camera to coax a few smiles out of our  grumpy two-year-old. And...Kate sometimes swapped out a head or two. It is tricky, tricky to get 5 people looking the same direction at any given moment, much less looking pleasant when the shutter snaps.

*Photos by the amazing Kate Weaver, photographer extraordinaire.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Emma's Lemonade Stand

While Adam was away, I was all for leading the simple life. Chicken nuggets for dinner? Perfect. I was feeling uber-prego, having uncomfortable contractions, and felt that we had plenty to do in keeping up with school, church, and musical commitments. We pulled a few cards off an angel tree at church, and I was excited to let the kids come shopping to help pick out the things we would be giving, thinking that would be sufficient involvement to spark the Christmas Spirit in our home.

Emma had other ideas. She picked a pink card off the tree. When I talked with her about making a trip to the store to pick out the "baby doll with changing clothes," Emma unveiled a plan she had hatched. "No, Mom. I want to earn the money." She wanted to have a lemonade stand. My first instinct was to put a stop to that idea, knowing the busyness of the week ahead. However, I remembered some wise counsel to "never suppress a generous thought" and decided to support my generous girl. We checked the weather and saw that the following day was going to have 70 degree weather, miraculous for December in VA. The lemonade stand was a go.

Emma and I went to work making flyers, which she colored. She wanted to take them in her backpack and distribute them to neighbors at afternoon bus time. I thought I would be doing most of the passing out and explaining, but Emma, motivated by her cause, took care of that. Nearly every friend getting off at our bus stop already had a flyer in hand, and she gave others to the adults waiting to greet their children. 

Emma helped make chocolate chip cookies to sell. 

The next day, she made the lemonade and prepared trays with foam ornaments kits (also for sale), plates for the cookies, and cups for the lemonade. I got the stand set up so that as soon as she came home, she could be open for business. Friends and neighbors came, many having spent time with their little ones finding change around the house to participate in Emma's cause.

The response was overwhelming. Neighbors we didn't even know came to Emma's Lemonade Stand. Trina, Grammy and Gma stopped by. Aunt Shauna (in UT) gave Valerie instructions to buy a couple of cookies on her behalf. We sold all the cookies, ornament kits, and went through the better part of two pitchers of lemonade. In addition, many gave donations. 

Emma made almost $50. After paying tithing, she had enough to buy a generous gift for her angel tree friend and funded most of the gift card our family was to purchase as well. As a result, the following week we were able to pick several additional tags to contribute further as a family.

Here's Emma with a very patient Customer Service rep at Target who allowed us to pay in small coins and bills.

I'm so grateful to have a daughter with such a generous heart. She really wants good things for others and has a special place in her heart for anyone hurt or having a hard time in life. 

Thank you, Emma, for teaching our family - our whole street, really - about the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas Preparations

It's possible that I posted this previously, but I couldn't pass up the chance to put this cuteness out there on the blogosphere again. John LOVES Christmas, especially the Christmas village which conveniently includes a school bus and fire truck (aka "wee-ooh").

John has been my little buddy through lots of Christmas prep. He loves to walk older siblings to the school bus and will point out with enthusiasm any school bus he sees around town, but if you ask him if he wants to go on a school bus, he will shake his head emphatically and reply, "No! Stay Mommy." 

Works for me. I love this little buddy. He helped me box chocolates. (I even have a precious video of him putting all the ribbons on).

John also helped tackle the task of decorating our wooden tree with Hershey kiss "ornaments." Only a few of the kisses didn't make it as far as the tree, and I'm impressed that John has let the other ones go uneaten. I told him we can eat it when we have the violin recital.  So far, so good. 
*This tree was given to us by a dear friend, Brother Gordon Olsen, who made it and painted it. He has since passed away, but we remember him fondly as we decorate it each year.

After some debate, it was decided that Emma got to put the star on the tree first this year. We were going to do repeat events for each kid, but the interest waned and I certainly haven't brought it up again.

We hung our stockings up. Adam always wants to go in age order, but I won out convincing him that there is some worthy symbolism in the father leading the family...and therefore his stocking starts the lineup.

Here is Spencer with his stocking.

Emma hanging her stocking.

John with his stocking.

The kids took the pictures of Adam and me. Their idea, not mine. It's a little blurry, but fun to be included in the evening's photo shoot.

Adam with his stocking.

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care."

We got most of our Christmas decorating done before Adam left for Russia. However, while he was gone we still managed to do lots of Christmasy things. Emma and John helped me make Rice Krispy Treat Christmas Trees (something my mom used to do when we were young). 

We decorated with sprinkles to look like Christmas lights. 

We took the trees to a gingerbread house-making party, hosted by the Rothmans. These houses were amazing. It's the first time in my life I've ever eaten any of the structure itself, but this gingerbread recipe is Goo-oood. 

We loved spending the evening with such fun friends. I was especially grateful for a way to break up the evenings during Adam's absence.

The kids and I decided that while Daddy was away, we needed to play. One night, that meant getting dinner at Costco.

We also went to see Santa at the ward party while Adam was away. Spencer asked for a Lego Ninjaho Ultra Sonic Raider set.

Emma is hoping for Jenny, Target's version of the American Girl Doll.

John was super brave. He didn't want to sit in Santa's lap but was happy to talk to him this year. We had read the book Brave Santa, which is fantastic for helping kids get up the courage to talk with the big man. John practiced with me before the event and asked Santa for a fire hat, though we were able to clarify with Santa that we have quite a few of those around our house and maybe a fire truck would be an acceptable alternative.

Now anytime we see a picture of Santa, John tells the story of when he met Santa. "Santa. Church. Fire hat. Tan tane." (Today I figured out that means "candy cane," which Santa gave him at the end of their brief chat).

The day Adam was to come home, Spencer and Emma got to pass the afternoon on a special Gma and Gpa date. They went to the Kennedy Center to see Ballet West put on "The Nutcracker." Emma was on the edge of her seat for the entire production. Her favorite dance was the Spanish dance. Spencer liked the part where children appear from under the skirt of an old woman. He also loved the battles and the hot cocoa (with M&Ms) that he got at intermission. That's my 7 year old. 

Gma, Gpa, Spencer, and Emma at the Kennedy Center.

Our family started the "Elf on a Shelf" tradition last year, and the kids love waking up to find Nick's new hiding spot each morning. Spencer sometimes has to find him later in the day since he rushes to an early school bus each day. 
 Here, John and Emma discovered Nick (our elf) hiding in the Christmas tree.

Admittedly, ever since Daddy returned from Russia, Nick has been hiding in the clever places and doing strange things. One morning Nick was drinking our syrup from a crazy straw. Emma kept checking back through the day to see how much he had drunk. Silly Nick!

Sunday was a marathon day for Adam. He had returned from Russia Saturday evening only to speak in church, teach Sunbeams, and have tithing settlement the following day. In addition, he was solo parenting in the morning while I was at ward council. We both decided that it was a good idea for him and kiddos to have an early bedtime, which meant that they were unable to attend our Stake's Sing-Along "Messiah." The event was well-attended nonetheless. 

A friend sent the photo below. I love playing this music; it makes me so content. There's no better way to celebrate the Christmas season than by playing beautiful music that tells of the Savior's birth, ministry, and mission here on Earth. It was a powerful experience, and I loved that I got to share it with dear friend (and violin student) Melaney Tagg.