Friday, December 29

christmas 2017

every year feels like its the very best and can't ever be topped. this year was no exception! the kids said multiple times, "this is the best christmas ever!"
the kids knew they weren't allowed to make any noise or wake us up until 7:30 and they did surprisingly well! usually they are coming in repeatedly to use our bathroom or tell us they love us or little things like that just so they can sneak a peak around the living room. but they stayed put until 7:30 this year. i guess they are growing up!

we searched for stockings, opened gifts, ate breakfast, got dinner cooking, played with toys, played games, ate dinner, watched despicable me 3, then the elders came over to play some games for an hour, followed by calls to the grandparents. it was a very calm day with smiles and hugs all around. it was perfect!

jack's wishlist was simple:
new rollerblades and soccer cleats because he'd outgrown both. 

ellie's was simple too:
new rollerblades because she outgrew hers and art supplies

charlie's was a little longer, but pretty easy like the others:
pokemon cards
a robe and slippers
a robot

ellie saved up some allowance money to buy gifts for everyone. she planned out what she wanted to buy for about a week and then we went shopping at target. she picked out a toy for chuck, the book A Wrinkle in Time for jackie (because he saw the movie preview and said he thought it looked interesting), a toy hamster for o-bo, a bag of lindt chocolate toffee bits for dad, and a framed picture she drew for me. it was so sweet to see her set a budget, plan, and then give her gifts. it meant a lot to everyone. maybe next year the big boys will set some allowance aside to do the same.

not pictured, but very special was a blown up picture of the kids given to me from chris and the kiddos. we've framed it and put it in my room. i love it.

charlie has basically worn his robe and slippers with nothing but undies for about 3 days solid now. he really likes his soft robe, especially against his bare skin. i found it and the slippers on a major sale at target, which makes me like them too :)

daddy finally broke down and bought a sous vide to be like his brothers :) those brower boys sure know how to cook!

poor ellie gets the driest skin in the winter. her hands get so bad that her teacher brings her lotion through out the day to keep her hands from cracking. now she's stocked up on lotions and has a bottle to take to school too.

owen loves to paint. about a month ago he started painting rocks and said they were for jack ellie and charlie. so each day he would add a little more to the rocks and then he gave them to the kids on christmas.

he even made and wrapped one for himself :)

while the kids either rollerbladed, shot mom and dad with a nerf gun, or luxuriated in their robe, chris and i got breakfast on the table:
brower family traditional sticky buns!

not sure if it was the new pan we tried them in or what, but these were the best we've ever had... and thats saying something.

after rounds of codenames and clue, chris got a tri tip cooking sous vide and i got some beans going in the crockpot. we decided to have a "feliz navidad fiesta" for our dinner.

holy guacamole it was delicious!

before we even sat down for dinner owen had probably eaten a whole avocado on his own. he sure loves guacamole! and he seems to be going through a growth spurt because starting on christmas eve he just can't seem to ever get full. he's typically a snacker rather than a sit down and eat a meal type of kid, but the past few days he's been both.

and just because its fun to see kids on christmas morning, here is a video with a couple highlights!

it's been super cold, but that hasn't kept the kids from going out to rollerblade and play soccer!

christmas eve!!!

christmas eve was a full, busy day for our little family!

one of our favorite traditions is going to get donuts the morning of christmas eve. 
we always take a picture in front of the tree with our sleepy bedhead and then go get donuts at our favorite donut place. this year, because christmas eve was on sunday (which i totally love!), we decided to make donuts at home before church. it was delicious and greasy and sweet and such a great memory... but it was a lot of work making the dough the night before, waking up early to roll out dough and cut out donuts, then frying and glazing them. not to mention that we smelled strongly of fried dough for sacrament meeting and the house still hasn't fully recovered. but it was fun!

i love this picture because it sums up owen pretty well. he always has to be helping in the kitchen even if it interrupts lego time :)

it took some trial and error to get the oil temp just right, but chris figured it out! turns out the pioneer woman (who's recipe we used) cooks hers at a temp much higher than we preferred it. we had chocolate, maple, and regular glazes... plus a few with sprinkles for the two little boys.

donuts + bacon + scrambled eggs = happy, full kiddos!

and our traditional picture... done up for church instead of in jammies this year.

we only had sacrament meeting on christmas eve. 
it was a beautiful meeting and i felt the spirit several times touch my heart and testify of the truths surrounding our savior's birth. i felt a deeper love and appreciation for mary and what she must have gone through emotionally and spiritually after the angel gabriel visited her. and joseph too. it was a special meeting to me and filled my heart with peace. 
anyways, due to our shortened meeting time, i asked the kids to put together a little christmas concert for the family. the big kids got flustered and upset if they messed up and kept asking to redo their songs. they better learn how to handle their mistakes because they have a real recital coming up in january!

and because i know grandparents will enjoy it, here is their concert on video, minus all the major mess ups :)

after the recital, we put together some flowers and headed to the closest nursing home called Ashton Place. we walked in and asked if there was a resident that doesn't have many visitors this time of year.  chris spotted a resident slowly making her way down the hall with tears in her eyes. we introduced ourselves and asked if she would enjoy some flowers. she was very confused and rambled quite a bit as we walked with her back to her room to drop off the flowers. not sue if she had any idea what was going on, but she definitely stopped to point out her flowers to the other residents as we walked by :) even though it was short, we enjoyed our visit with jamie at ashton place.

that evening we had the missionaries over for our traditional spaghetti dinner complete with spicy sausages! i wish i had thought to take a picture because our table was quite pretty and it was fun to share our evening with the elders. after, we read from luke with them while the kids acted it out with our little toy nativity set. we watched the nativity video after that and then played a game and had dessert. i made a white chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake that was extremely good!

we gave the elders some gifts to open christmas morning and chris also brought out all of his ties and let them each pick out a new tie. they seemed to think that was pretty cool!

 after they left, we brushed teeth, then snuggled up by the fireplace while we tried to recite the night before christmas while chris read it. then we opened a gift all together, got the kids in bed, wrapped a couple gifts and waited for Santa!

because opening a gift on christmas eve is so special, we decided to have the kids open our big family gift that will take place in march.
thanks to grandpa and grandma brower's christmas money, we are going to take the kids to sea world to celebrate getting our student loans paid off!!! we have tried to be very open with the kids about our whole loan process. we dont want them growing up thinking that we have a bunch of stuff just because thats how it is. we hope that through this they have learned that we have had to work hard, make sacrifices, budget, and plan in order to get to where we are and where we will be. they are just as excited as we are to make our last payment in january!

usually we save all of our gift wrapping for the night of christmas eve, even though we hate doing that. we turn on james bond movies and watch while we wrap, which means chris wraps one or two during each movie and i wrap the rest and miss most of the movies. BUT this year was different!!! we only had a couple gifts left to wrap. so we decided to rent the movie logan lucky on vidangel and then went to bed. it was so nice to enjoy the evening instead of the usual rush rush rush of wrapping.

Light the World and pre-christmas joy!

we really enjoyed our month of small services during december's Light the World initiative! nothing we did was big or life changing but it helped us feel a little bit of the love that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for their children and helped us to focus more on others than ourselves this season. thinking that our small acts may have been an answer to someone elses prayers is kind of a fun thought. we wrote many cards, made phone calls, visited neighbors, delivered cases of water and gatorade to the boy's shelter, dropped off goodies, and a whole lot more. here are everyone's favorite activities:
owen- doorbell ditching ham dinners to two families (proven by his constant giggling on my shoulder as we ran away)
charlie- also doorbell ditching ham dinners
ellie- paying for the person behind us in the chick fil a drive thru
jack- going to the nursing home and visiting with a stranger
lisa- taking goodies to our neighbors and officially meeting rose
chris- doorbell ditching banana bread

one of our funnest activities was putting together these two ham dinners with the love and help of delayna and tony's family. they had our family for christmas this year and asked us if we wanted to do a service project together. since we have doorbell ditched hams in the past we decided to make it even better this year and we had sooo much fun deciding what to put in each package! layna and tony sent stuffing mix, tin nutcrackers filled with gingerbread cookies, and a cash donation. we then added a ham and a pecan pie. we dropped them off the friday night before christmas and of course it had to rain that night. but that didn't stop us from having a great time!

we feel so lucky to feel so much love from our friends and family during the holidays even when we aren't with them. grandpa and grandma browne sent a fun package with tasty treats, games, and some stuffed owls along with a sweet book to read together as a family about, you guessed it, owls! we are enjoying it so much.

and unfortunately i didn't get a photo, but grandpa and grandma brower sent us a fun little lamb that we were able to do service with around our family, along with the service quilt they sent us years ago. that is for sure one of our favorite christmas time traditions and now we get to add our little lamby too!

and chris was given probably one of his best gifts ever right before christmas... he finally caught the dang mole that has been terrorizing our yard for the past couple months. if thats not a victory stance i dont know what is!

Wednesday, December 20

gingerbread house PARTY!

we've done gingerbread houses a few times and its always such a big hit with the kids... but for whatever reason (lack of patience being the number one reason), i am usually angry at the kids and get so frustrated that something that should be a holly, jolly experience is tarnished by my yells. so i decided to switch things up this year! my plan was to have a gingerbread house decorating party with friends over. having friends was my insurance to keep me from being mean and grumpy. and you know what? it totally worked!

i made all the houses earlier in the day on monday and it was pretty painless since i hot glued the graham crackers together instead of using royal icing. that really cut back on frustration and bad words. i just made sure to tell the kids not to eat their actual houses :)
luckily for me, chris was post call monday and actually got the day off, which is pretty unheard of these days. he was kind enough to take pictures so i could make frosting, deal with frosting spills and whatever else came our way. he was a huge help!

each kid was able to invite a friend. 
ellie invited her bff anna. anna's little sister, kate, also came because she is a good friend of ellie's too and it just seemed like the right thing to do with so many boys in the house.

charlie invited his buddy from church named christopher.

he is probably the sweetest, most polite 6 year old you'll ever meet, saying things like "excuse me, but you could you please pass me the marshmallows?"

and he brought his magnifying glass and inspected each stage of the decorating process.

this is anna

this is kate

jack invited his friend ahmed, who is always making everyone crack up!

there was so much candy, both on the kid's houses and in the kid's mouths, like it should be!

i think this is owen's idea of heaven

jack has been friends with ahmed for a few years now. before thanksgiving his mom, Beena, invited our family to have dinner with them at our local Indian restaurant called R&R curry. it was so, so enjoyable and we have loved getting to know them both better. 
very grateful our kids have such good friends with kind, amazing families with good values.

after decorating houses, the kids hung out playing basketball and soccer with chris, doing magic tricks, and playing chess. everyone had a great time, even mom and dad! and after everyone left, we through stuff in the garbage, wiped off the table and counters and went out to dinner. it was great!

and just because its so cute, here is a video chris caught of jack while he was waiting for Ahmed to arrive. we are starting a little collection of these moments with jack and they are the best!