Sunday, February 12, 2017

Stella and Vicky's birthday dinner

Todd's family gets together at his parent's house most every month for Sunday dinner. Since Stella shares her birthday with her grandma, for the past five years we have had the tradition of hosting family dinner during the month of February.

There are close to 30 people who attend, so the hardest thing is figuring out the logistics of seating and cooking for a group that size. I think this year was the smoothest one yet. Todd got to use his Anova Sous Vide cooker to prepare the beef tenderloin, which made the all that much easier and delicious. We also made crispy smashed potatoes with avocado aioli and a delicious bunt cake for Stella.  The food was great, the company was even better.

We enjoyed visiting with everyone in attendance and were entertained by Breanne's reading of The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak.

Vicky and Stella got to open their gifts and we all sang happy birthday to both of them. This year we got some fancy lotus candles. You light a center candle, which in turns opens and lights up 13 additional candles placed on the flower petals. The contraption even plays happy birthday for you. The only downside is that there is not an off switch to shut off the music, which can get annoying. Uncle Brandon finally figured out how to remove the battery so it would stop playing without damaging the candle.

Stella enjoyed her new razor scooter, 18" doll and its accessories. After the party we set up the rainbow light in her bedroom. She loves having a rainbow for a nightlight. Now I think I want one for my bedroom too!

Stella's Baking Party

Five years ago a wonderful new person joined our family. Her name is Stella and she is a key ingredient in our family mix.

Stella enjoys helping me cook and especially bake. To celebrate her birthday we decided to host a baking party. She invited fourteen of her closest friends and family to join her.

We began by having each kid decorate their chef hat and the box they were going to use to keep the cupcakes they made. Stella wore a cupcake hat I crocheted for her.

After the crafts the kids had a cupcake walk, pin the cherry on the cupcake and a matching game where they had to match the cookie cutters to the outline already traced on paper.

Our weather has been unseasonably warm, so we decided to have our pinata outdoors. A couple of weeks ago, we took the kids to Munchies to celebrate some good news we had received regarding our adoption. While leaving I noticed that the communal dumpster area in the parking lot was unlocked. I had been on the hunt for some boxes for my pinata so I decided to take a look at their recycle bin.

I found a large furniture box that I thought would work well for that purpose so I reached in and took it. It barely fit in the trunk of our SUV.  The next morning I got to work tracing the shape of a cupcake, cutting, taping and decorating it. The cardboard box was made of double thick corrugated material. I initially used masking tape as it was shown in the instruction video but our tape would not stick for long, so then I decided to reinforce it with duct tape. Needless it to say, by the time I was done that thing was indestructible.  The kids all went at it for a while and got some dents in but did not brake it. Finally someone hit the bottom of the cupcake pinata and managed to get a tootsie roll to drop to the ground. This re-energized the kids who all began aiming at the same spot. After a few more hits by the older ones the bottom was loosened up and more candy began to fall out after every hit. The younger kids got so excited that they began to rush towards the candy while someone else was still hitting the pinata, so we decided to call it good and Todd grabbed it and after having all the kids gather around him, ripped the bottom part so that all the candy would fall to the ground.

Andrew was a trooper. He was running on one abbreviated nap and lots of candy that afternoon. Fortunately my friend Claudia and her husband Jordan stuck around and were able to entertain him and help with the party. That was especially helpful for the last activity. Each child received four cupcakes, frosting and a selection of sprinkles to decorate their desserts. It was 20 minutes of pure madness to keep up with what each of the children needed, but they all enjoyed decorating and sampling the treats.

Afterward Stella got to  blow out her birthday candle and to open presents while the kids ate their ice cream cake with one of their cupcakes.

Planning the party was fun. I got to do a few things I had not done before such as try a new cupcake recipe and make a pinata. The ice cream cake was new for me too. I decided to make it out of  three layers of Fat Boys ice cream joined together by hot fudge and caramel. After assembling the 2x3 rectangle I placed it in our freezer overnight. In the morning when I went to get it so I could frost it, I found the top two layers had slid and frozen into the picture below. 

I wasn't going to waste good food so for a second I considered it frosting it as it was and calling it modern art. But then I thought better of it and managed to carefully re position each Fat Boy square in its rightful place. In the end, no one was the wiser. 

Stella is an amazing little girl, with an infectious laughter and a twinkle in her eye. She loves her siblings and is especially close to Andrew, her partner in crime and playmate while the older two are in school.

I love my little princess ballerina who will wear dresses or a leotard (or 'nastics as she calls them) every day and night if I let her. Who loves to twirl, read books and who gives some of the best hugs and kisses in the whole wide world.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The new wall

For the past four years our back yard has looked like this. A chain link fence looking into a field. The area behind our house is the unused part of South Jordan Cemetery. Every so often the caretaker would come through with a backhoe and clear out the weeds, which in turn covered up all of the gofer holes. Inevitably the creatures would dig up tunnels and create mounds in my back yard.

Last year we got notice from the city that they would be expanding the cemetery and sod will be placed in the area behind our house. We are excited about the news, because that means the city will have to take care of the gofer problem in order to maintain their lawn.

They also informed us that they would be replacing our chain linked fence. We were given several options and the majority of the residents voted for a 6 ft wall fence that would provide us and those mourning their loved ones with privacy.

It was originally supposed to have gone up in the fall, but with anything government related deadlines tend to get pushed back so on January 19th we finally got our wall.

It has been quite an adjustment to seem so enclosed. Our yard seems smaller now and the grey color is not very appealing - it makes we feel like I am in a prison.

The city will be coming through and painting the walls beige to resemble stone, which will help the final result, but who knows when that will be?

Christmas 2016

Christmas morning the kids woke up to snow on the ground, so after opening presents we allowed them to get dressed in their snow gear and go sledding in the back yard for a few minutes.

But first, it was the excitement of seeing what Santa had brought them and opening gifts as a family.
They each receive luggage and headlamps they will use as we travel this year.

In the afternoon we attended an abbreviated sacrament meeting where the children got to perform two beautiful musical numbers. That evening our family had a special dinner and travel to grandma and grandpa Humphries' home to open presents with the rest of the family.

We also called our family in Georgia to wish them all a very Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Nativity Reenactment Take 2

In keeping with Christmas tradition, we decided to tell the Nativity story by reenacting it. This year we invited the Davis and Funk families to join the cast.

I decided to update the script to include the Book of Mormon accounts of the signs of Christ's birth.

As always, it was a little chaotic with young kids who are not familiar with the process but it was fun!

Here is the new script:
SCENE 1: Narrator, Nephites, Samuel, Unbeliever
NARRATOR:  Just over two thousand years ago, a wonderful miracle took place. Christ came down to be with us, to save us and show us how life should be lived. On the night Jesus Christ was born, signs in heaven were seen by people both in Judea and in the Americas. Our Savior had been born.
Nephite #1: Look there! It is just as Samuel prophesied. A great star!
Nephite #2: Yes, the sun has gone down, but it is still light. There is no darkness at all.
Nephite #3: He has come! The Son of God has come into the world to redeem all who repent and come unto Him.
Nephite #4: It happened in five years, just as Samuel said. He really was a prophet of God. Do you remember when he spoke to us?
Samuel: “Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name”
Unbeliever: How can that be?
Samuel: “And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day” (Hel. 14:3).
Unbeliever: I can’t believe it! This man is crazy!
Samuel: “And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you” (Hel. 14:5).
Christ could have chosen anywhere to be his home. He could have built a palace for himself that would have made the grandeur of the Roman Empire seem like nothing. But he didn’t. Christ chose to be born among the forgotten, the overlooked and the poorest. This is the story of how Christ came to be with us.

SCENE 2: Narrator, Mary, Angel
NARRATOR: The story opens with a young woman in her home - Mary. (ENTER MARY) Unless you look a bit deeper, there is nothing particularly remarkable about Mary. She was from a town called Nazareth, and she was engaged to be married to Joseph. But, to God, she was very important. (ENTER ANGEL) So important that God sent an angel down from heaven with a message for her.
ANGEL (Luke v. 28, 30-32): Blessed art thou among women. Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And thou shalt bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be called the Son of the Highest. 
Mary (v. 34): How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
Angel (v. 35, 37): The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Mary (v. 38, 46, 48): Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

SCENE 3: Narrator, Mary, Joseph, Innkeeper, Caesar (optional)
NARRATOR: But the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, who ruled over the land, sent an order saying he wanted to count every single person in the country. So everyone – including Mary and Joseph – had to go back to their home town to be registered. Joseph came from a faraway town called Bethlehem. Because Mary was engaged to be his wife, she came with him to Bethlehem. (EXIT CAESAR [OPTIONAL]) To save her aching legs, Mary rode on a donkey.
Song: O Little Town of Bethlehem (Hymn #208)
NARRATOR: When they arrived in Bethlehem, they knocked on every door in the town, looking for a place to stay – but everywhere was full of people. (JOSEPH AND MARY PRETEND TO KNOCK ON DOORS)Each time they were given the same answer. Lots of people had come down to be counted, so the whole town was full – there were so many families to accommodate. Mary and Joseph nearly gave up, but then they tried the very last guest house. (INNKEEPER ENTERS)
Joseph: Please, please help! My wife is about to have a baby. Do you have a room?
Innkeeper: I’m so sorry. All my rooms are full with guests from across the country. All I can offer is my stable out the back, where we keep all the animals.
Joseph: Thank you so much, we’ll take it.
Mary: Thank you. At last we have somewhere!
Narrator (v. 6-7): And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
[Direction: Mary should put a baby doll in a manger-like setup.]
Song: “Away in a Manger” Hymns #206

SCENE 4: Shepherds, Sheep, Narrator, Angel,
Narrator (v. 8-9): And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
[Direction: While Narrator is speaking, Angel should appear, and Shepherds should show fear.]
Narrator (v. 10): And the angel said unto them,
 Angel (v. 10-12): Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign u nto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
Narrator (v. 13): And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Narrator and Angel (together) (v. 14): Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Song: “Angels We Have Heard on High” (Hymns #203)
[Direction: Angels exit]
Narrator (v. 15): And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
Shepherds (v. 15): Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
[Direction: Shepherds “make haste” and approach manger.]
Narrator (v. 17-18, 20, 19): And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. [Direction: Shepherds go away praising]
Narrator: But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
Song: “Silent Night” (Hymns #204)
Scene 5: Narrator, Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Three Wise Men
[Direction: Wise Men enter and wander around looking for Jesus. Mary, Joseph, and baby still in place.]
Narrator (Matthew 2:1): Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Jud├Ža in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.
Wise Men (v. 2): Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
Narrator (v. 9-11): And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts.
Wise Man 1: Because you are the King of Kings, I bring you gold.
Wise Man 2: Because you are the Son of God, I bring you frankincense.
Wise Man 3: Because you are the Saviour of the world, I bring you myrrh.
Narrator: And they departed into their own country.
[Direction: Wise Men exit.]
Narrator Luke 2:40: And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Closing Song: “Joy to the World” (Hymns #201)

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Todd v 4.0

As a software designer, Todd is regularly releasing new and improved versions of existing offerings and so it is with his birthday. This year Todd has reached version 4.0.

After speaking to several people at his office, he was afraid that age milestone would signify his body would start falling apart, but I am happy to report his limbs are still attached and organs are running properly.

On Sunday, December 18th all of Todd's family came over to our house to celebrate Todd and his brother Scott's birthday with cake and ice cream.

I have a very talented friend who baked an amazing 'old school' desktop computer and floppy disks for the occasion. That cake was so heavy to hold!

On Todd's actual birthday we celebrated by taking the family to a nearby hibachi grill where the chef entertained us while cooking the food in front of us.

The kids got a kick out of catching food with their mouths. Stella, who I thought may be afraid, loved the onion fire volcano. She told me afterwards in her cute four year old voice "Mommy, that was awesome! I want to come here for my birthday."

Andrew was a champ too. He ate the food as it was served to us, sampling from everyone's plate.

Emilia wanted to try sushi. We decided to order some California rolls to see how she would do. Her face says it all!

Todd decided to take the day off of work to celebrate his birthday. All through the day neighborhood friends dropped off plates of identical cupcakes decorated with toppers with various letters.

By the end of the evening we thought we had unscrambled the message "Todd make your birthday one fantastic hoopla." We were expecting to get one more plate with the missing letters r, o, and e.
After returning from the restaurant we found one more plate on our porch with with totally different letters and had to go back to the drawing board to figure out what it said.

In the end, we received 40 cupcakes that spelled the message "You make 40 look fantastic. Happy birthday Todd!" We have some great friends!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Robotics Program

For the past few months, Emilia and Carson have been taking a robotics class after school once a week. Last night was their last class and parents were invited to see what their students have learned.

The class is divided into grades based on their skill level. They each use a program called Scratch to program lego robots to perform certain commands.

Emilia built a spin top and a robot hangman yesterday. The hangman was hooked to a crane lever that lifted and lowered it.

Carson built an alligator whose mouth opened and closed.

Scratch is a free simplified code that uses preset commands to allow children to program games, animations, and robots.

The commands are designed to look like puzzle pieces that can be connected together in logical sequential order to create a desired result.