Saturday, December 29, 2007

Wonderful White Christmas

This Christmas felt like a magical dream; a soft, powdery Utah snow fell on Christmas Eve, we had our first Christmas snuggled in our cozy home, and we were surrounded by loved ones and family.

Tad and Lisa were able to approach their Christmas preparations with muscles kneaded to supple, stress-free perfection after their anniversary celebration of a couple's massage. The Japanese spa was a perfect zen experience involving a steam room, a warming room, scented lotions, and some serious pampering. So Santa was especially jolly this year.

Of course the kids had weeks of Christmas preparation that we won't recount in too much detail. Suffice it to say that they made the cutest Family Home Evening Joseph and Mary (with Crosby playing a restless sheep/donkey) we've ever seen and they positively stuffed themselves with various treats dropped off by neighbors and loved ones.

The true festivities kicked off on Christmas Eve at Grandma May's house with a wonderful dinner and our traditional celebration. We read the special Christmas book that Tad and his siblings grew up reading each year, sang some Christmas carols, and opened one present each. Tad even got the fire going to bring the special warmth we so enjoyed.

Magically, Emerson and Stella somehow even avoided the usual Christmas morning overload grumpies. They both slept really late, waking so hungry that they actually enjoyed a big breakfast before tearing into the gifts. Emerson's first priority was opening Crosby's gifts. Over the weeks, Emerson had been closely monitoring the status of each family member's stocking and immediately noticed a giant bone Santa had brought in Crosby's. Grandma May joined us for the gluttonous gift-opening, a truly ridiculous bestowal of presents on two kids we can't help but spoil. Then we leisurely headed over to Grandma and Grandpa Baker's house for a delicious feast, some excellent visiting with family, and even more gift opening. In the final analysis, the toy tally was too great to recount in total, so we'll just mention a couple of highlights. Stella received the first "girl" toys in our house -- three baby dolls, a purse, and a grocery cart with groceries. Emerson raked in a lot of loot -- a roaring/walking dinosaur, two remote-controlled tarantulas, and a giant train set.

We thoroughly enjoyed all of the updates we received from our friends and loved ones over the holidays. So many of you are doing such amazing things and raising such beautiful families. We feel so blessed to know you and hope you have enjoyed the spirit of the Lord this season as we have.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

After a parched fall, we've really gotten pummeled with some great snow storms this December. It's crazy to shovel the walks at our own house and we're loving building snowmen and various nefarious snow creatures in our own back yard as Crosby, the ultimate snow dog, bounds like a deer through the snow drifts.
One of our favorite snow activities, however, has been taking Crosby to "Dog Mountain," Emerson and Stella's name for Tanner Park's off-leash area. It is truly magical to walk down a tunnel of snow-covered branches as our kids giggle in delight at Crosby and his canine friends bolting back and forth.
Another truly special event was bringing our first Christmas tree home to our own house. At the tree lot, Emerson was the consummate professional, critiquing and evaluating each specimen until we found the perfect tree. And amazingly, we actually got the perfect tree for once! It looks just beautiful, but it has also actually stayed alive really well. And, as you can see, the kids had a lot of fun decorating it (something they continue to re-do each day).
Tonight Tad and Lisa celebrate their seventh anniversary with what we're calling "Japanese Night." Lisa's parents are taking Emerson and Stella overnight (something the kids CAN'T WAIT for) while Tad and Lisa head out for some delectable delights at Kyoto Japanese restaurant. Then we'll engage in the truly indulgent as we partake in our first real massage, an HOUR-LONG couple's massage at Kura Door Japanese spa. It'll be interesting to see if we can really handle such pampering.
We hope all of you have a peaceful and beautiful Christmas with your loved ones!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thank You Thanksgiving

It's so fun to see the kids experiencing and learning about our holiday traditions. And with both grandmas living here and the Vancouver Mays in town, we had plenty of family fun time to engage in those traditions. During Thanksgiving prep night at Grandma Baker's house (an annual tradition of stuffing bread chopping), Emerson and Stella discovered The Lion King for the first time. Of course Emerson couldn't get enough of Scar and Stella tried to keep pace with her ferocious roars.
Our Thanksgiving was a gut-busting division between the Baker and May households, with excellent food at both. It's so nice to enjoy all of the traditional Thanksgiving food and Grandpa Baker's annual Thanksgiving program. We're so lucky to have so much family close by (and decent metabolisms that can cope with the culinary consequences).
Tad had his first days off work since our Disneyland trip last February, so we hit up all of the essential kid fun locations with the cousins: Hogle Zoo, the Aquarium, Temple Square Christmas lights, Trax trains, and randomly the Southtown Mall carousel. And despite the abundance of Thanksgiving food, we managed to squeeze in trips to most of our favorite restaurants as well. We hereby declare it a successful family visit! Thanks to all of our family, especially Ethan for being the ultimately patient older cousin and Uncle Tim for being the pied piper of children!
In non-holiday-related news, Tad tried his first felony case this past month. He acted as second chair, but was fortunate to both give the opening statement and examine two witnesses. It was a fairly complicated case due to the nature of the charges, so Tad felt a little nervous about the opening statement. As it turns out, he had no need to be; the jury returned a guilty verdict in only twenty minutes (less time than it takes to read the jury instructions). In addition, Tad has received compliments from multiple judges and fellow prosecutors on his performance and we feel truly blessed that he enjoys his job almost every day.
Stella continues to blossom. She has more of a risk-taking element to her personality than Emerson did at this stage (e.g. she sits on the stairs and leans forward to make us think she's about to fall). Her verbal skills truly amaze us; she can say Emerson's name perfectly, combine several words ("I want a hat") with ease and identify all major shapes. But the only shows she'll watch for more than ten seconds are Wallace and Gromit shows.
Emerson is such a gift to us. He and Tad are reading Harry Potter together and he's now counting down the days to Christmas. He totally idolizes his cousin, Ethan, and is enjoying learning more about numbers at home. His newest cute-ism comes each night when he insists on having Mom come in his room and repeatedly kiss and hug him until one of them cries for mercy.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Happy Halloween

How many opportunities did you have to go trick-or-treating when you were a kid? Sure, we had the parade and hubbub at school, but other than that there was just plain old neighborhood trick-or-treating. With how many fun Halloween events Emerson and Stella attended, I'm surprised their costumes are still in tact.

First, of course we carved pumpkins. It's so exciting that Emerson is old enough to really understand and participate in these little rituals. We even toasted pumpkin seeds, which he and Stella gobbled up like candy. But of course the favorite part was lighting the candles in the pumpkins.

Next, we attended Mom and Reed's ward party at the Durham Ranch. It's really become a fun family tradition and we're so impressed with the generosity of the Durham family who hosts it. Then we attended our ward's party, which was really fun. Families, the Primary, the Nursery, etc. take over rooms in the ward building, decorate them, and hand out candy and prizes to the kids as they trick-or-treat all over the building.

Then we actually braved Boo at the Zoo with our friends, the Schipaanboords. It was really fun and not nearly as crowded as the first time we went, thanks to Jamie's good sense in getting us to meet there early. The animals were active, the kids were excited, the company was exceptional, and a good time was had by all.

Emerson's preschool had a great Halloween shindig on the big day. Emerson paraded all around in his costume, collected obscene amounts of candy from preschool parents, and literally stuffed his face with tootsie rolls (for some reason this year's candy obsession -- who ever thought a human would cry when receiving a Snickers bar and discovering it was not a tootsie roll?). That afternoon, we trick-or-treated at Tad's office and once again the candy accumulation was obscene. Emerson's policy of eating the candy upon receipt made it difficult for him to express his heartfelt thanks to the generous people at Tad's office.

And last night, we again felt truly lucky to live in our neighborhood as we ventured out for the real trick-or-treating experience. There were so many people out and so many friendly faces at the doors on which we knocked. Tad and Emerson even went for extra treats after Stella and I headed home. Emerson preferred to say, "Happy Halloween" rather than "thank you," so we also hope that all of you had the fun Halloween season we did.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NY Visitors and Birthday Fun

We were delighted when Jean Rose and Deb Clark came out to visit us two weeks ago. Tad and I worked with them very closely as AmeriCorps volunteers in 2001-2002 in the Albany, NY area. We absolutely adored our time working with them but had been unable to go visit, so they traveled all the way to SLC to see us and meet our kids for the first time. We showed them around the city, the canyons, and various fun restaurants. Thanks so much for coming, you guys.
Last weekend Emerson celebrated his fourth birthday. He had an awesome rocket party with egg (planet) dyeing, rocket cookie frosting, and fun rides in his seven foot-tall, red cardboard rocket. He got so many wonderful gifts that I think we'll have to build another room onto our house! He's very excited to be such a big boy, but his parents aren't quite ready for it.
Stella started asking me "WHY?" a couple of weeks ago. If I ask her to stop doing something, she looks at me, scrunches up her face, and asks the dreaded question in a sing-song voice. She's also started asking, "happened?" when something happens to me -- but she only does it if she can put her face right up to mine.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Fall Fun

Things here in SLC are going really well for our family. We purchased a house in the Brickyard area in May and have since been continuously involved in fix-up projects. It's actually really fun for us after renting for so long. Emerson and Stella especially love playing in their sandbox in the back yard, tending our garden of tomatoes and jalapenos, riding bikes in the driveway, and simultaneously getting out every toy they own in our play room.
Emerson is loving preschool this year, especially since his teacher loves field trips. He loves all things boy -- sword fights, rockets, wrestling, and dinosaurs -- but also really enjoys art projects that involve stamps, scissors, and drawing himself in heroic situations.
Stella's name definitely fits. She's constantly awing us with her luminous personality. At 15 months, she's able to communicate almost every need (and endless observations) effectively. She loves to do anything Emerson does, loves to dance and draw, and loves to be outside.
Tad is loving his job at Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, especially no longer commuting to Provo. He's learning the workings of the juvenile justice system and enjoying being downtown where so many of his buddies work. He's also become an avid runner, a habit our new dog, Crosby, benefits from as well.
I'm keeping busy with the kids here at home and am loving it. Now that I'm back in a good running groove, I have a good outlet for stress as well! I love taking care of our house, participating in a great book club, and working with the Cub Scouts in our church.