Holidaze (Thanksgiving & Christmas 2011)

I was in a daze over the holidays. I became sick the week of Thanksgiving, of course. I seriously thought I had strep throat with how sore my throat was. I even went to Urgent Care the day before Thanksgiving to make sure I didn’t have strep before we left to visit family in Idaho. Thankfully, I did NOT have strep. I did, however, feel yucky the entire Thanksgiving weekend. Even so, it was nice to be with family during our first Thanksgiving since our move to Utah. Bruce and Christina hosted Thanksgiving dinner at their apartment in Rexburg, and Riley, Brenda and Blake joined us. Dane drove up with us, so we had a nice little Neuenswander family gathering. Here are some pictures, but I must warn you that 1) I was sick, so my pictures are pretty random, and 2) I use my iPhone to take pictures, and they don’t always turn out so great, especially when no natural light is present. I need a new camera!

Usually, Leah takes forever to finish dinner. Thanksgiving dinner was no exception.

Jack loved the dinner rolls.

The yummy pies: apple, french silk, and Oreo.

My cutie pie nephew, Blake, all ready to play ball with his baseball outfit and pacifier.

Hanging out after dinner.

After our turkey comas we decided to go to the movies Thanksgiving night. We saw The Muppets… well, after we first went into the wrong theater and saw the beginning of Footloose. The next day we played games, went to dinner, then headed back to Utah.

My parents bought us plane tickets to fly to Ohio for Christmas. We were so excited, and really counting down the days until our trip. It was the first time either Leah or Jack had ever been on an airplane. And it was our first time back to Ohio since we moved to Utah (11 months earlier).

We landed in Columbus, Ohio on Christmas Eve night, and drove to my parents where we were staying for the week. Christmas morning came early (especially with the 2 hour time difference). My brother and his family came over Christmas morning. We had breakfast, and then went straight to church. The kids had to wait until after church to open presents, and they were somehow okay with this. This is the only photo I took of the four of them on Christmas morning. I like how it looks like Benjamin is choking Faith.

We then went to my Grandparent’s (Hackenbergs) house for the afternoon. I am bummed I didn’t take any pictures there. I was still not feeling well, and taking pictures was not on top of my priority list apparently. We left my grandparent’s  house and then headed to Peter’s parent’s house.

The older Neuenswander kids all pitched in to buy Peter’s dad a plane ticket to Ohio from working in Texas. He surprised his wife and younger kids when he showed up unexpected on Christmas Eve!

Jack really wanted to play Grandpa Dean’s accordion by himself.

Mackenzie and Leah are both very good at puzzles.

The day after Christmas I woke up feeling worse. I went to Urgent Care and was diagnosed with a sinus infection, pink eye, and a double ear infection. No wonder I wasn’t feeling well! Initially, I thought how bad the timing was, but it was nice to be near family to help take care of me and the kids while I was sick. We were still able to do some fun things once I started on my antibiotics.

On Tuesday we went to Genji’s with the Neuenswanders and my dad. Genji’s is one of our favorite restaurants (and where Peter and I went for our first date), and no amount of sickness could keep me away. Afterwards, we went to the movies and saw “We Bought a Zoo.” We saw another movie that week, but I don’t remember which day. After the kids went to bed one night, Peter and I went to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie. It was so good, and not just because we were at the movies without kids!

On Wednesday we were able to spend some time with my other Grandparents (Adelsbergers). Jack did not want to get in the picture. John said, “It’s okay, I remember I was afraid of old people when I was a little boy!”

On Thursday I was able to visit my oldest and dearest friend, Vanessa, at her new home. It was so fun to see her, her beautiful home, and her growing kids. We did not have enough time to visit for as long as I would have liked, and of course I totally forgot to take a picture. However, my mom gave me a box of old pictures to take home, and I found some good old pictures of us. This one is from Vanessa’s wedding day 10 years ago, although our friendship goes all the way back to the 80′s!

I also stopped by Dr. Hutta’s office (where I used to work for many years) to see all of my old friends/co-workers. Joelle remembered to take a picture of a few of us! I totally felt left out without a matching uniform.

On Friday, we did laundry, packed our bags, and then had one last family dinner/game night with my family and Peter’s family at my parent’s house. It was so fun! We left Saturday morning, New Year’s Eve, to head back to Utah. We can’t wait until our next trip to Ohio (July 2012)!

Santa is Good (Jesus is Better)

We took the kids to see Santa. Leah was excited. Jack was not. As we stood in line we asked Jack if he would sit on Santa’s lap with Leah, and tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas. His response? “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

Leah gladly hopped onto Santa’s lap when it was our turn. Jack clung to Daddy, and we thought that was it. Then Santa in all of his real-bearded glory calmly asked Jack what he wanted for Christmas while offering him a candy cane.

A second later Santa had convinced Jack to sit on his lap AND smile for the camera. Wow. Santa is good.

The kids are really excited about Santa bringing them Christmas presents. We may have used that to our advantage a few times during this holiday season to encourage good behavior. Peter’s favorite line these days: “Should I text Santa?” It works every time.

Santa may bring us gifts, but they can never compare to the wonderful gifts our Savior has given us. This is what we try to teach the kids, and remember for ourselves. President Monson summed it up nicely at the First Presidency Christmas Devotional:

“Because He came to earth, we have a perfect example to follow. As we strive to become more like Him, we will have joy and happiness in our lives and peace each day of the year. It is His example, which if followed, stirs within us more kindness and love, more respect and concern for others.

Because He came, there is meaning to our mortal existence.

Because He came, we know how to reach out to those in trouble or in distress, wherever they may be.

Because He came, death has lost its sting, the grave its victory. We will live again because He came.

Because He came and paid for our sins, we have the opportunity to gain eternal life.

Because He came, we are gathered tonight to worship Him in bonds of brotherhood and love.

May His precious Spirit be with us, and may He ever be the center of our celebrations and indeed of our very lives.”

 

 

 

The Sounds of Music

Our kids love to sing. It’s fun to listen to them, even if they get the words wrong or sing a little off-key. I love to sing, but my voice sounds best when singing the tenor part. If you don’t know already, that is a male singing part. Awkward much? Peter is the musical genius of our family. He can sing pretty well, but he excels at playing the piano/organ. Just last week he was asked to play several songs for the Christmas program at church today, and he nailed it.

Leah likes to listen to my music in the car, and has her own versions of some of the songs. For example, “Rumor Has It” by Adele is actually “Uma Has It” according to Leah (Uma Thurman, Leah? Because I don’t think she’s had it for awhile). Then there’s “Love You Madly” by Cake. Leah will sing “Love You Mayonnaise.” I’ve adapted this version for myself when I sing along.

Since we’ve moved to Utah, Leah has had several opportunities to sing with the Primary at church. For Mother’s Day and Father’s Day she had one line solos, and then she sang several songs with the entire Primary for the Primary Program last month. On Friday she sang again with the Primary at the ward Christmas party. Whether she’s singing alone or with a group, she can always be heard. Here’s a video clip from the Christmas party with Leah and her LOUD singing voice.

Leah taught Jack how to sing “Happy Birthday.” Here is a short video of him singing it to me (he’s only 4 months early, but I don’t mind). I just love his sweet little voice in this.

I notice the kids always seem happier and calmer when there is music. I hope there is always music in our home.

Halloween 2011

Rapunzel. Zombie. Princess. Alice in Wonderland. So many ideas flowing through Leah’s head for Halloween, and it was driving me crazy! I had a vision, though, and I somehow convinced the kids to go with it. Presenting Mermaid Leah and Pirate Jack.

My favorite part of Halloween: Jack’s pirate headpiece slipping over his eyes like a blindfold. This happened multiple times while trick-or-treating. If I wasn’t looking right at him I couldn’t tell that his “Mommy!! Mommy!!” meant “Mommy, the pirate headpiece slipped over my eyes and has blindfolded me! I can’t see!”

Family Reunion, St. George & Heidi’s Visit

The Benson (Peter’s mom’s side of the family) Family Reunion was held in August at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, along the border of Zion National Park. We had family flying/driving in from all over to attend. The Thursday before we headed down we hosted several family members at our house. Slumber party!!! We had 4 family dinners, 1 baby shower to attend, and 1 baby shower to host. It was such a busy weekend, but it was a total blast. On Tuesday we headed down to beautiful southern Utah.

The Neuenswander and Hansen clans stayed in this house.

With 26 people (I think?) staying in this house, we somehow managed to score the master suite.

Christina, Jack and Leah had fun in the master bath.

Riley and Jack enjoying some pool time.

Having fun at the two-tiered pool.

Kira playing Cat and Mouse at Kid’s Club. They loved it!

Heritage and Family Trivia Night. You know, just a small family get together.

Cute pregnant ladies! Two of which have had their babies!

The Three Musketeers hiding out on the top bunk.

Each house had ping pong and foosball tables. I wish we had footage of our Around the World ping pong games!

Jack happy with a golf club, even when it’s as tall as he is.

Leah, Jonah, Jack and Everett being cute.

More cuteness with Leah and Zaya. Leah was in heaven with all her second cousins around to play with.

Driving through Zion National Park.

 

We went on a family hike; it was a beautiful day.

Behind a little waterfall at the lower Emerald Pools.

Family picture at the top of the hike.

Kira and I ready to go on the zipline.

All 85 of us at the Benson Family Reunion.

We found the best name for a road on a sign near the resort.

We left Zion on Sunday, but before we headed home we stopped in St. George. We visited my friend, Tara, who I grew up with in Ohio. I was able to see her and her son and meet her husband. It was so fun to catch up, and the kids had fun playing, too. Don’t let Leah’s grumpy face fool you, she’s a complete actress.

We then headed to Peter’s dad’s cousin house for Sunday dinner, and met his Great Aunt LuGene.

We got into Provo late Sunday night. Bruce, Christina and Heidi stayed with us, and then headed to Idaho the next morning, where Heidi stayed a week there visiting and checking out BYU Idaho. She then came back down to Provo for a week to play and visit BYU and UVU. It was so much fun having her here, but it reminded me that I am definitely not 17 years old anymore. I am an exhausted, old lady! We finished off the week with a rooftop concert with Stephanie.

I think Heidi liked BYU, so hopefully she’ll be making the move to Utah next year to start college. This means I will have the best babysitter in the world close by, and constant reminders that I’m not 18 years old anymore.

Brenda’s Baby Shower

My sweet sister-in-law, Brenda, was due early September with her first child. Because the whole family would be in town for a family reunion in August, we decided to throw her a surprise shower just a few days before we all headed to southern Utah for the reunion. We all had a lot going on that weekend with family in town, but it all came together.

On Sunday we had a family dinner with Peter’s Grandpa Cleve and Grandma Pat Neuenswander. They drove up from California. This was how we got Brenda down to Utah before the reunion. We told her there was a family dinner at RoseAnn’s house, and then dessert at our house. I almost let it slip, though, when we were getting ready to take some pictures, and I noticed it was 6:00. The shower guests were supposed to be at our house at 6:15, so I started worrying out loud that no one would be there when people started showing up. Oops! Fortunately, Brenda’s cousin Heather arrived early to welcome the guests until we arrived, and I somehow dodged Brenda’s questions about it.

I am so glad we stayed to take pictures so we could capture this 4 generation shot.

Some of the shower guests waiting outside.

SURPRISE!

We served punch, mango and peach salsa & chips, buckeyes (courtesy of Christina), zucchini mini muffins, a chocolate fountain with the following items to dip: strawberries, marshmallows, pound cake, pretzels, graham crackers, apples and bananas. I loved the large skewers I found that made it possible to easily spear your food before dipping.

Gifts!

I think Leah may have been first in line at the dessert table.

We played a few games.

Of course, Jenessa, Brenda’s cousin won the yarn game with her pregnant belly to help her guess the size of Brenda’s pregnant belly.

Group shot with the Neuenswander gals.

Brenda and Kira with the adorable banner Kira made for the shower.

The shower was so much fun! It was great to see everyone, and enjoy a lovely night together celebrating Brenda and her baby boy.

 

Summer 2011

I am finally posting summer photos! Until yesterday it has continued to feel like summer here in Utah. I am so ready for fall. I love boots and sweaters and apple cider and pumpkin anything and chili and soups and Halloween and changing leaves and football season! It’s not the same rooting for the Buckeyes in Utah, though. In fact, when we wear our OSU red we get some interesting looks in Provo. People think we are wearing the U’s colors! NO! We are Buckeye fans, people!

Here is Peter and his friend Weston after a softball game. The kids LOVED going to Peter’s games, but I had a hard time keeping up with both of them while he played. They are really good at running full speed in opposite directions at the same time leaving me to decide which child I should run after first. Leah runs to find other little girls, and Jack runs for the field. I always go after Jack first.

Leah earned a new bike, and picked out a pink one with a purple helmet. It could have been worse, I guess, with the princess and Barbie bikes she had been eyeing.

She was super excited to ride it all by herself.

We spent a lot of time at the pool this summer. Jack had the best pool hair.

Leah insisted on this ballerina swimsuit.

My very favorite part of going to the pool this summer? Jack falling asleep as soon as he was in the car, before we even left the parking lot. This happened nearly every time.

Leah attended a Princess Party for her second cousin, Samantha. It was the cutest thing, and she had a blast.

Apparently, Provo goes all out for the 4th of July. They have a huge parade that just happens to be 2 blocks from where we live. While we waited for the parade to start Leah proudly taught Jack how to stick out his tongue.

Leah’s favorite part of the parade: The Little Mermaid float!

Jack’s favorite part: Scooby Doo!

I am pretty sure Jack is asking me if he can eat the sidewalk chalk here.

Pioneer Day festivities at a nearby park. The kids loved this old fire truck.

And this teepee.

Late July we head up to Idaho to visit Bruce & Christina and Riley & Brenda. We celebrated Bruce & Riley’s birthdays by giving them these awesome super hero underpants. Don’t worry, they also received real gifts, too.

Playing with Legos at Bruce and Christina’s apartment.

Riley and Brenda are the best. We kept them up all night the first night we were there with Leah throwing up all over their place, and they still love us.

Another trip to the BYU duck pond. There weren’t many ducks around, and the ones in the pond were sleeping. The kids found this one walking around and decided to bombard it. Poor ducky.

We attended a wedding reception in Bountiful for Dave Monk. I grew up with the Monks in Ohio, and it was so fun to see his family there! Katherine and I had a lot of fun catching up, and we hope to visit her in Vegas someday soon.

Katherine and I were playmates when we were Leah and Ellie’s age!

We went to Thanksgiving Point’s Farm Country with Peter’s cousin Heather, and her two boys Jonah and Everett.

We waited in line for the pony rides for a VERY long hour. It was hot, and the kids were whiny, but it was worth it. Look at those smiles.

Such beautiful scenery.

The albino peacock was my favorite.

Leah and Jonah chatting on the wagon ride.

 

Jonah and Jack trying to get a closer look at the gigantic cow.

Notice the sign. Notice my child jumping up and down.

The three other kids eating popsicles at our house this day didn’t get a drop on them. I don’t even know how Leah managed to get most of it on her. She then looked down and asked me, “Mommy! Am I bleeding??”

More fun with second cousins.

We had Leah’s Sunbeam teachers from church over for dinner one day. She was SO excited. They are like celebrities to her. We had fun talking about Ohio. Cory went on his mission to Columbus, Ohio! We enjoyed some Graeters ice cream for dessert.

He looks cute and innocent, but don’t underestimate what he can do in 5 seconds.

Leah had fun with water games at a friend’s birthday party.

Leah picked out her outfit for the 1st day of preschool. It was 95 degrees that day, and she went with long sleeves.

 

Next up: Brenda’s baby shower, and family reunion.

 

Lately

Before I can accept that October has arrived, I must finish my spring cleaning and blog about our summer. I’m going to make this as painless as possible by summarizing what’s been going on lately with each member of our family. After that I will bombard you with photos of our summer activities.

PETER

Peter has been busy, busy, busy with work. He’s in charge of the Web Department at Food For Health International. He loves his job. He’s been working on these sites: www.foodforhealthinternational.com; www.activz.com; www.everraw.org.  A new intern was recently hired to help out in his department: Dane, Peter’s brother! Dane moved to Utah from North Dakota a few weeks ago, and has been living with us. We are glad he is here!

Peter was called as Assistant Ward Organist a few months ago at church, and has enjoyed using his musical talents on Sundays. A few weeks ago, he received a new calling: Secretary in the Stake Sunday School Presidency.

He played on a spring and summer softball team, and was able to play golf a few times this summer. Since we moved here, he has been playing early morning basketball 3 times a week, and is currently looking forward to snowboarding season. He loves his sports *almost* as much as he loves his wife.

DEBORAH

The orthodontic office I worked at for 8 years prior to moving to Utah hired me and Peter to redesign their website, and oversee it and their social media. Peter does the technical stuff (although I have learned a lot about coding along the way), and I work on the content, i.e., the fun stuff. It’s still a work in progress, but you can see the redesign here: www.huttasmiles.com. We’ve been doing some fun stuff on their fan page: www.facebook.com/huttasmiles, and blog: www.huttasmiles.com/blog. I’m excited to work on fun projects planned for the future!

For the last several months I’ve been teaching in Relief Society at church. I absolutely LOVE this calling. I learn so much while preparing my lessons, and I really enjoy interacting with the sisters in our ward. A couple of my favorite lessons were based on these wonderful talks: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”, and “More Than Conquerors Through Him that Loved Us.”

My good friend, Melissa and I started power walking on the Provo River Trail a few mornings a week this summer. My goal was to adjust to the altitude here so I could start running again. I’ve been able to start running, just a few miles at a time, and it feels good. My next goal: to love running.

A guy in our ward recently asked me if I would be interested in being a face/hand model for a photo shoot for his company’s brochure/advertising. It was kind of a last minute thing, but I said yes and it was really fun. I had a similar experience 5 or 6 years ago in Ohio. A guy in our ward there asked me to be a model for a photo shoot for his company’s brochures/mailers. I’m thinking I should add “Brochure Model” to my repertoire.

LEAH

Leah kicked off the summer with a ballet recital. She spent the rest of the summer swimming, playing with friends, riding her bike, going to the park and being a good big sister. And by good I mean bossy. 

A few weeks ago, Leah started pre-school. She loves it. Her favorite parts: singing and painting. My favorite part: the reading program and having one-on-one time with Jack twice a week.

We went on a road trip to Idaho to visit Peter’s sisters Christina and Brenda (and their husbands Bruce and Riley) in July. Leah got really sick the first night we were there, throwing up all night. About 4am Peter and Riley gave Leah a blessing, and she immediately stopped getting sick and went to bed. The next morning she woke up feeling great, ready to have fun. She still remembers receiving that blessing, and I hope she always will.

Funny things Leah says:

Sunscreen = Sunscream

Blake (her new cousin) = Lake

She informed me she wants a twin sister. I informed her it was too late for her to have a twin sister. She’s really upset about this.

JACK

Jack is officially in the middle of potty training. He initiated interest late spring, and I’ve been trying to keep him interested as of lately. He uses the potty about 50% of the time.

He’s still obsessed with golf, baseball and sucking his thumb.

Funny things Jack says:

Shampoo = Shampoop

Leah = Yaya or Yayee

Mommy = Debah (He thinks if he says “I love you, Debah,” he won’t get in trouble for using my first name instead of mommy. He’s right, that little booger.)

If you ask him how old he is, he always says “9.”

Next up: Photos of our summer fun, Brenda’s baby shower, and family reunion.

 

Ballerina Bunny

Leah was so excited for her ballet recital to perform on a real stage! Some of the other girls cried, or were scared, but Leah loved every second in the limelight for dress rehearsal and the big day. The ballet studio she went to did a Sleeping Beauty ballet for all the students to participate in at the recital. It was a big ordeal with the actual recital lasting a few hours.

She had to wait 2 weeks longer than most of the other girls to get her bunny tutu, and here she is so excited to finally be wearing it.

I signed up to be a class mom so I was able to be backstage with the cute bunnies. Check out those adorable bunny tails!

Leah’s dream come true: performing on a real stage!

The bunnies hopping off the stage at the end of their dress rehearsal performance.

Leah with Teacher Josie at their last class a few days before the recital.

Leah loved ballet, but has informed us that she wants to try soccer next. We’ll see if this little ballerina likes soccer better, or if she ends up twirling around the soccer field.

Spring 2011

It’s June. Wait, what?! When did that happen? Here’s a few hundred pictures (not really) to recap Spring, and to get me back on track with blogging.

Peter and his Uncle Gordon and Aunt RoseAnn snowboarding  at Brighton for his birthday.

Leah and her second cousin, Piper. Right before I took this picture they were conversing in song.

After living in Alaska for a few months, Bruce and Christina flew back to Idaho in April. We were able to pick them up at the SLC airport during their layover and go to breakfast. The kids were pretty excited. Can you tell they are related here?

Leah dressed up as Odette from The Swan Princess during one of her ballet classes.

You know the seasons are changing when you see this in the mudroom.

Peter is clearly trying to brainwash Leah into liking the Lakers. Just look at her forced smile! The only reason she loves this shirt is because it’s purple.

Leah and her friend from ballet, Elizabeth, coloring Mother’s Day cards at Ikea. Before this, they played in the Ikea kid’s play area while the moms and little brothers went shopping. It worked out great for everyone!

We walked to the duck pond on BYU campus to feed the ducks…

…and there were ducklings!

It’s not even summer, and Jack’s hair looks white and glowing.

We had Peter’s cousin Heather, her husband Matt, and their two boys Jonah and Everett over for dinner. I wish I would have taken more pictures, because they are the most adorable family ever. Leah had a blast playing with Jonah. Here he is with one awesome pose.

Leah has been learning to read and write. She likes to practice writing her name on the chalkboard, but will not listen when I tell her that a big ‘E’ has only 3 lines. She thinks it looks better with 8.

Okay, now onto Summer!