Dec 29, 2009

Evolution of a Pinch Pot Snowman

I saw a really cute snowman on Etsy and decided to see if I could turn it into a project for Homeschool Pottery in December.
So working from memory, I made this guy:Not cute. Kinda creepy.
I tried again changing the proportions:
Better, but still "eh...!"

Later, I made another one with my students adding a "pickle nose" per Samuel's instructions.
(From a favorite Snowman story book of Miss Judean's.)
Getting cuter!

(Both arms have already been glued back on twice. I'm thinking next year I'll just poke two holes and use real twigs that can be removed for easier storage.)

Finally, I looked up the original and copied it almost exactly:
Now THAT'S a cute snowman! Thank you for the prototype, Etsy potter! (I promise not to start selling these!)

Dec 21, 2009

Christmas Songs to Rock Out To!

We have numerous Christmas playlists made in i-Tunes: D's Christmas mix, (includes Country. BLEH!) Kid's Christmas mix, (Listen only if you want a nervous tick) Sunday Christmas mix, (Go MoTab! Just added the Christmas Devotional music to this one. Loved their version of "Oh Holy Night")...and the master "Christmas Songs" mix which has EVERYTHING--all the old stand-bys and favorites. Every single song.

THIS list is MY mix. These are the songs I never hear enough during the holidays. (Although a few are new additions and a few are strictly included so I can learn the words to sing them to my kids.)

Mock my choices if you must, but right now all the boys are out building a ginormous snow fort, and I'm rocking out to Wham! --about to make myself some Stephen's Gourmet Hot Chocolate. (I'll make SwissMiss for the boys later.)

I love Christmas time!!!!

Silent Night (Intro) Boyz II Men--Ultimate Christmas
Silent Night Sarah McLachlan--Wintersong
Oh Christmas Tree GrooveBarbers--Glory (This one is for the kids)
Gabriel's Message Sting--A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 1
Song For A Winter's Night Sarah McLachlan--Ultimate Christmas
Wonderful Christmastime Jars of Clay-- Christmas Songs (Bonus Track Version)
Christmas By the Bay Tim Hockenberry--Christmas By the Bay (Makes Doug and I both nostalgic and possibly a little teary.)
Christmas Song Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds--A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 3
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) U2--A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 1
Christmastime Smashing Pumpkins--A Very Special Christmas, Vol. 3
Christmas Wrapping Waitresses--Now That's What I Call Christmas! Vol. 2 (ONE OF MY VERY FAVORITE OF ALL TIME!!!! DOWNLOAD IT NOW!!!!)
Last Christmas Wham!--Now That's What I Call Christmas! Vol. 2
Santa Baby Kylie Minogue--Now That's What I Call Christmas! Vol. 2 [Disc 1]
Nuttin' for Christmas The Re-Bops--Oldies for a Cool Christmas (Because I learned it in Elementary School and always sing it to my kids in December.)
That Was the Worst Christmas Ever! Sufjan Stevens (New addition. Just 'cause it sounds cool. Admittedly, it's a little depressing. But PRETTY!)
Last Christmas (Glee Cast Version) Glee Cast--iTunes single (I like "Glee". Doug does NOT.)
Snowfall Ingrid Michaelson--Snowfall
All I Want For Christmas Is You Mariah Carey--Merry Christmas

Go ahead. Download all of them. Make your own playlist. Then put it on "REPEAT ALL".

Merry Christmas!!!

P.S. I LOVE my new skinny Christmas Tree and all our pretty vintage looking glass ornaments plus the new Japanese additions. (And I love the vintage Block Island prints (background-left) Doug gave me for Christmas last year.)
P.P.S. See some awesome pics of Gabey-boy on Doug's blog!!!

Dec 19, 2009

...And Blank-O Was His Name-O

So, you know we're having a(nother) boy, right? I've mentioned that? Well, I'm having a little problem. I need a name. See, we've already bestowed 6 total boy names. And frankly, I'm out of favorites. Add to that the fact that we unwittingly started a tradition and now we have to stick with it. (Lest boy number four feel like the ugly step-sister of the family.)

The tradition is this: For better or worse, all the boys have names that end in "L". Not only that, they have names that can be (and are frequently) shortened and/or abbreviated.

Let's review:

Maxwell=Max/Maxer/Maxer-boy. (We avoid Maxi for obvious reasons.)
Samuel=Sam/Samers/Sammy-boy/Hey You Little Punk!
Gabriel=Gabe/Gabers/Gabey-Baby/Gabe the Babe/Gabey-boy.

Initialized, we have MSG. Not good for your health, but that's what we've got.

That's where we're coming from. Now we need to name boy child number 4 and I'm a little stumped. Not that there aren't plenty of options, it's just that I don't love any of them.

Take the name Michael for example. I really like this name. However, I don't like Mikey, and I'm not overly fond of "Mike". (And lets face it, Miker doesn't work.) And so he would have to stay Michael. And that hardly seems fair...! PLUS, I don't want another "M" name! I want to branch out!

(See all of the above reasons for why we will now eliminate "Mitchell".)

Next, we have Nathaniel and Daniel. Both fine names. I don't have a problem with either one. It's just that I don't LOVE either one. Do I really have to use a name I don't love just because it "fits"? I don't know. Maybe one of them will grow on me, but they're not currently at the top of my non-existent list.

So now we start to dig a little deeper and get a little more creative.

My friend Roxanna offered "Lemuel" as a suggestion!

Well, HEY, that works! It ends with "L" and it's not common at all, which is a bonus! The only problem is Lemuel is one of the biggest "bad guys" in the whole Book of Mormon. And I happen to be Mormon. Therefore, Lemuel=Mormon Party Foul.
(Roxanna thinks she's so funny!)

Now, for awhile there, I was leaning towards Dashiel. Yes, I did steal it directly from "The Incredibles" and yes that is a strike against it. But "Dash" is a really cute name!!!! (Don't deny it!)

So I threw it out at a dinner party the other night with two other families present. All three men in attendance gave it a big thumbs down. And as one pointed out, "What if he isn't FAST!? He'd HAVE to be fast! And BLOND, but what if he ISN'T??? Then you have Name=FAIL!"

Well. I can't guarantee he'll be fast. Or blond. (Non-fast, non-blond=Sammy) And I don't want the mean kids to trip him. So Dasheil is off the table. (Plus, it looks funny when I type it a breed of dog.)

Last but not least, inspired by the recent Christmas songs playing constantly at our house, we have Israel and Emmanuel.
Problems: I'd always be singing "Oh Come, Oh Come Eeeemmahhhhhnuuuuel".
And I'd be forever pronouncing Israel as "Iiiiiihhhhsssssss-RRRiiiiii-Ellllllll!!!!"

But, what other choice to I have? I'm out of alternatives.
Emmanuel it is. A little pretentious perhaps, but he'll grow into it.

In the mean time, I'll call him "Emma".

I've always liked that name!!!

Dec 17, 2009

War on Cavities

When Doug said he wanted to join the Armed Forces to pay for school, I said "NO! Absolutely NOT! What if you have to go to WAR?!?!"

But there was no war. Just the potential for a lot of debt. So we kept thinking about it.

Then there was 9/11 and I said, "Okay, now you REALLY can't join! We're going to go to WAR!" And he said "Now I really WANT to join and serve my country!!! Besides, what are the odds I'll be deployed?!" (Slim to none, according to the recruiter. That was when the war was just a baby.)

And I was proud of him. And I didn't want all the debt. So we joined the Air Force and went merrily on to Dental School.
(And in case you think we're debt free because we joined, think again. In fact, think in the 200k range. We went to school in San Francisco.)

Fast forward to now. Turns out, had Doug not decided to do PEDIATRIC dentistry, there are very good odds he would be deployed to a war zone at some point. BUT, since he's the only Ped Dentist on base here, he's not going anywhere. (Except on a humanitarian mission to Thailand. But that's only for three weeks.)

Unlike his office mate/sponsor/best buddy Merrill. A Dentist. Who is--right now--getting combat training in America before being deployed to Afghanistan.

Merrill gave me permission to reprint this letter he sent us. (See below.)

I thought it was a good reminder to everyone back home that there is, in fact, still a war going on. And families who are already serving their country in BFE, I mean JAPAN, still have to have their spouses deployed for LONG periods of time!

(Deployed spouse + living in Japan = not a lot of help available from family back home and a long lonely deployment! Currently, there are three families in our church branch with deployed spouses. And more deployments coming in the new year. Our Branch President was deployed months ago and had to be released. He's still gone. His wife and four kids are still here dealing with it.)

Anyway, here is Merrill's letter:
(FYI, he is in the Air Force, but being trained by the Army.)

My wife loves me so much! She would fly around the world to
potentially only spend 30 minutes with me. Some may call it crazy,
but I call it love.

I graduated my Combat Skills Training at ______,__ and have moved on to Detainee Ops Training at ______ in _____,__.

We are in the middle of nowhere. Not the most scenic
place but probably the best place to be simulating a deployed
environment in the Middle East.

Our unit had to get special permission to bend the rules of "General Order #1" (the rules you live
under when you are deployed; e.g. no civilian clothes, no riding in
anything other than a government vehicle, no going off base, etc) so
that several of us could see the family members who came to see us.

We didn't know until we got there on Friday that they were going to "let
us off" until Saturday night at 10:00 PM. The Army is so generous!

Janeen knew she might only be able to see me at the airport before
I was taken away to our new "home". At least we got to spend a day
and a half together. I felt like I had been let out of prison.

Janeen was able to come out to Camp _________ a few times to meet me at
the little recreation center they have there. At least I didn't have
to talk to her by telephone through a glass wall. Although it was
short, it was a huge boost to my morale. It was so nice to be with
Janeen and have some snuggle time with Emma. I really hope Janeen's
travel goes smoothly back to Japan.

Our last week at __________ was a lot of practical exercises where we
would put together all the skills we had been learning the previous 4
weeks. We went out on convoys to small villages, interacted with the
"local nationals" (actors they had hired who dressed the part and
could speak the language), searched homes, were attacked by IEDs,
mortars, and snipers (the Army instructors love setting off their

Most of the people in my class thought it was a lot of
fun, but it seemed a little too realistic to me and I didn't enjoy it
that much. The whole month just made me very thankful that I will not
be doing those things over there and gave me a much greater
appreciation for the soldiers who are doing those things. Every time
they leave that base, they don't know whether or not they will be
coming home that night.

These are some very brave men and women.

I would send an address here to you but I don't know what it is, and I
won't be here long enough to get any mail anyway. Looks like I will
be spending Christmas in Kyrgyzstan in route to Afghanistan. Sounds
like a great time. I will send along an address once I get settled at

Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support for me and my family.


Dec 14, 2009

Items of Note/Notorious Items

(Warning: I use a LOT of capitals and exclamation points in this post!!!)

*Last Friday the kids were off school so we had Maxwell's birthday party at the Weasel's Den*. He liked his Lego cakes, so all went well. (In my mind.)
He had a blast with this buddies and got some great gifts.I'm glad he enjoyed it because we only get "friend parties" every other year in this family.
* We got our first batch of Christmas cards yesterday! HOORAY! I LOVE CHRISTMAS CARDS!!! (Especially the ones with pictures.) My friend leaves her Christmas Card Pictures up on a closet door all year long. I think I'm going to leave mine up on the closet door all year long, too.

* Incidentally, our Christmas cards will be going out late this year. Very, very late. They've been ordered and shipped, but who knows when they'll get here.
(Unfortunately, this is not the picture we used. Just the picture we SHOULD have used. Long story. Thank you for the awesome photo shoot Therese!!!)

* I had an amniocentesis this morning. This means I got a really long needle shoved through my belly and into my uterus to withdraw amniotic fluid. Our neighbor (and former friend) is also my OB. He had to stick me twice. It hurt. A LOT!!! I told him he's off the Christmas Card list. Then I demanded more of his homemade Baklava.

* We just got through babysitting a two-year-old (same age as Gabe) for a week. His Mom (My friend Janeen) went to America to see her husband (Doug's friend Merrill) before he deploys for Afghanistan. He's a Dentist. And yet notice the very large gun he's learning to use.
(They live here, but he's getting training in the states. More about them later.)

I pretended Gabe and "Little I" were twins and dressed them the same all week. Turns out, two isn't much harder than one. The house ends up messy either way.

* I have a new church job. I'm the R.S. 2nd Counsellor over the Activities-formerly-known-as-Enrichment. I haven't been to Relief Society regularly for over 6 years. It's scary being with grown-ups again! And there aren't even any Primary songs!!!

*We (finally) got (a little) snow. And it stuck! The boys are THRILLED!

(They kept trying to force Gabe onto a sled. He wasn't having it.)

* The Japanese do not plow, or salt, or sand their roads. So driving to the church -off base- on icy roads was less than thrilling for me this evening.

* I am now 23.5 weeks along.

* I've already gained 18 pounds. (Whoops!)

* That's about it for us! Life is good here in Japan!!!

(Call it "supporting the troops"!!)

Merry Christmas!

*The Weasel's Den is a converted airplane hangar. It includes a huge indoor playground with awesome equipment, two party rooms, a small miniature golf course, an indoor soccer area, pool tables, video games, a theater for playing "Rock Star" and the Outdoor Rec. Department. (Where you can buy and rent sports equipment, plan ski trips, etc.) A guy in our branch is mostly responsible for putting it all together so we praise his name every time we're there. (Which is often. Especially in the winter.) THANKS BEN!!!

Dec 9, 2009

Dear Mormons...

Did you happen to see THIS article in the October Ensign?

Or read this talk give by M. Russell Ballard?

If not, I'll give you the low down:

You should all be blogging!

(Un-privitize your blog so I can read it in Google Reader, please!!!)

That's all I have to say.


Dec 6, 2009

Maxwell's Baptism

Saturday was a big day around these parts. Maxwell turned EIGHT and was BAPTIZED a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The baptism was held at our local church building here in Misawa and the room was packed! Lots of friends from church and four of Doug's fellow dentist's came to show support and love for Max and our family. It was really really cool. The talks were great, the music was great, the baptism didn't have to be done twice because of un-dunked clothing or, in other words, GREAT...!
Max was on top of the world all day. He bustled around doing chores without being asked (so unlike the Birthday Brat I turn into on MY birthday) and was acting so mature and grown up all day. On Sunday he even fasted and bore his testimony for the very first time. I'm so proud of him!
If I wasn't absolutely POSITIVE I'm only 24 or 25, I might think I was getting old or something. I have an EIGHT year old!!!

Now indulge me as I take a quick jaunt down memory lane...

Our first family Christmas picture: (Notice the drool-wet shirt.)
Do you see the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in the background? Well, it's there. Quite close, as a matter of fact. (We're at Baker Beach. In the fog. Obviously.) You'll just have to trust me.
Max and his girlfriend (and betrothed) Ani. Easter Sunday 2006.
I just love this picture. Taken In our tiny San Francisco apartment with the beautiful Eucalyptus trees in the background. ...Before my fear of him falling out said window became too acute.
Holding Gabey after church in Rhode Island.

Dave's wedding in Mesa. Look how white his hair is!

He made quite a name for himself in our neighborhood in S.F. (This is what happens when you go camping shortly after potty training.)
I love you, Maxer!!!