Sunday, December 28, 2014

Our Family: Week of 12/22-12/28

On Monday we began a new tradition.

I really want my kids to get how incredibly blessed they are.

Christmas sometimes brings out some selfishness among these guys, when it should really be about the Savior and His perfect example of un-selfishness and service.

Don't get me wrong, these guys are pretty darn good.  

I just wanted it to sink in how good they have it.

And the best way to do that, I've found, is to serve.

So, I organized the Wilkins' Family First Annual Day of Service.  I found and organized 9 service projects, placed the instructions for the service + directions (when needed) in envelopes to be opened throughout the day.  With each enveloped we opened, we talked about the organization or the service, and why we were so blessed.

I know service is supposed to be secret and kept close to our heart, so I debated about talking about what we did.  But, this is our family's journal, and I want to remember what we did and the things we all felt that day while we did them.  And if anyone out there needs some kid-friendly service projects, here ya go!


- picked up trash at the park
- Mike and Adam went to Three Square (a food bank) to un-load boxes and stock shelves (the rest of the kiddos are too young)
- Grace, Josh, Sam, and I made homemade rolls (that we later delivered to the firestation)
- Grace, Josh, Sam, and I made a casserole (that we brought to a cute, hard-working couple in our ward)
- decorated cards and brought them to a nursing home
- gathered clothes, toys and books and brought them to Shade Tree (an abused women and children's shelter)
- brought coloring books and crayons to the waiting room at the hospital
- bought a pack of cookies at McDonald's (where we had our FHE treat of ice cream cones) and gave it to a family sitting nearby
- gave a Smith's gift card to a random family at the grocery store who we felt really needed it

Afterward, we talked.

Adam said that while they un-loaded boxes, he noticed all of the moms with kids waiting in line to get food.  He said he had been told before that kids didn't get enough to eat, but seeing them made his heart hurt.

Grace said that she noticed all of the homeless people, who were sleeping out on the sidewalk and ran to the truck of food that stopped to hand out bags, while we were dropping the stuff at Shade Tree.  She didn't know that some families slept on sidewalks.

Josh said he saw all of the sick kids in the hospital and hoped they would feel better for Christmas.

I had prayed a lot about that Smith's gift card.  We were giving up a portion of our food budget, and I wanted it to really help the recipient and I wanted to be guided to someone who could use it.

I can't tell you how many times someone has been that person for me; someone that Heavenly Father sent, not because we were necessarily destitute or anything, but because He wanted me to know that I was loved and thought of,  and I wanted the kids to feel how good it feels to serve.

When we saw the family, we just knew that they needed it.

It was the best day you could possibly ever imagine.

We decided that it was way too good to do just once a year; so in 2015 we are going to each be in charge of a service project that Mike and I will help with, but each of the kids will decide on and organize.  There are 6 of us, so we are doing one every-other-month (with the December one being our 2nd Day of Service).

We can't wait.


On Tuesday we cleaned and grocery shopped.

We had to get the house sparkling clean for Santa, and make sure we had all of our food for the holidays.

We all came down with a yucky cold that was slowly making its way through our family.  It was Sam's first real cold, and he was starting to feel pretty darn miserable.

But, with the thought of Santa finally coming, everyone buckled down and worked, with plenty of coughing and sneezing in-between.


On Wednesday it was Christmas Eve!

It was (as it always is) the l-o-n-g-e-s-t day while we waited for Mike to come home from work, so we could start our traditional Christmas Eve party!

We played lots of games (Christmas BINGO, Pin-the-Face-on-Rudolph, "Santa Says," "Don't Eat the Reindeer!" and Christmas charades).

Then we had a nice dinner by candlelight (ham, potatoes, salad, and strawberry pretzel squares).

It was supposed to be super-nice and elegant... but, unfortunately, my little pyromaniacs made me want to pull my hair out with their fire obsession.

And Adam couldn't help but try to "roast" his ham over the open flames.

I think Grace and I will just have a fancy table to ourselves next year, and let these beasts eat outside.


Several years ago, we began a nightly tradition all through December of reading a scripture about the Savior's birth, singing a Christmas song, reading a Christmas book (after many years of searching and ordering them on in July, I FINALLY have 25!), and then adding hay for the acts of service we performed as a gift to the Savior.

On Christmas Eve that basket of hay is soft and full with acts of love for others.

We then act out the nativity.

Mike was Joseph, Grace was Mary, Adam was a Wise Man, Josh was a shepherd, and Sam was a reluctant sheep.

And I narrated.

We normally buy new Christmas pajamas to open on Christmas Eve, but in the midst of everything else we were buying, they weren't possible to squeeze in the budget.

So Mike found some pajama pieces (and a set for Sam) at D.I., and these sweet guys were as thrilled as could be.

Even Sam.


Not being a mouth-breather is hard when ya have a cold.


After the nativity, we talked about the Savior, set out cookies, Coke, and the reindeer ice wreath we made earlier in the month, read "Twas the Night Before Christmas," said "good-bye" to Stewart, our little elf, and tucked all of the kids in bed.

And then the magic began.


On Thursday these guys woke up early, and then kindly let us sleep in until 8:00.

We read, "I Believe in Santa Claus," another tradition of ours that talks about how Santa is a symbol of Christmas and the Savior, and had family prayer...

...and then RACED through that wrapping paper that meanie Mom and Dad always put over the doorway so little guys can't peak.

(Though, while we slept-in, Nerf shots were fired into it).

The kids screamed and raced out to open stockings.

And then gifts from Santa.

They each get 3 gifts from Santa (plus the pajamas from us), to represent the Savior receiving three gifts.

Adam got Skylanders Swap Force, a guitar, and a metal detector.

Josh got a Plasma Car (how awesome are those?), MarioKart, and a cool Blue Track race track (that is pretty awesome, too.)

Grace got a LaLa Loopsy baking oven, a karaoke machine (with a Frozen CD), and a password-protected diary.

Sam got his first pair of shoes, a slide, and a sit-n-spin.

This year, the family received 3 gifts as well - MouseTrap, Operation, and Fibber to play together.

We played and played, ate Mike's homemade monkey bread, played some more and napped, and opened gifts from Nano, Great-Granny, and stockings from Grammy and Papa, before watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas while we ate our traditional Roast "Beast" sandwiches with chips, veggies, and "Who Hash" (cranberry marshmallow salad).

Aside from being sick (Sam was coughing so hard toward the end of the day that he couldn't keep any liquids down and I was worried) it was an absolutely perfect Christmas day.


On Friday Mike had the day off of work, so we played and played some more, relaxed, ate leftovers, and looked at some more cool Christmas lights that our Christmas Light Expert found for us.

He's awesome like that.

Sam adores these balls that I hang in the archways.

And he is the only one who is allowed to touch those things.


That evening, Nate and Jessica came up!

Jessica's brother was getting married in Vegas, and we got to have them (and their cute dog) stay with us.


The next day, we got to baby-sit Lily (the cute dog) while Nate and Jessica went to eat (and brought us breakfast, thanks!) and went to the wedding.

These guys fell in love with that little dog.

And I fell a little in love with that dog, too, for her awesome abilities to eat the food that Sam dropped from his highchair.



Early Sunday morning, Nate and Jessica left to go back to Idaho.

We had such a fun visit with them, and are so glad they came!

We went to church, for the last Sunday of the year, and I got to finish up my lessons with my CTR class.  Next year I'm teaching the Valiants.

We had leftovers for dinner (again) and looked at the last of Mike's Christmas light list.

It was a wonderful Christmas week, and I am so grateful for everything that we felt and shared this week.

We are so very, very blessed.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Our Family: Week of 12/15-12/21

On Monday these guys were very happily surprised by letters from Santa's elves!

We wrote letters to Santa's station in Santa Claus, Indiana and those kind elves wrote back.  I hope they know what a kind service that is to kiddos.

That evening, Josh went to another swim class.  His last one is on Wednesday, where he will be tested.  I don't think he will pass (it IS his first class), but I think he will come pretty close!

I love these two cute boys together.  Josh is so heartbroken his best bud is leaving (me, too), but I'm so grateful for the time they had together.


On Tuesday we packaged up our homemade gifts.  I didn't have time/energy/resources to do neighbor and friend gifts.  But, we made homemade hot fudge for the kids' teachers and Mike's co-workers (they all give each other gifts).  I also gave a bottle of nail polish to my cute Activity Day girls.


I am not sure if I ever mentioned this, but months ago Grace auditioned for the school play and was cast as Reporter #1 in "The Santa Claus Chronicles."  She had dress rehearsals today, and is so excited for her play tomorrow!

And... the fact that Grammy and Papa are coming up to watch it!


On Thursday Grammy and Papa came up for a Christmas visit.

We were so excited to have them here!

During the school day the kids' all had class parties and handed out their gifts to their teachers.  They all came home with tummies full of cookies, hot cocoa, and candy canes.

That evening we headed out (with my Activity Day girls) to watch Grace's play.

She did soooo awesome!

She worked really hard to learn her lines, enunciate, and learn where she had to stand and move.  We are so proud of her!

After the play we came home to open and enjoy the Christmas gifts they worked so hard to make!

Each year, I give my dad a crazy idea of a gift he can make the kiddos.

And each year he patiently listens to my crazy ideas and creates something even better than I had imagined.

This year they (my dad cut, my mom sanded) made beautiful, big building blocks.  These things have been used to make SO many things so far... the kids LOVE them!

In addition to the blocks, he made a gorgeous see-saw.

It's been Adam's lifelong dream to ride on a see-saw, but they took those out of parks and schools for some reason.

Not only do these guys love that thing and play on it daily (it's also very popular with friends), but I make the kids pile on one end while I go on the other and do squats every day.

Free workouts, people!

And, seriously, you don't KNOW leg soreness until you've tried this thing.

Thanks Grammy and Papa for the AWESOME Christmas gifts!

They are very, very loved.


On Friday Mike had to go to work, but we got to stay home and play.

Papa helped Adam learn how to use the electric jig saw he brought up.

And taught Josh how to hit acorns with a tennis racket.

We played in the morning, and then crossed another item off of our Christmas list by making gingerbread houses.

My Dad got in on the fun, too.

Sam's house:

I channeled my inner Cake Boss with the piping to help Sam out on it and felt very cool.

Josh's house:

Grace's house:

Adam's gingerbread Boy Scout tent:

After we made those darling houses, we walked down to the park to wear off all that sugar!

That evening we got to enjoy my favorite food in the world: my Dad's Chinese food.

It's amazing.

I have the best childhood memories of us cooking together making that stuff.  When I remember cooking together, I just remember laughing while we peeled garlic and snitched tastes.

I'm sure there was some fighting, but I don't really remember that.

I remember having fun with my family.

Which makes me hope that my kids will look past the fighting and teasing and remember the fun times that we have together, too.


On Saturday my parents left early in the morning.

We had the best time with them, and are so grateful that they came up!

After they left, the C* family kids came over for one last playdate before they left for Washington.

We are going to miss that sweet family so much.

The past few years I've baby-sat them, we've played a lot of homemade holiday games together.  Josh and I made them copies of the games as a Christmas gift.

We wanted them to be able to enjoy them without us (and it helped Josh to feel better about the move).

That evening we went over to Sam's Town for the Christmas laser light show.

It's always awesome, and never disappoints.



On Sunday evening, after a good day of church and family time, we drove around and looked at Christmas lights.

Mike takes this extremely seriously each year, researching the coolest houses in Vegas, and mapping out a map to see them all.

He does an awesome job finding the best houses.

We had such a fun week finishing up Christmas parties, visiting with family, and doing last minute Christmas prep.  We can't wait for Christmas to get here soon!