Sunday, December 21, 2008

Last Year's Christmas Letter

I came so close to sending out Christmas cards last year . . . soooo close. I even got this fine picture taken--nice theory with a three week old baby, but the picture production must have drained me dry; I couldn't quite get closure on the letter. (And I call myself a writer!)

Here's my draft; you can tell it's a draft because it's all so unbalanced. I got really carried away with the hamsters, and they got more coverage than the children. In defense of my motherhood: I was going to give my bid kids some room to write their own stories, which explains their skimpy paragraphs. I'm posting this just in case I get around to this year's letter.

Merry Christmas and all our love!

Christmas 2007

Hello friends, It looks like every fourth baby or so we finally get a Christmas letter out, so here's a quick five year review--born: Joanne, Marguerite, Eden, and Alice (one month ago). We finally caved to peer pressure from our kids (or is that subordinate pressure?)and decided to have just one more.

If you were counting, that totals seven girls and one lone Jonathan for us. I spent most of the year pregnant, therefore lying around groaning and complaining, which explains why every surface in my home acquired grafitti: Sharpie in all colors on the walls, the woodwork, table tops (all of them), window sills, shower walls, and carpet. Not even Rapunzel Barbie's braid was spared. (See my favorites below.)

We had a wonderful beach trip with most of the Shills this summer. It was all part of my mom's Christmas theme: "the 1960s." We spent a blissful week on the beach in San Diego, enjoying the most perfect weather I've ever seen and unusually warm Pacific waters. It was a landmark adventure for the cousins. My kids even got to experience a true "hoot-n-nanny," I thought Annette Funnacello might materialize in a yellow bikini. DAVID Occasionally, people mention that they have a hard time finding David in the choir, so I feel obligated to mention that he quit 4 years ago (about the time I was expecting Marguerite). There's a reason all those choir members have grey hair--their kids are grown. Between the Olympics and the touring schedule, he decided that it's not really meant for the man with many small children. NANCY spends her free time on Powerschool, checking her grades and squeezing extra credit points out of her teachers. On any day, she can tell you the exact percentage she has in any class; and she takes wild pleasure in tipping over the 100% mark. It's amazing! She bought herself several pairs of impossibly high-heeled shoes and discovered hair dye this year. ("Angels and ministers of grace, defend us!") JONATHAN Jonathan went to BYU lacrosse camp this summer, and we all learned just how much he keeps us entertained. The little girls all moped around complaining the whole time that there was nothing to do. And, I had to agree. SARAH is another PowerSchool addict, checking grades, but she's quieter about it and not so shameless about begging for extra credit. She embraced lacrosse this year. LIZZY (8), my sweet Social Planner is all about relationships." She got baptized this year after several months of threatening to wait for her Linford grandparents get home from their mission (still more than a year away). Relationships mean a lot to Lizzy, and she couldn't bear the thought of crossing this important threshold without them. But, after two months of EVERYONE needling her about her baptism and having to explain to people--like the primary president and bishop--that she had decided to wait, she thought better of the idea and decided that October was a good time. We went to Las Vegas so she could share her special day with her cousin, Adam. As we left the church after the baptism, we got a double rainbow which we count as a real miracle in Vegas with its three inches of rainfall a year. JOANNE (6) Fireball. Very, very feminine looking, but she loves to play with her boy cousins and has learned to do the more shocking things that boys do. (I'll leave it at that.) Joanne is Jonathan's honorary brother. In Jonathan's words: "Joanne is the closest thing to a brother I'll ever have." This girl knows how to play and dance and be especially goofy and, most importantly, laugh at Jonathan's antics. MARGUERITE is our diva. This girl is going somewhere--we're not sure where, but wherever it is, she'll be dressed well! She won't even come down for breakfast before she's showered, dressed, and accessorized--from hair to shoes. Favorite accessories include: headbands, scarves, tiaras, boas, and all of her mother's jewelry. (Much of it bit the dust this year), She's three whole years from the onset of her shoe fetish, (when she used to wear shoes to bed every night and hold another pair in her hands while she slept), with no signs of remission. She remains an avid shoe collector. I offered to take her on a "Mommy Date," and she asked if we could go to the shoe store: "It will be so fun, we can look around at all the shoes and stuff." --no kidding.

She also wins the prize for asking the most incomprehensible questions: I saw her take a tape measure, spread it out along the kitchen counter and ask, "Dad, guess how much the counter weighs. . . . 100 degrees!" (This, with her million dollar smile, of course). Give that girl some Math! EDEN: The Narrator. Eden narrated every event--no matter how small--that occurred in our house this year in full, exacting, descriptive sentences. I'm sure she tripled the average number of words spoken per day by any grown woman. Sometimes, just listening can be exhausting. She talks so much, that as we were preparing for her third birthday (just a couple of weeks ago), David lost his brains for a minute and thought she was turning four. It took a bit of convincing before he conceded: "Do you mean to tell me she's still TWO! She can't be two! No two year old talks that much." She's still cute enough to get her way virtually all of the time, even with Alice threatening to usurp. I'm sure this stage will end. ALICE: Absolutely perfect. It's the one thing on which we are all in complete agreement. She recently added "smiling" to her repertoire of tricks.

Well, that's it for the Linford kids.

ME: I'm busy with all of the above. I spend a lot of time in the car. I still write for and that takes up all my hobby time, so I really don't do much else, which makes writing my paragraph here pretty simple. I had a couple of short business trips this year, so I started a new policy of taking a kid with me whenever I have to travel. This has seriously increased my popularity at home.

In February, I had meetings in San Jose, which were timed perfectly so that I could join my sister, sister-in-law, and niece playing with the Temple Hill Symphony in Oakland. It was so fun to dust off my violin (literally) and play again. It took about two weeks of scales for me to remember how to work my fingers, and still I barely survived the 2nd violin part, but the music was sublime and so nourishing.

I also had a fun trip to DC with Nancy. We stayed with my sister in Arlington and saw some of the DC sites. My love of George Washington still grows.

Hampster tragedies: Hamlet & Horatio

We acquired 2 hamsters, Hamlet and Horatio, born on the 4th of July last year. It turns out, we tempted the fates with those names. Hamlet died this summer at the worst possible moment--DAVID WAS OUT OF TOWN. So I had to conduct the funeral and bury him myself, accompanied by the plaintive wailing of 5 wretched little girls. In my world, burying an animal is a man's job, and I was very bitter about having to do it. I'm a disgrace to my pioneer ancestors.

At the funeral, I tried to offer a few kind words about Hamlet: "He was a good hamster, he never bit us." But, I was corrected by Sarah, "Actually, he bit me once, but it was only after he went insane because we hadn't changed his hay, and water had spilled all over the cage." Everyone had a bite story, modified with a comment like, "But it wasn't very hard." I started wondering about their vaccinations.

Marguerite suggested that we get a rock and write on it, "Hamlet Is Dead," which we did. If you come visit us, be sure to stop by the pet cemetery in the back corner of our yard, and you can admire the memorial (black sharpie on granite). This was one of the few occasions in my life where I knew exactly what to say: "Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." (Thank you, Shakespeare.) But, the girls were unimpressed; they blasted me with a mishna full of questions about the afterlife for hamsters and whether or not they get resurrected, who takes care of them in the meantime, are they with Grandma Nonie, etc.

Hamster Epilogue: Lady MacBeth

Nancy and Sarah decided to buy another hamster--a girl this time--with high hopes for offspring. They named her Hero after that buoyant character in Much Ado about Nothing, but , we had to change her name to Lady MacBeth when she turned into a vicious biter. We all fear Lady MacBeth. Her unfortunate name turned out to be even more appropriate when Joanne woke up one morning to find that Lady MacBeth had eaten--yes, eaten!--Horatio. Oh the humanity! There were only remnants of him left.

Since then, only Lizzy--ever tenderhearted--has the wherewithal play with her. Several times, I heard Sarah mutter, "murderer" under her breath as she walked by the hamster tub.

On that happy note, I'll leave you with a Merry Christmas. It's been quite a year!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Responsible Women: Going on 24!

In March, the Responsible Women book club will celebrate it's 24th anniversary. (And we look so young!) I became one of the "new" members when I joined in 1995. We were ALL together for our December gathering, so we snapped a photo. I treasure these friendships so much. We're all so very different--we often disagree--but I value every opinion. Thank you, friends, for showing me how to be responsible!