Christmas Morning with the Joneses

Remarkably, just prior to one of the most important picture-taking days of the year, I managed to lose my camera. As a result, Christmas Eve photos were taken with my Dad's camera. I don't have the files yet but I will try to post some later. I did take some pictures on Christmas morning with our dinosaur Olympus camera- I knew I was holding on to it for SOME reason!!

Apparently unwilling to depart from tradition, George and I stayed up until approximately 3:30 am getting everything ready for Christmas morning. Zack went nuts, following me up and down the stairs with his tail all bushed out. He kept skidding on the wood floor and diving into open gift boxes which would occasionally take him for a ride across my bathroom floor or the downstairs hallway. In spite of his antics, we pressed on until (almost) dawn to finish up. Here is our finished product-

The girls actually slept in until about 8:30 am, which was pretty amazing. I went in to see if Juliette was awake before we all went downstairs. She was not, but quickly woke up crying before I could get back out of her room. She calmed down after see saw all of the new stuff to get into.

Everyone had a good time opening their gifts. Sarah was especially thrilled with her new Nintendo DS, as you can see. Kate was similarly excited about her cupcake set. Juliette was just excited in general.

Zack the kitten pretty much took it all in stride. He seemed to enjoy acting all crazy, diving into the piles of discarded wrapping paper and wreaking havoc. I, on the other hand, will require some time to recover!


Christmas Sacrament meeting

When I decorated our Christmas tree this year, I put shatter-proof ornaments on the lower portion. Juliette is 16 months old and is right at the prime "baby destructo" age, especially when it comes to new, sparkly, toy-like objects hanging within her reach. I was a little sad to resign myself to the fact that at least the bottom portion of my tree would not be perfect this year. I am a Christmas tree perfectionist. Fortunately, I am also a realist. I know that baby+decorated tree = ornaments all over the house. I was ok with that. Then I brought home a darling little lynx point siamese kitty. He was so mellow, so gentle, yet playful, so perfect for a family pet. Until, of course, he started knocking all of the ornaments off of the tree. How am I supposed to experience the joy of Christmas with the kitty playing ornament hockey in my kitchen with George snickering in the background?

Our ward choir director was due to have a baby the week before the Christmas sacrament program, so back in September, she asked if anyone would be willing to be in charge of and direct the musical program for this year. I volunteered. We always devote the entire meeting to music on the Sunday before Christmas- this is a tradition that I really enjoy and look forward to every year. Anyway, I have never directed a choir before. I have also never been in charge of an entire program like that before. I don't think I ever really gave much thought to the amount of effort it takes for someone to put a program like that together. I now feel so guilty for all of the days that I have blown off going to ward choir practice. I always thought that I didn't need to be there all of the time because I am good at sight reading the parts and following the director. I used to just start showing up a couple weeks before the program and call it good. What I never contemplated was that it wreaks havoc on the choir as a whole when people don't show up. Each and every voice is important. While in rehearsal for the Christmas program, there were a few stalwart singers who never failed to attend. Most people were not very consistent and it made me take a look at myself because when I would get frustrated at them for not showing up I could not help but realize that they were probably doing a better job at supporting the choir than I have in previous years.

When we started rehearsing this fall, I told Sarah that it was her and my duty to attend choir practice every Sunday. At first she was very unhappy with me for making her go to Choir, but she did what I required her to do with a smile (eventually). Other parents would see Sarah at choir, doing such a great job, and comment about how they wish that their kids would come with them to choir. My response- "So bring them!" As a result of her choir attendance, Sarah has progressed musically and gained confidence in herself.

The Christmas Sacrament program was today- I was nervous, which was strange for me. I directed the choir and I think they actually followed me, which was even stranger :) The funny thing is that directing a choir is not like leading congregational singing and certainly not at all like performing as a soloist. It requires an intimate knowledge of all parts of the music, SATB. It also requires that you find a way to use your hands, body language, etc. to not only keep everyone together and cue them, but to lead them in a dynamic performance. It makes me sweat. I wore short sleeves and I was still sweating. Anyway, I directed and we opened with "Oh Come All Ye Faithful". Other highlights were "Stars Were Gleaming" (the primary, sounding fantastic!!!! they even did an acapella verse!!), "What Child is This" (choir), Sarah and another cute little girl singing "When the Son of God Was Born" (this was great, Sarah actually sang with some good volume and did not get too shy!) and my solo, "O holy Night". I asked a couple of other good singers in the ward to sing the alto, tenor and bass parts during the chorus of O.H.N. and I think it really added to the performance. Things really came together this morning and the Christmas program was quite successful. It really helped me refocus upon just what exactly is important about Christmas. So, if between Juliette and our kitten the tree has no ornaments, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that we keep in mind that we are celebrating the birth of the Savior of us all, the beauty that matters comes from within and the only gift that matters is love.

Wow, that was an intense ramble, coming from me. To lighten it up, here is a pic of Juilette looking grown up and some of us with our new kitten, Zack. Sarah, Kate and Juliette all just love him and my Dad was nice enough to drive all the way to Vacaville to adopt him for us. Oh, and for more comic relief, there is a pic of Kate doing her Sarah Palin impersonation.