Thursday, December 20, 2007


Last night Joshua's cub scout den had a special Christmas dinner for their mothers. It was wonderful! The boys all dressed up in white shirts and dark pants, and then their leader gave them black berets, red sashes and tea towels to wear, making them all the perfect little French waiters.

Before dinner we worked on a little Christmas activity: "translating" some very verbose phrases into titles of recognizable Christmas Carols. For example, "Jovial yuletide desired for the second person singular or plural by us" would be... ___________________________________________________________
(as if I'm just going to tell you the answer!)

Joshua and I read "Expectation of arrival to populated area by mythical, masculine perennial gift-giver" and began to decipher its meaning. Eventually we came up with "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," but Joshua was quite stumped by the word "mythical." He understood the meaning of the word but completely disagreed with our answer. His explanation: "This can't be about Santa Claus. Santa's not mythical."

Ah, yes. My son still believes. And so do I.


Things I love about this time of year...

(Well, I lied. I love everything except looking at my depleting cash reserve.)

I love Christmas colors. Red and green are my favorite. I would love my house to look like the inside of a Christmas store all year round!

I love Santa Claus.

My Santa Claus collection is one of my happiest things in life. I look forward to pulling it/him out every year, and am a little bit sad when Santa goes back into the boxes.

I love Christmas decorations. The Christmas trees, the angels, the Santa Clauses, the Swedish ornaments, the snow's all wonderful!

I love Christmas songs. From "He's Too Fat For the Chimney" to "What Child is This?" I just cannot get enough Christmas music. On constant replay are SheDaisy's Brand New Year and Eclipse's Three Kings albums.

I love performing "A Christmas Carol." Certainly that is in part due to the fact that I love performing. But I love performing this show in particular. I get to sing about Christ for four hours! Well, maybe "Deck the Halls" and "Wassail" aren't Christ-centered, but the rest of the songs are. I love the whole message.

"Good Christian men rejoice, with heart and soul and voice.
Ox and ass before Him bow, for He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today.
Good Christian men rejoice, with heart and soul and voice.
Now ye need not fear the grave, Jesus Christ was born to save.
Calls you one and calls you all to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save.
Christ was born to save."

Could you sum up Christmas any better than that?

I love the script of the show. Every night I am struck by something different. I wish I hadn't been obedient and turned my script in already because I would love to write down some of Jacob Marley's words. I will try to paraphrase: When Ebenezer Scrooge asks what Marley wants of him, Marley replies, "Much, Ebenezer Scrooge." I think that is telling. Marley doesn't want something from Scrooge. He wants Scrooge; his whole soul and being. It would certainly have been easier for Scrooge to just give Marley something, rich as he was. But it was "much" more that was required for Scrooge's welfare ("Reclamation, then," as the Ghost of Christmas Past explains), and it is required of us, as well. Marley goes on to talk about how vast the ocean of need for human compassion, and how we will be surprised to learn how much we can do for good in our sphere of influence, much more than can be done in one mortal life. "Blind, blind man," Marley cries. I love having my eyes opened by hearing these words over and over.

I love (although I'm not sure that "love" is the appropriate word for it...) watching Gary Ceran, who plays Bob Crachit, show after show as he stands over Tiny Tim's grave and we sing the words, "This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherd's guard and angels sing..." Gary has taught me, quite poignantly, about faith in Jesus Christ. I will never forget Gary's words at the funeral of three members of his family. He was recalling someone's question to him at the previous death of one of the Ceran children. This person had asked, "When will the suffering stop? When will it be enough?" And the answer Gary gave comes to my mind frequently: "Don't you see the irony in asking, "Lord, why are you trying to make me like thee?"

I love that Christmas is supposed to make us think more about Jesus Christ. I love that we celebrate His birth. I love that this particular celebration focuses on gift giving, for it is Jesus Christ who makes possible the best gifts: The gift of being better tomorrow than we are today. The gift of trying again. The gift of repentance. The gift of example and direction. The gift of being known intimately. The gift of someone still wanting us, no matter what. And there is so much more.

There's just so much to Christmas, and I revel in it. So, especially in remembering Christ, who's birth we commemorate with this wonderful holiday, I wish you (and me) and very merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


(To be sung)
"Christmas is coming, and I am way behind..If I don't catch up today, I'll lose my mind!"

Did you like that new rendition of a favorite Christmas carol? Are you living it yourself? Well, best of luck to both of us in getting it all done!

With so much to do, what was I thinking, deciding that now would be a perfect time to get crafty and start sewing things (things, not gifts, mind you!)?
First I made some throw pillows for our bed:

Then, since I didn't quite get my fill with cotton batting (get it? Fill/cotton batting? Ha! I'm so punny!), I decided that my mermaid dolls needed Christmas hats:

And, really, whose mermaids don't need Christmas hats?

As if that weren't ridiculous enough of a thing to do, I went ahead a made another pillow to showcase Joshua's first-grade hand and foot print reindeer picture. After all, what is Christmas without one of these on your couch?

Because that made me feel ever so much happier than doing laundry, dishes, ironing, cooking, or walking the dog, I started making some more pillows!
Learn from me: just because you have fabric stashed away, and just because it is cute fabric that will make cute pillows, that DOES NOT mean you have time to make the pillows (or to do the laundry, dishes, ironing, cooking, or walk the dog for that matter!). The two DO NOT EQUAL each other.
Lesson not learned. But cute pillows on the way!

Sunday, December 16, 2007


I am, for the most part, absolutely delighted by my children. I am delighted to know them, delighted to learn from them, delighted to experience them, delighted to raise them. I am also, always, delighted to watch them perform. And I don't just mean perform in the perform on stage sort of way, but that just happens to be what I have pictures of. Here are some recent shots:

Evan came and sang at Joshua's school:

I found this hilarious, and so did the kids:

Joshua, however, about died from an equal measure of pride and embarrassment when Evan pulled him up out of the audience to come and sing "Jingle Bells" with the big kids on stage:

Later Evan had those same feelings-I'm not sure which weighed heavier-when his Madrigal group came and sang at Hale Centre Theatre, and I stood front and center (fake eyelashes and all, since I was about to go on stage) and took lots of pictures (few of which turned out) and clapped loudly (hey, they were good!).

I couldn't have clapped louder for or been more proud of the little choir that I direct with two friends at Joshua's school. The "Owl Chorale" had their Christmas performance last Friday and, beyond just being adorable, they were marvelous!

It never fails to surprise us when the show actually comes together, and comes together well. Rehearsals would invariably indicate otherwise. Right before a performance the kids always seem a little bit like this:

I'm always happy to be a participant/witness of a Christmas miracle! Mostly I'm happy to have this to do with Joshua (and to find out that we might actually look a little bit alike! He's got my nose, poor thing! But considering the options...Anyway, I have to say I've honestly never seen any resemblance other than in this picture, scary as it is! It tickles me).

I was tickled and very proud of Joshua the other night at the Mother-Son dinner because he did something that was very scary for him. First, his cub scout den put on a little Christmas program for us at our special dinner, which put him in front of an audience with nowhere to hide!

Then Joshua volunteered to play a piano solo! Judy, his amazing, wonderful, inspiring den leader, said that Joshua was very concerned that people would actually hear him play, but she assured him that "nobody would even listen" if he didn't want them to. Once we were at her house she showed him how the piano was in a separate room from where the festivities were going on, so nobody would see him, either. With that measure of comfort he agreed to do it, although he purposefully left his music somewhere three different times! And I purposefully won't post the video of him playing his solo, but he really did do it and I really am proud.

As we left that night Judy thanked Joshua for his music with a big hug and some compliments. "Yeah, but I messed up," Joshua responded. "Honey," Judy said, "Do you know how many times I mess up in a day? Messing up is a great thing to do, because that's the way to get better!"

Can you even imagine how much I love this lady?

Almost as much as I love my boys, including this one:

They are all truly, amazingly delightful! I hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as I do!

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I just got back from watching Joshua's dance performance at school. They have a dance specialist who comes in once a week and helps them "explore creative dance."

I have also, by the way, just come home from deciding that I am going to get my arts endorsement. Oops, I have to get my teaching license renewed first in order to do that. Well, at least I have goals. (Completely random, I know, but I am also going to swim in the Senior Games in St. George someday.)

Anyway, back to Joshua. The third grade has been studying American Indians this year so their dances were centered around Indians. They created tepees, hunted buffalo, and worshipped nature through their dance moves. Joshua was true to his nature and hid in the back most of the time. He loves to participate, just as long as no one sees him...

A few weeks back the third graders put on a Pow Wow for the parents. They displayed their Indian artwork, presented us with dried food, and did some more dances. And when Joshua thought no one was watching (he didn't know I was recording, either), this is what came out. This is also how I know we are truly related...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


It's been a little busy around here lately with the holidays, the school programs, the school lessons, the kid-driving, the kid driving (I am not good at sharing a car), the show opening, the Christmas shopping, the package posting, the groceries depleting, and much, much more. Just so you know, though, the laundry is back to manageable levels, and the ironing is DONE!

Speaking of laundry, I had been searching high and low for my favorite pair of jeans. I knew I had put them into the wash, but couldn't find them after that. Couldn't find them, that was, until one afternoon Evan stood up and was WEARING MY PANTS! I don't know if I should be mortified that he didn't think the pants felt a little wrong, or if I should be thrilled that I wear the same size jeans as my 16 year old teenager...either way, I have since put my name on the tag and washed the pants again for good measure...

"A Christmas Carol" opened Monday night at Hale Centre Theater. It went well for the most part and, just in case you're wondering, I have a great wig. I look just like Emma Smith.

This week we only have one show on the weeknights, so it shouldn't be too awful for the children left home (thanks, Lane and Joshua). Next week, though, it gets far busier with two, and sometimes four, shows a day. Hopefully it won't become a


Well, I'm off to sew a Star Boy gown (I may NOT call it a dress!) for Joshua to wear in the Swedish Lucia program this Saturday evening. Thankfully I did not have to sew or buy (thanks to super Uncle Colin, who also wears the same size pants as my 16 year old) a tuxedo for Evan to wear last night (as well as every Madrigal Choir performance) in "The Forgotten Carols," which was, by the way, stupendous. To read about super Uncle Colin's show--Christmas Around the World--and most of my weekend, go read my mom's awesome blog.

Whatever you do, have a happy, and likely hectic, day!

Thursday, November 22, 2007



Michael is out playing "Turkey Bowl" Football. Evan is asleep (yes, it is almost 11:00 in the morning!). Lane is searching for Michael and the "Turkey Bowl" game; I'm assuming he found it, since he hasn't come home yet...Joshua is upstairs making a Thanksgiving Day craft--I'm not allowed to look, only to print out the turkeys. I am here, enjoying the peace and quiet (and the after Thanksgiving Day sale ads).

Michael, after listening to me whine and complain about the work and the mess and the work and the mess and the work and the mess (get it? He finally did, too) of Thanksgiving, did the most wonderful thing (besides buying me awesome boots). He helped.

Last night Michael gathered the family into the kitchen (after instructing me to purchase all necessary ingredients ahead of time) and put everyone to work making food for Thanksgiving Day. In my world Thanksgiving has always been about the appetizers before dinner, and pie after dinner. Not about dinner. So last night everyone helped me make yummy finger food (chili dip and chips, Little Smokies in BBQ sauce, driveway dip, apple dip, vegetable tray, cheese ball, etc.) plus yams, rolls, mashed potatoes, and apple pie. Then they helped me clean it up! So here I am on Thanksgiving morning with a full fridge, baked goodies, and a clean kitchen! It's a Thanksgiving Day miracle, and I am thankful!! I sense a tradition in the making here...

I am also thankful that I don't have to cook all the rest of Thanksgiving dinner. We are going to Michael's parents' house for dinner. Marianne is the consummate dinner party hostess. The house will be decorated from porch to porch, table to table, counter top to counter top. Her beautiful Thanksgiving spread will look every bit as beautiful as this, in fact, more so:

We all love to tease my mother-in-law about her enormous table decorations--you really can't see the other side of the table (or the people sitting there) around, above, or underneath them! And she sets the most beautiful place settings I have ever seen. That usually means that the dishes have to be hand-washed, though, so last year my sister-in-law, Denise, and I threatened to scan Marianne's china pattern onto paper plates (high-quality paper plates, of course) so that we could survive the after-dinner onslaught of dirty dishes. We're still working on that...

My dear, sweet mother-in-law is from Sweden, but has succeeded in making as glorious and American a Thanksgiving Dinner as possible. It really is spectacular. I love to hear her tell the story, though, of her first Thanksgiving meal. She was newly married, and newly American, and wanted to pull off a feat of wonder: a real turkey dinner for her husband. Gary's only instruction to her was, "It had better taste like my mother's." With that to go on, she worked on making the stuffing and all the trimmings and, of course, cooking the turkey. With no one to call for help (her mother-in-law relationship not being nearly as peachy keen as mine is), she called Gary's secretary for some turkey advice. The secretary told her that the turkey was done when the drumstick would pull off easily. This probably would have been sufficient if only Marianne had known that the drumstick was part of the turkey. Instead she searched all through their tiny apartment for a drumstick, and found one in a gift basket that had a small drum set included in it. She pulled the miniature drum stick out of the gift basket, put it into the turkey, and voila! When it indeed pulled out easily, Marianne pulled out the turkey!

Of course she's had years of successful turkey dinners, so it really is unfair to bring up the ones that weren't so great, but those just happen to be make such good stories! Last year Marianne flooded her newly refinished wood floors while thawing the turkey (she forgot to turn off the water in the bathtub with the turkey in it) so Thanksgiving Dinner was at my house. She brought all the decorations she could manage, and tried to make it look somewhat beautiful, but it was nowhere near her level of gorgeous. The food was good, though, and we all (barely) fit, so what more could you ask for?

So, anyway, while I'm here relaxing on a lovely Thanksgiving Day, Marianne is bound to be at her house decorating, preparing, and cooking up a storm. The results are certain to be amazing. Amazing or not, Lane keeps telling me that he wishes we could do away with turkey altogether. He hates turkey, and would definitely appreciate and agree with this:

Sorry, Lane, the Vances aren't likely to break with turkey tradition!

As I mentioned before, my mother-in-law is from Sweden. Surely you remember the Swedish cook from Muppet Show days...I love speaking the "Swedish" I've learned from his cooking shows, and certainly enjoy knowing where Marianne learned to cook (just kidding, except when it comes to Christmas Eve dinner, which is all very Swedish, and all still a bit scary to me...). Here are the instructions for a perfect holiday meal:

First, the Turkey (okay, so it's with a chicken. Just substitute birds as needed.).

Then, and most importantly, dessert:

Or, if you prefer, donuts:

Just make sure, whatever you do and whatever you eat, you have a very