The Preslar Family

The Preslar Family
December 2017

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas At Last

Before I get to actual Christmas, I have to mention one other absolutely fabulous evening that I forgot to write about in the previous post. After our friend Mary appeared quite suddenly one evening early in December with a gift for our family, we really wanted to let her know in return how much we love her and her family. We decided to pick out a little piece of pottery made by our friend Ben and deliver it one evening very near to Christmas. We called her to find out if she was going to be home. The next thing we knew we were invited to visit the lights of Layton Park and have dinner at her house. We rendezvoused at a park in Layton that was absolutely decked out in lights and lit-up figures. It was quite magical. So magical that I did not take a single photo. After a lovely and chilly stroll around the park, we headed to Mary's quaint Victorian house for dinner. Though it was quite impromptu Mary had taken the time to totally deck out her table in Christmas dishes. We enjoyed warming up with chicken chili and her fresh rosemary bread after the cold walk. What a good friend.

Finally it was time for Christmas Eve. It was kind of a funny year - this was the first year without my mom. I mean, she wasn't really with us last year either in truth - but she was in her care center and we all made time and effort to be with her on the holidays, and my dad definitely had that place to go to every day. Not this year. He's been having a hard time. He ended up planning a trip away to California with friends and sort of a blind date in California over Christmas. At first I thought it was strange but as the holiday season wore on and I could see his loneliness I ended up feeling really glad and excited that he had an adventure to look forward to. None of the rest of my family was around for Christmas either so we found ourselves with an open schedule on Christmas Eve. We decided to invite over this absolutely wonderful couple from our neighborhood - we love them so much. They had a baby in the fall and don't have a ton of family around either so we were excited when they accepted and were able to spend the evening with us.

Christmas Eve was on a Sunday this year which I really enjoy. I love having that spiritual time to focus and contemplate and sing together. That was lovely. Then I came home and quickly cooked all afternoon. I wanted to do a traditional turkey feast and it went pretty well. But not great. It was pretty good but I kinda overcooked the turkey. Not easy to do in a crockpot but somehow I managed it. That's not really the point though. The thing I was most excited about was that I got to use my grandmother's china dishes. I have to say, they are a little bit hideous! She got them back in the 30s I think and they have a touch of art deco and a touch of fussy-flowery-ness and they are cream and gold and pink and well, kind of just awful. And yet somehow I just love them. I love my grandmother - my mom's mom. I was given this set of china and really just haven't used it at all. My husband I think would be fine if I never used them again. I loved having an occasion to pull them out.

And here are the Walkers with the deliciously adorable baby Thomas. We absolutely loved having these dear friends over. We planned a rather rigorous schedule even Buddy the Elf would have been proud of - I had quite the list of activities. Ok, we didn't eat entire rolls of toll-house cookie dough. We did enjoy dinner, plus making cookies and decorating them for Santa, plus watching A Muppet Christmas Carol, plus eating awesome waffles for dessert. I think the Walkers kept trying to leave but we wouldn't let them because we kept having more things we wanted to do with them. My kids were so happy. They love the Walkers.

Finally though they made it out the door and we settled everyone in for a reading from the Bible as well as The Night Before Christmas. We committed everyone to staying in bed for the whole night and strictly forbade them from entering the living room until they all came upstairs and got us out of bed first. I did get a couple of visits during the night from sleepless little monsters but I sent them back to bed. Troy and I did get to enjoy a few quite minutes by the tree in the quiet dark and firelight, just like we hope to every year. That's my favorite. But we were pretty dang tired so it didn't last long.

Morning came very quickly and the kids weren't shy about bombarding us and getting us out of bed. We insisted on a five minute snuggle first.

I'm going to brag about a couple of things that I was super excited about on Christmas morning. First was the stockings. Santa may have decided to fill the stockings this year with a whole heap of treats that come from the fun little shop Pirate O's. Santa may have spent more than usual on these goodies this year because Santa just couldn't resist all delightful looking European chocolates and sweets. Santa sampled a few and felt happy about his choices.

The thing that I put a ton of time into was two scrapbooks for each kid. Over the years I have saved the kids creations, treasures and notes - I've kept packets of their drawings and funny little invitations and things like that. I just didn't know what to do with them. I made them into books - pretty simple books. Just plastic sheet protectors with three ring binder clips holding them together. They are so fun to look through though. I also saved my favorite pieces of their art and was so happy when I found these big portfolio books to slip them into. I'm delighted that I no longer have piles of art shoved in corners of my house. The books look great and will be so easy to add to. I love them and I think the kids got a kick out them too, although they probably will appreciate them more later. (Oh gosh that makes me sound old.)

Some other memorable gifts were a watch for Chase, walkie talkies for the girls, Chase's first concert tickets (Philip Phillips in March) and play tickets for the girls (Newsies in July - front row!). I was most excited about the play tickets - I made a scrapbook for the girls and me, and put all the programs to shows we've already seen in there, and the girls have been writing memories about the plays. I'm so excited to add to this book since going to musicals has become one of our favorite things.

I'm also pretty happy about a gift I gave my brother Peter - we had them this year and it was so fun to pick things out for them. A bracelet and a spa trip for Sheri and for Peter? Well, for starters he made this hilarious comment one day about Star Wars - how Uncle Owen had every right to be concerned about Luke going to Toschi Station to pick up Power Converters because it turns out the Power Converters are a group of strippers and definitely up to no good. We thought this was hilarious. So...I made a t-shirt for Peter advertising the Power Converters' appearance at Toschi Station. I thought that was hilarious. But the really big gift that was way beyond our usual Christmas Giving was a surprise ticket to Hamilton when it comes in April. We both love it so much, and I have a friend who was able to get tickets early. I was so grateful that Troy encouraged me to go and to take Peter with me. I am beyond excited to go.

What a very Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Cramming More December into December

Oh December. I love you. You're always over just so darn fast. Every year I'm sure I'll enjoy it more if I find as many Christmassy things to do as possible and simply drench our calendar full of them. I have this feeling that I have basically typed the same thing about Christmas time every December in this blog, but since it's still true I typed it yet again.

We had a lovely month of celebration. We indeed were extremely busy and even still there was a lot we didn't get to. But it was a wonderful year. One of the first treats of Christmas was a surprise visit from our friend Mary with whom we tree-hunt every year. They brought us a big box which I felt sheepish about - we don't usually do anything for them! But when we opened it we saw why they couldn't help but get this for us - check out the blanket Mary and her daughter found at a fun market. It's perfect!! It's just like it's us in our red Land Cruiser collecting our tree. We love it. Softest blanket, sweetest friends.

Early in December we took a day to zip down to St. George just for one night. Between ward Christmas parties and friend's birthday parties, we only had one night when we could do it, and even then we ended up leaving Chase home by himself. He misses this one friend's birthday party every single year due to the tree trip, and because this year the party didn't fall on the same weekend as the tree trip we just couldn't make him miss it again. He's 15. We were a little nervous about leaving him home but he was at the party until late and went to church the next morning on his own so it all worked out. The reason the rest of us went down was because Peter's daughter was in a local production of the musical of A Christmas Story. She had a little speaking part and everything; she was one of the kids in the classroom and was on stage rather a lot. It was a very small old town-hall type building, but the seats were set all around and the stage was actually the floor of the place, not up on the tiny actual stage down at the far end. It was a delightful show and we had so much fun getting down there, enjoying dinner together then watching the play. What a treat.

In years past we used to always make sure to plan the first Monday in December as gingerbread night at the Mayfield's. However, our lives all got really busy and we hadn't been able to for a few years. We've tried to keep up the tradition of making the houses at least with ourselves or possibly with a closer-by neighbor. But we really missed the Mayfields. It was a very happy surprise when one Sunday Misty texted me and asked rather last minute if we could make this year work and we decided to get together the next night. Our kids have grown a lot since our last gathering but I have to say that I had so much fun watching our teenagers have fun getting to know each other again and being very funny. We ate paninis hot off the press and nibbled a lot of candy as we decorated our houses. 

This wasn't really a specific event, but I want to include this silly selfie I took - here I am wearing my mom's Norwegian wool sweater. My mom looked great in this sweater and I was the lucky recipient of it after she passed. I got to wear it to our school's Christmas sweater day, I wore it to several parties, and even Romney wore it a few times and we both got lots of compliments. It's a great sweater and I enjoyed bringing the spirit of my mother to our Christmas celebrations.

A slightly less classy article of clothing appeared at our faculty Christmas lunch - I had a lot of fun going to this gathering one Friday after school and enjoying Asian salads and treats with the many great folks who work at my school. Anyway, we did a white elephant gift exchange. I felt like I came up with a pretty good gift - I went around my house and found all the left over gift cards to places like Cafe Rio and Deseret Book that I thought maybe had some money on them but I wasn't sure. Maybe $10? Maybe $1.93? Maybe nothing? No idea. I thought that was fun and the recipient got a lot of laughs. But not nearly as many as the final gift that was opened at the party - this lovely fleshy hairy belly-button-sporting fanny pack. I haven't laughed that hard in a very long time and the fact that this was the last gift of the day was a Christmas miracle if you ask me. It was after all, the best of all the game.

This was the second year in a row that I had the good fortune to attend an evening of carols sung at the Madeline Choir school. Our group of friends who were trying to get tickets almost missed them - by the time we figured out they were available and had started to request them there was only about 10 minutes left before all the tickets were gone. Troy and Chase didn't join us but my girls came and I was so happy about how much they enjoyed the music. Concerts like that can surely get very long for young listeners but they both told me how much they loved it. There really is nothing quite like the exquisitely haunting sound of those young voices echoing up through the huge hall of that cathedral. 

This isn't a very important event here but I have to give a quick shout-out to an amazing group of PTA friends whom I enjoy very very much. I love being on the PTA. Never thought I'd say that but you can't make me quit now. I love it. We had a quick gathering just a few days before Christmas. 

On the last day of school - Friday the 22nd, can you believe that?!?! - I slipped out of school a bit early. I had already missed some because Emma had been sick on both Thursday and Friday. (I was actually so grateful that she was legitimately sick. I REALLY needed some time away from school before Christmas. I may ask her if she could please get sick again next year.) But I worked a little. I left early enough to meet my Becca back at the cathedral for their performance of one of my very favorite pieces of music, Benjamin Britton's A Ceremony of Carols. It's only about 20 minutes long but so worth the trip.

On Saturday the 23rd my sister was in town and that was the only day she'd be around on the same day as my dad, who left on a trip to California on the morning of Christmas Eve to spend the holiday with friends. We gathered for dinner and time together.

There were a lot of other things that we did that ended up with no photo evidence - I'll just list them for the sake of remembering them:

Annual singing party at the Bucherts in honor of Martin's Birthday. It was the first held at their new house and worked out better than expected despite the smaller space. Soup, singing, lovely as always.

In the middle of the month I took a day off in order to have my own personal Christmas celebration and also get ready. I drove around listening to great music, sipped warm tea, picked up the last gifts, did some wrapping and watched a movie and knit. Will definitely do that again next year.

We went to see The Last Jedi and loved it, even Emma, who is a new viewer of the Star Wars movies. We watched episodes IV - VII with her over the fall to help prepare her and she loved them a lot. Fun to enjoy that together. 

Another interfaith gathering on Sunday the 17th - we had a joint church meeting with the Catholic Parish nextdoor to our LDS wardhouse. That meeting is very special, and I feel so grateful for the great feeling it produces. 

On Friday the 22nd we were able to attend the first show to be put on in the brand new Hale Center Theater - Elton John's Aida. We got an email from a friend offering us free tickets. What a treat! I thought I'd only be able to convince the girls to join me but Troy said he was in to, so we told Chase he had to come as well. I think he wasn't very excited, but he told me later that once the first song started he thought to himself, "Oh CRAP. I AM going to like this." We all were amazed and sort of just flabbergasted by the scope of the show. Such a cool stage, such a fun performance. It made me even more excited for Christmas morning because I had already purchased as a gift for the girls tickets for a performance of Newsies that will happen this summer.

So yes, December held a lot of joy and I feel so grateful for the fun and joy we experienced. It was a really great year. It snowed on Saturday the 1st of December and then stayed cold - so even though we didn't get a lot of snow after that we had just a skiff of a white Christmas all December long. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Finally finally, on the evening of Thanksgiving, even as we were pulling out of Cache Valley and our kids declared themselves hungry, thus necessitating a stop at the local Maverick for hotdogs and popcorn, I felt like Christmas started. I can't remember if it was that night or the next morning that I finally let the Christmas Carols play freely, but it was within 24 hours of my last bite of Tonja's turkey. The day after Thanksgiving we pulled out our boxes of decorations and got them all arranged. We have quite the collection of Santas at this point and I love them as much as ever.

As is true every year, our Christmas decorations were up in haste but we had to wait a bit for our  Christmas tree since it wouldn't be until the following weekend that we could journey to Bear Lake country to get our tree with Mary and co.  We had an exciting adventure this year, and, for the first time ever, we have a guest post from Troy to recount the events of the weekend.

Take it away, Troy:

Our tree hunting trip this year ended up being one of our all-time favorites, but it did not start out that way. In fact it may have been almost as memorable as 2010 when the Tahoe got stuck and we met the local hero duo of Kim and LeRoy. 

In at least one way, the events of the trip began a couple of weeks before we even left. You see, the Land Cruiser had super dim headlights so I took it to a shop to get new much brighter headlights installed, but the new headlights required some new wiring and these new parts seemed to have exposed some weaknesses in the electrical system of the Land Cruiser which were manifest when you turned the key to start it and nothing happened. This new problem seemed to hit at random times and could be solved by a quick charge to a battery before it was time to go anywhere.  Just before we were to leave on Friday night, I took the Cruiser to the gas station for fuel and it started up just fine. We packed it up and all got in and got ready to leave and…nothing. It wouldn’t start. We said a prayer. It wouldn’t start. Not a great beginning to a trip, but also not that big of a deal. We already had jumper cables packed, so after charging the battery for a few minutes and starting the cruiser up, we decided to pack an extension cord, a battery charger and the wrenches to remove battery cables.
We headed to Layton to pick up keys to the cabin since Mary was in charge of her ward Christmas party and would not be able to come up until later. 

After picking up the keys, we headed to Bear Lake and our favorite cabin. We arrived at the dark cabin and I headed out the shed to get the power to the cabin going. 

The cabin is off grid, so power comes from a combination of solar panels, batteries and a propane generator.  When you arrive you need to turn on several things to get it ready for living for the weekend. I started the cabin up and all seemed fine. That lasted for about 20 minutes when everything went dead. I could not get the generator to start and the batteries (all 20 of them) were dead. It was pitch black out, so the solar panels would be of no use. We had no light, no heat, no water, nothing. The girls started crying and wanted to get back in the car and head home. I got a fire going which helped a bit, but we really thought that we would get up in the morning, pack up, get a tree and then head straight home. Mary and kids arrived about 1:00am or so and after a brief discussion of the situation they headed to bed as well. I “slept” on the couch by the fire and kept it going all night to keep the cabin warm for the night. 

In between stoking the fire and gathering wood all night, I had time to think and an idea came to him about how to fix the generator.  At first light, I headed out to the shed and pulled the covers off of the generator and removed the starter battery from the generator and then replaced it.  This must have rebooted the generator controls, because after that the display came to life and I was able to start the generator. Hallelujah.  With the generator on we now had everything we needed: Lights, heat, water, music. Everything. 

With everyone in a much better mood and with stomachs full of yummy breakfast, we headed out to get the trees.  There were quite a few people up the canyon and we drove farther up the canyon than we ever had, but found a lovely tree right by the road. Perhaps our favorite tree ever. 
As is now our tradition, we headed back to the cabin for food, games, and music and movies. We spent a lovely day with wonderful friends in a fully functional cabin.
The next morning we cleaned the cabin and got ready to head home, but not before our own private sacrament meeting. We have done these a couple of times now and we really enjoy them. Chase and I prepared and passed the sacrament and Romney gave a lovely talk.  It really wasn’t until our sacrament meeting that I realized that if the Land Cruiser had started when it was time to leave home, I would not have brought with us the tools that we ended up needing to fix the generator. We were all touched by the spirit that day as we were taught once again that our Heavenly Father is aware of us and loves us. It was a special meeting that hopefully the kids and adults will not forget.

I imagine that this year’s trip will go down as the one without power for a day and will be remembered more than the others, just as the year that we got stuck and needed rescuing is remembered more than the others. It did have some downs, but overall, I think this was the best trip to date.

Rachel here again...I really don't have much to add to Troy's tale. It really was an exceptional year that meant a great deal to all of us. We loved seeing the kids play together, we loved being in the tight quarters of that sweet little cabin and being together. I once again read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to the family as we drove, and there were many other fun little things, but I think the real important point was the story that Troy shared so well.