Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Festivities

We had a fabulous Christmas.  Lots of things happened in just a few short days, so I've put together a list of the highlights.  Sorry this post is ridiculously long.  If the longness offends you, you are free to close your browser and flee from your computer.

Robyn made Stollen this week.  Stollen is a traditional German bread that is filled with deliciousness.  Robyn's grandmother is from Germany, and when we were visiting her last Christmas, Robyn made sure to get Stollen lessons so that she could learn the art.  She did it this year without any assistance, and I was very impressed due to the deliciousness of the final product.

Looking cute while she works.

Forming the dough.

Selfie with the final product.

Breakfast with Megan and Graham and Grahams
On Christmas Eve we went over to Megan and Graham's (Robyn's sister and her husband) place to have breakfast.  We did the traditional (for the Wrights) crepe breakfast and it was really good.  Robyn's other sister was there with her 1 year old twins.  Here are a few pictures from that morning.
Will was getting sick, so Megan let him entertain himself with the ipad.  He kept sneezing on it.  It was simultaneously adorable and disgusting.

Robyn likes babies.
He kept trying to crawl over the box.  Around it would have been way easier.

Doing a little dance number.

If you're a faithful follower of my blog (and why wouldn't you be?) then you remember last year when we discovered that Snapchat is the best way to bond with family during Christmas.  You'll also remember that one of our favorite things to snapchat was pictures of Graham.  I promised my niece we would continue the tradition, even though she was in California and we were not.

The first snapchat is away!
However, I quickly realized that Robyn's sister and her husband have the last name of Graham, so we could also snapchat pictures of them.

Teance didn't disappoint.  She may not have had any Grahams to snapchat, but she shared the love with plenty of selfies.

My brother Justin even got in on it.
Robyn made sure to send snapchats mocking me.

Christmas Morning
Christmas morning I woke up early and couldn't go back to sleep.  Normally, Robyn is an early riser on Christmas.  It's the one day of the year that she doesn't want to sleep in, but I had to wake her up.  We exchanged presents at our house and then went outside to shovel the white Christmas off of our driveway before heading to my parent's house to have even more Christmas there.

I put a tiara in Robyn's stocking.  I thought she'd think it was fun and cute.  She was so excited, and screamed, "I get to be a PRINCESS!"  I wasn't expecting that much excitement.

I was surprised to see how big Christmas was at my parent's house.

Zack got lots of ties. 

Justin really liked the beanie he got.  It was made even better by combining it with Robyn's tiara.

All the boys got dinosaur hats.  I think I need to work on my dinosaur impression.

Olive wanted to be a dinosaur as well.  

Near the end of the day, Robyn revealed her secret identity as Elsa.

It was a great Christmas!  I'm just sad it's over.  Maybe we should do it again this week.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

So I Think I Can Understand Dance

I have a secret to tell you.  I don't understand dance.  I wasn't aware of this until a few years ago.  I figured I understood.  People move around.  They enjoy it.  It's their way of enjoying the music.  It's their way of getting exercise.  I get all of those things.

Apparently it's also some sort of a secret language.

My wife watches a show called So You Think You Can Dance.  I play on my computer while she watches, and I glance over at the TV every once in a while.  I can appreciate how fun it is to watch them do difficult maneuvers.  I also really enjoy the synchronized movement.

But, I realized that there was a whole new level that I was missing on one particular dance a few seasons ago that was supposedly about cancer.  After the dance, the judges were crying, Robyn was crying, and I was wondering what everyone was crying about.  I found myself wondering how a person would watch the dance and even guess that it was about cancer.

Fast forward a few years to this past Friday.  We got tickets to the So You Think You Can Dance concert in SLC.  The people who are on the show each season go on tour after the season is over, and they put on a show that has numbers from the show as well as numbers unique to the tour.

When I first got there and realized that 80% of the audience were female, and 60% of the females were teenagers, I was a little skeptical that a non-teenage male would enjoy it, but I figured if nothing else I could amuse myself by watching the teenagers around us taking hundreds of thousands of selfies as they waited for the show to start.

We went with Robyn's sister and her husband.  Robyn made sure to let me know that she needed to sit next to Megan so she could talk to somebody who gets it.

Luckily, Robyn has 2 sides, so I was permitted to sit on her other side.
I decided it would be important to do my best to sound like I get it.  Megan gave me an excellent suggestion.  Every dance is about life.  I totally said intelligent stuff like, "I really like how that piece represented life."  "Didn't you feel like that number reflected the trials we face in life?"  "That number really spoke to me.  It was so true to real life."

All of those brilliant things totally had Robyn fooled.  She totally thought I got it.

But, I have a secret.  I didn't get it.  At least until there was one number where all the dancers wore either black or white clothing and they had hats that looked like different chess pieces.  The black and white dancers were doing a dance battle of sorts.  I turned to Robyn, "I totally get this one!  It's chess!  Also, it represents life."  She was way impressed with that analysis.

In between some of the dances they had little vignettes that taught dance moves.  My favorite was when we learned how to do Bollywood.

Robyn is demonstrating the hand movement from our Bollywood lesson.  I am opening my mouth for an inexplicable reason.
Surprisingly enough, I really enjoyed it, despite note being a teenage girl and despite not understanding the secret language..  I may not have understood it quite to the level that I convinced everyone I did with my excellent acting, but it was an enjoyable evening, and I would go again.  It's like I'm sort sort of a dance connoisseur.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Muppets and Temple Square

This past weekend we had the opportunity to attend the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert.  We try to attend every year, but we don't always pull it off.  There are so many people that want to attend that they do a random drawing type system, so some years we're able to get tickets and some years we aren't.  This year I really wanted to go because they had the Sesame Street Muppets as special guests.  How cool is that?

We decided to go up early and eat dinner at City Creek followed by walking around Temple Square to enjoy the Christmas lights.

Temple Square was beautiful as always.  We made sure to take some pictures.

Selfies are always important.

I'm pretty sure we take this exact same picture every year.
After Temple square we headed over to the Conference Center where we met Megan and Graham.  There were more selfies to be had while we waited for the show to start.
I'm pretty sure Graham looks exactly like a Muppet. I'm just a Muppet of a man.

Robyn and Megan wanted a discreet picture of the photobomber.

I really enjoyed the concert.  The Muppets were super fun.  But I have bad news.  The puppeteers came out with Muppets on their arms.  It turns out the Muppets are puppets.   I know, I'm as disappointed as you.  My entire childhood was a sham.  But the good news is that Big Bird is real.  He was walking around without any sort of hand inside him.  He's an actual bird.  So you can take solace in knowing that at least he is real.

Also, they had a sing-along with the audience.  I actually sang with the Muppets.  So you might say I'm kind of a big deal.

Afterward, naturally we took more selfies.
This is our selfie with the choir.  They're all walking away, because they hate to pose for pictures.

This was in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building.  Don't we just look festive?
We wandered around afterward in search of someplace that would give us hot chocolate.  The Nauvoo Cafe was open, but the lines were thousands of miles long.  We went to the food court at City Creek but everyone there hates money, so they were all closed.

Ultimately, we failed at obtaining hot chocolate, but we succeeded at singing with the Muppets so I would say the night was a success.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Morning in the Pacific Northwest

This year we spent Thanksgiving in the greater Seattle area.  Robyn's grandfather lives up here, so we thought it would be fun to come spend a few days with him to celebrate the holiday.

I got up early Thanksgiving morning and wanted to do some exercise.  I figured I would allow myself to eat pretty much whatever I wanted on this trip, but that made it that much more important for me to get plenty of exercise.

Of course, it's not hard to feel motivated to get out and exercise when I'm in such a beautiful area that needs exploring.  I set out to go on a walk, without a destination in mind.  I quickly discovered lots of trails that lead deep into the wilderness.  Clearly these trails weren't going to explore themselves.  By the time I got back to the house, I had walked 7 miles, climbed over rocks, scrambled through trees and almost fell in the Puget Sound.

Here are a few of the things I saw along my way.

I found lots of dirt roads that lead into wilderness.  Most of them turned out to be really long driveways.  But I explored them anyway.  That's how I roll.

I found Lois Lane.  I took a picture so I could show superman.

I could see the Sound through the trees.  All I ever wanted was to hike down to it.

I encountered lots of boggy wilderness that did not want to let me through.
I thought the mossy trees were really pretty.
Anyone who knows me knows I need to touch everything.  Moss is no exception,

After several attempts to get down to the water, I found a place that I could actually get through.  It turns out that getting through to the water can be very dangerous, due to the temptation to eat delicious animals.
Stupid fat people pollute the water and make once delicious animals yucky.
  When I finally made it down to the water, I was slightly disappointed.  I was hoping for a beach that I could run along or something.  What I found was really slippery mud that almost made me fall in the water 2 different times.  But at least this precious little tree stump was here to stand stoic and alone.

After finding the Sound, I ventured into several other lost and forbidden paths.  I was amazed how thick the trees were.  I was within 50 feet of a major road when I took this picture:

 Look how thick the trees are!  The only disappointing thing about the wilderness was that I didn't see a single Sasquatch.  If there's one thing the Syfy channel has taught me, it's that you're guaranteed to see a Sasquatch in the Pacific northwest.  I'm beginning to think that the Syfy channel deceived me.

Maybe we can't trust the Syfy channel.  But we can definitely trust Steven Spielberg, right?  If there's one thing that the Jurassic Park movies taught me, it's that when you see ferns, you're guaranteed to see dinosaurs.
I see ferns, but there was not a single velociraptor.  Disappointing.
The scariest animal among the ferns was little old me.
 As I was walking the various paths, it was fun to pretend I was in complete solitude in unexplored nature.  Of course, the fact that every path ultimately ended in a secluded house kind of ruined that illusion.
These people probably live off the land.  They're so secluded they probably don't even know that there are other people a few hundred yards away.

 One path didn't end with a house, it just ended with this tree who, true to its claim, has never littered at my house.

Eventually I wound up on a trail that actually ran along the water's edge.  I took this picture looking out at the water.

 Soon after that, I realized that I needed to head back if we were going to make it to Thanksgiving dinner on time.  Beautiful nature is fun, but being late for the most important meal of the year is no fun.  I headed back, but that just means that I need to do more exploring later.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Why I'm a Humbug Before Thanksgiving

I love Christmas.  I really do.

I love thinking about the miracle of our Savior's birth. I particularly love the story of the Shepards.  I love to imagine what it must have been like to see the angels come down and tell them that the very same God who had parted the Red Sea and performed countless miracles, was now a tiny baby born under the most humble circumstances, in a stable.

I love reflecting on the life of our Savior.  His birth would be meaningless, if it wasn't followed by the life He lead, His ministry, His miracles, His teachings, and His resurrection.

There are more secular things I love about Christmas too.  I love that it's a time that we get to focus on family.  I love that both my family, and Robyn's family, have traditions that are near to our hearts.  I love that Robyn and I have been able to embrace them both while creating some new ones that are unique to the two of us.

I love putting up the Christmas tree, and making it pretty.  I love putting presents underneath, and feeling some of the nostalgia of the anticipation I felt for Christmas as a child.

I love looking outside and seeing the untouched snow on a white Christmas morning.  I love how snow dampens the sound so that the world seems so quiet and peaceful.

I love watching people open presents, especially when I got them that perfect gift that they weren't anticipating.

I could list countless other things I like about Christmas, but that's actually not what I wanted to write about with this post.  You see, Thanksgiving is on Thursday, and I am notoriously anti-Christmas before Thanksgiving.

I wanted to tell you some of the things I love about Christmas, so that you could understand that I'm not just anti-Christmas in general.  But to help you understand why I get cranky when I see Santa Clause in a store the day after Halloween, I have to tell you about the one thing I dislike about Christmas.

I hate consumerism.

Look, I enjoy giving gifts, and I enjoy receiving gifts.  But I hate that people feel obligated to buy a present for every person they know.  And I particularly hate that businesses, consumed by greed, have all but erased Thanksgiving, because it's not a profitable enough holiday.

When I see Santa Clause in a store in November, I don't feel like that store is so eager to celebrate the birth of Christ, that they just can't wait any longer.  What I see is an institution that is so eager to make money, that they have to encourage everyone to BUY MORE AND BUY NOW!

I see this issue as particularly prevalent with Black Friday.  I don't have a problem with the fact that stores recognize a big shopping day and therefore compete to have good sales.  I don't have any problem with spending Thanksgiving enjoying the company of your family and then spending the next day searching out something special for them that you think they will enjoy.  But businesses have made such a point in beating each other out to sit on the throne as the most materialistic company, that Black Friday has swallowed Thanksgiving whole, and left nothing in its place.  So many companies now begin their sales on Thanksgiving day, not only taking shoppers away from their families but taking employees away from their families as well.

If you're so eager to buy things for your family, that you can't actually spend any time with them because you need to save a few dollars, then perhaps you're a little too focused on the things and not enough on the relationships.

I hate the consumerist mentality that seems to fill every store around Christmas.  Can we at least keep that part of Christmas confined to December?

How about the rest of Christmas?

Peace on Earth good will toward men?  That sounds like a good thing all year long.

Brotherly love?  Honoring the birth of the Savior of mankind?  I'll take those any month out of the year.

How about seeing something in a store that you think will bring joy to a loved one?  That one even sounds good in July.

Feeling pressure to buy things you can't afford?  Standing in long lines to save a few dollars?  Fighting strangers over the last toy on the shelf?  Those are things I'd like to do away with completely.  But if we have to have them, can we confine them to one month out of the year?

I've long given my Mom a hard time about playing Christmas music all year long.  I've only recently recognized that the reason I dislike Christmas outside of December is that so much of our culture is focused on the consumerist aspect of Christmas when they bring it early that I just think of that when I hear it.  (Even though that is not my Mom's focus at all.)  If we can all agree to let Christmas be about our Savior, about our families, and about love, I might just stop giving my Mom a hard time about playing Christmas music in July.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Preciousness in the Snow

Something amazing happened this week. Robyn had fun, IN THE SNOW!  I know, it's hard to believe.  I wouldn't believe it myself if I wasn't there.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  She didn't build a snowman, or throw a snowball, or really do anything snow related other than walking through it.  But she was standing on top of snow and she was smiling.  Miracles do happen.

The key to this miracle was our good friend Jackie.  She recently got engaged to her Italian lover Giuseppe.  She invited us to go hiking, and clearly we weren't going to turn down valuable Jackie/Giuseppe time.  The location of the hike was chosen as Big Springs in Provo Canyon, which just so happens to be the place where Robyn and I got engaged.

Naturally, we made everyone stand in the spot where we got engaged so that we could take a precious picture.
These precious people had their preciousness increase ten fold when they stood in such a precious spot.

Jared was the photographer, so he made sure to take a selfie.  We made sure to photobomb his selfie.
We've been up there many times, but we've actually never hiked it in the snow.  That may be due to the fact that getting Robyn to go anywhere in the snow is difficult, but look how cute she is.

It's like she's twice as cute in the snow.

Everyone else had their normal cuteness level in the snow.
It was a great hike.  We had lots of fun.  My shorts were perfect winter hiking attire.  However, something really strange happened when we got home that evening.  Apparently I got more chilled than I realized.  Once I was inside our warm house, my body suddenly decided that it was cold.  I FELT COLD!  I don't even know what's happening to me.  I put on some sweats and I EVEN WORE SOCKS!

Take a good look.  It may never happen again.
Don't worry.  An hour later the world returned to normal and I put on shorts and let my feet go free.  But for a brief moment, I was in the Twilight Zone.  It was a strange place indeed.
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