Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Very Marshy Christmas

When we returned from San Francisco, we were able to spend an extra day in Las Vegas. I stayed with Kacey and her crew and John brought Sienna over for the day to hang out with us as well while Stephen went over to John and Ashleigh's new place to help her with some home projects. After dropping the kids off for school, we went and got some delicious pho for lunch. We decided we had saved just enough room for a gourmet cinnamon roll (I got mint  hot chocolate and I'm drooling just thinking about it) which was a huge success even with our four little crazies in tow. Sienna was a perfect little angel that just chilled the whole time, but if I had a video of her eating pho noodles I would watch it all day every day because it was THE CUTEST. 
We all met up that night for a "Team Dance Christmas Party" at an Asian fusion restaurant. The best part was that one of the waitresses there also worked at the pho place we went to for lunch, so when she saw us there for dinner she was like, "Wow you guys are eating well today! You must really like Asian food!" The dinner was delicious and the company was even better. We stayed that night at John and Ashleigh's where we were presented with incredible onesie pajamas that Stephen and John had gone out and bought sometime during their day. 

The next day we made our way to John and Lucina's house. We were the first ones there for the break so that meant that Stephen got a lot of golfing in and Rory and I had Lucina and her food all to ourselves. Rory loved playing with the toys, drinking grandma's breakfast smoothies, and hanging out with grandma. Stephen loved golfing and I kept myself busy recording every new Hallmark Channel Christmas movie. 

Rory got to spend a lot of time with cousin Tanner and it is so fun to see these two together. They are so similar in looks and mannerisms. We spent a day with Linne and the kids playing at the Kid's Museum and then had lunch at Chick-fil-a. 

Rory spent a lot of time exploring outside and was especially enthralled with the rocks. Stephen taught her how to longboard and how to dunk so it was pretty successful all around. 

John and Lucina watched Rory for us one morning so we could go to the temple together. Then we all went back later that night to see the lights on the temple grounds. St George will always be my all-time favorite temple. 

It's always special when Christmas Eve or Day falls on a Sunday and not just because it means church is only one hour (wink, wink). It was so nice to be able to get dressed in our finest and turn our minds and attention to the reality of who and what we have to celebrate. I am so grateful for the birth of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and I am so grateful for all the miracles that preceded and followed His birth. Because of the gift of His life and ministry, I get to live with these miracles of mine and learn and grow with them forever. 

These were the highlights of the church meeting: Hearing Poppop and Grandma sing in the choir and listening to Jackson sing, "Go away Jesus, go away" to himself. (*Jackson learned a little song at Halloween that says, "Go away spooky monsters, go away" so now anything that gets in the way of what he wants to do gets put in the song. The aforementioned rendition was the result of Rebecca telling him he needed to reverent because it was Jesus's birthday." 

The Marsh's have a lot of awesome Christmas traditions and this year did not disappoint. We had Mexican food for Christmas Eve dinner (not sure if that is a tradition, but it was delicious), we made scones for Santa (and I ate more than my fair share) and we played the gift game. I came away with a bag of Lindt so it was a roaring success. We got the little kids dressed up in their new Christmas jammies, and thanks to John and Ashleigh, Stephen and I got to join in on the fun too. 

This series of pictures is one of my most favorite ever. Rory went through this phase where she really loved to hug other kids, but she doesn't really know how and she squeezes to hard and then ends up tackling them. Then when they get sad, she gets sad. And yes, I was able to document the entire exchange when it happened with Samara. 

That night there was a MAJOR power outage all over the surrounding area, so we got out the flashlights and had a Taylor Swift dance party with Kenzie and Preston. It was one of my all-time favorite Christmas Eve's ever.  

Christmas morning was nice and chill. Through the first week we were there, Rory and I hard started getting sick and Christmas Day right as it was getting really bad for us it began to spread to everyone else so I think that helped with the "chillness" of it all. Rory was OBSESSED with Preston, which was a miracle since I was feeling too crummy to be much help to her most of the time. 
We opened gifts together once everyone was finally roused and able to make it to the family room. The best gift of the day was from Preston to Makenzie. He got her a pack of Descendants dolls with two hard to find characters and she was SO happy she cried! Makenzie has the best gift reactions ever, which is awesome since Rory was still more interested in the wrapping paper than in the gifts. 
Grammy sent some presents for us from Washington so we had to send her pictures of how much we like them, a puppy for Rory, Golf shirt for Stephen, and I got a cupcake carrier. 

After opening presents we spent the rest of the day playing, napping, eating, and silently cursing whoever got everyone sick (me). That evening we went and played on the golf course that was open to anyone for the day. The kids all loved it and it was a gorgeous day to be out and about. 

I was unsure how our present for the kids would go over, but turned out they were all a success! It helps that all the kids in the family are so sweet and easy to please. The girls loved the unicorn masks and bath bombs and the slime we made for the boys was a major success. It was a relief and it made for such a fun Christmas.

Rory was OBSESSED with the dogs that were there. Scooby and Jackson stayed at John and Lucina's for almost the whole time we were there and Vienna came for a day or two. It was tricky trying to keep Rory from getting into the dog food. After several close calls I figured that if we just let her taste the dog food she would realize that she didn't want it, but that backfired because it turns out she loves the taste of dog food. Who knew? We were pretty vigilant the rest of the week, but she was so determined she still managed to eat a piece or two. 

On the 27th when we had everyone in town together, we did a musical tributes night like we had done with my side of the family the year before. It was so much fun and there were a lot of creative ideas. Our tribute to Linne and Nathan's family included a song about his recent vasectomy to "Look What You Made Me Do" so rest assured it was a thing of beauty.

On the drive to Las Vegas weeks before, I got a text from Curtis that he had found a good deal on Ebay for a new iPhone. I ended up buying it on the spot and spent the next several weeks at odds with the post office in St George about where the phone actually was and when it would make it's way to me. It finally came 8-10 days after I was expecting it but at least it made it before we left for home. At this point I was feeling pretty miserable and was in bed for most of the day. I finally got my new phone and managed to make it  out of bed for a trip to Mavericks for some hot chocolate. 

I got so sick that if it weren't for Lucina, who watched Rory for most of the day, and Hallmark Movies, that kept me entertained while I lazed away in bed, I would have gone insane. By the time we left for home I had a double eye infection to go along with my sinus infection. It was ROUGH. 
Luckily, a few rounds of antibiotic later, we all survived and ended up having a pretty memorable and happy Christmas. 

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

San Francisco Weekend

Stephen's best friend Clayton was getting married in Oakland in December and there was no way we were going to miss it. He and his fiancee (then girlfriend) Alicia had visited us a few months before getting engaged when they were in town for her friend's wedding and we were SO excited when we found out they were engaged. They just make one truly incredible couple. 
So we hatched a plan to get there. We drove to Vegas the night of the 14th. We got there pretty late and all crashed in Jon and Kacey's guest room. Since Rory had slept the whole drive she was all sorts of confused when we woke her up to take her out of the car and then tried to put her back to sleep again. She cried and screamed and cried and I did everything possible to keep her quiet as we were in the middle of the entire sleeping Nielsen family. Eventually, she fell asleep lying next to me in the bed, but I was worried about her sleeping like that and ultimately Stephen and I got very little sleep that night. In the morning, Kacey dropped us off at the airport after dropping off her kids at school. She really is the coolest. 
I know I've said it before, but nothing makes me feel fancier than flying without Rory. After a few shows for me and a nap for Stephen we were landing in Oakland before we knew it. Wesley, one of Stephen's roommates from BYU, picked us up from the airport to take us to Clayt's surprise bachelor party, an IMAX 3D showing of the new Star Wars movie, Stephen and I were still tired from the night before and STARVING by this point so we ordered a giant popcorn and a soda for the movie. The popcorn was pretty gross (which I feel blasphemous saying as I am someone who LOVES movie theater popcorn, but it really was. Old and not enough slat and butter.) but we were so hungry we ate it all anyways and made ourselves sick for the rest of the day. 
That night Clayton and Alicia had their reception at a cute little annex behind one of the church buildings. There was dancing, delicious food, A DONUT WALL, and lots of great company so all around a perfect night. The party was still going strong and Stephen and I were both exhausted, so we decided to get an uber to take us to the hotel and peace out a little early. Right as we had confirmed our drive, who was five minutes away, we hear the DJ announce that this was the last song because they would be doing the bride and groom send off in five minutes. Stephen and I panicked at our poor timing, and hurriedly pulled our bags up to the curb of the main street so we could cut him off before he could pull into the pick up point and disrupt Clayt and Alicia's send off. We watched for him nervously as sparklers were lit and the getaway car for the couple was prepared. We finally see his car, and despite our frantic waving, he blows right past us and heads right toward the annex where Clayt and Alicia have just begun their departure. We begin chasing after him with all our luggage, trying to catch him before he completely disrupts the party (and ruins their pictures and videos forever) and we are screaming his name, "Mubashir! Mubashir!" He finally turns perpendicular to the getaway car (now blocking their exit) and we quickly throw our bags in his trunk, jump in the car, and yell, "Drive!" He managed to pull away just in time, and the happy couple was able to make their exit, none the wiser. Stephen and I laughed about it for the rest of the evening. 

The next day we slept in late (hallelujah) and then decided to walk to a bakery nearby for breakfast before we had to leave for the temple. It turns out our hotel was a block away from Chinatown so as we approached the bakery and we were the only non-Asians in sight, we had a feeling it may not be a typical bakery experience. They were very nice and the food we got was completely edible, but it was another experience that made us laugh. Wesley came and picked us up for the temple and even played our chauffeur for the rest of the day. It was a beautiful ceremony and because it was so well attended I ended up having to sit on Stephen's lap. That's what I call a win-win. That night they had a gorgeous dinner for family and close friends at the Marriot tower. There were a lot of lovely tributes shared and it was so wonderful to hear again and again how much Alicia and Clayton truly deserve each other. I have to say, my favorite part of the evening was when Clayt's mother shared that she remembered being at our wedding and seeing how happy Stephen was and she said to herself that she just wanted Clayt to find someone who made him feel that same happiness- totally made me cry. Also the cheesecake was my other favorite part. 

On Sunday we took a late flight out so that we would have at least a little time to explore the city. Stephen and I are both a little anxious travelers, and we are used to being followers in family vacations, not leaders, so this was a very big step for us to go out on our own and explore with little to no planning. We bought a metro card for the day and made our way to pier 39. We explored the shops, ate some yummy food, and most importantly did not get lost! We loved watching the seals, despite the smell, and of all the things we had done during the weekend that one was what made us miss Rory the most. Stephen kept saying, "We have to bring Rory back here! She will love those seals!" We managed to see Alcatraz and the Golden Gate bridge in the background, so we took some  pictures and called it good. We made it back into Oakland with plenty of time before our flight, but like I said we are anxious travelers so it was probably for the best.

Yes, I made Stephen take TWO pictures of me with my edible cookie dough dessert, it was that important to me.
It was the perfect little getaway and the best part of all was that it was just a kick off to our Holiday break and we didn't even have to go back to reality when we got home! Yay escapism!