Monday, December 30, 2013

The Anatomy of a Surprise Party.

In order to pull off the perfect surprise birthday party, there are a few simple rules that one must follow:

1. Decorate, decorate, decorate.

 2. Hide the designated DJ with her speakers behind the entertainment center so music can spontaneously erupt as the guest of honor 
enters the room.

3. Hide the designated videographer behind the couch to capture that magical moment....

 4. Invite guests to hide in a hallway,

 or down the stairs until guest of honor arrives.

 5. Yell "surprise" as the almost 16 year old arrives home from church.

 6. Surround her with joy and laughter...

 ...and more joy and more laughter.

 7. Do your best to gather all annoyed cousins for a "quick" group shot.
(Realize that quick just isn't in their photo-posing capabilities).

 8. Have guest of honor pose for birthday cake shots with willing participants,

and unwilling ones.


9. And finally,flash gang signs with your dad 
and your birthday cake,

and then alone.

And there you have it.
The perfect surprise birthday party
for the perfect birthday girl.

Happy Birthday Cassidy!
We love you.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Do You Love Me?

Several months ago, one of our missionary cousins challenged us to read Elder Holland's 2012 MTC talk called Feed My Sheep. Last week I tracked it down but instead of reading it, I listened to it because there is nothing like Elder Holland's emotional emphasis as he speaks. It was pretty life changing for me, even though I am not an MTC missionary.

This morning, I listened to it again. And then I followed it with Elder Holland's conference talk The First Great Commandment which was an offspring of the MTC talk. It was a beautiful way to prepare to take the sacrament today.

Please give them a listen.

Feed My Sheep

The First Great Commandment

Shabbat Shalom.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Night Before Christmas.

Christmas Eve was spent with Aunt Janis.
She loves to put out a ginormous spread and feed us until we are bleary eyed.
It just makes her happy.
It makes us happy too :)
However this year, we couldn't even make it to dessert, and that's saying something.
Janis deserves a big, huge award because she prepared everything with 2 broken ribs. Really.
We saw her cringing and wincing here and there throughout the evening. Not a good thing, but she insisted on carrying on.
Several phone calls prior to Christmas Eve could not convince her cancel. She's pioneer stock, that lady.
We did our best to help her prepare and serve, and when it was over, we cleaned til it was sparkling.
We then sat for awhile and reminisced about Great Grandma Brown and how much she loved Christmas. And the Gospel. It was a sweet way to end the evening. 
I am sure she collapsed as we drove away.
For as long as I can remember Janis has been serving us that way.
What a great gift she has been in our lives.
Thank you Janis for a wonderful Christmas Eve.
We love you.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Ornaments: 2013






Tuesday, December 24, 2013


 The Brown Family Christmas Party is an annual tradition. One takes place in Washington and one takes place in Utah. 

Sometimes, we are lucky enough to have Washingtonians join the Utah festivities. 
Last year, Grandma and Grandpa Brown were here, and this year, we got the Neeley's. (YAY!)

There are certain things that must happen at the 
Utah Brown Family Christmas Party.

For example, we always read and then raffle a Christmas book.

This year it was President Monson's story of The Christmas Train. With the wonders of modern technology, he actually read it to us. It was awesome! 
(We think we'd like to invite him every year).

We always play Eskimo Bingo.

This year, we added gag gifts to the kids' group as well. No tears at all!

And we always have Nanaimo bars!

 Especially delicious this year I must say.

The rest of the agenda is up for grabs and is usually planned by the host. This year Julie added something that turned out to be the best part of the evening.
She asked the cousins to write down thoughtful, meaningful, and sincere attributes they saw in each other.

She then read them to us, noting who said what about whom. The kids were a little concerned about them not being read anonymously. Not because they said things they shouldn't have, but because they said some "embarrassingly" wonderful things.

It was incredible to hear the kind and uplifting things they said about each other. 
It was especially amazing to us as parents. We don't often get to hear those kinds of things come out of our teenagers :)
It truly couldn't have been more perfect,
except that we were missing this guy:

And this guy:

But somewhere in Texas and Colorado someone else is grateful to have them there, instead of here.

We were also missing Michaela, who had a 10 hour shift at Subway. Bummer!

All in all, the Brown Family Christmas party was the best I can remember in years. 
Food, family, and Christlike love. 
That is a great combination.

Merry, Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Birthdays and Smiles.

Sunday dinner was a celebration of Bethany's 18th birthday. 
As per her request, 
I made Kathleen's chocolate cake 
(which really is just Kathleen's incredible frosting on a plain old chocolate cake). 
It was to die for, and yet Beth 
decided not to have a piece-
still trying to figure that one out...

 And as per Michael's request, I am noting that HE frosted it to this perfection...

 After dinner, we trekked to Temple Square 
with the Cooks to see the lights.
Turns out, it was a perfect night to do so. 
The weather was warm enough to turn the snow into rainish stuff, and so we cruised around without too many of the weather related issues that we have experienced in the past (i.e.frostbite). 
Weirdly enough, the one who got cold and headed to the car a little early is the girl going to RUSSIA in January...that's going to work out well, wink, wink.
To be fair, she opted to dress stylish instead of warm.

I love Michaela's smile in this pic!

And a Christmas miracle: Hannah smiled sweetly in a picture...

...and again (awesome Hannah)!

No problem with smiles here...

...or here.

This is not an authentic smile but we'll take it none the less...

And a two-thirds majority works for this picture.

And then, she's back.

Someone spent a lot of time sculpting this masterpiece in the parking lot. 
Is it my imagination, or does it seem to resemble Joseph Smith?

Between birthdays and temple lights, 
it was a beautiful night.

Shabbat Shalom.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

And She's Back.


Tonight, happiness is
a living room full of teenagers.