Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Presents from Japan

The first gift opened Christmas morning was the package shipped from Japan. David sent us a huge box full of goodies and gifts for everyone, but these were definitely the biggest hit:

Don't you wish you got a sweet ninja mask for Christmas?

Yeah, I thought so.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

One, two... one, two, three ... how many Santa's do I see?

Some people think I collect Santas. I don't. I collect cute, adorable, "gotta'-have-it" Santas.

Picked this guy up in Alaska. Couldn't resist him; his bell really rings. One...

This Santa's hat is wired and can be twisted any which way. Two...

Skinny, wooden, four-foot Santa. Three...

Love the corduroy suit and buttons! Four...

Big fat three-footer. Five...

Yes, even in the bathroom. Six...

I know, these aren't Santas. But they're the perfect piano topper!

This Santa is so woodsy and rugged. I love his blue eyes and detailed beard! Seven...

This sparkly guy is even a bobble head! Eight...

With Mrs. Clause. Nine...
Just stinkin' cute! Ten...
No Santas here.
Eleven, twelve... (small one is from Germany)
This one has adjustable height anywhere from two to four feet! Thirteen...


Another fat three-footer (I have three of these). Fifteen...


This "baker" Santa has a chalkboard to display today's holiday menu. Seventeen...

Not a Santa; just a reindeer.

Final fat three-footer. EIGHTEEN!

To the tippy top!

So, my amazing "stud muffin" husband decided to hang exterior Christmas lights on our house this year. He perfectly aligned colorful bulbs around the garage doors, lower windows and front door. Then he asked me to come take a look. I was so impressed. I said, "DANA!!!! These look awesome! It's going to be so beautiful when you're done!" He turned to me and said matter-of-factly, "I am done." We both laughed. After some coaxing, he agreed that it would look so much better if we had lights on the "tippy top" of the roof. It took a 40-foot extension ladder and risking Daniel's life and limbs, but we now have lights along the roof line and both gables. The exterior of our home is almost as festive as the interior. I LOVE IT!!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving for FOUR.

I thought this year's Thanksgiving might be a bit sad: no David, no Jennie, no extended family, no friends and their families, just the four of us ... Dad, Mom, Daniel, and Jessie. It was actually really nice--stress-free, meaningful, productive, and fun. My wonderful husband steam cleaned all the carpets in the house, we had a delicious turkey feast, went to see "The Blind Side" and then decorated the house for Christmas. We have so much to be grateful for, especially each other. Our hearts are full of thanks.

Autumn is for turkeys.

This turkey was so freaking juicy and flavorful!

Last day of this seasonal decor.

Whipped garlic potatoes. I promise, they taste better than they look.

Let's eat!
Don't forget the (non-alcoholic) sparkling cider.

Mmmm... buttery corn.

I call this "Sister-in-law Salad". Spinach and romaine with candied pecans, feta cheese, and craisins -- drizzle with homemade poppyseed dressing.
And the best part ... the stuffing!
Best dang roll recipe I've ever tried.
My cute little family.

My amazing husband ... aka "stud muffin".
Dan the man.

My Jessie girl.

Gobble ... Gobble...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I blew it!

It's been nearly four months since that detailed post where I publicly committed to specific personal sacrifices for two full years. Anyone remember? I temporarily eliminated vacations, wardrobe updates, new furniture, dining out, professional manicures/pedicures, movies, blah blah blah... pretty much all the things that make me happy... haha. Anyway, the goal is to save an extra $25,000. And, it's been working so far.

For my own peace of mind, I have to confess to any and all who care in the slightest degree that tonight... I totally caved. That's right. I cracked. I broke down and gave in. I went out to eat with my husband (gasp). I know. I'm a loser and I have no self control. It's just that for breakfast, I had some homemade pumpkin bread with a glass of milk, and I never really had the chance to eat lunch or dinner. At 6:00 p.m. I joined Dana at the church for a WONDERFUL session of Stake Conference. It was then, as I sat in the chapel absorbing the spirit, that it dawned on me how many hours I had gone without eating. Thankfully, Dana had some Hot Tamales in his pocket. I grabbed some as I whispered in his ear, "Thanks for dinner." He laughed. When the meeting ended, all I could think about was food. Several other couples invited us to join them at Applebees, and I was too hungry to resist. So, that's what? A $12.00 setback. I think I can handle it.

Just so you know, I also plan to go to the movies on Thanksgiving Day. Dana and the kids insist. It's been a family tradition for years and a wise youth once said "What the heck? Mom! Everybody knows that family traditions are way more important than saving a few bucks." So, there you have it: my two confessions. After those exceptions, I'm back on the plan.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Spanking

First grade was a real challenge for me. It wasn't the academic requirements that were so difficult; it was the level of self-discipline one needed in order to be a contributing member of Mrs. Borden's first-grade class. I thought she was mean. She thought I was a disturbance. I was often sent home with notes... bad notes that said things like "Colleen is very busy, wiggly, and talks too much" ... "Colleen needs more self-control." After several discussions about "self control", no improvement, and more "bad" notes, my parents decided that talking about it wasn't impressive enough; it was time for me to get a spanking.

I remember the anticipation I felt knowing that a spanking was coming. I knew I had earned it. I had put water in the sandbox even though I understood it was against the rules (but SERIOUSLY, how fun is dry sand?) I had been dancing on the lunch tables (don't really remember that one, but mom wrote it in her journal, and it doesn't surprise me). I had been much too social during class time and was a disturbing element. If anyone deserved a spanking, I did.

To this day, I remember being in the master bedroom with Dad that evening. He sat on the edge of the king-sized bed and lifted me up on his knee. We had a little talk about choices and how I could choose whether to be a "good girl" or a "bad girl". I told him I really wanted to be a good girl, but sometimes I'd forget. He said that this spanking was going to help me remember. I could hear my brothers giggling and whispering outside the bedroom door, "tee hee hee... Colleen's getting a spanking." That really bugged me. (Geez! Can a girl get no privacy around here!?!) I could tell it bugged Dad too. He got up quickly and threw open the door. Those brothers of mine scattered so fast, they were barely a blur. Streaks of little boys' limbs flashed from the doorway as they fled for their lives.

Alone at last, Dad and I finished our little talk and then he took me over his knee and swatted me good. The first one hurt, but the second was worse, and the third one was about as much as I could take. There were at least two more after that and I started to wonder how long this would go on. Five good swats on the bum. It stung... stung enough to help me remember.

Later in life, when Dad and I talked about that incident, he said that he expected me to run away from him in anger. He said that typically when children are disciplined harshly, their initial reactions are rage, resentment, and even yelling "I hate you!" He told me about his surprise when I turned towards him, wrapped my arms around his neck, and hugged him. He said it melted his heart.

I'm not really sure what the point of this post is, other than to say how grateful I am to have had a father who loved me. He. Loved. Me. And I knew it. He loved me enough to discipline me when I needed it. He loved me enough to establish limits and boundaries. He loved me enough to set high expectations. He loved me enough that I never doubted it. And I loved him.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Generally Don't Suffer From Insomnia

It's 2:00 a.m. Normally I would be sleeping. Along with eating, it's one of the things I do best. I have found that losing a loved-one can take the pleasure out of eating and the rest out of sleep. My nights are filled with thoughts and reflection--memories of Dad--forty seven years worth; and recollections of his life--nearly nine decades. Am I sad? I'd say my overpowering emotions are gratitude and respect. My mind reviews every detail as if I must grasp onto them before they fade away like an old photo left in the sunlight.

My Dad at age 80 - Thanksgiving 2002

Did you know that Dad weighed ten pounds at birth? Holy Cow! Poor Grandma Cheney! And to think that she went on to have five more children after that. No wonder I remember her walking so slowly. Dad was born on a cold winter Idaho morning in their small family home on the 20-acre Cheney farm. He was the fifth of ten children born to Clarence Marcellus and Alice Leal Blackburn Cheney. Here's a picture of the first five children around 1923 when dad was still a baby:

One of my favorite stories of Dad's childhood was his experience farming beans. I remember seeing the newspaper article with his photo and hearing that he received a congratulatory letter from the governor of Idaho. I thought that was pretty cool. He started by planting one bean. From that one single bean, he yielded 225 beans. The next year, he planted the 225 and yielded 2 quarts. The third year, he planted the two quarts and yielded 50 pounds. FIFTY POUNDS of beans all from one little bean and my dad's hard work. The photo that was in the newspaper shows dad on one knee in his bean field. I love that photo and am waiting for my brother Karl to send me a copy. Hard work and the gospel of Jesus Christ were the core lessons he learned growing up on a farm in Idaho.

Dad about age 10.

Dad attended Madison High School in Rexburg. As a Madison Bobcat, he played the lead part in a school play, sang in the A Cappella choir, was captain of the basketball team, played football, and was Student Body President. His favorite involvement was basketball and he would sometimes walk eight to twelve miles in order to play in a game. He was one of the ten best basketball players in southeastern Idaho and was selected for the All Star team as center. I'm waiting for my brother Karl to send me high school photos of Dad. Here's one from junior high; he's the tall one in the back.
In reflecting on my elementary school days, it seems like there were a few years that my dad worked two jobs to provide for our family. He was a guidance counselor for Culver City Junior High School during the day and then would return to work at night school. I remember the table was always set and a hot meal ready so that we could have dinner together as a family between his two jobs. When it was time to eat, Dad would stand at the back gate and whistle which was our signal to immediately stop whatever play we were engaged in and run home. He had a loud, distinct whistle and we could hear him from just about anywhere in the neighborhood. In my mind's eye, I can clearly see him at the head of the dinner table loosening his tie, sliding the knot around his neck, and then flinging it to his back to keep it clean while he ate. After dinner, dad would hold mom in his arms and give her a long romantic kiss before heading back to work. All of us kids would watch and make silly "oooohhh" sounds. Sometimes he even dropped her gracefully in a dip. Their display of affection may have embarrassed us a little, but deep inside, we were grateful to know that he loved her and she loved him. Of their devotion to each other, we had no doubt, and this added to our feeling of security.

My mom in the 1940's.

I'll never know why I have the good fortune of being his daughter... of being raised in a home that was filled with affection and the spirit of the Lord... and of receiving the perfect balance of discipline and love. I will be forever grateful.

The day I was sealed to my parents in the Los Angeles Temple.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Memories of my Dad

My Dad was born February 9, 1922 to Clarence Marcellus Cheney and Alice Leal Blackburn Cheney. These are my Cheney grandparents on their wedding day November 19, 1913.

Dad was the fifth of ten children. He was followed by Orpha, Elva, Fenton, and Wendell.

He grew up with cold Idaho winters, learned the value of hard work, and was taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is probably winter of 1932/32 before his baby sister, Rheta, was born.

This is my dad around age 10. Isn't he so cute?!!!

He had three brothers.