Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Reality of Santa

Tonight, while all the family was gathered around the table for dinner, we started discussing when children make the dreaded discovery that Santa isn't real.  

I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I had found three sleds in the back of my mom's van a few days before Christmas.  There was a purple one, a yellow round one, and a red long one, that could fit two or three people.  They were covered by blankets.  On Christmas morning, to my dismay, I found the three sleds for my sister and I as our gift from Santa.  My heart sank.  The magic of Santa and the childlike innocence I experienced with Santa, his elves, and the presents they make seemed to vanish in an instant.

So, I knew discussing the fact that my oldest nephew, Kason, could discover any time that Santa wasn't real, was no light matter.  He would remember that moment in time forever.  Answering the question would be even more difficult.  How do you tell a child that Santa isn't real? 

Then I remembered a story that I had read a while ago and printed off so that one day, when I have kids of my own, who question the validity of Santa, I could answer him with this answer.  

As her young daughter questioned Santa, Martha Brockenbrough, answered her in a letter.  She wrote

"You asked a very good question. Are you Santa?

I know you've wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I've had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is no.  I am not Santa.  There is no one Santa.

I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though.  I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, daddy helps, too.)

I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning.  You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.

This won't make you Santa, though.

Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived.  What he does is simple, but it is powerful.  He teaches children how to have belief in something they cannot see or touch.

It's a big job, and it's an important one.  Throughout your life, you will need the capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends in your talents and your family.  You'll also need to believe in things you can't measure or even hold in your hand.  Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during the darkest, coldest moment.

Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he's filled with joy.

With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So, no, I am not Santa.  Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness.  I'm on his team, and now you are, too."

I love this answer and hope that in the years to come, my children, my nieces and nephews, and my grandchildren can understand that Santa is so much more than a person who brings presents. 

He teaches us to believe, and, that is truly, one of the greatest gifts we could ever receive.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Tis the Season

To be jolly


  'Tis the season to run around like a mad man trying to find the perfect presents for your family and friends.

 I am no good at buying presents.  I have never been a good gift giver.  My husband's family is another story.  My mother in law is the best gift giver on the planet.  Not only will she find the perfect, most sentimental gift, but she will also find it for half price.

So no worries.  
My husband has only grown up with the best Christmas presents any child could hope to have.
No pressure there.

Thus, to try and hold some glimmer to the Christmases he has had in the past, I have been searching, shopping, thinking, stewing, and asking to find a good present for my husband.

And I have been slightly overwhelmed.  Finding presents is hard.  Scott is the one who has it easy.  Last Christmas I went on a shopping spree to Banana Republic, wrapped the clothes, and then told Scott what he got me.  Couldn't find an easier way to give gifts than that!

So, today I finished my shopping.  I felt relief for around two minutes.  Then the doubt began to set in.  

Had I found the right gift?

Was Scott going to like it?

What if he doesn't?

What if I spent too much?

What if I spent to little?

And then it hit me.  I was wasting one of the best seasons out of the whole year.  I was waisting the Christmas season worrying about presents.  For some, Christmas is all about the presents, but I didn't want it to be that way for me or my family.  And, yet, that is what I was allowing Christmas to become.  

So, today, I am letting go.  I will wrap the presents that I have and they will be enough.  I am gong to stop worrying so much about finding the perfect gift and focus more on creating memories, memories that will hopefully stick around longer than the gifts.

So, in the next to weeks, we are going to:

Build a ginger bread house

Drink hot chocolate

Drive around and look at Christmas lights

Listen to Christmas music until we can't anymore (This might be impossible to accomplish)

Help someone in need

Spend time with family

Remember the Savior and his birth

Because after all, these things, and not the presents, are what make the season magical.

Live Nativity

Scott and I were invited to be apart of the live Nativity out at Tuachan the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  The Roger's and Ence family were the ones who put it together and needed a few more people so we decided to tag along. 

Scott was the Inn Keeper who turns Mary and Joseph away.  I was cast as the Inn Keeper's wife (nice).  Scott was really excited for his big role.  We got all dressed up, learned what we were supposed to do with a little direction from the Tuachan staff and then it was show time!

It was really neat to be apart of the Nativity.  All the animals were alive, including the camels!  The best part was it really set the tone for the holiday season.  Being an acting part in the story of the Savior's birth was heart warming and the perfect way to set the tone for the upcoming holiday.   It was great to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas before the hustle and bustle of December set in.

Baby J

Baby Jackson

Scott and I are so excited to have another nephew!

He is so sweet and brings such a wonderful feeling into the family.  We love sundays because we know that all of our nieces and nephews come to grandma's house for dinner, including Jackson.  It has been so fun to hold baby J and sit in awe at the wonderful little miracle he is.

And he is cute

Jackson was blessed a little over a week ago.  All the family was here for the blessing so we decided to have Clint snap a few family photos.  The Hoopes family is certainly growing.  There are eight nieces and nephews in total so far.  Even though it was hard to get all the kids to smile while looking into the sun, we still got a lot of great pictures and memories!


November Fun...

November seemed to fly by for us.  I was in the throws of finishing school and Scott was busy planning for Dixie State's homecoming week.  However, we try to keep the busy-ness of our lives at bay sometimes to make sure we are still having some fun!

As a fundraiser for alumni of Dixie State College, the Alumni Associatation puts on a dinner on the Saturday of Homecoming week.  Because Scott is currently the Student Alumni President, we were invited to go.  It was kind of weird to dress up in formal attire.  It felt like we were back in high school again.  But, it was also fun to have a night on the town with my hubby.

We also had a slight two week obsession with planking.  We were first brought into the world of planking by The Office.  The neighbors who live above us are also big Office fans so we had a fun time talking about all the fun places to plank are in St. George.

Well, one Sunday night, after coming home from dinner with the family, I walked in and stumbled upon this.


My first reaction was, " Oh no! Some one has broken into my house! (One of my worst fears)... Wait... Why is the robber just laying on the table."  Once I figured out what was going on, I bust up laughing. Scott was right behind me, also laughing.

Our neighbors and Scott's little sister had snuck into our apartment and had been planking until we came home!  Classic.

I made them stay in their poses while I took pictures.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with planking, all you do is just find somewhere to lay and you lay there like a plank of wood.... and that's pretty much it.  

The most wonderful time of the year....

 My favorite time of the year has nothing to do with Christmas trees, presents, snow, or anything like that (even though I do admit, Christmas is probably my second favorite time of the year).  My favorite time of the year is October.  I LOVE October with all my heart.  

I love the cool, crisp fall air.

I love the leaves falling off the tree.

I LOVE Halloween.  It's my favorite Holiday.  I love to see little kids dress up.  I love to dress up.  I love candy.  What could be better?

This time of year has always been my favorite, ever since I was a little girl.  Some of my fondest memories of my dad and the rest of my family occurred during the Fall.  

So here are some of the great memories Scott and I made during this October that are now added to the list of some of my favorite fall memories.

For fall break, we went to the happiest place on earth, Disneyland!  We had a blast.  It's even more fun when you go with little kids.  Our nieces, Presli and Hali were there.  They make it all the more fun!

We also went to Thriller! for my birthday.  We had a friend who was dancing in the show, so it worked out just perfect!  I had been to Thriller once before but I had never been to it at Tuachan.  Scott had never been and he really doesn't like Halloween (we are working on changing that) so he was a little apprehensive.

There were all these zombies walking around everywhere, crawling over people, eating their popcorn, getting up in their face.  It was hilarious.  I don't know how these actors didn't crack a smile, there is no way I would have been able to do that.  One came up to me and growled at me.  She was so close I could feel her breath on my neck!  ha so fun!

The Johnson Family Halloween Party

What more can I say, my cousins throw a rockin Halloween party.  Everyone's costume is a big secret until that night.  Then, everyone comes out and reveals their costume. There have been so many clever ones in the past, it gets kind of hard to find a good idea.  There is definitely never a shortage of laughs at this party

My uncle Bruce is the black shadow in the left, you can't see him until you look!  Scott and I were the game operation.  We also had an appearance by a ninja turtle, Thomas the Train, a deviled egg, a black eyed pea, Jack Sparrow, Hannah Montana, Captain America, a witch, a surgery patient, a Reeses peanut butter cup, and a Penguin! 

The St. George Marathon

Something that has been on my bucket list for a while was to run a marathon.  We signed up last May and trained really hard all summer long.  Once school started, however, our training was a little... hmmm... lacking.  However, we decided to try running it since we had paid the money and had worked so hard over the summer.  

My sister in law, Lisha, surprised us with this sign out in front of our apartment!

We stayed the night at the Roger's cabin in Pine Valley so we wouldn't have to wake up so early and ride the shuttle.  It turned out to be way nice.  We woke up at five thirty, ate, got dressed and headed to the start line.  We got there fifteen minutes before start time, stretched and were ready to go.  I wish we could have taken pictures of the start line, it was so cool to see everyone there and hear the music, it was great!

We were shooting to keep around a ten minute pace or under for the race.  The first eight miles were a breeze, and I remember thinking to myself, "If this is how the whole race goes, this will be a breeze."  We started to get a little tired after 15 and around 18 is when the trouble set in.  I hadn't been drinking water at each rest stop and that proved to be my downfall.  I wasn't staying hydrated.  I got really sick and spent a lot of time heaving my guts out on the side of the road.  It wasn't pretty.  Several people passed me, a few that made the situation all the more disheartening.  A person with a prosthetic leg passed me, a pregnant woman speed walking, a man who looked like he was about to break into a fit of convulsions at any minute, amongst other people.  Never fear, I figured I had come this far and I was not about to sign up for another one of these!  So, after I started to feel better, we continued on.  

 Tyler, Scott's brother, found us about three miles from the finish line and ran with us the rest of the way.  It was great to have him there!  He was such a great help.

My little incident slowed us down.  WAY down.  But we figured we still got medals if we finished, so it still counted as a success. We made it to the finish line, got our medals, and then got the rewards of running a marathon.  FOOD.  I swear, I have never tasted anything so good in my life.  Blue Bunny was there handing out ice cream.  I got those bottle pops.  I think that is what they are called.  They are red, white and blue?  Anyways, it tasted so good, I went back and got another one.  

Even though we were really behind on time, it didn't matter once it was all over.  We were just glad we finished.  And what was even better was that we finished together. It wasn't until a couple months later we found out that I was the real winner.  We got certificates from the Marathon and I placed before Scott.  I promised him I would never let him forget it either!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Our favorite by far.  London.  We had two and a half days here.  We quickly realized that there was just, flat out, not enough time.  No way.  There was so much to do and see we would simply have to come back.  Once we made that decision, it sure seemed to take a lot of pressure off of us for this trip.  We decided we would just kind of go with the flow, take our time, and enjoy what we did get to see.  If we didn't see everything, its ok.  We would be back.  We had hop on/ hop off bus tickets for those couple of days so we decided to just ride that around for a while, getting on and off when we saw something interesting.

Our first stop. Buckingham Palace.  We couldn't get too close because the royal army was doing a practice march or something.  There were lots of people lined up to watch it, so we were glad we got off the bus just in the nick of time.  We snapped a few photos and then carried on!

 Of course, I couldn't come to London without doing a few Harry Potter things. I figured if we would be back, why not? Plus, Harry Potter is my absolute favorite. Ever.  I am obsessed.  There have been times I wished I was a wizard.  Love HP.

So you can imagine my disappointment when I go to  King's Cross station (in a torrential down poor) and this is what I found as my photo opportunity for platform 9 & 3/4.  REALLY?  They could really do a lot more.  LAME.  There was also several tours that were included in our bus ticket and there was a Harry Potter one.  How could I resist.  Scott was a good sport and tagged along.  It was only an hour, so it worked out fine.  We went through London at some filming spots and then at some of the spots the J.K. Rowling is said to of had some inspiration from.

The above picture is where Harry, Ron and Hermione leave a coffee shop after just meeting some death eaters.  Watch the first part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, you'll see it!  L-O-V-E!

The above is the sweet shop that is said to be one of the inspirations for Zonko's.  I think it was more convenient on the walking tour and they wanted to sell Harry Potter lovers expensive candy, but lets not be cynical.  It was great.  I got a grab bag of Harry Potter candy that included licorice wands, taffy's and a dragon egg (easter egg filled with jelly beans... rip off).  Oh well!

We also decided to see a few shows while in London. We went to Leicester Square and bought some tickets for a discounted price.  We saw Phantom of the Opera the first night. Les Miserables the second.

We also found this little restaurant and had to take a picture.  No time to eat!

Loved London, wished we had more time but we will be back, not to worry!  We did try fish and chips (well, I tried fish and chips) and Scott had bangers and mash.  Both delicious.  Its what we had for lunch and dinner.  We didn't even mind the rain.


What we learned

1. Take a bag of ketchup packets.  
Every where we went charged us for ketchup packets!  And we eat EVERYTHING with ketchup. Plus, their ketchup tastes different.  It wouldn't hurt to throw in some mayo or mustard either.

2. Get nice, comfortable walking shoes.  You walk everywhere!  Get good shoes.  If you don't, you will regret it later.  

3.  Take snacks.  We took beef jerky, granola bars, fruit snacks, amongst other things.  Our snacks saved our lives, especially in Switzerland when a value meal at McDonalds cost $13.

4.  Take two cameras, in case you break one, like we did.  Make sure they are good cameras.  The only thing you get to really keep from the trip are your memories and pictures. 

5.  Put down the map.  Get lost.  We did so many times and ended up discovering so much about the city we were in.  Plus, you will look less like a tourist.

6.  Be careful where you exchange your money.  Its usually better to exchange it over in Europe.  We exchanged it at the Detroit Airport.  Bad Idea.  Still hate talking about it.  I need to let it go.  Ended up costing us about 300 Euro.... 

7. Find a McDonalds or Burger King if you have to use the restroom.  They don't charge you!  You have to be sneaky though!

8. Don't take pictures with people who are dressed up in historic garb unless you are willing to pay.  They will charge you.  It's not like Disneyland.

9. Brush up on some history before you go.  It will make the trip so much more meaningful.  

10.  Take chances.  Try some food that you wouldn't normally try.  Eat gelato three times a day.  Eat at the restaurants on the back streets. They are the best one. Or, eat where the locals eat, its probably some of the best food in the city. Listen to street performers.  Participate in any tradition that promises to bring you back to the city.  Shop.  Some of my favorite memories of this trip are ones that totally made me leave my comfort zone, like showing up in Pisa without having directions to our hotel, yodeling in front of fifty strangers, or riding the french metro at one in the morning.

So glad we took a chance, went out on a limb, and jetted off to Europe, hope to see it again soon!



Paris doesn't need an introduction

She is timeless

How magical and surreal it was to visit these places.  Upon arriving in Paris, we took a river cruise down the Seine.  What a perfect way to introduce us to the city of lights. We saw several historical bridges, buildings, and pieces of art.  We realized very soon that Paris would be a different experience than most of the cities in the past.  In Rome, we pretty much walked everywhere we needed to go.  Paris would be a different story.  There was so much to cover.  So much ground.  We had two days.  We would attempt as much as we could and sleep as little as we could.

After the Seine cruise, we went to Notre Dame.  There was a line but it moved quickly.  The gothic architecture and the flying buttresses were amazing.  I kept thinking of the Disney film The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  The stained glass was breathtaking.

Our tour had included a trip up the Eiffel Tower, however, the tour company had been unable to secure tickets for our group because the iconic tower was under construction and was therefore limited to how many tickets they could sell.  So, if we wanted to go, we had to wait in line.  Weighing the options, we decided we would wait.  We didn't know when we would be back to Paris, if we would be back.  So we waited.  The line was really long but we were behind a nice couple from Australia who were just finishing their eight week stay in the city.  We chatted politely about the city, amongst other things.  We were glad we had someone to talk to because there were several Eiffel tower key chain salesmen that would not leave you alone.  As we purchased our tickets to go the top, the couple told us they were leaving Paris the next day but still have Louvre tickets they hadn't used.  They generously gave them to us and said they hoped we enjoyed the Louvre as much as they had.  Louvre tickets were around 25 euros so to have two given to us was awesome! We finally made it to the top.  The ride up was a little scary but the top was beautiful.  We made it up just at sunset so we saw Paris light up at night.  It was so neat to see the city from the top of the Eiffel Tower.  All the main monuments were lit up.  It was a little breezy, but beautiful.

The next morning, we decided to wake up early, take some pictures by the Eiffel Tower in the daylight, before we headed of to Versailles.  We took a few quick photos and we were off!

We made it to Versailles after a short train ride.  We had a tour around one and we had a little time before, so we grabbed some lunch.  We stopped at a little Cafe right outside Versailles and I can honestly say it was one of the best lunches I ever had.  We got a baguette, apple juice, and pastry for 4 euros.  We felt like it was such a steal!  I had the best raspberry pastry I had ever tasted.  In fact, after we finished our lunch, we went back quickly and purchased the last two raspberry pastries they had. Delish!

The grounds and Versailles were enormous.  There is no way our half hour after our tour was enough time to explore.  We only got down the stair case before we felt we had to turn back!  It was awe inspiring to be there and learn so much about Louise the XIV.

After Versailles, we were off to the Louvre.  We literally crammed all of Paris that we could into one day, trying to get a little taste of everything.  There was so much artwork here it was overwhelming.  There was no way we could physically see it all, even if we did have more time to spend in Paris.  We hit the basics. The Mona Lisa and a few others.  I can't recall the names of now.  Scott recognized more art than I did, which was slightly amusing.  In fact, at first I thought he was just making up names.  Then I realized he wasn't and had to laugh at my little art contisure!

The Mona Lisa. Surprisingly small.  Surprisingly alluring. 

We left the Louvre close to sunset and pretty much realized that we had all the major monuments left to visit.  The above picture is where the Marie Antoinette met the Guillotine.  There's not a whole lot about it but it was here.

The Arch de Triumph.  Saw the real one in Rome, but these one was truly grand.  Didn't have time to get too close.  Being the history obsessed person that I am, I absolutely ate this up, especially with WWII history.  So many famous pictures about the Nazi occupation with these French monuments.

By the time we finished seeing all the monuments, it was dark.  We decided to go and watch the Eiffel tower light up and then grab some dinner.  By the time we finished, we had ten minutes to catch the last metro home!  We made it though, with no time to spare, walking into our hotel room and finally catching our breath after a fully stuffed day.  

All in all we loved Paris.  Who couldn't really?  It's bustling streets. Its beauty.  Its history.  The food, the people, everything makes Paris unforgettable.