Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Christmas Card 2010

The writing part says:

The Nielsen family was in need of a makeover, so we all tried a little bit of a

Different Look for 2010.

Jon decided to ditch the bristly, mountain man look for the first time in… a very long time. With his new Stake YM calling, he is frequently found clean shaven these days. The kids finally have started recognizing him again.

Kacey decided it was time to get back into shape and spent too much of this year out of her warm, cozy bed running and hiking. She is pretty sure she would have seen impressive results… if she could stop rewarding herself with chocolate and ice cream.

Scarlet (3) managed to fit in eight haircuts this year, four of them by her own hand. Her looks have included very short, spiky layers and all kinds of different bangs. Luckily, she has assured me that even the worst of cuts can be fixed by the “doctor, you know mom, the one that has the fun cape and the cookies and fixes hair!”

Rhode (2) is no longer looking like our baby. He is suddenly big and handsome. He loves to get his hair done in the morning but constantly insists on “church hair, no fikey! (spiky)”. His dad thinks he looks like a nerd with his missionary ‘do, but Rhode loves it.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Love, the Nielsens

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It was Christmas... for reals

After enjoying a beautiful wedding reception for Quinn Baker and his wife Brittany, we jetted off to sunny California to celebrate our Christmas holiday.

And that is when the rain began to fall... About halfway through our drive, the water started coming down so fast I couldn't see the car in front of me. It poured and dumped and showered for our entire stay in Newport. We didn't brave the great outdoors very frequently, too damp, but we did feel exceptionally bad for anyone trying to brave Disneyland that week.

Thank goodness for beautiful accommodations, it made leaving all that more unnecessary.

And, being the easily entertained bunch we are, we had some serious fun. Between Dance Kinect challenges, Settlers wars, puzzles, television, and food, there was plenty to enjoy,

for everyone but Jon that is. I think he suffered the greatest amount of claustrophobia from our lack of outside time. He talked us all into one beach walk that ended with a very, very cold walk home in a shower.

He finally took off one afternoon to find his own adventure. He headed to the beach and discovered an unusually low tide full of treasures. He collected shells, 62 golf balls, and this little guy.

So, so gross. And it got worse. He firmly decided he was going to eat the thing. Trevor researched octopus cooking methods on the internet (thanks for that by the way, bro). He cut it into pieces, threw it in a pot and boiled the sucker up.

Oh the smell... I really can't think about it too hard. The memories are too fresh.

He then planned on refrigerating the cooked tentacles to be breaded and fried the next day. Unfortunately (for Jon and Jon only) the smell was just too much and we unanimously voted for the cooking to end then and there. He graciously gave up the cause but to this day still regrets not devouring his catch.


Even through the rain, we frequented the pool and hot tub as much as possible. They were heated just enough to be comfortable and heck, we were already wet most of the time anyway.

My kids LOVE the hot tub, especially Rhode. He now refers to his home baths to his own hot tub. This picture is actually from Palm Desert, but the love is obvious.

***** Best story from Newport*****
Brad decided he was really good at Dance Kinect. In his defense, he was surprisingly better than you would guess. But he would seriously be confused and dejected when Courtney and Kylie would kick his dancing booty. One morning, all the girls took off to go shopping, leaving the boys to their own devices. When we got in, Brad immediately challenged Courtney to a dance off... on the Hard level. Brad started the battle and was really rocking it. It was an impressive feat to behold. But then Courtney went next and made it look like a real dance. Brad was shocked when she beat him yet again.

Well, turns out Brad had been practicing the dance all morning. He had done the training and ran through it several times, hoping to shock Courtney with a win. You're so darn cute Brad.

**** End of Story*****

We finally had enough of all the water, hopped in our cars and headed for the desert, Palm Desert that is. Actually, that was always the plan but it sure felt like a much needed escape from the clouds to the sun shine.

During our trip inland, we made a stopover in Loma Linda, where my dad went to medical school. We paid a visit to our little mobile home we lived in and then stopped in for a meal at the hole-in-the-wall Italian place across the street. It could not look less special if it tried and the menu is only a few items long. But the minute I sat down, ate a bite of spaghetti covered in mizithra cheese and gorged on several garlic butter soaked rolls, I was transported back about 20 years. I have never had food taste so familiar and bring back so many memories.

Turns out, this little place used to regularly cater for the hospital where my dad did his residency. He would bring home leftovers all the time. In my child mind, I always thought it was hospital food. I always remembered growing up wondering why people though hospital food was gross. The stuff we had all the time was delicious!

The weather in Palm Desert was perfect. It was the hottest place in the U.S. while we were there. We relished in the Vitamin D and enjoyed all of the outdoors the resort had to offer.

We swam a lot...

Played with the kids at the playground...

Hung out on the golf course... I think boys actually golfed at some point.

And even fit in a few rounds of tennis. Turns out some of my family is naturally pretty tennis coordinated

And some of them... not so much.

We talked our extended Knudson relatives into joining us for an evening. In between all of the very loud, very fast, very exuberant conversation (seriously, it's on both sides of the family) we squeezed in a photo shoot.

I think this picture clearly demonstrates the difference between my family and our cousins. Here is what happens when asked for a crazy picture.

We make fools of ourselves, the stare at us, wondering how exactly we are related. Yup, thats about how it goes.

Our Christmas Eve/Day was untraditional but really really fun. On Christmas Eve, we read the nativity story and sang some songs and opened our Christmas pajamas. This year, we did a pajama exchange. My mom handled herself and dad and my children, and the rest of us drew names.

The results...

Has there ever been a more perfect t-shirt for my dad in the history of the silly t-shirt world? No... definitely not.

Brad drew Bryan... Kendall drew Brad...

Courtney drew Kristy... Kylie drew Trevor... and they are just asking for some serious payback in years to come.

I drew Kylie... Jon drew Courtney... Bryan drew Kendall (but it was kinda like I drew all three somehow) To mix it up a little, I made their pajamas my December sewing project. I made the bottoms and the design on the t shirt. And the matching sock monkeys of course.

I kind of love them. They almost fit everyone too! Always a challenge when working with a pattern and having to try everything on yourself...

And, as usual, my mom bought some seriously adorable outfits for my children.

Not Pictured: Trevor drew Jon and Kristy drew me. I scored a very cozy pair of black and pink polka dotted pajama bottoms with black slippers. I would love to show them to you but I am only in pictures with Jon, who was gifted with adult footed pajamas. They are black, long sleeved and have penguins on the feet. Hilarious, but I have been informed multiple times, not acceptable for online posting.

Christmas Eve also included our family talent show. Can I say that my family totally stepped it up this year? I was so impressed. I am hoping that at some point my mom will post the videos because the descriptions will do little to capture them, but for memory sake...

My family - Scarlet and Rhode sang the ABC's and Santa Clause is Coming To Town. It was adorable, if I say so myself. Jon then finished our show with our Nielsen Cirque du Soliel show. It ended with the kids knocking heads and bawling... but up until then it was pretty awesome.

Brad, Bryan, and Kendall - Performed a dance routine to Katy Perry's "Fireworks" choreographed by... wait for it... Brad. I am telling you this boy had a dancing bone he has been denying for way too long. Bryan performed the routine flawlessly with little effort. All those years at Today's Generation did him well. Brad also danced well, but spent the routine biting his tongue in concentration as he kept all of his counts straight. Kendall did pretty well too.... :)

Kristy and Trevor - Came out in full cheerleader garb, cranked up the tunes and performed the Perfect Cheer. It was fantastic on so many levels.

Courtney and Kylie - won for best routine of the night. In their gangsta get up, they performed a self-lyricized rap to Gold Digger that somehow involved mocking every single person in the room. It's awesomeness cannot be described in words.

Mom and Dad - had a last minute change of plans. They threw together a very impressive Gilligans Island remake which described our family vacation perfectly. Unfortunately we missed out on their rendition of Ross and Monica's "The Routine" because of a foot injury. Would have been epic... but still fabulous.

On Christmas morning, Jon and I gave our gift to the family. We spent the past few months turning all of our family home movies into a DVD set.

It was a lot of work, but really fun work. It really inspired me to pull out the video camera more frequently with my own kids. It is amazing how fun it is to watch those seemingly pointless videos of us just hanging out at home.

I will share just one classic Earl video clip with you. If you haven't seen it, well you are in for a treat. Though believe me when I say it is somehow even better when viewed the third time. Thank you Kristy for this moment, thank you.

We also scored some sweet BYU wear which we all sported for the family picture shoot. Aren't we cute in our Cougar Blue?

And then we all separated for home. I already knew this before I left, but a week cooped up in a small place made it even more clear. I have a really awesome family. Like, really really awesome.

Thanks for such a merry Christmas guys.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It was Christmas... kind of

We had some crazy Christmas changes of plan this year. High moments, low moments...

First high moment... my parents decided to ditch the traditional Christmas and cruise us all down to Mexico instead!

Sooooo awesome. There was a small part of me that realized, as the only sibling with children, it was not going to be as relaxing a getaway for me as for the rest (small cabin spaces, lots of places to get injured, nap/bed times) but still. The part that kept getting me giddy excited was the thought of someone preparing my every meal and then taking the dishes from my sight. As a girl who has eaten out very limitedly this year... it sounded just a step below magical.

The very very low moment... our ship caught on fire. Seriously.

Jon gets those little news updates on his phone. And since the guy spends a significant amount of time staring at his nifty little smart phone, we got the news pretty quickly. Jon read me the story of the cruise ship stranded at sea with engines on fire and I knew immediately it was going to be our ship. Of course knowing it was a Carnival ship on our exact same itinerary would have made that obvious to... well anyone. But I knew, deep in my soul knew, that my eating dreams were burning to ash with those dang engines.

Another low moment... they cancelled our cruise and offered us a discount on a future cruise. After a long amount of online searching, it was obvious there would be no Earl Christmas Cruising.

High moment... since all of our plans sent us in the direction of California anyway, we decided to go with it. My dad booked us lovely resorts at Newport Beach for a few days then Palm Desert for the rest of our stay. Assuming those two resorts could manage to keep from going up in flames for the next month, we were set.

Pre-cruise on fire, I had already decided to do Christmas before we left. It was just easier in every way. We kept the plan in motion with our new arrangements. My parents and college aged siblings were going to be at my house for Quinn Baker's wedding so we just went with it.

Good news, if needed, Santa will make extra arrangements and show up at your door on the 18th with presents in tow. So, when dad heard the reindeer flying overheard, we all raced downstairs to our pre-practiced hiding spots. Scarlet cuddled with Grandma under the piano bench and Rhode and I squeezed under the coffee table. I have no idea where everyone else was... my living room is a bit open...

Santa did a great job this year, but I think the early appearance slightly affected his performance. Of course Rhode was being a little noisier than expected. He just wanted to keep telling me he saw Santa and whispering is not his strong point. Santa almost made it out the door before busting into a fit of laughter... almost.

I will get to the Santa gifts in a minute. From the rest of the crew, Scarlet and Rhode received a new sleeping bag and blanket (for all the camping we may eventually be tempted to do...), books, a few bath toys, a singing and dancing Mickey Mouse and a very active Tonka Truck from Grandma Peggy, and a lot of other fun randoms.

And yes, I still buy my kids VHS movies. My dad mocked me to no end, but that is only because his kids were all over the age of 6 when DVDs came out. Say what you will about the VHS. They are cheap and nearly indestructible.

Now, from Santa. Scarlet received a personalized tub full of princess dress up clothes and Rhode received a more manly decorated tub full of boy dress up clothes.

Is that weird to give a 2 year old boy dress up clothes for Christmas? Before you judge, you should realize that Rhode and Scarlet play dress up all. day. long. It is their favorite joint activity. And Rhode's previous favorite get up was this...
Sadly, he was missing the matching sparkly beret. It really completes the ensemble.

**** Side Story ****

My best "Rhode wears girl clothes" story happened just before Christmas. I had a friend over and we were chatting downstairs while the kids dressed up. Rhode came proudly waltzing downstairs moments later wearing one of Scarlet's ballet leotards with a built in skirt.. and heels.

It got better. He turned around to pick up something from the staircase and we were both given the full moon shot underneath that frilly pink skirt. We were both rolling by now trying to figure out how my son was baring full bottom in a leotard. Turns out he had put it on with both legs in one leg hole, squeezing it all the way past his behind.

I so regret the fact that I was laughing way too hard to even think of figuring out where the camera was.


Thus you can see the need for some more boy-friendly dress wear.
He also got a fireman (with built in muscles), a ninja, a policeman, and part of a cowboy get up. Thank you post Halloween clearances...

And now, the princess herself.

One of Scarlet's adorable new dance outfits from Grandma Peggy.
She is in heaven. The amount of dress up time in my house had quadrupled. And, for the most part, Rhode sticks with his man costumes. Most of the time...

He is so going to hate me for these someday....

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dance: The Next Generation

For a girl with very little to show for it, ability wise, dance was a huge part of my life. Huge. It all started with that first tap and ballet combo class at six years old. I distinctly remember getting in trouble for grand battement-ing into the rear of my good friend in front of me. It was on purpose... I think.

The next stop on my long dance road was ballet with Joann. That was her name right? Don't remember much of that. I remember being absolutely terrified of her. I also remember those tap cds where a robotic voice with the music led you in the barre work we were doing that day. Don't really actually even remember having a teacher around...

Then there was a brief stint into clogging. If I remember right it was only a few months long and whenever I think about that time the songs "Elvira" and "Achey Breakey Heart" start running through my head at a viciously cruel pace.

I made one of my longest stops next, into the world of Hirz Dance Company. There I discovered my love of jazz. My Aunt Gail once lovingly referred to me as "Myca's little jazz teacher" since my dear cousin was still trapped in the world of ballet and tap. I still remember most of the moves to our "Straight Up" routine we choreographed in her living room.

My years at Hirz included not one but three different trios. The trio was big then... as were the jazz "boots".
I think it was about then I realized my mad dance teaching skills. I mean, how else can you explain Myca passing me up in skills and performance placement within a year of joining the group?

Then, clogging came double stepping its way back into my life with the first few moments of the now renowned Today's Generation.

And then the teaching career really began. Myca and I became the main teachers for Today's Generation for our last two years of high school. That was followed by years of choreographing, teaching workshops, teaching for Las Vegas schools and companies... etc.

Dance... a big one for the life of one Kacey Earl... Nielsen.

But this post isn't about me (can you tell?) It's about Scarlet... the next generation.
Scarlet started dance this last summer at a once a week jazz/tap combo class at the rec center. Mondays quickly became the treasured day of the week. She absolutely loved it. Her teacher, Miss Lori, is as nice as can be and corrals three year olds with pure skill.

I am sure it will shock you to hear that in Scarlet's class of all three year olds, she is the tallest... by far. She also has the biggest shoe size... second place is about three sizes down. But, size aside, her attentive skills and smiling face got her the coveted front and center position in their jazz dance.

(Now there is a chance that the teacher just placed the kids in whatever order they stood by her feet on position assignment day. All I know is when I taught three year olds, the kid who knew the dance the best went front and center. Not only did it seem to the audience that a few of them actually knew the dance, but occasionally a back rower would decide to watch front-and-center girl and participate. Just sayin...)

Scarlet was ecstatic as they prepared for their dance performances. They had a winter recital scheduled, but before that, they were going to have a chance to perform their tap dance at the local winter festival. We had our adorable Christmas costume ready, took an early nap, loaded in the car, and headed out to what I dreamed would be pure blissful happiness as I watched my daughter's very first performance.

Don't worry, I won't make you wait any longer, here it is.

I shortened it for you. You didn't miss anything. She didn't move. Not a muscle. Not a leg twitch. I should have sensed what was ahead as we waited backstage. While every other girl in her class played with their tutus and made the loudest noises they could with their tap shoes, Scarlet clung to my leg looking panicky at the stage. While the other students walked out on stage, barely realizing they had left their mothers behind, Scarlet clung to me with tears in her eyes. The only reason she is standing on stage and I'm not is because I promised her a treat if she stayed in her spot. I really should have been more clear. I meant stay in her spot AND ACTUALLY DO THE DANCE. But alas...

After that performance I was a tad bit worried for the recital. But, the recital was back at the rec center so I was really hoping familiar territory would equal more actual dancing.

That Monday morning was one of those crazy mornings where I thought it was about 8:30 a.m. and it was actually 10:20 a.m. I scrambled in the car with a purse, a Scarlet, but no dance shoes. I wasn't too concerned. They were just standing in their spots for five minutes anyway.

We roll up just in time to throw Scarlet in her spot and find a seat in the bleachers. The music came on.... and she cried. Cried and cried and cried. Through her crocodile tears, she made it over to my side to tell me, "mom, I don't even have my dance shoes on. I'm just wearing these flip flops and they don't work!"

Dang it.

We decided to brave the rest of the rehearsal barefoot. Before she headed back to the floor of terror, I asked her where I could stand to help her be brave. She decided if I could sit right next to Miss Lori, she could be brave. And shockingly enough, it worked.

Unfortunately, she spent the dance watching me and not Miss Lori, which meant I got to do the dance as well so she knew what she was doing. Miss Lori leaned over to inform me I was good at the teacher part. Little did she know...

Without further ado, Scarlet's jazz performance. I was so totally proud of her.

And tap performance.

So along Scarlet's road of dance we continue, signing up for spring semester this week. I don't know how long this road will be, but, if the last five months are any sign, I am pretty sure I am going to love it.