Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas with the Canines 2017: That's a Wrap!

Here we are; the last day of 2017. I wanted to do a photo shoot with the dogs before we take down the tree next month, and before Christmas Present becomes Christmas Past.

True to form, Miss Sami was so angelic, and Bristol pulled the silliest faces. He almost always seems to yawn in front of the camera, and that makes for some interesting facial expressions. Consequently, most of my silly memes feature Bristol. It's hard to make fun of Sami; she just looks labradorable.

So many people comment that Bristol looks so regal, so serious, so deep in thought. Yes, sometimes that is true.

But most of the time, he just looks kind of silly, and it makes me love him even more.

2017 was exceptional in so many ways, mostly because we adopted these two adorable puppies right before Valentine's Day. My weekdays went from humdrum to chaotically fun. Bristol and Sami make me smile every single day. 

Who rescued whom, indeed?

Here are the last of the Puppy Mama Memes for 2017. 

Chuck took a few photos today, too. I love his perspective and his photography. 

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Small Wedding; Big Marriage

Three years ago today, I stood in our living room, and became the wife of Chuck Bennorth, and also, a step-mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandma-to-be. It was the simplest of affairs, and required no wedding planner. We reminded ourselves often that the marriage was the important thing; the wedding itself was simply a formality. 

We required the bare minimum for our special day: vows, an officiant, witnesses, sterling silver rings, a photographer, and for as many of our family members who wanted to see the wedding to do so.

Chuck loves to joke that the living room was quickly converted from Chuck's Discount Photography Studio to Chuck's Discount Wedding Chapel. Our only decorations were the ones on the Christmas tree. Our friend Jim donated his services as wedding photographer, which as you might imagine, was very much appreciated. 

Thanksgiving 2016 (Not pictured: Matt's then-fiancée Katie)

We had nine people in the living room with us, and over 30 family members were able to watch our brief ceremony thanks to modern technology and a live video feed. Our wedding reception was scaled back to a quiet dinner at Olive Garden with Chuck's boys and their partners, and then we headed off to Lake Geneva for a couple of days of honeymooning.

Here we are, three years later, with no regrets about our very small wedding. We racked up no debt from our "big day," just lots of sweet memories. Small wedding; big marriage.

Seven of our nine kids all together in Illinois. (January 2017) I always think of our in-laws as ours, too.
(Chris and Amy are pictured below.)

We both recognize what a blessing it is that we share six of the most amazing humans in our children. I like to include our daughters-in-law in the count, which ups our numbers to NINE kids, with one more coming into the mix next year.

When Chuck and I adopted Bristol and Sami, it felt like our family was complete. Our lives are richer; our house seems homier, and I feel happier, having our dogs share life with us. 

Just like our wedding, our anniversaries tend to be simple days. While our dogs are snoozing on the couch, and Chuck is sleeping in past five because he has the day off, and I'm enjoying the glow of the Christmas tree, and the heavenly aromas of turkey, garlic and onion wafting in from the kitchen.  

Our Floridians. October 2017.

We'll have a simple turkey dinner today, and then we'll take Chuck's mom to a family Christmas party at her stepdaughter's this afternoon. We're hoping for one more visit with our kids who are leaving for Florida in the morning. Tomorrow Chuck will speak at his stepfather's funeral, and we will spend time with family celebrating Dick's life. 

Mother's Day, May 2017. 

We're no different than you; we've had our share of ups and downs, and we've been supporting each other all along the way. I just re-read Chuck's vows and my own, and I have to say, Chuck is living his vows gloriously. As for me, I think I have come a long way, and I have learned so much, but I am still working on emotional honesty, and clear communication. 

There is no one with whom I would rather spend the rest of my life. We have learned just how blessed we are with our kids and our grandson. We are so lucky to have found each other, and to have created this family with our marriage. 

Chuck, life is so much better with you. Thank you for your love and patience, and for the way you treat our mothers and all of our children. Our lives are all richer because of you. I love you. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

It Was a Merry Flannel Christmas

How is it I have lived this long, and never had a plaid flannel shirt or jacket before now? I bought my first one right before Thanksgiving, so Chuck and I could have matching jackets before we went to Utah, and the next thing I knew, I was back at the store, snatching up a whole bunch more. I had decided that a family photo shoot would be super fun with all of us wearing matching flannel shirts.

Our Utah kids had had some major expenses this year, and we had tried to help out a little bit along the way. We let them know that our Christmas budget had been spent already, and that this Christmas would not be about the presents, but about being present. We really didn't want them spending their hard-earned money buying us anything. 

But I'm a mom. I couldn't have them not even have a single gift to open. So each of our kids received a flannel shirt. The whole family got matching plaid flannel shirts. 

Some of you may groan, but I grew up with a mom who sewed, and loved finding bargain bolts of fabric. Our family of ten was sometimes mistaken for popular singing families of the day. The Cowsills wore red, white, and blue striped pants and vests, right? 

My husband and I match each other by wearing similar colors or the same shirt sometimes. What I'm saying is this is not necessarily a new idea to me.

"What did you get for Christmas?"

"My mom and stepdad gave me a flannel shirt."

"What else did they give you?"

"That was it. A flannel shirt."

Photo credit: Jamie Waters

Well, when I look at it in a hypothetical conversation sort of way, it sounds pathetic. But you know what? We had so much fun on Thanksgiving afternoon at Grandma's house, taking family photos, talking and laughing, and just being silly. 

Family Flannel Fun.

After Chuck took pictures of our family, we shared our flannel shirts with my sister's family, and they had fun posing in matching outfits, too. We got a lot of mileage out of those shirts!

Fast forward to Christmas Day. When Chuck opened one of his presents, his eyes went wide, and then he smiled. He saw a red and black flannel shirt, and then he realized there were two identical red and black flannel shirts in his box, but only one would fit him. What a thoughtful wife I am to buy myself a gift, and even wrap it up, and give it to my husband, huh? We have fun wearing matching clothes, so I didn't think he'd mind my indulgence.

When we showed up for our Illinois family Christmas dinner, Trudy just laughed when she saw our matching shirts because she had considered wearing HER red and black flannel shirt. Then Chuck's youngest son said he was going to put on his red and black flannel shirt, and told his mom to get hers. 

That's all it took. We had to pose for some pictures with all four of us together. 

#lumberglam. This look may not be my most fashionable, but it is definitely my most comfy.

There's something so warm and cozy about flannel. Ever since I bought that first jacket this year, I've been on the lookout for the softest flannel shirts I can find. I think I'm onto something here. 

Warm and cozy clothes that make people smile; what could be better than that?

Sisi strutting her stuff in her new flannel shirt.

Our family Christmas greeting. 2017.

My Mom, Jamie and Dylan
Photo credit: Jamie Waters

Sporting our Christmas flannel at the local burger joint in Monroe, Utah.