Hyrum is full on addicted to Angry Birds. The crazy bird and pig game popular on i phones and android phones, and Hyrum was in deep. Every day Hyrum would lament how much he missed Daddy and upon further inquiries would discover it was because he wanted to play Angry birds on his phone. When Derek got home the first thing he wanted to do was play.

One particular screen heavy dad ( spending way too much time in front of the TV and computer ) Hyrum was begging to play Angry birds and I really didn't want him to spend any more time seated in front of a screen. In that moment of distress I had a stroke of genius. Real angry birds.

So we set up level after level of precariously perched buildings sheltering all shapes and kinds of happy pigs.

He still begs to play it every day when Derek gets home but sometimes we can get him to play real angry birds too. I consider it a win.

Noah just seems to be growing up mock speed these days. I just wanted to document his accomplishments ( especially because I can't seem to locate his baby book at the moment) and what he's been up to and into since New Years.

He's standing for longer periods of time

Standing without the help of anything to do so ( Jan 12th)

He took four steps last night ( Jan 16th ) but still no video of that.

Ridding our drawers of clothes and climbing in

Loosening the bolts on the table

Banging his head on things. Is this just a boy thing or do girls do this too?

He's also been helping me with my spring cleaning by dispersing my piles of papers on shelves

(which totally motivated me to go through all these papers and throw half of them away)

Emptying the cupboards of DVDs

(After which I went through them to find some to send to a second hand store)

Throwing balls and chasing them

It is ridiculous how many toys these boys have ( and dump on the floor everyday)... definitely feeling the need to purge here too! But that will be a little more dicey.

It all started right before Derek and I were even married. It was his birthday and I'd planned a surprise party for him up at our apartment that we weren't living in yet but were just beginning to move things into. I'd gone up the night before to put food in the fridge and decorate for the party. Our friends were going to get there early and I was going to convince Derek to bring some things to the apartment. Voila! Simple right? Not with Derek.

When the time came I attempted to get him to go but he was helping a neighbor with his car and he kept putting me off. Finally I had to ruin my own surprise to get him up to the apartment where our friends had left because when they got there the door was locked and they couldn't get in. Surprise: Fail. Party: Fail.

Fast forward to a few Thanksgivings into our marriage. Derek was still in school and was also the elders quorum president and was naturally very busy so I had the brilliant idea of kidnapping my husband and whisking him off to a night at the Anniversary Inn ( a VERY nice hotel in the area)before we headed up to Idaho Falls. I'd even slyly checked to make sure he didn't have any meetings or visits that night. Then come to find out he'd scheduled a home teaching appointment! I fumed and told him that I had a surprise planned for that night.Surprise: Fail. Escape: Salvaged more or less. But beginning to swear of ever trying to surprise Derek.

I know there were other surprises ruined but the ones I've mentioned were probably the biggest and the ones I can remember right now. Once Hyrum came and I stopped working the thought of trying to surprise Derek went out the window since we only had our shared account and he checked it all the time. There was very little hope of slipping something past him. But then my friend Cristall had her home art show this last November and I began to think I might try again. We need to back up here a moment give some back story.

Close to five years ago we were living in our apartment in American Fork saving for a house or paying off student loans, perhaps both and we were invited to a home art show Cristall was having. We happily set off to take a look. Immediately a painting caught Derek's eye. A large and beautiful painting of the Carthage jail. But it was way too expensive for our budget to allow so we only admired it. In the coming years Cristall started to be represented by more and more galleries and her prices increased. We kicked ourselves for not getting one of her paintings before she realized what they were worth. She would have shows and we would go and admire but never were in a place to purchase. Then this last November she had another old fashioned home art show like she did at the beginning and we were invited. Again we thought about 'Carthage' and wondered what she was charging for it these days. I planned to go but remembered about it too late to make it. So a few days later I decided to email her see how much it was and then stash away money and buy it to surprise Derek. Knowing how much it was and how much her prices had increased I planned on a long time of sneaking 20 dollars here and 20 dollars there out of the checking account. But when I emailed her she told me that it was HALF of what she was charging all those years ago. (Any one care to take another gander at her work?) I was shocked! I began to move up my plans and thought I might surprise Derek for Christmas. But the more I thought about it the more I thought I should wait till our anniversary since we got married in Nauvoo. I thought about buying it and then having her hold it until July but didn't think that was fair. So I didn't mention that to her but it was my plan.

Then came the Thursday in December ( the 16th ) when Derek called me on the way home saying that he did something a little crazy. I couldn't fathom what it was. Over dinner he told me how he'd been at Cristall's for some reason and had mentioned to her off hand how much he admired "Carthage" and asked how much it was these days. When she told him he simply bought it being as shocked as I was that it was still around at that price. Then he waited hesitantly for a few weighted seconds worried that I'd be mad at him for spending that much money without clearing it with me.( I worry about spending 5 dollars without clearing it with Derek first) Instead I sat in frustrated disbelief. Then I started pounding the table ranting about I can never surprise him and that she knew I wanted to get that for him. Surprise: Fail.

But doesn't it look amazing. We love it. Cristall said she'd almost sold it that week so it was good my husband shoots from the hip afterall. The next order of business will be getting a console table to stand in front of it to keep little hands at a good safe distance from it. We have Derek's grandma's old kitchen table with fold down sides in front of it right now but it's a temporary fix.

When Cristall and her husband Matt came to deliver the painting ( It was too big to fit in the car) Derek brought out a package. I opened it and found another painting of Cristall's called 'Sunny' that I blogged about a couple of years ago. I looked at Derek with accusing eyes because it was another painting I'd thought about buying as a surprise ( from Derek to me) Then Cristall said "Merry Christmas!" I was shocked. I just about burst into tears. I couldn't believe she would GIFT me one of her amazing paintings.

We hadn't been planning on finding a place for another painting so as soon as they left we ran around trying out locations. It looks soo good in Hyrum's bathroom but we're worried about the humidity's affect on it so we plan to only put it up when company comes over...company that won't be taking showers. :) We plan to find a permanent location for it in due time.

On New Years day Derek and Hyrum took the sleds to the local park to ride them. Noah wasn't feeling the best ( he didn't manage to escape the swirling sickness after all) so he and I stayed home. Derek didn't take the camera so we have no pictorial documentation of that trip. I did hear something about Hyrum riding solo down the "bunny hill" a few times then wanting to take the jump on the big hill by himself. (The big hill at the park has a sidewalk half way up making a permanent jump that you can get some pretty good air off of) There were tears that followed and hugs but ultimately more sledding but not on the big hill with the jump.

Yesterday it was a warmer day and Noah was feeling better ( and Hyrum was going crazy waiting for dad to come home so he could play the Wii ) so we decided to go outside and sled in our back yard. Our backyard currently slopes in two different directions. We hope to have a retaining wall put in this year so I figured if we were ever going to sled in the backyard now was the time to do it.

Then Hyrum wanted to take Noah down ( I'd already taken him down once ) so I got him on the sled and gave them a little pull and hustled to get the camera on to capture it

I wanted to get video of the entire ride so I got them situated and ran down to capture it all.

I had no idea how difficult the taking off concept can be...this is why I need Derek there to help with logistics. They had a great time. We have to get a lot of sledding in before the hill disappears.

We discovered that Noah can do stairs

And I received the "Mother of the Year" award

I should note that I was in the process of saying " Hyrum, you don't need to help him, sweetie. Noah's got this all figured out!" Well apparently not!

Hyrum made cookies with Mema

(It was exactly what he could handle)

We couldn't find anywhere to get a real tree two days before Christmas so we put up the nine foot artificial tree in my parents basement, which does not have nine foot ceilings.

Hyrum went sledding with his cousins

My sister lost her voice from being sick and had to whisper for four days. Seven of the seventeen people in my family were sick by the time we all left. Somehow Derek, Hyrum, Noah and I were spared.

We went caroling, all over, in five mini vans

Santa came to our Christmas eve party ( as he always does )

Hyrum hid from him ( just like his dad did when he was little) but he said that he was just hiding in order to jump out and surprise Santa. But I saw no jumping.

Noah was coerced into saying "more" and "cookie" on Christmas eve while being fed a sugar cookie he was begging for.

The boys were up too late on Christmas eve

Hyrum "wrote" his first letter to Santa. (He really just said "heart, heart, heart!" insistently as his cousin Kobe wrote the note.)

We showered and got ready for the day waiting for our boys to wake up on Christmas morning. ( they didn't wake up until after 9am )

The first thing Hyrum wanted to do on Christmas morning was go to his cousins house. Presents? Who needs presents! But we did convince him to open some.

Noah let his brother open his gifts.

Hyrum played the Wii on a big projection screen at the Avery's with his cousins

and dueled with his cousin Kobe.

We discovered how adorable Noah looks with a bow on his head

At the third family Christmas party in three days Noah discovered a love for pull back and go cars

I played a replica of the Husker Du game my grandma Nellie had when we were kids. We loved that game and it was so fun to play it with my sister again.

We had informal family pictures taken ( and later formal family pictures)

We also had a sisters picture taken

And I got a Holly original of Noah at last. :) Do you think she should retire?

My parents took ALL of the grandkids to the botanical gardens

We celebrated New Years eve on the 27th of December so we could do it together.

We nearly smothered my great grand aunt Byrdie taking a picture with her

After hugs and goodbyes we had a marathon day of flights, layovers and delays as we flew back to Salt Lake. But we had adventures along the way.

(Noah is a very determined crawler)

(Noah is crawling circles around Hyrum. They were both giggling.)

We rang in the real new year wiping a foot of snow off the car and braved the post new years party drivers arriving home a little after 1 am. We got the boys in the house and in bed then headed out to dig a place for our car in the driveway then went to bed.

( This was taken a week after we got home and the snow had melted a bit but you get the picture- It was bright out there too. :)

The boys got a surprise extra visit from the big man when they got home.

Noah is scantily clad because I'd just changed his diaper after not having changed it the night before and he woke up SOAKED, clothes, snowsuit and all. It's just my mother of the year award shining through. Poor little guy.

Merry (fun and crazy) Christmas ( and new years ) to all and to all a GOODNIGHT!!

P.S. All of the big pictures were taken by my sister Holly.