Top Twelve Surprises of 2012

The first day of the year has dawned and we are taking down our tree,  sweeping up pine needles and the boys are taking especial pleasure in  laying the gingerbread bridge to rest.


Goals and resolutions will come tomorrow, but today, as we are packing away beloved nativities and ornaments we wonder how our life will be changed when we take them out of the boxes next December.
We all make plans for the year, and 2012 was filled with wonderful things we knew would happen– Mary’s baptism, trips to Lake Powell and San Diego, Hans turning sixteen– but we want to focus on the surprises, delights and adventures we had no inkling of when 2012 dawned. Bad surprises are NOT allowed on the list; we’re choosing to forget those.
So in no particular order, the top twelve surprises of 2012:
1. Mary kept her room clean the entire year. Truly, her room was a disaster until sometime last January, she set everything in order and kept it that way. Bliss. Maybe it’s Lisa’s magical pink quilt?

2. LONDON! Never have we traveled so far, with such spontaneity. The adventure of a lifetime and completely unplanned.
3. Stefan’s call to crazy cold winters in Yekaterinburg, Russia. I promise you this one minute video is worth your time. In fact, you’ll probably watch it at least twice.
4. Two of our favorite novels coming to the big screen: The Hobbit and Les Miserables.
If you’ve seen the movies but haven’t read the books, repent! and get reading (or listening, two of the best audio books I’ve ever listened to)! You can read an abridged Les Miserables, but get the unabridged for the first 70 and last 50 pages.
Stefan’s favorite quote from The Hobbit (movie version):

Gandalf: Saraman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.”

And Gabe’s favorite from Les Miserables (the book):

The bishop: “Why would I have to know your name? Besides, before you told me, I knew it.”

The man opened his eyes in surprise, “Really, you knew my name?”

“Yes,” answered the bishop, “your name is my brother.”

5. My darling niece Lizzy and her dad Bill (Ruth’s husband) visited Ben in Torino, Italy. They were kind enough to plan their entire European adventure around seeing Ben. Hmm, I wonder if they’ll visit Stefan too?
6. Not only did Gabe join the swim team, he actually loves the workouts, the friends and his newfound muscles. Just don’t talk to him about competing; he doesn’t even want to think about racing against someone else.
7. Every photoshoot changes my life in some way, but especially the weddings. Witnessing a couple truly meant to be together with loving families celebrating on both sides is akin to watching the birth of a star.
Ah, if only I had time to do more.

8. Surprise visits from my brother Dan (NY, NY) and my friend Tracy (Minn, Minn). Love love and more love.

9. After years of entering the lottery for the  Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert, we received four beautiful tickets in the mail (all tickets are free, but nearly two million people vie for 88,000 seats). Oh. It was so magical, beautiful, inspiring. Be sure to watch the PBS rebroadcast next year. After Erik, Stefan, Hans and I raved over the concert, I spent the next night and morning in the standby line with Gabe and Mary. To our great joy, made it in on Sunday morning.
© 2012 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
© 2012 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
10. I hope it’s not bragging too much to mention Stefan’s Presidential Scholarship to BYU, but even better, he landed with the most fantastic roommates he could ever wish for– they go to bed early, they laugh a lot, they all love hiking and live their religion with small, everyday acts of kindness.
11. Now the boys are arguing over Trader Joe’s for number eleven or movie making. Let’s just say both the video camera and Trader Joe’s opening in Salt Lake City enriched our life this year.

A nineteen second Xandervideo never before shared on the blog.


12. New friends are the best surprises of the year. People who inspire us, cheer us on and show us a way of life we hadn’t imagined. So many wonderful people came into our lives this year (and I hate to leave anyone out) but one deserves special mention:

An email titled “Greetings from Hungary” opened our friendship with beautiful, wonderful Noémi Kereki from Budapest, a twenty-one year old future restaurateur who stumbled on our blog when I wrote for a French travel site. 

She wanted to know more about our faith and we’ve had a glorious time writing back and forth. Every one of her letters gives me happy chills.
And she taught me something valuable: 

Noémi likes us just as we are; we don’t have to pretend to be anything other than our real selves to bring amazing people like her into our lives. I’m always questioning the public blog; who really wants to read about us? (except my sister who claims she’d never read it if I changed to private) I’ve never sought to be a popular blogger and I often forget anyone reads this at all. Some of the things I thought might be unwise to share (like family struggles) are what drew her to me. I’m so grateful for
Noémi and others who encourage me to keep writing, sharing more than I sometimes think I should, taking photos and to simply be myself– but maybe this year, just a tiny bit better.

Happy New Year to all! May your year be filled with adventures and sweet surprises!

December 31, 2012
January 6, 2013



  1. Mormon Women: Who We Are

    January 2, 2013

    Love. Love. Love.

  2. Chocolate on my Cranium

    January 2, 2013

    We destroyed our gingerbread houses in similar fashion – only we used the new bow and arrow the kids received for Christmas first, and then went onto bigger artillery. 🙂

  3. Noémi Kereki

    January 2, 2013

    Thank you, Michelle!
    I do REALLY like you, I should say I love you all!

  4. Cath

    January 3, 2013

    This post is so happy. I love the idea of looking back on what surprised you. You HAVE had an amazing year. Noemi – you are beautiful! What a sweet friendship to forge. Michelle, thanks for your wonderful perspective on this beautiful life. Love all of you.

  5. Cath

    January 3, 2013

    p.s. Xander – my girls want to know how you did the Batman stunt. 🙂

  6. Lizzy

    January 3, 2013

    Splendid post! It was heartwarming to see the Tabernacle Christmas Concert made the list. It made me feel guilty for the few moments I silently resented all the time my husband spent rehearsing for the concert. (He is even pictured to the Candy Bomber’s right.) It was a beautiful concert; I’m grateful my husband has such a talent he is willing to share.

    Your writing is inspiring!

  7. Tracy

    January 4, 2013

    Tears my friend. Happy Simple Things. Love yous. xoxo

  8. MT

    January 15, 2013

    I can’t even remember how I stumbled upon your blog but it is definitely one of my favorite. I enjoy your beautiful pictures and find your love for God and your family very inspiring. Despite not being a Mormon myself (I am seventh-day Adventist), I have noticed I have a attraction for Mormon blogs. Your blogs (yours, 71toes, power of moms, sunny side up) have a Je ne sais quoi that brings me joy! Thank you for sharing on your blog! Greetings from Georgia!

  9. ellen

    January 16, 2013

    I loved this post. 🙂

  10. kate

    January 18, 2013

    Not sure if you’ll even see this comment, seeing as you wrote this post a while ago, but I am a closet blog stalker of yours:) I found you through Segullah. I live in Hawaii….and even being miles and miles away and NEVER knowing you at all-I can FEEL your goodness. I can feel that you are an amazing person and an even more amazing mother-thank you for being an example to me as to the type of mother I hope to be to my own children.

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