Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Little Ties

I think the best gift I've been given is family. What would I do without these people who love me no matter what? They are opinionated, stubborn, and sometimes grumpy, funny, gifted, generous, sweet, and enthusiastic. They are glue to life. My husband woke me up this morning holding my hand, looking at it as he went over it with his fingers. My sister encouraged my mother, who was feeling low about something yesterday. My brother-in-law played a game with me that he doesn't like. My daughter told me she loved me in the middle of Kohl's (I was buying her clothes, but it was wonderful to hear, and she almost didn't care when I threw my arms around her and squeezed as she muttered, "Sorry I said anything."). I caught my youngest's eye across the room and she broke out into a beautiful smile only for me. My boys and their cousin giggled as they tried to maneuver to stay up later while I blocked the door to the media room and the Xbox, and I could see their minds working between respect for their parents wishes, needing to kick some Halo hind-end, and seeing their mom/aunt in a kung fu pose in front of the closed door saying, "You must get some sleep, young grasshoppers, it is midnight." Of course, the sound is just a little off the movement of my lips when I remember it. My brother and I narrowed our eyes at each other as I closed in on his huge lead on the game board, and the competition spurred me on with a smile.
These may seem like small things, but we go through such hard, sometimes overwhelming things, these little ties that bind help me keep it together, give me something to fight through for, remind me that the struggle is worth it, and that I am up for it. These crazy people seem to see something in me. Why not trust them to be right? They know me better than anyone.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Christmas Survey From Sam

1. Get kissed under the mistle toe or in the snow? Mistletoe... we have some strategically placed in the entry to the kitchen. Jacob stands there, waiting.
2. Santa or Rudolph? Santa... I believe in the magic.
3. Stocking or presents? Presents, although when I was a kid, the stockings were always a nice surprise that there was just a little more to do.
4. Egg nog, hot cider, or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate. With a candy cane.
5. Angel or star? Star. I just broke ours this year and had to find a new one. The kids are a little disappointed I couldn't find the same one, but seem to understand.
6. Decorating the tree, or putting lights on the outside? Well, it was about 7 degrees when I put the lights up outside, in between two blizzards, so I am saying tree, definitely. I love watching the kids hang the same ornaments I did when I was a kid.
7. Warm cozy fires or sleigh rides? Warm, cozy fires. This is our first house without a fireplace. I miss it.
8. Family time or friend time? Both... lots of both.
9. Expensive presents or presents that come from the heart? Expensive presents that come from the heart, but I don't get those. I actually get more excited about the presents I am giving.
10. Snow ball fight or snowman? Snowman. Never liked the snowball fight unless I knew I could win.
11. Coal or presents? That is a lame question. I got coal once. I promised I would never do that to my kids.
12. Open presents quick or slow? Slowly... I don't get many under that tree, so I like to stretch it out.
13. Diamonds or rubies? Ruby is my birthstone. I like diamonds as much as the next girl!
14. Caroling or christmas stories? I love caroling with Brandon's family. Caroling.
15. Snowy days or ice days? What? Umm, snowy days. Definitely.
16. Red or Green? Both. Together.
17. Best christmas present recieved? When my family surprised me (see Drops of Ink, below right), a big teddy bear called Papa bear, a leather bomber jacket, a baby with a wooden cradle my dad made, a doll house my dad made, a diamond ring, and the book, Fire of the Covenant.
19. If you're dating someone, what would you want them to get you? Something special from Willow Tree.
20. Have you ever been kissed under mistletoe? Yes, mm-hmm.
21. Age you stopped believing in Santa Claus? What?
22. Do you send thank you notes? Sometimes.
23. Do you wake your parents up early to open presents? Yes. My brothers and sister and I would all sleep in the same room Christmas Eve, and we would watch for the neighbor's lights to come on, and that was our "go" signal. It was still 6 am. Our kids do the same thing (well, they get up when they get up- none of our neighbors have kids).
24. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa leaves his presents out and open, very conspicuously, with big ribbons on them, and sometimes a label with each child's initial, if needed.
25. Colored lights on tree/house or white? I would have just white, but I married a colored-lights person, so we have both and we are both happy.
26. Do you hang mistletoe? Yes.
27. When do you put your decorations up? Tree goes up day after Thanksgiving, and depending on how much energy I have after wrestling it, we decorate it that night, or the next day. All other decorations go up within those first three days. The exterior lights go up in between the blizzards.
29. Favorite holiday memory as a child? All of them... choosing secret pixies, the food (chili and cinnamon rolls Christmas Eve), decorations, sleeping in the same room with my siblings, the felt advent calendar, caroling, the food, opening one present Christmas Eve, the Nativity re-enactment, the food...
30. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? What?
31. Do you open any gifts on Christmas Eve? One... the kids always get new jammies to wear. They still act surprised.
33. Snow, love it or hate it? Love it.
34. Can you ice skate? Barely. I love to skate with my kids.
35. Do you remember your favorite gift? Didn't we answer this one?
36.Whats the most important thing about the holidays for you? Sharing traditions with my family, time together, and remembering ther birth of the Savior.
38. What is your favorite holiday tradition? The food.
39. What tops your tree? A star... its white and covered with gold swirls, and looks like it was dipped in sugar cystals.
41. What is your favorite Christmas song? My cd changer has The Carpenters, Kenny Loggins, Barbra Streisand, Dean Martin, and a compilation cd we made one year to give to all our friends instead of cookie plates. That was a lot easier, and everyone loved it!
42. Candy canes? Jacob seems to suck them up like air. They are on our tree, and in a Santa jug on my counter. I prefer the peppermint taffies with christmas trees on them. We get both in our stockings.
43. Favorite Christmas movie? Holiday Inn, Muppet Christmas Carol, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, While You Were Sleeping, Its A Wonderful Life, The Santa Clause, A Christmas Story.
44. What do/did you leave for Santa? Cookies and hot cocoa. Sometimes oats for the reindeer.
45. What do you really like most about Christmas? Everything!!!!!!! Every single thing.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Nutcracker... Sweet

We just got home from Maren's final performance of this year's Nutcracker. Her parts were a party child, a flower petal, and a Greeter in the Land Of Sweets. B and I attended yesterday's performance, and I helped out backstage on Friday for the two performances for the elementary schools in the area. Even after watching it twice on the monitor backstage, I still got chills and caught my breath several times as Clara was lifted around by the Nutcracker Prince, the snowflakes whirled softly (my favorite), the dew drop leaped and kicked, and the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier (guest dancers from the NYC Ballet) took my breath away. And, as it had back stage, the part came where the prince bids farewell to Clara and she picks up her doll and gently twirls away, her dream over. And, as I had back stage, I got emotional. B smiled at me and said, "Wow. That was amazing." It was a beautiful production... yes, we saw it last year, and it was good, then, too, but something this year... I don't know. Anyway, what is it about the Nutcracker that gets me verklempt? I think its just the innocence... an innocent love story, a dream that ends, but will always be remembered, given as a gift. And watching these children and young adults, under the guidance and direction of their teachers and beloved director, Miss Elizabeth, doing something artistic, physically taxing, and demanding of their time and respect... amid all the corruption and terror, and evil influences of the world. Our society can still teach our children to dance, and be beautiful in expressing timeless music known the world over.
We took Maren out to eat Saturday after her performance. Every little ballerina wants ribs, right?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let it Snow!

We had a few inches of snow the other day (it warmed up this morning and now it is all gone) and driving around in the slick stuff got me to thinking. We usually do some measure of traveling over the holidays, and it is always an understandable concern from our families whether or not we will make it because of the weather. We have lived far enough away and been homesick enough to make trips in all kinds of weather, taking care, and praying along the way. Here are some actual quotes my B and I have remembered from our holiday travels:

"What happened to those snow measuring stick things?"

"Is this a pasture, or are we still on the road?"

"Is it snowing up?"

"Honey, that cop is saying slow down."
"Honey, we're going 5."

"I think we just went over a bridge."

"What is that?"
"It's a jack-knifed semi."
"Well, should we stop?"
"Honey, we can't stop."
"Why not?"
"Because we're going downhill, and it's all I can do to try and make the turn. If we stop, it means we've hit the semi."

"Is that a moose?"
"That's a moose."
"He's faster than we are."

"I still see snowflakes coming at me."
"Hon, we've been at your mom's for two hours, now."

Be careful out there! Buckle up! And smile!

Monday, December 01, 2008

It's that Time of Year When the World Falls In Love

It took me a minute to realize that it was time to put the Christmas tree up. One of the drawbacks to taking a tropical vacation just before the holidays (the only drawback) is that one gets a little out of sync with the traditional schedule. For me, that is putting up the tree the day after Thanksgiving. So, as I slid the huge turkey into the oven Thanksgiving morning, it occurred to me for the first time that, Hey, shouldn't there be Christmas music playing so my husband can come in and say it's too early for Christmas music? Oh yeah, and I guess I'll be putting the tree up tomorrow... huh.
Maybe not so weird for some of you, but very weird for me. I love traditions that remind me of being a kid and feeling that peace that can only be found in childhood, where your biggest worry is if you are going to get the Barbie Corvette you want so badly you've already had your Barbie doll pass her driving test. Usually, I am chomping at the bit, and the carols have been playing for a couple of weeks already.
As we began to decorate the tree yesterday, Maren helped me with some of the preliminary garland hanging. She lied down under the lowest branches and declared that on Christmas Eve she was gong to sleep under the Christmas tree. She would be sure to see Santa that way. As I started to remind her that there would be Christmas presents under the tree and she wouldn't fit, I stopped myself. Because every year, as I decorate the lower branches of the tree, I think of my sister, Shelli, and how we would pick a night the week before Christmas, and we would sleep under the tree, looking up through the branches and lights, the ornaments we knew so well. But I realized I hadn't shared that with my kids... I don't think so, anyway. So, I suggested to Maren that maybe she and Chelsea could do that on a different night, and that would be fun. She quickly reminded me that that would defeat the whole purpose of trying to catch Santa in the act. Oh well. Maybe I'll suggest it to Chelsea. She has a way of talking her sister into things.
I hope you all get a chance to relive a bit of your childhood, experience a memory of that peace. What a break from grown-up worries.