Friday, December 30, 2016

Reflecting on Grandma's Love

I'm sitting here at my computer listening to Christmas music and enjoying a few minutes of quiet time.  The children are tucked in bed and my hubby is watching a movie downstairs.  I am sitting here pondering the events of the past week.  Boy what a ride!

As you all know we just celebrated the birth of our Savior.  It was a great time for my family.  We had my beautiful grandmother stay with us for three wonderful days.  She is 90 years old and we don't know how many more years we will be blessed to have her here with us.  There is something about a great-grandparent and children that makes Christmas more special somehow.

The children were soooo excited to have my grandmother stay with us.  My littlest was excited that grandma-great was going to sleep in her bed and she (my youngest) would get the chance to sleep in big sister's bedroom on her own special cot.

If there is one thing that my children love to do it is read.  And, if you enter my door, and you are over a certain age, the only thing you are good for is reading stories.  Now, I mean this in the most respectful way possible.  You see, my father-in-law has been known to read up to 15 stories in one sitting.  It doesn't matter that he has read the same book time and time again, the children love to listen to it yet again.  

My grandmother was no exception to this unspoken rule of the home.  However, my grandmother's eyesight doesn't work as well as it did a few years ago, and she has trouble seeing the words to read.  My youngest wouldn't take no for an answer though and remedied that situation right quick.  

You see, she is only 4 years old but she decided to sit grandma-great down on the couch and proceeded to "read" her the favorite book Go Dog, Go by Dr. Seuss.  (Ok, so it wasn't word for word, but my baby read it in her own special way.  She used voice inflections and everything!)  It was the most precious thing that I ever did see.  I am sooo grateful for the opportunity that my babies have the chance to know who their great-grandmother is and, better yet, have the opportunity to develop a relationship with her.  We can't wait until the snow melts so we can go feed the ducks at the park with her again!

Today we held our yearly family Christmas party.  We had a wonderful time reading a story, stuffing our bellies until popping status, playing bingo, exchanging gifts in a raucous tradition of open-and-steal-till-you-get-what-you-want (with extra trading on the side afterwords), and the famous singing of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

The singing has been going on for as long as I can remember.  We all "count off" to see which part we will be singing this year, split into said parts, line up and sing like there is no tomorrow.  My one cousin stated today, "I can't sing!"  I replied, "That's ok.  No one in this family can sing!"  (Well, except for my Uncle, who is in a band and actually leads this family rendition of the beloved train wreck, I mean, Christmas carol.)  The point of the carol is to make a joyful noise (and I mean NOISE) and have fun while doing it.  Over the years we have gotten many renditions of this carol, from the original version to the Redneck version (which brings "death glares" from the conductor your way).  Any way it is sung, we all have a grand time.  I hope we always carry on this tradition.  After all, it just isn't a family party without a badly sung, off-key, tone-deaf, key-changing (often in the same note) sing-a-long of The Twelve Days of Christmas.  I once recorded it and it takes your breath away!

(This was done several years ago, and we even had the benefit of the piano that year, although that is not always the case.  We normally have to sing acapella.  I really don't know how much the piano helped, but I guess it kept us somewhat in-tune that year.  This also shows the very last verse sung, this is to help protect your ears and the innocent singers/family members.)

Anyway, we do all these fun traditions because it brings a smile to my grandmother's face and a tear to her eye.  She is an amazing woman and I am very honored to carry her name as my own.  I have many fond memories with her that I know will last a lifetime and I hope I can share all of them with my children and let them know just what a great person she is.  I will cherish all the time that I am allowed to have with her.  She is very special to me - always has been and always will be.

I hope that as you wrap up this wonderful time of year, you have the opportunity to reflect on your family and see who has been special in your life.  Love and cherish them always.  Time is precious and you never know just how long you have with that special someone.  Be sure to say "I Love You" often, better yet, show that love for them in the things you do for them.

I wish you each a very Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Just Doing His Job...

Yesterday, my hubby and I were the unfortunate recipients of being pulled over by a police officer.  Yes, law-abiding citizens get pulled over once in awhile too.  I knew that it wouldn't be too terrible, seeming how we knew exactly what we were being pulled over for.  That was not the case however.

Let me back up a bit.

I was "summoned" by my eldest, who lives in a different city (35 min. away), to bring her something that she desperately needed.  (This time it was NOT her teddy bear.)  When my hubby and I loaded up the children to make the trek, I noticed my front headlight was out.  This was not too big a concern to me, and I determined to fix it the very next day.  No biggy, right?


Well, we pulled into the area where my daughter lives and parked along the street-side curb so we wouldn't receive a ticket for parking in the student parking lot.  We had a great visit with her as my two littlest ran laps up and down her apartment hall (I'm really sorry to my daughter's roomie who was home at the time.  I hope we didn't disturb you too much.)

After awhile, it was time to head home.  So we made the trek back to our van, piled in and started on our way.  Now, there are a couple of ways to get home.  The back roads and the main road.  My hubby was behind the wheel, and he went to turn down the street that lead to the main road.  When I questioned if he was sure he wanted to go that way and brave the craziness of the "main drag" he gave a very definite "YES!" 

Well, ok then.

Image result for police giving ticketIt was no surprise to me when I saw the hypnotizing flash of red and blue lights that signaled a police officer had noticed our headlight-deficient vehicle.  Being law abiding citizens, my hubby immediately pulled over to the side of the road.

Now, if you have ever been pulled over, you know what feelings go along with this experience.  My hubby immediately became moody and grumpy and decided to not "be nice" to the officer.  However, I was in the passenger seat and kept him in check as best as I could.

When the officer came to the window, he asked us if we knew why he pulled us over.  We answered that yes we did.  It was because of our headlight.  We also explained to him that we had just recently, that day, noticed it was out and we planned to fix it the next day.  He said that would be great, but he still took my hubby's license back to the patrol car and to run a "check" and be sure all was well.

After what seemed like an eternity, the officer returned to our van.  He then asked us if we knew that my hubby's license was expired for over a year plus.  This floored us like you wouldn't believe!  We are really on top of things like this, but we really had no clue about this.  This sent us into a loop, and sent my hubby into being even more grumpy than what he already was.

Image result for traffic ticketsNeedless to say, the officer let us off the hook with just a verbal warning about the headlight, however, he had to give us a ticket for the expired license.  He called it a "non-moving violation" that would have to be taken care of through the court.  At this point, I started to talk to the officer, cuz I knew that my hubby was on the brink of being unkind and I really didn't want further action to be taken.  I politely asked what would happen with this ticket and the officer said that the courts would decide what the penalty would be.  He stated that if we presented to the courts the proof that we remedied the situation and took care of all other things, the court could grant us leniency.  I guess we'll see on Friday when we go to the court.

After we were dismissed by the officer, my hubby was in a super foul mood, as you can well guess.  If you have ever had this experience, you will understand 100%.  I tried to talk to him, but his only response was "I hate cops!"

Remember that my two littlest ones were in the back watching a movie, but could hear everything that was said in the front of the van.  In order to  curb their views on police officers as "bad", I tried to explain to my hubby that the officer was just dong his job.  I did not, however, say "I told you not to go down that road" though.  (I saved that for the next day.  I really don't like to pour salt into an open wound too awful much.)

My point to this tale is this - if you know you are in the wrong, you have no right to get overly disgruntled about the situation.  We knew that our headlight was out.  We knew that we had to replace it and we were going to.  We did not know that the license was expired, but when the officer pointed it out to us, we were determined to remedy the situation the very next day.  I would also like to point out that the officer was not rude to us in any way.  He was shocked to see that the license was so far past expiration that he had to double check it to see if what he was seeing was correct.  He really didn't want to give us the ticket, but because he too is a law-abiding citizen, he had to follow the rules of his job.  He didn't want to, but he had to.  In short, he was just doing his job.  (On the up-side, we didn't get a ticket for parking in the student parking lot!)

It's sort of like being a parent.  You tell your children that if they do "such-and-such" they will have to suffer the consequence of "such-and-such".  Then when your child does "such-and-such" - because you know they will eventually - you have to enforce the consequence of "such-and-such" even though you really don't want to.

So, before you get your nose out of joint about anything, take a deep breath and try to see the situation from all angles.  You may or may not have been in the wrong, but most times there is a reason for each situation.  There is no need for grumpiness, bad attitudes, or rudeness.  Just act like the adult you claim to be and accept what comes.  Always remember the age old advice that "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar".  If you remember to be nice and respectful, the officer will treat you with respect as well.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Elf on the Shelf

With the Christmas season here again, it is time for that special visitor from the North Pole to visit many homes throughout the world.  He or she may have even found their way to your home.  I am not talking about Santa, but his little helper: The Elf on the Shelf.

Our elf showed up about three years ago and it was a very monumental time for us.  We had just moved into our new home and my sister had "big" plans for us.  She had been surfing the "inter-web" (where we know that whatever is posted there is always true and you just "got to do" the next best thing that is posted there) and had come across the idea for the elf on the shelf.  We even found there to be a book about this little creature.  We spent countless hours searching ideas for our little guy to do.  We even made little note cards to go with each day!

Oh, if you haven't been introduced to this elf thing, it is where you have an elf visit your home for the days leading up to Christmas.  The idea is the elf sits on the shelf, mantel, bookcase, fridge....or wherever, and watches over the children.  He/she serves as a reminder for them to be good so Santa will keep them on the "nice list".  The children are not supposed to touch the elf or it will lose it's "magic" and not be able to return to your home.  

Sitting is just fine and dandy, however, it is also mentioned that this little elf can sometimes be mischievous.  Yeah, he/she "flies" to the North Pole at night, delivers the "daily naughty/nice" report to the man in red, and just before the children wake up in the morning, he/she comes back and creates chaos in your home for the children to find.  This chaos is sometimes tame, and sometimes it is just a big mess.  (My hubby didn't like our elf too much the first year he adopted us.)

So, with encouragement from my sister, Timothy came to reside at our humble home.  Timothy was not to be friendless either.  You see, my other sister was in the process of moving into her new home just one mile away from me and my "thoughtful" sister decided that my moving sister could also use an elf at her house.  So was born the elf on the shelf at two of our homes.  My sister who was moving named her elf Neville.  Now, Neville and Timothy look almost exactly alike, except for their bells.  One has silver bells and the other has gold bells on their hats and shoes.

There was a time when I was visiting my sister who had Neville, and my son soon spotted him.  He came to me super concerned and said, "Mom, Timothy is here and we need to take him home."  I said, "No, that is Neville.  He comes to your cousins' house."  He said, "No mom, that is Timothy and we need to take him home."  This is where it gets good.  You see, you are not supposed to touch the elf or they will "lose their Christmas magic".  However, my sister had a "clause" with her elf where only she, being the mom, could touch her elf.  My son was unaware of the "clause".  When my sister heard the conversation between my son and I, she scooped up Neville, rang his bells, and said, "This is Neville, he looks just like Timothy doesn't he?"  At this my son just about had a "come-apart" with his eyes popping out of his head, his jaw dropped to the floor and he started to get tears in his eyes.  He was now super concerned for Neville cuz now Neville was going to lose all his "Christmas magic" and never be ale to return to my sister's house again.  Ahh, the joys of youth and believing in magic!

My "thoughtful" sister and I came up with all sorts of things to do with the elves for that first Christmas!  We had them "fighting" with the snowmen - (ex are as follows):

Making stuff:


Reading books and writing Christmas cards:

Bringing treats:

And just plain mischief:


Now, that first year, my children were 3 1/2 yrs and 1 1/2 yrs.  They really had a blast finding what our little guy did each day.  And I got to admit, it helped a little with keeping the children on good behavior.  However, they tend to grow-up and get more "mischievous" themselves.  So the next year Timothy visited our house he started out being "mischievous" then had to take a break cuz my son was being more disruptive than good.

I have found that if our little visitor, Timothy, brings only one or two treats during the "leading up" days to Christmas, my children are more likely to be excited to find him, but they are also genuinely good throughout the day.  He still brings the occasional treat, but rarely does he create havoc in our home.

I recently overheard a few friends discussing this very topic.  They were saying that yes, they have the elf visit, but they were griping about how people make it more complicated than it has to be.  One person said, "I don't have time for all that!"  Another person said, "That is just going too far!"  Yet another said, "Why do people create more stress for themselves at this time of year?"

I am in agreement with most of the statements that were made that day, however, I kept my mouth closed because I know what our little guy did the first year.  I have since come to an agreement with our elf.  Timothy comes and watches over our children without the fuss and mess, and I will let him bring a treat of two, but only maybe once a week.  If he asks the children to do service for others that is a big bonus.  

For example, last year he brought us the story of the Nativity with a treat.  He also brought the same thing for the children to share with a neighbor.  It was a great way for the children to see that there is more to Christmas than just getting "stuff".  Christmas is about serving others so they may feel the true spirit of Christmas as well.  

That first and second year I found that with extra "visitors" came the "expectation" of getting stuff.  If Timothy showed up with a gift, treat, or mischief, my son would be more rambunctious the rest of the day.  In essence, Timothy "back-fired".  I started to notice that when Timothy came and just "watched" over the children, my son was calmer and nicer the rest of the day.  So, last year, Timothy only came to sit on our shelf (or wherever he landed) and watch over us.  This helped to make the season a little less stressful and a lot less chaotic!

Even without the treats, chaos and mess, my children love to find Timothy each and every day.  He does occasionally bring a treat, but not often.  So, if you are contemplating adding a "Santa's little helper" to your home, decide what will work for your family best. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

See Christmas through New Eyes...

Image result for christmasIt's Christmastime once again and with the season comes the hustle and bustle of rushing from store to store to find the perfect gift for that special someone.  I have been caught up in that trap and know it all too well.  But, over the years, I have discovered that there is more to Christmas than a few "token" gifts to make someone feel happy for a minute then the gift is put aside and forgotten.  Let's be honest here.  Can you remember what you received last year for Christmas?  Better yet, can you remember who gave you that gift?  I'm guessing that you can't really remember anything about last Christmas except for the credit card bill that got paid off in October - just in time to rack it up again for this year.  

Guess what?  IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY ANYMORE!!!  You don't have to go into debt (meaning you don't have to whip out your credit card when you see something cute that "so-and-so" just "has to have"!  Chances are "so-and-so" already has "such-and-such" and you'll just be adding to the mess of the their house).  

I used to feel like the Grinch at Christmastime.  There was just too much going on and people were hurrying to buy that latest and greatest "thing" and don't even get me started on the "sales".  CindyLou Who and I could be best friends!  I mean really!  What is Christmas all about anyway?  

I thought it was about a little boy born under the most humblest of circumstances without anything, not even a proper bed, to call his own.  There was no fanfare.  There were no flashy wrapped gifts.  There were no cookies to be exchanged.  There was no Santa!  All these "things" came years later.  As the years have progressed we have lost sight of why we really celebrate Christmas.

I was recently reminded that Christmas is made up of 4 things: 
1- Children
2- Remembering
3 - Giving
4 - Prophecy Fulfilled

Let's briefly explore each one:

First: Christmas is Children:

How many of you can remember waking up super early on Christmas day, before the sun poked it's bright head above the mountains, just because you were too excited to sleep anymore?  You ran to your older siblings room and shook them until they woke up to share in the excitement of the day.  Then together you ran to your parents room to tell them the news that Santa had been there.  

Christmas is a time of joy, excitement and wonder for all children.  They want to experience it all!  What are we teaching our children about Christmas?  Are we teaching them that it is a time when if they are "good boys and girls" Santa will bring them the toys they ask for?  Or are we teaching them the true reason we have Christmas.

My hubby and I started a tradition of giving service to families that might be in need of a little "pick-me-up" for the holidays.  We don't always pick a family who is struggling financially either.  We tend to look for a family that is really trying to pull their own weight to make things work for themselves and not just looking for a handout.  Sometimes it is a close friend while other times it is someone we barely know.  What I love most about this tradition is how my children LOVE to wrap the packages, place them on the doorstep of our unsuspecting candidate, ring the doorbell then run like crazy!  Oftentimes we will hide in nearby bushes and watch as the family piles out of the house to stand on their front porch wondering where all this Christmas spirit came from.  

That is what I love most about Christmas.  The magic of making someone feel loved and getting my children to focus on other people and not just themselves.

Second: Christmas is Remembering:

We all have family that lived in the "olden" days (as my oldest likes to call the time before 1900).  Do we know how they spent their Christmas's?  There is a story about a woman named Mrs. Rebecca Riter who came across the plains in a wagon.  

Her diary entry is dated December 25, 1847, we read: “The winter was cold. Christmas came and the children were hungry. I had brought a peck of wheat across the plains and hid it under a pile of wood. I thought I would cook a handful of wheat for the baby. Then I thought how we would need wheat for seed in the spring, so I left it alone.”

Do we know the stories of our ancestors well enough to share them with our children?  I will be the first to admit that I don't, but I will also be the first to admit that I am eager to learn so I can!

Third: Christmas is for Giving: 
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the poet, wrote: “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only [true] gift is a portion of thyself.”

President David O. McKay said: “True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service.

“It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.” 

My hubby and I have decided to scale back the gift getting aspect of our young family.  We used to go "all out" on gifts for our children.  It got to the point that there were more gifts in our front room than sitting places to open it all up.  At the end of the gift-opening session, the children couldn't even remember what they got from who.  So, it was time to scale it all back.  
We started to look around our humble home and decided the children already had enough toys and we didn't need to create anymore messes by adding to the craziness of toys that don't get cleaned up.  We decided to instead get them ONE toy they could play with, something to wear (usually pjs), something to read (everyone loves a good book), something to eat (yum! chocolate) and something from their sibling (got to teach them how to give to others).  

The one thing we have most recently done is get them an experience.  I know this sounds really weird, especially if you don't understand.  We give them an experience by going on an outing with them.  It is a time when we go to the aquarium, zoo, museum or wherever to let them experience time with mom and dad.  Just the kids and parents.  No extras like grandparents or aunts, uncles or cousins.  Just them.  It gives them the feeling of being loved above all else.  I guarantee that they will never remember that great-aunt so-and-so gave them a set of legos, but they WILL remember the time they saw a sea turtle the size of a car at the aquarium.  

There are still the gifts from grandparents and aunts who like to spoil the children, so they most definitely don't suffer from lack of gifts.  When grandma-great gives them money we purchase a small gift for them, then take the rest to the bank and put it into their accounts to accumulate for when they get older.  All in all my children don't feel slighted in any way.  

It is all in how you present it to your children.  I once asked my 18 year old if she felt like we didn't give her enough when she was growing up.  She said, without hesitation, "Nope.  You gave me all I ever needed."  I love my children and I hope that the traditions we have started with them will teach them we really do love them and that you don't need to have "things" to make memories.

Fourth: Christmas is Prophecy Fulfilled:

Image result for nativity
Pres. Monson reminds us that "On the eve of His birth, the voice of the Lord came unto Nephi, saying, “Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfill all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.” 

What did the holy prophets of old declare? Isaiah, more than 700 years before the birth of Christ, prophesied, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” 

On the American continent, King Benjamin said: “For behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent … shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay. … He shall suffer temptations, and pain. … And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.” 

Then came that night of nights when the shepherds were abiding in the fields and the angel of the Lord appeared to them, announcing: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. … For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” 

I would like to add my heartfelt wishes to that of Pres. Uchtdorf when he warns that "if we look for what is wrong with the Christmas season, we can surely find it. Like the Grinch, we can grumble and complain, becoming cold and cynical about what we see around us. Nevertheless, if we look for the good, we can see this time of year with new eyes—perhaps even with the eyes of a child. 

The Grinch saw the good in Christmas when he learned to look past its worldly trappings. If we do the same, we can, with the Grinch, proclaim: “Maybe Christmas . . . doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!”
Our heart may not grow three sizes as the Grinch’s did, but our heart will change. Our eyes will open to the miracles all around us—at Christmastime and throughout the year. 

I pray that during this season and always, we will see the purity of the story of the Savior’s birth and feel sincere gratitude for His life, teachings, and saving sacrifice for us. May this gratitude cause us to renew our determination to follow Him. May it also lead us to draw closer to our family, our church, and our fellowmen. And may we look steadfastly forward to that blessed day when the resurrected Christ will walk the earth again as our Lord, our King, and our blessed Savior.

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