Nothing can evoke in me the spirit of Bah Humbug! more surely than wandering up and down the aisles of Walmart, trying to get some ideas for gifts.
I hate the feeling that gifts are obligatory. “So-and-so will be expecting a gift, but I have no idea what she wants.” Or “Please bring a gift in the $5-$10 price range for an exchange on Friday.” All that is, to me, is a time consuming waste of money. Nobody needs more junk, and if you don’t even know whom will be receiving your $5-$10 gift, how can it possibly be thoughtful or personal?
All too often, I let those grumpy thoughts permeate the whole of my Christmas gifting experience.
Fortunately, this year I have had some gift-giving experiences that have reminded me what it is all about:
After our trip to the dollar store, I overheard Josh and Jonah excitedly wrapping all of the presents they had selected for their cousins and siblings. They were confiding in and helping each other as they wrapped.
When the FedEx man admired our citrus trees, we invited him to pick all he wanted. On his next round of deliveries he brought a big bag and picked oranges to his heart’s content.
For my mom and each of my sisters, I made an apron.
It was made from a blanket that my grandmother had given to my mom many years ago, which was now falling apart. I cut it up and converted it into aprons so that each one of us could have a piece of that memory to hold on to. It was a gift that I was truly excited to give. I even enjoyed the time I spent wrapping them just right.
I guess I can’t change the whole culture of commercialism. And I can’t realistically avoid all of the exchanges that, to me, seem pointless. But I can do a better job of enjoying the meaningful gifts, and focusing on the true spirit of gift-giving.
And I can take more time to ponder the ultimate gift… the gift of a Savior.
One of my highlights in November was to pull into my driveway everyday and see the change in the orange trees. At first they looked like this:
As the fruits ripened, I would see hints of orange peeking out from the green. Every day they seemed to be getting braver.
I had planned to take a picture every day from the same spot, to document the change.
Unfortunately, I only remembered a couple of times. I mean… I remembered to ask Jeff a couple of times.
Time to bring out the citrus juicer!
‘Tis the season! Maybe not for snow, but we have the most stunning bright, gold leaves!
The cottonwoods, the pomegranate, the apricot, and the peach trees are all putting on beautiful displays. Green grass on the orchard floor is littered with oranges and yellows of different shapes and sizes.
Every day I go out and stand under the apricot tree and marvel. I can’t believe it’s all happening in my very own yard!
These three boxes are the first “gifts” to be placed under our tree every year. After we decorate the tree, but before we read a Christmas story and sing carols, we talk about the wise men. We talk about how they traveled far, and wanted to bring the very best gifts they could think of to give to the baby Jesus.
We talk about what gifts we would want to give to the Savior. We talk about the scripture that says “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
And then we commit to making Christmas time a season of kindness, and of giving gifts to the Savior by loving and serving one another.
After each pre-meditated kind act, we put a “gem” (a.k.a. little transparent rock-like thing) in one of the boxes. The idea is to fill those boxes up with acts of kindness.
It’s just a simple little tradition, but it seems to really help us focus on the true spirit of Christmas.
My friend Crystal has a fun dinner time tradition. Every night they go around the table and everyone gets to tell their “high” and their “low” for the day.
In a frantic attempt to keep my family at the table for longer than the 30 seconds it takes to devour the meal, I have been asking for everyone’s highs and lows. It’s a fun way to share what is going on in each others’ lives.
Here are a few of my highs lately:
Reading in my hammock with the perfect amount of sunshine on my skin
Jumping on the trampoline with Jonah and Simon
Setting up the Christmas tree, and listening to all the kids say “Oh! I remember this one!” as they take out each of their ornaments.
Watching Simon imitate everything his siblings do or say
Getting those stinky baby chicks out of my dining room and into the coop where they belong.
I have had more that one request for a post of me singing with my sisters. I have ignored that request so far because I don’t really have a good one.
This weekend Jeff grabbed this video off of my mom’s computer for me. It was after Kami’s farewell, singing at my parents’ houses. Complete with kids walking around.
The Lord Bless You and Keep You will always be a favorite.
Every morning when I wake up, I am thankful for another night of safety and comfort. I’m grateful to live in this free country, and to be able to keep my children safe and healthy.
I am thankful that I have such a good husband who loves me, and really wants me to be happy.
I am thankful for the way Simon says “Ha!” which is short for “a-ha!” when he finds something he is looking for.
I am thankful for a kindergartener who is SO proud every day when he gets in the car after school, to show me that he earned his sticker.
I am thankful for Josh, who is now home with me all day. (That’s a post for another day.) He notices when I am frustrated, and tries earnestly to help.
I am thankful for Caleb, who waits for me to make eye contact in the morning as he’s getting out of the car, so he can tell me he loves me.
I am thankful for Savannah, who is so good with her little brothers. She takes time for them and makes them feel special.
I am thankful for Rebecca, who reaches out to others. She tries to make everyone feel included, and is a good friend.
I am thankful for my health and my faith.
And I am thankful for this time of year, that reminds me to focus on what I have, instead of what I lack.
This year for Halloween we had:
An archer, a puppy, a glow-in-the dark skeleton, a gangster, a vampire, and a nerd.
Simon caught right on to the idea of trick-or-treating. The problem is, he doesn’t know it only works on Halloween.
Two days later, the bigger kids were in the living room with their candy spread all over the floor, sorted into piles for bartering. Simon kept trying to take people’s candy, and he and I both got yelled at.
“No Simon! Give that back! MOM! Get Simon out of here!”
He was really disappointed, until he came up with a brilliant idea. He grabbed an empty bucket, and told me his plan. “I go key-ko-key Nana.” Which means, of course, “I’m gonna go trick-or-treat Savannah.”
He bravely walked back into the living room, right up to the piano bench where Savannah’s candy was displayed.
Who could resist that ingenuity? He made the rounds to all of his siblings, and scored a piece of candy from each of them.
This post is a sort of self-help/therapy session for myself. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. I need to make a checklist of the things I did today. All I can see so far are the things that I didn’t do.
I’m feeling a little bit better. It looks like a lot when I write it down.
The other day Jeff and I were talking about how we are in the season of life that seems to be all about “Juggling.” It seems to me that it’s ok if I have a hard time juggling. The important thing is to make sure I’m only trying to juggle the most important “balls.” Sometimes that’s hard to know.
It happens every. time. I mean, I like my bacon crispy… but this is ridiculous. I cannot cook bacon without scorching it.
Actually, this week I have burned bacon twice, a big pot of rice, and some garlic in butter.
I have come to realize that all this burning is not so much an indicator of my culinary failings as it is a symbol of a bigger problem in my life.
I try to do too many things at once, making it impossible to do any of them very well. It’s taking a toll on my self-esteem.
A few days ago, when the smoke alarm went off reminding me that I had bacon in the oven, (you know, because that would save me a little time) I just lost it. My emotional outburst was definitely disproportionate to the incident. The smoke alarm seemed to be screaming at me that I was a failure. Again.
When I’m cooking, I am also usually cleaning, counseling, answering, encouraging, scolding, signing, and a variety of other things. Sometimes when I’m trying to help everyone at once, I find myself giving the wrong answer to the wrong child, or agreeing to terms that I never even heard.
I know that’s the problem. I know I need to slow down and focus on one thing, or one precious person at a time. I know that. And I would love to do that.
But how? What else can I do when there are 18 things that all really do need to be done at the same time? How do I look into the eyes of each person that needs my attention, and still give the bacon the one-on-one time that it requires?
This morning I desperately needed a shower. I decided to pay Jonah- in the form of a Hershey’s Kiss- to babysit Simon just long enough for me to get clean. (Shaving will have to wait for a more experienced sitter.)
When I got out of the shower, this is what I saw:
That is Jonah’s signature crooked-blanket-bed-making job. The binky and hot pad left behind are sure signs that Simon was an accomplice.
I woke up this morning with a touch of the stomach flu. Just enough to make me feel yucky, and to prevent me from accomplishing things.
I was crabby, because what I really needed to be doing was cleaning up after our riotous weekend. Not sitting on the couch in my PJs.
Then I remembered my one-word New Year’s Resolution. ENJOY. To quote myself “I will choose to do the things that I enjoy. And, since that is not always possible, I will choose to enjoy the things that I must do.”
So what did I do? I put on a cozy robe, made myself some chicken noodle soup, put it in a cute mug, and sat down in the rocking chair. If I’m gonna be sick, I might as well do my best to enjoy it, right?
It worked, by the way. I feel much better.
I’m sure you’ve noticed the increased quality of the pictures around here. Jeff’s love for photography is growing every day. I’m a little worried that it may one day take my place in his heart.
Yesterday we were sitting close together on the couch, having what I thought was a fairly deep conversation.
Very gently he took my chin in his hand and started tilting my face at different angles. (You don’t need to worry at this point that I’m going to get awkward and too personal, I promise.) He was watching how the light and shadows changed on my nose! Isn’t that romantic?
I got a good laugh out of it.
Have you ever actually counted to 1000?
The other day Jonah decided he was going to see if he could do it. It took us most of the morning. I say “us” because like it or not, I was a participant.
He followed me everywhere. Counting. Counting. Counting. Every once in a while he would get stuck on a random number. “Mom, what comes after 632?”
A couple of times he had to take a break to eat or brush his teeth or something. It was my job to remember where we left off.
I kept waiting for him to get bored or tired, but… nope! He finished just in time for afternoon kindergarten.
Way to go Jonah!
Today has been a great day. Nothing exceptional has happened, but my heart feels swollen with gratitude for the ordinary, wonderful things that make life sweet.
We went to the park this morning and I watched my boys dig like crazy in the sand and go down the slide again and again.
Jonah got to go to McDonalds with a friend, and is thrilled with his little toy.
Josh and Savannah surprised me by cleaning the house while I ran an errand.
Caleb was worried about hurting my feelings by not spending enough time at home.
It POURED this afternoon, and the kids all ran and danced and sang in the rain.
I listened to a talk by President Monson, and felt my heart grow a little softer and a little bigger.
We celebrated Josh’s birthday, and he couldn’t be happier with his little gifts. Nerf darts, a combination lock, an origami set, some Fuzzoodles, and a game. Best of all, he’s sharing with everyone.
Life is sweet.
Simon LOVES to help his dad mow the lawn!
This morning I was changing his diaper, when all of a sudden his little ears perked up. He heard the sound of the lawn mower outside. “Daddy!” He yelled.
As soon as I got his pants on he went running for the front door. “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”
What a lucky boy to have a daddy that lets him “help.”
It’s coming. I just know it. It must be coming… right?
I tell that to my kids every day as they climb into the car after school, red-faced, sweaty, and thirsty.
“Fall will be here soon, and then you won’t mind that 60 second walk to the car at all!”
I am seeing a few hints.
(Picture taken by Savannah, who has an eye for photography I think.)
My Pecan tree out back is heavy with ripening fruit. (Nuts, that is. Fruit sounded so much more poetic.)
Some days it stays under 105 degrees. Not every day, of course, but it has happened a couple of times.
And there is a brief moment, early in the morning, when you can walk outside and think “It’s almost nice enough to want to be outside.” Almost.
I’m doing my part to usher it in. You know, to hurry things along. The other day I made a pork roast with apples, sage and cinnamon. Definitely a fall dish. And I’ve been wearing my Bath and Body Works Country Apple lotion. That definitely says fall to me.
It won’t be long now…
I love order. I love organization, schedules, and punctuality.
You would NEVER, EVER guess that about me through observation. With six kids, I find order a hopelessly elusive ideal. Maybe it wouldn’t be impossible, but certainly would come at a very high cost to everyone’s happiness and my own mental health.
I do, however, have one little spot in my world that stays perfectly organized.
My make-up drawer always looks like this. It is the one little piece of control that I cling to. It makes me happy every time I look in there.
Lately Simon has discovered it. He will open the drawer, reach his chubby little hand up over his head, and plunge it in. He rummages around until he gets a good grip on something, then pulls it out to see what he has scored.
I have been finding slobbery make-up brushes lying around the house, or half eaten chapsticks on my bed.
I just can’t take it. My one little personal space. I’m going to get a lock.
This post is kind of a sequel to my last one. The skirt that was next on my list to make was inspired by my sister Lindsey’s wedding dress:
I guess you can’t see it too well, but it’s fitted to the knee, then flares out.
As I was trying to figure out how to go about it, I found a fun contest over at Shabby Apple Dresses. They are looking for a design for their new spring collection. Even though I have no experience whatsoever in this sort of thing, I thought it would be fun to try.
Here is what I have come up with:
I couldn’t decide which version I like best, so this young lady was kind enough to model them both. Please don’t tell her she has awkward bird legs. She is blissfully unaware of her figure flaws.
The first one is grey. A very light cotton…almost filmy. Where the skirt flares out you see layers and layers of yellow underneath… like petticoats. The same yellow peeks out at the sleeves.
Option two is the same lightweight cotton, but in white. There are loose white rosettes at the neckline, and on the band above the skirt. The waistband is the same color as the “petticoat” layers. Pink, red, yellow. I think they would all be cute. My only worry about this version is that it may look like an occasion dress, and not an everyday.
Anyway… there you have it. My first attempt at fashion design.