Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The True Meaning of Christmas

I thought this story was a cute way to reconcile Santa and the true meaning of Christmas.  Someone gave it to me once upon a time and I just stumbled upon it.

The True Meaning of Christmas~~

Just a week before Christmas I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I just finished the household chores for the night and was preparing to go to bed, when I heard a noise in the front of the house. I opened the door to the front room and to my surprise, Santa himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree.

"What are you doing?" I started to ask.
The words choked up in my throat and I saw he had tears in his eyes.
His usual jolly manner was gone. Gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know.
He then answered me with a simple statement . . .
I was puzzled. What did he mean?
He anticipated my question and with one quick movement brought forth a miniature toy bag from behind the tree.
As I stood bewildered, Santa said,
"Teach the children!

 Teach them the old meaning of Christmas. The meaning that now-a-days Christmas has forgotten. "Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a FIR TREE and placed it before the mantle. "Teach the children that the pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round, depicting the everlasting hope of mankind, all the needles point heavenward, making it a symbol of man's thoughts turning toward heaven."

He again reached into his bag and pulled out a brilliant STAR. "Teach the children that the star was the heavenly sign of promises long ago. God promised a Savior for the world, and the star was the sign of fulfillment of His promise."

He then reached into his bag and pulled out a CANDLE. "Teach the children that the candle symbolizes that Christ is the light of the world, and when we see this great light we are reminded of He who displaces the darkness."

Once again he reached into his bag and removed a WREATH and placed it on the tree. "Teach the children that the wreath symbolizes the real nature of love. Real love never ceases. Love is one continuous round of affection."

He then pulled from his bag an ORNAMENT of himself. "Teach the children that I, Santa Clause, symbolize the generosity and good will we feel during the month of December."

He then brought out a HOLLY LEAF. "Teach the children that the holly plant represents immortality. It represents the crown of thorns worn by our Savior. The red holly berries represent the blood shed by Him.

Next he pulled from his bag a GIFT and said, "Teach the children that God so loved the world that he gave his begotten son." Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.

Santa then reached in his bag and pulled out a CANDY CANE and hung it on the tree. "Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherds' crook. The crook on the staff helps to bring back strayed sheep to the flock. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brother's keeper."

He reached in again and pulled out an ANGEL. "Teach the children that it was the angels that heralded in the glorious news of the Savior's birth. The angels sang Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace and good will toward men."

Suddenly I heard a soft twinkling sound, and from his bag he pulled out a BELL,. "Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring mankind to the fold. The bell symbolizes guidance and return.

Santa looked back and was pleased. He looked back at me and I saw that the twinkle was back in his eyes. He said, "Remember, teach the children the true meaning of Christmas and do not put me in the center, for I am but a humble servant of the One that is, and I bow down to worship him, our LORD, our GOD."
~Author Unknown~

Friday, December 2, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I went with a totally different theme this year.  All silver and glittery.  Look at me getting all kinds of wild and crazy.


I attached the lighted garland using the same method as last year, but this time used wired silver ribbon to wind throughout, followed by silver organza fluffing out the top, and silver and gold balls wedged into the branches.

I have two sets of lights going on here--one woven in with the garland and another one on top/behind to make the mantel 'glow'.

When I pick a new decorating theme (any season, not just at Christmas), I pull out any of my accessories, large or small, that are the right color.  It doesn't matter if they were being used somewhere else, on the wall in another part of the house, whatever.  If it's the right color/feel, it's coming with me.  I put them all up on the mantel, then I  stand back and start arranging my favorite ones into interesting groups.  By interesting, I mean variety--tall/short, plain/intricate, big/small, light/dark, shiny/dull.  I try to make the negative space (the space around the things) as interesting as the positive space (the actual stuff).  You don't want everything to be in a big clump, all the same height.

Loving the change from my usual red Christmas (though I'll probably return to red next year).  And if J asks, yes, I already had all these ornaments.  I did a lot of glittery things--crystals, lots of silver snowflakes and deer and sparkly ribbon.  It made me a little sad to not have all the usual memory-filled ornaments on the big tree, but I let each of the kids decorate a smaller tree with them.

This is the old trunk that I fell in love with and bought myself for my birthday.  It's my new end table, and for now it's holding a silver lantern with a fake-lit candle.  I love the new against old.


Girlie's tree gets to be by the fireplace. 

My favorite thing in this picture is the little boy who is so patient with his mom, who is interrupting Dinosaur Train.

Usual garland and kissing ball.  I did Christmas red everywhere else, because, let's face it, I didn't have enough silver stuff to do the whole house.

I call these my Dr. Seuss trees, because they are so weird and fun.


I hung the stars up with straight pins so the holes wouldn't be too bad. 

I tied the garland to the railing by very thin yarn.  Then I wove in the berries and the jingle bells.  The bow had big twist ties on the back.


I put up lights indoor this year.  You can't tell, but they're actually medium sized round glass bulbs.  I feel like I'm adding a little 'cantina' to Christmas. :) It's just good fun.  Never mind the mess in the back.  Leftovers from a little dinner party last night and a honey nut Cheerios breakfast. 
Click HERE for 2010's decor and HERE for 2009 and HERE for 2008.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

As it turns out, they ARE listening...

So, I'm not quite sure what I've done.  I make a big effort to teach my kids to be grateful for what they have.  They know not to ask for things in the store and are generally happy with what they've got.  Well...

They seriously think they're not getting anything for Christmas.

Not like 'You were bad, you're not getting anything', but a very matter-of-fact 'We have everything we need.  We don't need anything for Christmas.'  I know because Girlie's teacher at church asked J if the kids really aren't getting any presents for Christmas?   

We had a conversation a couple weeks ago.

Girlie:  I am sooooo excited for Christmas!!!
Me:  You are?
Girlie:  YES!!!  I mean, but not for presents or anything, just because I love Christmas and I want to do a service project where we donate newborn kits--
Sammy (looking very surprised and a little skeptical):  People really donate newborn kids?
Girlie:  No, like onesies and diapers for babies.  KITS.
Sammy:  Yeah, I'm excited for Christmas too.  Not for presents, either. 
Girlie:  Yeah, we have everything we need.
Me:  Yes, we're very lucky, aren't we?
(a pause)
Girlie:  Are we really not getting any presents for Christmas?
Me: Have you ever not gotten any presents for Christmas?
Girlie:  No.
I just smile.

Fast forward to the conversation where Girlie proclaims to all her friends at church that there are no presents in our household this year.  And, while we're doing a more-experiences-instead-of-tons-of-gifts year, of course my kids are getting presents.

But I'm having a bit of a dilemma.  Am I Scroogy if I just let my kids believe they're not getting gifts?  There's no "I want this", no wish lists, no circling things in catalogs, thought of ...self.  And isn't that what I want for my kids? it?  It's weird, because I didn't think that kids would actually be like this.  Are they missing some of the excitement of Christmas?  We certainly want our kids to focus more on the birth of the Savior, and they're thrilled with the service things we've got planned, and they certainly are getting wonderful gifts and experiences for Christmas.  I'm just wondering if they've listened ...too well.  We are taking them to see Santa (even though we're not big promoters of Santa), but I'm pretty sure they'll have a blank look when he asks them what they want, since "a farm with horses" is off the table for now.  What do you think?  Are they missing part of childhood?  Or are they exactly the kind of people I have been trying to raise? 


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My favorite parenting tips

My lil sis is about to have her first baby (as in, due today).  And, being the older sister I find it my duty to be the Official Dispenser of Unsolicited Advice about being a parent.  Here are some of my favorite tips that people have given me, in no particular order.

1--Sometimes when your child wakes up from a nap they will be happy, sometimes unsure, and sometimes freaking mad at the world.  There's nothing you can do, just ride it out and they'll get over it soon.

2--Get on their level when you're having an important or disciplinary conversation.

3--When they ask for you, say "Yes?" because it sounds so much nicer than saying "What?"

4--Never buy them something in the store in the moment they're asking for it.  Come back later and buy it.  Or, when they're small enough, you can still buy it without them seeing it.  Save yourself some future entitlement issues.

5--You cannot spoil an infant by holding him/her too much.  Too soon they'll be pushing you away saying "'Nuff love, Mommy, 'nuff love!"

6--Write down all the cute things they say, because contrary to what you think, you won't be able to remember them all and write them down later.

7--Empower them.  Give them stools and put things on their level so they can help themselves (like putting kid dishes on a shelf their level so they can 'set the table' for snack time, ).

8--Every chance you get, tell them how special they are and how much you love them.

9--Natural consequences:  "If I have to spend all of my time and energy cleaning up this mess by myself, I will not have any energy left to {do that fun thing that you wanted to do}" makes more sense than "Clean this up or we are not {going to do that fun thing}!!"

10--People are more important than things/everything is disposable.  It doesn't matter how long it's been in the family, how expensive or new it is, or how much you loved it as a child--it can be ruined and thrown away.  Just keep telling yourself that people are more important than things.

11--Use encouragement, not praise.  I know, sounded weird to me at first too.  Examples:

"Wow!  You figured that out all by yourself!!" vs. "You are so smart!!"
"I enjoy your sense of humor so much!  You make me laugh!" vs. "You are so funny!!"

They might seem the same, but using the first phrases (the encouragement phrases) leads a child to draw conclusions about themselves ('I am smart/funny'), which is infinitely more powerful for them as a person, than for their self esteem to be based on judgements (praise phrases) from others.  Praise can acutally be very damaging to their self esteem, because they can come to rely on on praise and will struggle when they don't have it from others.

12--Warning:  You will love your baby so much that you can hardly stand it.  You will be so out of control, head over heels, crazy in love with this little person that you honestly think that your heart just may burst out of your chest.  You will know that you've never witnessed anything as amazing and miraculous as this little person, and you'll be so utterly enchanted with your child that, could he/she ask for a whole herd of ponies, you'd do it in a heart beat.  Your breath really will catch in your throat, and you will be so excited about your child that you will experience such a high of emotion that would be exhausting if it were about anything else, but is instead exhilarating.  It is a phenomenal, life-changing kind of love.

Join in the advice giving!  What's your favorite parenting tip?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Q. What is The Seattle Times? {and my fall mantel}

A.  The big field that we go to play in every fall because our backyard is too small and we don't have these beautiful leaves, and Mommy takes a million pictures of us.  Oh, yeah, and a newspaper too.

Sadly, I think her favorite thing is running from the camera.

I didn't tell him to put his arm around his brother.  To me, that's priceless.

Sometimes he looks like this.

But most of the time he looks like this...

The joy of fall!!  We love the last, outrageous burst of color.  It fills the soul.

So, I brought some of the fall-y feeling inside to my mantel.  The light here makes it hard to get really good pictures 9 months of the year.  But, here ya go.  Ideas for fall 2011.

I opted out of my usual leaf garlands and candles this year.  I went with a simple berry garland along the mantel and dug through my shelves for an assortment of books.  I am in love with the wreath, and I attached it by putting a thumb tack in the top of my window and using a loop of brown yarn to secure it.

The pumpkins I tipped on their side by putting a little adhesive cork circle on the side (I was going to use tape, but didn't have any artists tape).

I took all the jackets off the books and chose them for their color, not their title.  I wanted cozy fall colors.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

50 lbs of candy

That's what it felt like, anyway.  Here is my little Cougar team (complete with bubble wrap football pads).  Clearly it doesn't matter to us where they go to school. ;)    
Between the church trunk or treat, Microsoft trick or treating, and the neighborhood, there was a lot of candy to be had.  If you need any, just come to our house.

And then yesterday, having reached my personal Halloween saturation point, I tore everything down and now it is Fall here.  Ahhhh....

Thursday, October 27, 2011

25 things you don't know about me

So they say it's my birthday, and in celebration of the fact that I am a year older, here are some things you probably didn't know about me.  I can do that since this is my blog and all.

1. Most of the time I listen to 'Frank Sinatra Radio' on Pandora, but sometimes I jam to Beastie Boys when the kids are napping.

2. Part of my lower lip is still numb from my wisdom teeth extraction 14 years ago.

3. If I had it to do again, I'd hyphenate my last name.  Sometimes I do it for fun.

4. I love fruit snacks, fruit roll ups, fruit gushers, etc.  The more sour the better.

5. I won a medal for Latin ballroom dancing in college.

6. In middle school, I played volleyball for a year.  I was on not A, not B, but the C team.  I was that good.  I still remember the time I got the ball.  Yes, the time.

7. I have a sneaking suspicion that my left foot is slightly shorter than my right.

8. I have a bad memory, and it can usually retain only good things. 

9. I think maybe I was meant for another time--one where people wear more pearls and cheek-kiss 'hello, darling'.

10. When I was little I had bad excema and even my 'best friend' called me red fungi face.  Since then I've never really put weight into how I or anyone else really looks on the outside.  I see beauty from the inside.

11. If the scale could bear it, I'd eat cheesecake every day.

12. I've played hide and seek in the Utah governor's mansion.

13. I'm a little afraid of things that have more or fewer legs than I have.

14. I've never completely agreed with the order of the alphabet.  I've always thought Q should go later, like maybe by V or something.

15. One of my favorite all-time jokes is from my high school physics teacher "There are three kinds of people in this world--those who can count, and those who can't."

16. I have a total crush on my husband.

17. If I could pick an imaginary mode of travel, it would definitely be bouncing.

18. I sang an opera-style solo in a recital while at BYU. 

19.  When I was little, I'd go into old beautiful buildings (like our  Andrew Carnegie city library) and I'd imagine that I lived there.  I'd decide what all the rooms would be, which one would be my bedroom, etc.  I still do. :)

20. My friends are like sunshine to me.

21.  There's a part of me that wants to pack up and move to the country with big, wide open spaces.  I think someday I'll probably do it.  I know, I wouldn't have pegged me as farmer material either.

22.  I find water chestnuts very creepy.

23.  My favorite interior "look" is "things that have been salvaged from old buildings".

24.  Every day I'm grateful for something. Usually it has something to do with my kids.

25.  I can't think of a 25th (it's too early), but it seemed like an appropriately-sized list number.

Tell me something about you.  Or something you know about me. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Checking in

In the flurry of life, I've neglected posting.  But we are here, and doing well.  We've been having all kinds of fun, but as I have forgotten to document much, I'm sure the kids will all look back, see the lack of pictures, and wonder why I didn't love them enough to plan fun activities.  Halloween is a big deal around our place.  We do 'calendar', where every night they find a note in the appropriate pocket directing them to hunt for a fun game/activity/treat/craft.  We've had dance parties ('Monster Mash', anyone?), played 'Pin the Eye on the Ghost,' and today's caramel apples if we have enough time before the church trunk or treat. 

This year the kids are going to be BYU cheerleaders and football players.  I. cannot. wait.  J and I are going to dress up and be BYU fans, too.  Look at me, all catching the spirit of Halloween.  So many chances for candy, too--we've got the trunk or treat, regular trick or treating, and the Microsoft Halloween party.  For the latter, I was given strict instructions "Nice trick or treating bags (no chintzy grocery sacks), the kids need to be nice and clean (no grubby crumbs on faces), nice hair (no just-up-from-a-nap-pigtails-fell-out-and-now-I-look-like-a-mad-scientist hair, I suppose)."  Microsoft is sure picky about whom they give candy to, huh?

Fall colors have reached us in the Northwest and they are a sight to behold.  It got just hot enough at the end of summer that I didn't put up a stink when it was time for autumn.   The insanely beautiful tree colors-- vibrant oranges, deep reds--and gorgeous clothes colors--rich plums, hazelnut leather.  My kind of eye candy.  I've been loving soft cardigans and boots (J is not a fan of boots over jeans, and when I brought them home he dubbed them my "equestrian hooker boots").  I've been baking all kinds of breads and treats.  Did I mention I killed our microwave?  Four {very expensive} minutes of cooking nothing in the microwave will kill it.  You've been warned.  So, for a couple weeks I've been a total pioneer.  Heating up the stove everytime I needed something hot.  Digging out the toaster oven.  But our new microwave got here last night and so I'm hanging up my bonnet and my flint, and rejoining modern life. 

I'm experimenting with recipes for caramel apple cider, and I just found one that promises to rival Starbucks'.  I'll keep you posted.   Sweetie is now over her 'I hate chocolate' phase of life and it's been ...well, delicious.  A little too delicious, if you ask my scale.  I would say my scale is lying, but my jeans concur.  And, in the mouth of two or three witnesses...  One of my friends lost 50 lbs.  She was inspirational to me.  I don't want to lose quite 50, but, hey, we all have our own Everest, am I right?  My Everest just happens to be made out of Costco's salted caramels and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

The kids are doing fabulously well.  Girlie is lovely as ever, and is quite the little artist--just ask the  apple and pear still life she drew.  Sammy is loving kindergarten and comes home with little Spanish phrases and songs. Buddy is rocking co-op preschool, and sings the "monkeys jumping on the bed song" incessantly. Sweetie, oh, Sweetie...I cannot get enough of that girl.  Seriously, she is so amazing and delightful to me that I can hardly stand it!!!!  She toddles around chattering in the cutest voice ever, wrestles with the big kids, lets us cuddle her.  The girl is like sunshine.  I'm going to cry just thinking about her.  I realize that this makes it sound like she is my favorite, but I don't have favorites.  (But there is something to be said about the cute, tiny one that doesn't talk back...)

Enough.  Have a great day!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Halloween 'Vision'

Do you LOVE this eye chart?  I discovered a website ( that lets you put in whatever letters and words you want.  Really, the possibilities are endless.  I came up with this one for Halloween (I'm getting really excited) and can't wait to put it up.  So, go wild!  Check it out.  (FYI, to save the file and print, you have to right click on the finished image and save it to your computer).

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Little Spooky {Halloween Mantel How-to}

Buddy has been very excited about making our house "spooky, spooky".  I thought I'd share what we did for our Halloween mantel this year. 

Left my window up.  It just makes a nice backdrop.

Added some spiderwebs.

And some tarantulas.

Placed a bunch of black candlesticks, some of which hold 'fake flame' candles.

Then I added some 'creepy cloth' that I found at Dollar Tree. It's all gauzy and holey.  Creepy indeed.

Then I added some small jack 'o lanterns, which I will rearrange in a minute.

I added a bigger pumpkin to the middle (click to enlarge), and a pack of black silhouette rats running around.

Spooky, spooky--yes?

Topped the whole thing off with some fake pumpkins that are not, for the thousandth time, balls.

The rats are attached with artists tape.  It holds well with no residue.

After I did it, Buddy said it was "too spooky, spooky" and asked me to take it down.
Happy haunting!!