My parents were planning on arriving tomorrow but have decided (because of weather) to come early, and will be arriving today. Which means that I have a huge list of things to do today (with husband out of town, working; and three kids home ALL day and a playdate coming over at 2). I have a talk for Sunday to prepare, cinnamon rolls to make, a house to scrub, sheets to change, a sink to fix (it broke yesterday and sprayed me right in the face, soaking me completely), cookies to frost, and journals to make for my primary kids.
But I really wanted to say:
I hope you all have a wonderful, relaxing, fun Christmas with peace and happiness.
I remember when I was in elementary school, occasionally we would have read-a-thons. Days when we did nothing but read. We got to sit on the anywhere–the floor, at our desk or wherever. We got to bring books to read and we got to read books from the school library. Sometimes we would get treats. I always loved these days and looked forward to them with great excitement.
Today, Oldest is having a read-all-day day. He is in first grade, and today is the last day before the Christmas break. They were encouraged to take slippers and blankets, and a mug. They need the mug because they are going to have hot cocoa (how fun!!). The teachers asked for volunteers to go in a read stories to the class. I went in this morning and read the book that Oldest was begging me to read. I caved and read the book I didn’t want to read. I read The Polar Express. It is a cute book, but in a big class, it is not a good book. And, another mother had read the book all ready. Oh, well. He was excited. And Youngest ran around the room making the kids laugh (and probably embarrassed Oldest.)
The whole thing has me thinking…. When was the last time that I took a day to just read? It has been years. Far too long. How about for you? Usually, when I have a chance to sit down and read it is right before bed and I am so tired that I just have a few minutes to devote before my eyelids droop too far. I know that it is good for kids to see their parents read too.
So, my goal now is to take a day this Christmas break and have a read-a-thon with my kids. We can spend the day silent-reading, reading aloud, and acting out stories. We can stay in jammies and have fun snacks. I’m going to challenge you to a read-a-thon with your kids too. What fun memories it will make!
Weight Update: I continue to act like a yo-yo. Up and down, I go. Last week I was down 1.5 pounds, and this week I am back up. BUT, I popped a hole through the knee of my last jeans so I went to my favorite store to buy my favorite jeans and…guess what….I was able to get a size smaller! I have always been somewhere around 14-16 but I bought size 12! They probably added stretch or adjusted the size or something, but it still feels good.
Other Stuff: Bryan got a new calling at church yesterday. It is a doozy. Stake Young Mens Presidency – 1st Counselor. We aren’t really sure what all this entails (if you know, please enlighten me) or when he starts. I think that he is a little excited though. He is ready for a new challenge, I think. Finally got my Christmas out. I sent some of them last week and the rest today. Oh, what a wonderful feeling.
My parents arrive Saturday so there is much house cleaning and grocery shopping to be done this week. Also, going into Oldest’s classroom to read a story for their read-a-thon. Trying to decide between two books: Bear Stays Up For Christmas and The Polar Express. Any thoughts?
I am revamping my chore charts and house rules. I am condensing the 9 rules into 5, and adding chores. They are doing so good at it, so I thought, hey! Why not make them do more of my stuff?
We will be celebrating my parents arrival by watching the BYU football bowl game. Go cougars. (Anyone know who they are playing? Hmm. Probably ought to find out.)
Favorite Moments from the week:
*Taking Daughter and Youngest to the mall and having Daughter act perfectly.
*While I was building the Thomas the train track that Youngest was demanding that I build, he decided that I should stop immediately and hook the trains together. I told him: “Hold your little pants on!” and he threw down the train and grabbed as much of his little Gap sweat pants in his little fists as possible.
*Lunch out at Olive Garden with Bryan. And no kids.
*Finished Christmas shopping, and it is a wonderful feeling (just waiting for Amazon to send those last two gifts…).
*I knew the library had one book that I put on hold there, but when I got to the library, there was four books waiting for me!
*The young men and Bishopric came to our house caroling and brought us a box of Christmas treats (chocolates, oranges, nuts, etc…)
My cousin shared this on our family website. She is a Daughter of the American Revolution member and got it from someone at a meeting she was at. It is beautiful, so I thought that I would share.
A Soldier’s Poem
The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.
The sound wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear
Perhaps just a cough, I didn’t quite know,
Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
“What are you doing?” I asked without fear,
“Come in this moment, it’s freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!”
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire’s light
Then he sighed and he said “Its really all right, I’m out here by choice.
I’m here every night. So that your family can sleep without fright.
It’s my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I’m proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at ‘Pearl on a day in December,”
Then he sighed, “That’s a Christmas ‘Gram always remembers”
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ‘Nam’,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I’ve not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he’s sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue… an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.”
“So go back inside,” he said, “harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I’ll be all right.”
“But isn’t there something I can do, at the least,
“Give you money,” I asked, “or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you’ve done,
For being away from your wife and your son.”
Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
“Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we’re gone,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.”
I need to say thankyou to those soldiers (and thier families) that stand watch for me. I am so grateful. Thank you.
Julie is hosting an online cookie-exchange so I thought that I would play along and post my cookie recipe. I got it from my mom, and it is excellent. It tastes just like those big pink-frosted cookies that you can buy in gas stations.
The Best Rolled Sugar Cookies
1 1/2 cup softened butter
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
5 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sitr in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and chill overnight. Roll and cut cookies. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes. Makes about 40 cookies.
Behka asked me for my easy caramel recipe so I thought I would post that at the same time. First, if you want to start making candies you need to buy this book. It has so many good recipes and tips in it . I pull it out every year when I am making chocolates.
30 Minute Caramels
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 tsp salt
Butter a 9″ square baking pan and set aside. In a heavy 4 qt saucepan, combine milk, corn syrup, sugars, butter and salt. Place over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture comes to a boil.
Clip on candy thermometer. Stir constantly to prevent scorching, cook to 240F or soft-ball stage. Pour into prepared pan. Cool until firm. Cut into 1 inch square. Makes 81 pieces.
Tips: Use a HEAVY knife to cut the caramels. Place an ice pack underneath to keep them cool while cutting. Waiting 24 hours will help make cutting them easier.
My good friend, Behka, who is new to the blogging world, asked this question on her blog and here are my answers. What are your favorite Christmas traditions? What do you make sure you do each year? What do you love about the holiday season?
*A favorite tradition for me has always been cutting down the Christmas tree. It was always so much fun growing up and it is so much to go out with my own kids and see the excitement in their faces too.
*I love sending out and receiving Christmas cards, too. I almost always make them (for the last 6-7 years anyway) and normally I have them made, addressed and stamped by Nov. 15. And there they wait until after Thanksgiving when I mail them out, but it was Dec. 7 before I had my cards out this year. And I still have a stack I need to finish. Augh!
*I love making the goodies for Christmas. My mom always made homemade chocolates, just like her mom, and now I do too. I love to make sugar cookies and decorate them with the kids and last year I started making caramels as well. And the caramel recipe is super easy.
*Christmas Eve was always the best at my parents house. We would start the festivities with an odd assortment of food for dinner – cheese fondue, li’l smokies, veggies, cheese ball and crackers, chips and dip, turkey and rolls for sandwiches, etc. There was always a Christmas puzzle up to work on during spare time. We play our home-made Christmas bingo until everyone had won a prize or two. We use M&M’s as place markers and try not to eat them all before the game is done. We read the story out of the bible, although now we read it from this book. It is a beautiful book, and it quotes the King James version of the bible. And we always get to open a gift on Christmas Eve. It is always pajamas. Growing up, my mom made the pajamas for everyone. As a married woman, my mother-in-law does it for the grandkids but she didn’t this year, so they will open the pajamas that I got at Wal-mart for $5 on “black Friday.” After that we put out chocolate milk and home made chocolates for Santa and try to go to sleep.
*Each year my mother-in-law buys an advent calendar for the kids that has a chocolate for each day leading up to Christmas, and my kids look forward to this every year. When Oldest commented that his cousin was lucky (being the only child) because he didn’t have to share his chocolates with a brother and a sister, we talked about how he doesn’t have to share but he also doesn’t have a someone always there to play with.
*Christmas music. Growing up my mom always played a lot of great music at the Christmas time and I do as well. I have probably 12 cds that I just love to listen to so we listen to Christmas music non-stop from the day after Thanksgiving until New Years.
*A few years ago our Bishopric gave all the families in the ward these beautiful little white felt stockings, with a poem inside. Each year we put a personal goal, and family goals in the stocking as our “gifts” to Christ. The following Christmas Eve we pull out last years “gifts” and start again. My kids are getting old enough to do this now too and I can’t wait.
Your turn. Tell me about your favorite Christmas traditions in the comments or on your own blog.
I have been told by everyone on the planet how great this book is. I think that I am the last person on earth to read it. My friend couldn’t believe that I didn’t quit reading the last book that I read to start reading Twilight. Through out the first half of the book I kept thinking that I need to put it down. I thought, “this is going to give me nightmares!” Luckily, it didn’t. I read just a chapter or two and night but by the time that I was three fourths the way through it, I couldn’t put it down. I will say though, I didn’t love it. I thought it was good, and interesting and while I will read the sequels, I probably wont read it again. I am glad that I didn’t buy it (thanks, mom, for letting me borrow it!) I have the second one, but I think that I need to read something Christmas-y right now, instead of more vampire stories. Three stars from me.
A Christmas Melody….Anita Stansfield
I wasn’t feeling very Christmas-y after reading about vampires so I switched gears to read this light, romantic, easy read from LDS author Anita Stansfield. I like reading her books because I know that they will be clean. This is the story of a young lady, Melody, who is rising above a life of abuse and making something of herself, when she meets Matthew. Of course, they fall in love. Four star from me.
And now, I am off to read some more about vampires in book two…..
Here is my list of Christmas cd’s. It is a good variety, and I enjoy them very much. If you are looking for a new cd for your collection, try one of these:
Josh Groban - Noel – Really, he has one of the most perfect voices around. I enjoy most of the songs (I skip over the duet with Faith Hill though…I am not a Faith fan) even though there are some that unfamiliar to me. This just came out this year, and I am disappointed that it doesn’t have “O Holy Night” on it.
Anne Murray – What a Wonderful Christmas (2 discs) – She has such a pleasant voice and there is a nice variety of fun and hymn-like songs.
George Strait – Fresh Cut Christmas - From Hallmark last year. I bought the three cards…I don’t think that I ever used them, but I definitely got my moneys worth with listening to this cd. The perfect amount of “country” for me.
Holiday Traditions – Christmas Piano - I picked this up at ShopKo a few years ago for just a couple of dollars. It is sooo good. It is so relaxing. It is just the piano, which as I get older, I realize that I could listen to the piano being played all day. I should have kept taking lessons. This disc has the only version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” that I like.
Johnny Mathis – Christmas Is… - Really, is Christmas really Christmas with out hearing Johnny Mathis sing “Ava Maria” or “Sleighride”? I don’t think so. This is a good cd. It is one that my mom always played when we were growing up so it is one of the first that I put in after Thanksgiving.
Mormon Hymn Classics – Christmas Classics with the London Philharmonic Orchestra - We got this cd for free when we bought our Living Scripture DVD’s, and it is very beautiful and very relaxing.
Bar J Wranglers – Home for Christmas - One of my favorite songs is on this cd. I even used it in my Christmas lesson for Young Women’s last year. The song is “Mary, Did you Know?” and no one does it better than them. It is a fun, upbeat disc.
Kurt Bestor – Happy Holidays - A gift from a childhood friend a couple of years ago and not in my top five but it is a nice, relaxing collection of songs.
Michael Crawford – A Christmas Album - I got this from my mom (he sings for the Phantom of the Opera) and it is good, if you are in the right mood. Some of the songs are kind of hokey though.
Cherie Call – Gifts – She is an LDS artist and she writes a lot of her own songs. This album has a few traditional songs that she does a wonderful job on (“The First Noel,” “Silent Night,” and “I Wonder as I Wander”), but the others are songs that she wrote. A few are kind of strange, but a few are sooo wonderful. I love “Behind the Scenes” a song written from the perspective of Joseph, and “I Just Knew” from the perspective of Mary and “One Star”. She has an amazing voice, and is very talented.
And last but not least a couple of variety discs:
Now That’s What I Call Christmas (2 discs) - Let me tell you this right now: If you buy this collection, throw away disc 2 right away. It is awful, but disc one? Love it. Don’t let anyone touch it but you so that it will last for years.
All Time Christmas Favorites – I got this at ShopKo too, and it has a nice variety of songs including “Silver Bells” and “Do You Hear What I Hear” which you don’t hear a lot.
It dawned on me about four hours after my last post that today is Thursday. Not Friday. Oh, well.