Sunday, December 18, 2016

In the air there's a feeling of Christmas

My jeans have a mind of their own!  A few months back I noticed that my favorite pair of jeans were getting a little worn out and so I ordered a new pair of the very same jeans, same exact size too.  They have been hanging in my closet for a while now.  I have never worn them and they still had the tags on them until earlier today.  This morning I deliberately put on my, shall we say, "snug" dressier jeans, rather than any of my more loose fitting and comfy ones.  I did this with pure intent because I knew that a major part of my day would include treats and possibly take-out food from our favorite restaurant.  Take-out because there's no way I was up for actually sitting down in the restaurant and because we needed to pick up one thing from the restaurant for our missionaries Christmas care package.  The best part about going to our favorite restaurant is that the building it's in just happens to be an old Boston Market, so it has a drive through window!  That means no getting out of the car and waiting in their line for what I needed. (I love that!)  Back to my story.  My thinking for wearing my less lose fitting jeans was that if I started out in tighter jeans, it would be easier to say no to all of the food and goodies that I knew was headed my way throughout the day (or my hips way!....method to my madness kind of thinking here.) Big mistake.  You see, my jeans were not at all cooperative today.  As a matter of fact, they were down right cranky.  I believe that they shrank throughout the day.  For some reason, they just kept getting tighter and tighter and tighter to the point that I was seriously thinking that I should have got the next size up when I ordered this last time.  How dare they!  They didn't like it at all that we ordered wonderful cheese crisps and salsa to go for the three of us!  And they certainly didn't like it when we ran to Sonic to get Route 44 sized drinks for the three of us either.  The popcorn tin full of three different kinds of popcorn (my favorite being the Carmel corn, of course) was just plain offensive to them, not to mention the peppermint, white chocolate chip cookies we discovered in the tins we received yesterday!  The darn jeans were so put out (or was it stretched out?) that I didn't dare try one of the cookies our neighbor's brought over tonight for fear of what my jeans might do next.  By the end of the day, those jeans and I were just having some serious debates!  I'm not sure who won either.  We only ran one errand tonight to pick up food, by the time we were on our way home from that, they almost refused to unzip!  I'll show them!  I'm never wearing the dang things again!  How dare they shrink like that on me on such a day as this.  I may just have to go out and buy myself some new ones to prove my point!  They can just sit in the drawer with all of my other stubborn clothes that keep shrinking!  I hate it when my clothes just don't have the same holiday spirit that I do!  We were only in the car for a half an hour and went through two drive through windows.  Super simple, quick trip.  As I was driving home, and in my head, I began to recall all the food I'd eaten in the past two days that wasn't on my diet.  I couldn't have cheated on my diet enough to pack on the eighteen pounds I had lost, in two short days, could I???  Is that even possible???!!!  When we got home I peeled myself out of my jeans and put on my yoga pants.  When I started to put my cranky jeans away I took a glance at the tag and realized something odd.  I had ordered the regular fit, petite sized jeans!  I normally order relaxed fit, average sized jeans.  Holy Cannoli!!!  Talk about a relief!! The mental and physical anguish I experienced throughout our short trip brought on a major panic attack!  Not to mention a coughing attack as well.  I'm talking total freak out here!  Moral of the story....do not order jeans online late at night, in the dark when you are ill and on all kinds of medication.  Ever!  Seriously.  Doing so could be harmful to your health. No joke!
   
I've recovered somewhat from my jeans ordeal yesterday.  I woke up this morning parched, coughing & wheezing, and sneezing too.  Parched because I haven't been drinking as much water as I should or was drinking two days ago.  Coughing, wheezing, and sneezing because that's how my days always begin.  After a couple of trips to the bathroom, a drink of water with my morning medication, and a couple of puffs on my inhaler I was doing okay.  Still wheezing, but no 5th or 6th trip to the bathroom so far.  That's improvement.  Yay!  

We're getting down to the wire and the shopping lists are just about complete, thanks to Amazon and our oldest son Kyle.  I've got a few grocery lists to worry about towards the middle of this upcoming week but beyond that, I'm there!  My family teases me that I'm done until I think of another reason start all over again.  Ha-ha.  One thing that I learned long ago was that at this point, it's time to be enjoying not stressing over THINGS.  I discovered last year the joys of on-line shopping when the gift that I'd been sitting on for a particular family member, who shall remain nameless, was out of stock at Amazon.  Tears!  Thank heavens, there was a Borders in town.  They literally saved Christmas last year!   

A few last minute holiday ideas that have worked for us in the past.....
  • When all else fails, race to the grocery store and purchase a magazine that would be of interest to your recipient and buy them a subscription!  For years my parents received a subscription to National Geographic Magazine as a gift from my Grandparents.  Another friend of mine received a subscription to Real Simple magazine last year and I think that was her favorite gift of the season.  From scrapbooking to decorating to cooking, for the woman and from mechanics to sports to snowmobiling for the man! 
  • Keep a few generic gifts wrapped and under the Christmas tree.  Things like puzzles, hot DVDs, games or candle.  Then when your old friend shows up bearing a gift, you can just reach under the tree and not have to deal with the "Oops, I didn't get you anything" embarrassment.
  • Picture frames are a perfect gift for anyone!  If you're clueless of what to get them, buy a set of frames and you know that everyone has a photo box or drawer of photos....especially non-scrapbook type people.
  • Gift Certificates make the best stocking stuffers, but they are super gifts too.  One friend of mine goes all over town purchasing gift certificates for everyone she knows.  My favorite gift a few years ago was when someone went to all of my favorite stores and gave me generous gift certificates to each of them.  I loved it!  Where does your "hard to buy for" person love to eat?  Do they go to the movies a lot?  Do they get their car washed and detailed even?
  • Use your Internet options even still....have your packages delivered and shipped if need be and avoid standing in all those crazy long lines!  Don't worry if you've not gotten to the Christmas family newsletter yet.  Just send a New Year's Greeting instead.  Wait until the kids go back to school, the decorations are put away and then take some real time to think about what you want to say....maybe include a message of the birth and life of Christ.  Or share your testimony of Christ in your newsletter this year rather than just telling about your trips and accomplishments.  Make your newsletter much more meaningful to the recipient than just about bragging.  Your personal testimony, written down, might be something treasured and kept for years to come.  The reason for the holiday season is one of the greatest accomplishments ever!  
  • Schedule your gatherings back to back....two days in a row.  One cleaning.  Serving the same meal twice, cook it once.  Simplify!  
  • STOCKING STUFFERS:  Traditionally our stocking stuffers include a few "must haves" in each.  Each year, everyone could get a new toothbrush. It's a perfect gift because you need it anyway and with all of the fancy whistles and bells toothbrushes, it's a fun gift!  The toes in most of our stockings originally always had an orange and the fillers stuffed throughout the stockings are gum and everyone's favorite miniature candies.  Everyone usually gets a new CD or DVD, batteries to whatever toys await them under the tree.  Since film is now a thing of the past, a new memory card is awesome of a flash drive.  Make-up, lotions, lip balms, smelly stuffs, gift certificates to the movies, places to eat and favorite stores and whatever else I find to fit in them!  For many years when our kids were little, stocking stuffers have become dollar store finds and more than often, they are the favorite things.  Big guys usually get a new tool or a fancy flashlight of some sort. The girls get bath and hair things.  I love stuffing stockings!  Just writing about them makes me want to fill them tonight!  Here's my best stocking stuffer tip....I have a stack of gift boxes and tins in my Christmas Central (my go to place....it changes from year to year).  Each of these boxes or tins has a number on it, the numbers are the birth order in our family.  Each box holds all of the stocking stuffers until Christmas Eve.  I keep a master list of what I have for who and write them down as soon as I put them into the person's box.  This way, I don't have to sort them on Christmas Eve and wish that I'd bought a little more of this or that for one and a little less for another.  Plus, it's easy to place things in the boxes as soon as it comes home from the store and doesn't end up getting lost until next July!  On Christmas Eve, when I do stuff the stockings, it only takes a few minutes because the work was done ahead of time.  Just empty each box into the stocking.  If you are a stocking stuffer wrapper, here's a tip....during the season, as you wrap other gifts, place a little piece of extra trimmed off gift wrap in a file folder, kept near the boxes and wrap your stocking stuffers with the leftover wrapping.
  • RELAX!  ENJOY! Don't forget to stop and smell the poinsettias!  


GOT AN ELF??

In the past, we've been the recipient of the Twelve Days of Christmas. One year we heard the doorbell ring and we discovered a huge bag with twelve individually wrapped gifts and gift tags with numbering each gift, one to be opened each day.  Another year, each day, we'd receive a package on our doorstep.  And yet, another year, we had a phantom ring of the doorbell during dinner each night for twelve days straight, one to discover a new gift on our doorstep.  Any way you look at it, this is one fun way to make the holidays special for another family.  Here's an idea that's much less complicated, similar to "Booing" your neighbor at Halloween.   You could do this with your ward family too.  It's a cute little way to deliver holiday treats or gifts and spread holiday cheer.  That is, if your ward family or neighbors wouldn't mind playing along.


A cute little elf is now on the run
to bring you some treats and holiday fun.
Copy 2 Elves and 2 notes, then take a tasty treat
To 2 of your neighbors around the corner or up the street.
Do it right away, Keep the Elves moving fast.
Leave treats only where no other Elf has passed.
Deliver it early in the morning or in the dark of night.
But, do it quickly and try to stay out of sight!
On Christmas Eve, there'll be a little Elf path
Showing just how much friendship and love your neighborhood hath.
When Christmas is over the Elves may disappear
But, the friendship you've shared will last all year!


TRADITIONS:

  • I have asked my kids about their favorite family traditions and of course, they tease me first with "I used to like when we decorated the tree together with a box of cheap chocolates."  They never let me live down the fact that I normally do it without their help now that they are older....until this year of course when Lexi did all the decorating!  Next year I think I will start decorating the Christmas tree BEFORE Thanksgiving Day so I can enjoy it with my family.  BUT, the best tradition that I have never realized that they appreciated as much as I do is......On Christmas Eve morning, everyone helps get the house company clean.  Once that is done, they all get to open a family gift.  This is not the Jammie's that tend to get opened on Christmas Eve, but this is usually a huge puzzle or a fun new game, plus sometimes a DVD. The purpose of this gift is to keep them all busy and occupied all day long.  Christmas Eve is the longest day of the year and having something fresh and new to keep their minds occupied, their eyes off the clock and them out from under my feet in the kitchen while I prepare the big feast for the evening is one of the best things we've ever done! 
  • Here's a tradition that I'd never heard of until recently.  On Christmas morning, most families have a traditional breakfast.  One Mom wraps one last gift for each member of the family and places it on their plate. This always gets everyone to the table quickly and give the excitement of opening one last gift and making the anticipation last just a bit longer.  Love it!  Not to mention it would be fun to decorate a formal and extra pretty table for it too!  You know me, I love a formal sit down dinner anytime. ~smile~smile~
  • No matter how much or little we have, there is always room to share our abundance.  One holiday tradition that I feel that everyone should participate in is giving to someone less fortunate.  I don't mean just dropping some change in the bucket in front of the grocery store.  Look for someone in need.  They may need only a few moments of your time or energy, not necessarily a generous donation to their wallet. But, no matter what, find someone to give of your time, talents, energy, or hard earned cash if you are so inclined.  Do it with a willing heart.  Be creative.  Give it serious thought and prayer before doing it.  The blessings that come to you will be ten fold!!  One of my favorite experiences of this type was almost seventeen years ago when we struggling and we had just moved into a home after having Lexi.  Kevin was out of work at the time and I had just started a new job a few months prior.  Well, that year we had an amazing Christmas.  I remember presents filled half of our living room.  No joke!  Somewhere I have a photo of the presents all gathered under and around the tree that year.  We could barely find room to sit down to open gifts that Christmas morning because there were so many of them.  We've never had quite a Christmas like that since.  It was all because of the kindness and love shared by those new friends in our new ward family.  Our kids still remember that Christmas and I think that has left a lasting impression on each of us.  To this day Kevin and I talk about some day being able to do the same kind of thing for someone else.  No, we aren't even close to being in that kind of financial situation, but neither was that ward family.  In fact, I know it was a huge combined effort by many many families around the stake.  Not just a few that helped to make that Christmas as amazing as it was.  You know there are others who could certainly benefit from this kind of outpouring of love and kindness right in your very own neighborhood.  Individually you may be in the same financial situation Kevin and I find ourselves in, but talk to your neighbors or ward family and do it together.  Trust me, it will make a huge difference in helping everyone involved remember the real reason for this holiday season....both giver and receiver alike.  
  • The last tradition that I want to share this holiday season is that of gathering friends and family from near and far, in body and in spirit.  Things may not always go as planned.  The cake may fall.  The house may be cluttered with luggage and piles of extra treats and food from neighbors and friends.  The kids may whine or may not always get along....heck, even the big people may not get along.  BUT.  What a wonderful experience to be surrounded by those you love.  I've thought all afternoon about how blessed my own life really is.  I've felt close to my family and friends, some who've even passed away years ago.  My father-in-law, my grandparents that I knew and loved and the ones that I never had the privilege of meeting, my sister who I never met but we are Facebook friends and I'm getting to know her a little bit that way, family members who I barely have any relationship with at all, a dear friend who has been gone for many years, and of the family and friends who will gather in our home over the upcoming weeks. I consider my family and friends among my greatest gifts.  Most of all, my testimony of Christ, is my gift.  I read this a few weeks ago and have thought of it ever since.  And so, this is my Christmas gift to all who've been reading my blog throughout this month of December:
Inside, the Inn buzzed with laughter and chatter.   Distant relatives who had not seen each other in years renewed family ties over bowls of hot soup and goblets of wine. They broke bread together, swapping stories of their journeys. A teenage boy strummed his lyre in the corner, and several fathers clapped their hands in time to the music.

In the rush to serve tables, the innkeeper, balancing a tray of breads and meats answered a knock at the door. A man calling himself Joseph stood outside. He and his young wife needed a room. A glance told the innkeeper the woman was heavy with child. He could barely hear himself talk with so much noise behind him, but he managed to explain that there was no room, only an empty stall in the stable out back.

Shrugging his shoulders, the innkeeper quickly apologized and went into the crowded room. Outside, Joseph stood for a moment, listening to the laughter inside. Back in the stillness of the night, Mary waited. The young couple made their way to the stable. And while music and laughter and feasting went on and on, just yards away behind the walls of the inn, the Son of God quietly entered mortality.

Sometimes the best moments of the Christmas season do not happen during the crowded parties or the rush of holiday preparations. They don't occur in the music and laughter, the camaraderie and feasting. Special Christmas memories are those quiet moments when God unexpectedly surprises us. With Himself. With an overwhelming sense of His nearness and love.

In the midst of so much activity, so much going on, so many days in the calendar filled with appointments or parties. God seeks out the quiet heart, and speaks to us in a still small voice.

Think of the stable in Bethlehem. Somehow it stands serene. What a contrast to the celebrating going on in that inn. Who would have supposed? Who would have suspected? If someone had only dropped what he was doing to leave the party and go check on his donkey. If someone had only slipped away from the festivities for a moment to seek a quiet moment outside.

Just think of what they might have witnessed! Perhaps they would have seen the angels. Maybe the shepherds. And yes, even the Son of God. Take the time this Christmas season to step outside the clamor and excitement. Visit the stable and ask God to speak to you in the quiet and serenity and stillness, He will!!!


A Missionary Christmas Devotional

Our missionary is currently serving a two year mission in New York.  He is working hard, loving the people he serves, and enjoying every minute of his time there.  One thing about our missionary is that he has always been the type of person to just go and do.  If there was something Curtis wanted or some place he wanted to be he would just take off and go do it.  This started at a very young age when he took off one Sunday morning down our busy neighborhood street at the age of two.  We couldn't find Curtis anywhere.  I had just returned home from working an overnight shift and had locked the doors and even bolted the lock at the top so he wouldn't get out.  (He was quite the little escape artist!)  Kevin and I were working opposite shifts to avoid having to pay for three kids in daycare.  I said goodbye to Kevin as he was leaving for work that Sunday morning and everyone else in the house was still sleeping, so I decided to take a quick nap on the couch until they all woke up.  That was a mistake.  Somehow while I was sleeping on the couch, Curtis dragged a kitchen chair up to the front door so he could unlock the lock at the top of the door and get outside.  When my oldest two kids woke up I got up and couldn't find Curtis anywhere.  I searched every nook and cranny in the house and then I saw the chair and the lock at the top of the door and I knew what had happened.  Curtis had escaped!!!  I went outside and he was no where to be found.  Most of our neighbors had already left for our early morning Sacrament Meeting that started at 8AM so I couldn't ask them for help.  There I was, standing in the middle of the sidewalk, scared to death of what could have happened to my sweet little boy and I began to pray through my crying all at the same time.  Never before have I ever felt so alone and scared in my entire life!  It was the worst feeling I have ever felt in my life.  Well, through all of my panic I could hear the faint whisperings of that still small voice telling me to look across and down the street for a woman.  At that moment I thought it was odd that I should be looking for a women, but I looked.  Low and behold there was this woman I had never seen before walking up our street carrying Curtis in her arms still in his yellow pajamas and pointing her in the direction of our home.  I couldn't believe it!  I was still crying like a baby and trying to thank this sweet older lady for helping to bring my little escape artist home.  I guess Curtis had crossed the busy neighborhood street all by himself (it was at least 4 or 5 lanes wide) and had managed to walk all the way down several blocks alone.  The woman said she saw him and knew immediately that someone would be looking for him.  She said she tried to get Curtis to tell her where he lived, but he wouldn't talk.  He just pointed in the direction of our house so she picked him up and started walking with him in her arms.  I was so glad he was not hurt and home.  Kevin only worked a few blocks away from our home and was determined to jump in the car and come home to help us look for Curtis if he didn't hear from me in the next 10 minutes.  As soon as we were all safe and sound in our home again, I grabbed the phone to call Kevin to let him know we had found our Curtis.  

That was the beginning of many little escapes made by our youngest son, Curtis.  Over the next few years we experienced many.  One time only a day or two after I returned from the hospital after having Lexi he did it again.  We were living in an apartment at the time and Curtis was just to fast for me and got out.  He wanted to be out and about with his two older siblings and they promised to keep an eye on him.  Well, I received a knock on the door from a not so nice police officer telling me that I needed to keep a better eye on the little guy, and he certainly didn't have any sympathy for me once I explained that I just got home from the hospital after having a c-section and wasn't moving as fast as I use to.  That was a lovely experience.  This time we also had the lock at the top of the door so Curtis couldn't escape.  Obviously that wasn't working still.  

The next time happened after Lexi was in first grade.  We had just moved into a new  house in a new neighborhood where we knew only a few people, and there was a birthday party my kids were invited to crash.  The two of them had been out playing and were told to not leave our street. That, of course, fell on deaf ears when they heard about the bounce house at the birthday party.  Kevin and I searched high and low for our kids but they were nowhere to be found.  It got to the point that we were knocking on every door on our street and the street behind us.  There was no sign of them.  When we both got back to our house we were just about to call the police when around the corner came Lexi and Curtis with a shocked look on their faces to see both of their parents out front in the yard.  They thought they wouldn't get caught. Surprise!  When they got within ear shot Kevin and I made sure they both knew we had been knocking on doors and were just about ready to call the police.  The cordless phone was in my hand.  They then explained where they had been and that they were invited to come and play in the bounce house at the party.  I was not happy.  Needless to say, they both ended up grounded for a while.  


Even as a teenager Curtis has never been one to stay down.  He would be out with friends and get so busy with all the fun they were having that he would forget to call home.  OR he would go out of his way to help a friend and would forget the time and fail to call home.  It was like it was just a part of his DNA to go out and seek adventure and take no thought to telling us, his parents, about what he was doing or why he was late.  I also think it had something to do with his inquisitive mind.  He was always fascinated by people who had something to teach him.  My point in telling you all of these little embarrassing stories is not to tell on myself for my poor parenting skills.  (Honestly, I don't think any parent could have kept Curtis down) But to explain that since Curtis has been out on his mission something has changed in him.  He writes home every single week and takes the time to tell us a little bit about what has been happening in his life and about all the adventures he has been on.  That really surprises me and thrills me at the same time.  I love that he is having the time of his life, but I also love that he is keeping us somewhat informed and has been faithful in doing so his entire mission.  It's awesome!  I think having to report and stay with a companion has helped our sons urge to take off quite a bit.  For that I am grateful.  I also love that his mission is keeping him super busy and active while he serves others.  That's my favorite part.  When we hear from him and talk to him at Christmas or Mother's Day he says he loves getting out and helping the people in his mission.  How cool is that?

A few days ago his entire mission got together for their Christmas devotional.  It was pretty awesome to see the video of it sent by his mission president, but it was also nice to see the photos as well and read the words from his sweet wife as well.  Below is what she had to say about that devotional.....
The Christmas Devotional was held today in Ossining at the Yorktown Chapel.  It is the one time a year the entire mission comes together and I loved every minute of it.  Missionaries got up very early to catch trains and others drove a couple hours to arrive on time.  The Assistants had coordinated getting over 100 missionaries picked up from the Croton Hudson station.  It was no small feat.  All senior couples and mission vans were utilized.  It all worked out and every missionary was accounted for and seated prior to the 10 am start.  The devotional was filled with music, video, testimony and the SPIRIT.  Elder Hoskins had us all in tears as he sang my very favorite Christmas song "Oh, Holy Night."  It was a sacred day always to be remembered.  I hope and pray each missionary feels the love of the Savior and the love we have for them.  It can be a hard time to be away from home and loved ones.  They are amazing though and creating memories that will stay with them a lifetime.  Missions memories will be recalled as they reflect on Christmas moments that are cherished.

One of the first photos we got to see was of Curtis helping to set things up.  Look at that grin on his face.  Just a little smirk.  Silly man.  You can see the mischief in those eyes.  

This next photo was of the cultural hall and the rows and rows of tables being dressed up and made pretty for all the missionaries.  So pretty! 

This was the room as the missionaries all began to arrive.

These next two photos I think are my favorite.  Santa is the youngest and only son to President and Sister Smith.  Doesn't he make a great Santa???



These next few photos are of the entire group as they are getting together for a video of them singing and wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.  These are the photos Curtis, I mean Elder Schmidt, was in.  Do you see him????





Before I go, let me leave you with one last idea.....Short and sweet.
This would be a great Family Home Evening idea.  Read the Beatitudes.  Then, even more important, apply them today.  Look for ways to apply them and remember the example of Jesus Christ in his every day living.  Living those simple rules could definitely make for a merrier season and, in the long run, create a happier world for everyone.  I love this Neal A. Maxwell quote and it goes along with this.  
"The best way to valiantly testify of Jesus is to become, steadily, more like him."  After all, isn't that what we should all be striving to do....to become more like him?  I love it! 

Speaking of gifts, I would be remiss if I were to not express the gratitude that I've felt this past several weeks for the tender mercies shown in my life!  Things have literally fallen into place in nearly every single way, even though I've been coughing and hacking like a crazy person.  It's been amazing and I've felt a watchful eye from above helping me out immensely!  I do not have it all, and I will be the first person to tell you just how imperfect I really am, and I certainly would never want to make anyone think I thought that I was perfect....believe me, I know better.  I couldn't fake it if I wanted to.   Yet, through all my imperfections and my trying to just make it through my crazy so called life, I have come to realize just how blessed my little world is!  We truly are.  Enough said.

Take care my friends and enjoy your week. We might not be back for a bit, but we will talk again soon.

"Until one feels the spirit of Christmas,there is no Christmas.  All else is outward display--so much tinsel and decorations.  For it isn't the holly, it isn't the snow. It isn't the tree not the firelight's glow.  It's the warmth that comes to the hearts of men when the Christmas spirit returns again."
--Anonymous
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