Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Musings

Sometimes Christmas can be pretty disappointing for moms. You work to make sure everybody has the perfect present, and boxes and packages of wonderful, charming magical things, and you get...a vacuum.

This can be difficult for those of us whose "love language" is gift giving.

One year, my sweet littles asked what I wanted for Christmas. All I really wanted was a card of small, sparkly earrings, that I could wear everyday. They were very sneaky, and went shopping with dear Miss K, who helped them wrap the gift. They sneakily told me that they put my gift in a big box, so I would never guess what it was! And I didn't! Because when I unwrapped it, it was a frying pan.

However, as they have gotten older the gifts have improved, and this year was pretty excellent. My Favorite Gentleman, who knows me well got me really good lotion (in a food scent--Mango Melon--not a flowery scent--urg!)and two pairs of the best socks in the world (which I LOVE and can NOT buy for myself because A) I really hate shopping, B) I really, REALLY hate shopping for socks, and C)I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY hate shopping for myself--and I always have cold feet, so they truly are the gift that keeps on giving, and that make me feel loved and cared for all year long.) SmallDaughter went on a shopping field trip with her class that netted me a candle and a box of thin mints. I got other lovely stuff, and got to watch a movie with MFG (Sergeant York, which I really recommend, even though it is hard to find!).

In the "do I laugh or do I cry" category: While we were upstairs watching the movie, SmallDaughter poured the whole bottle of lotion onto the carpet, and opened up the thin mints, and fed them to the WonderDog, who (luckily) barfed them up on the carpet, too.

I spent the last half of the afternoon with my carpet shampooer. Boy am I grateful for the carpet cleaner! It has gotten a workout this week! Chocolate syrup (again--she just LOVES it!) and eggs, milk and flour at different times.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Quiet Men

Standing at the front of the front of the congregation, singing in the choir on Sunday, I saw something so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. In the back of the chapel, I saw a Sister sitting with a Handsome Young Man, who had his arm around her as they listened to Christmas Carols.

Now, this sister, to paraphrase the Bible "hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see (her), there is no beauty that we should desire (her)". Certainly Abercrombie & Fitch and The Gap aren't pounding down her door with modeling contracts. Physically she is small, and has obviously had a hard life--physically and emotionally. She has been a widow for 25 years, and struggled as a single mother to raise her two children. She succeeded--amazingly well. They are now strong, intelligent, caring adults who benefit their communities and the world. But, she is home alone.

She is never at the front, in the spotlight or looking for attention. While others perform at the Ward Talent Show--she is in the kitchen, making sure the desserts are sliced, that every casserole has a serving spoon and that all the dishes get washed up and put away afterwards. She is easy to miss, if you aren't looking for her.

So, when I saw her in the loving embrace of a good man, 30 years younger than she is--my heart melted. Because he is the fiance of her daughter, who was singing in the choir. And he loves her. Because he recognizes that most of the wonderful traits in the fabulous woman that he will marry in two months, were given, taught and trained by this quiet, humble lady, and he loves her for those gifts.

Our society, which adores the loud and self promoting, overlooks men who are quiet. My dad is a quiet man. He hates confrontation, he hates raised voices. A lot of people who saw my parents together assumed that my mom "wore the pants" in the family, because she was much louder and outgoing than my dad. They were wrong. In a quiet, loving way, he led us by example.

I hear women talk about how "all men are jerks" or "all the good men have been taken". Well, girls there are several reasons for that: The good men are busy doing good things--quietly. They aren't tooting their own horns and talking about how great they are. They just roll up their sleeves and get the job done. AND if you are looking for a good man--don't look at the singles bar--because the guys who are there are not the ones you want. Also, men live up to what we tell them. Once, my wise mother told me that small children obey everything you tell them--so if you tell them they are brats, or little terrors, or "Just like your lazy father"...they will be. Men, too live up to the messages they hear from us.

There are LOTS of good men out there. I am privileged to know some of them. And I want to tell them thanks. Thanks for quietly being "real men"--who take care of their responsibilities, their families, their friends, and our world. Who stand up for what is good and important in our culture, and--if it was required, would lay down their lives for it.

I have no words to express how grateful I am.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Busy Times

I have triumphantly finished last week! That in itself is a major cause for celebration, since every day had multiple back-to-back (or, sometimes, OVERLAPPING) activities. Also, My Favorite Gentleman is laid off, and is home--all the time. The readjustment continues.

The Ward Christmas Party (that I was in charge of, in my position as Activities Chairman) came off mostly smoothly, and was pretty much a success. We got our Christmas Tree before the storm hit--when we went to the tree farm on Saturday, it was so warm all the snow had melted off--and we were all seriously overdressed! The snow rolled in overnight. The Bishop canceled the last hour of church and sent us home early.

MFG has delivered one of his favorite rants (and I totally agree with him) about how the news coverage of winter weather creates and stirs up panic. What was built up as "THE STORM OF THE CENTURY!!" gave us about 1 1/2 inches of snow. Really? I thought that was just what happened if you live in the North and it is Winter. North+Winter=Snow. Not panic every time a snowflake falls. Just Winter--it happens every year, people!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Men aren't the only Wise Ones!

Seven or eight years ago, I was talking to a friend about Christmas traditions. We weren't close friends yet--she had only moved in a few months before, but we were on our way. She said something that shocked me. She told me that in their family, each person only got 3 gifts, since the original tradition of gift giving came from the three gifts that the wise men brought.

At first, the idea seemed terrible to me. I couldn't believe they would deprive their children like that. I love gift giving, and finding the perfect gift for each person. I love the piles of gifts under the tree, growing day by day throughout the Christmas Season.

However, I pondered on the idea for several years, and I came to see many advantages. We implemented it as a family about 3 years ago, and I am a firm convert now!

I realized that since SmallDaughter believes that all wrapped gifts are for her, nothing gets put out until Christmas Eve, anyway. Also, with 5 people and the WonderDog (yes, he gets gifts too--he's getting a brand new collar this year--shhh! Don't tell!) we have 18+ gifts under the tree. And there are always other gifts from other people, so it is still a nice sized pile.

Far from of depriving our children, it has forced us to focus on the things that are really important to each of them, and it has actually enriched them. Instead of getting more "stuff", just to have more, we have focused on quality instead of quantity.

It has reduced greed, materialism and the "gimme-gimme's" (not just in the children, either!). It is much easier to plan now, too! Before, there was always the panicked realization that one child was getting WAY more (or WAY less!) than the others. Not an issue anymore.

Since we have had a tradition that one gift (for every gift giving occasion, not just Christmas) is a book, and since I love for another to be something that encourages their creativity, shopping is a breeze! It makes budgeting and staying in the budget much simpler--if we can afford a big gift--great! And if we can't--I can spend my time and energy getting something that costs less and means more.

To make my life easier, in November we start Wish Lists. We have three categories, and each person can put down 4 items in each category. The first is "If Money Were No Object"--this tends to be electronics, but isn't always. (I believe this the first year that a chocolate lab puppy hasn't made it onto BigGirl's list!) The second category is "Under $20", and the third is "Books I Want". That gives a nice range of ideas for parents, siblings and anyone else who needs to know!

We don't even really have Santa at our house anymore, since BigGirl and LargeBoy are too big, and SmallDaughter doesn't understand/care.

On Christmas morning, we unwrap the gifts one at a time, so everyone can appreciate each present and it is wonderful! I am very grateful for a stray comment from a friend that has given us a a tradition that has deepened the meaning of Christmas and reduced stress at the same time.