Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Tradition part 6: Dube's Christmas Eve Breakfast

This morning we went to Christmas Eve Breakfast at the Dube's home.  They have been doing this for a few years and inviting a house full of folks for breakfast and wii games as long as they want to stay.  We've been one of the lucky ones invited year after year.  Today I got to bless the food as the "oldest man present" -- oh boy!  We have enjoyed going and despite the chaos of lots of kids it is really a highlight of the season.

They always have about the same menu with the main dish being pancakes with ice cream and warm fruit sauces on top.  As usual they had lots of people there, maybe 25 folks or so.  The sausages, potato casserole, bacon and eggs lead to a nice warm filling breakfast that lasts until the Christmas Eve party starts in the evening.

One of the fun things was watching one of the little children helping themselves to spoonfuls of the grape jam.  When I mentioned it to the mother later with a hearty laugh she wondered why I didn't tell them to stop.  I guess because it was so darn cute to watch them getting away with it.  That led to a discussion of parenting and grand parenting topics that were very enjoyable laced with lots of stories of the past from the adults present. 

Getting people together for the holidays is a good way to celebrate the season.  Lots of stories and fun times ensue while children do the craziest things.  Good times. 

Purposefully wiggled toes give a fresh frenzy of faith

Once again Dad has done something to give our faith a fresh shot of adrenaline.  Lisa's sister was visiting and he wiggled his toes.  Wondering if it was purposeful she commented on it and his toes wiggled again.  Finally she ask him to wiggle the toes for a third time to determine if he really was responding to her.  He did! 

Even those skeptics among us must have had their faith pricked into action.  Go Dad!  keep up the toe wiggling, thumbs upping and all other forms of communication you can muster!  Remember we love you! 

By the way the best use for Skype I've heard of yet is coming up when we will talk with Dad in his hospital room for Christmas Eve. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Tradition part 5: Caroling

Tonight we carried on with another of our Christmas Traditions, that of going caroling.  We made a few minor changes to our tradition tonight.  For one we cut down on the number of homes we went caroling to.  We had noticed over the years that it begins to get a little stressful when you are running across town to 15 or 20 homes to sing to people and give them some goodies.  We weren't doing this for stress so thought that reducing the number would help.  It did. 

Secondly with the added time it allowed us to be a little more flexible.  That is when it crossed our mind to sing to someone else nearby one of the families we had planned to sing to we had the time and were able to do so. 

We also invited more folks to sing with us and we enjoyed having the added numbers and got to do something fun with our friends as well.  We sang to a number of folks that we hadn't seen in a while and they seemed to appreciate the singing.  We have enjoyed singing over the years to friends and letting them know that we still remember them and care despite the fact that our busy lives might have made it so we don't see them as often as we once did. 

Tonight one family had told us in advance that they wanted to have us in for some warm apple cider and some goodies so we went to their home last and they had some great cookies, cider and crackers and dip.  There were eleven of us and we even sounded pretty good.  One of our company enjoyed the time away from her family with one of her children since over the last few months with her husband deployed she has spent her days with her four young children and enjoyed being with adults that didn't require her to change their diapers. 

Our family has always loved singing together thanks to my wife's great music skills and we have had this tradition for many years where we would share our modest abilities with other's to help them feel the meaning of Christmas and the fun of the music.  Now we are including more of our friends to sing with us which makes it even more fun all around for more of us. 

Surprise indoor frozen snow face

My wife had been telling me for a while that she had a surprise planned for me the Monday of the week before Christmas.  You have to understand that in our family surprises rein supreme.  We try hard to surprise members of the family.  This desire for surprises has led to a number of memorable things over the years  Since it is Christmas time I will share one family policy that this parent lives by.  If you tell me what you want for Christmas without my asking (which is hardly ever) then you won't get it for sure.  That policy has really helped over the years to minimize any 'Christmas lists' or asking for certain gifts.  Rather the art of surprise is at work and must be used to determine what someone wants or needs.  In it's perfect form this happens without them knowing that they wanted it themselves until they moment they unwrap it on Christmas morning or afternoon. 
This year my wife was working on a surprise to give me for a special celebration.  She had done well.  I don't try to figure out surprises because it is no fun to figure out a surprise in advance so when my natural curiosity wants to gear up I simply..."look the other way" or in this case think about something else.  ["Look the other way" is a famous quote in our family that comes from the book Henry's Terrible Mistake by Robert Quakenbush--it teaches some good lessons I recommend it to parents.] 

She took me to a place that I had never been before it is called the The Gaylord National hotel and convention center in Maryland.  It was probably the largest hotel I had ever seen and was really a neat place.  She took our family to the ICE! exhibit which is an exhibit of carved ice sculptures--this year celebrating the Grinch that stole Christmas.  The ice sculptures were nice--especially the bigger than life size nativity one at the end of the exhibit--but the real attraction for me was the COLD.  In order for the sculptures to keep from melting they keep the large room they are in cooled down to 9 degrees.  People come dressed in their winter attire and then before you enter the sealed room you are given a very large blue parka and that keeps you warm.  However since your face is out in the cold as you walk through the exhibit your face freezes!  It was great! 

After that we went into the Gaylord National hotel which was huge.  Hotel rooms go up several stories on each side and in between are streets from a small town village.  But the last part of the surprise was that at 6:15 it started snowing indoors!  Lisa knows I love the cold and love the snow.  I was thinking I new what the last part of the surprise was going to be, I thought there were going to be Christmas carolers coming down the streets but when it started snowing it was awesome!  So I enjoyed the surprise and we had a great time.  All the family seemed to enjoy it.  Wish you could have been there. 

Christmas Tradition Part 4: Temple Lights

One of our big traditions that typically takes about a day is going to Washington DC to see the lights on the Washington DC temple.  This year they said there were a half a million lights.  It is always beautiful and something that helps to bring the true meaning of Christmas (remembering the birth of our Savior) into our thoughts as we view the temple with all the various colored Christmas lights.  They said that the lights start getting wrapped around the trees in August in preparation for Christmas and takes hundreds of volunteers.  Wow!

Most years we go up as a family and spend the evening and day in DC with seeing the temple lights as the focal point.  This year however we went up the day before and spent the night at a hotel and added a few other things and then went to the Temple lights in the evening on Tuesday.  The ward was having a "temple lights" day too, so we got to see several folks from the ward that were there as well. 

Seeing so many Christmas lights has always been fun and it seems reasonable that there would be such great beauty and excitement over the birth of Christ at the temple where the whole point is about Christ.

At the temple visitors center they always have a number of exhibits which includes creche sets from around the world.  We always enjoy looking at those as well.  This year they had one from Thailand!  This is the first nativity made in Thailand that I had ever seen.  Being a Buddhist country I wondered if there was someone who made them there.  This set had some great cultural indicators that really made it enjoyable and distinctly Thai..   

They also have Christmas concerts in the visitors center and we listened to Sandra Turley sing a few Christmas songs.   


She sang a great song in a broadway tradition called Christmas Lullaby from Songs for a New World which was a song about women being like Mary which was very enjoyable.  Here are the lyrics of the song:

I'll never have the power to control the land
Or conquer half the world
Or claim the sun
I'll never be the kind who simply waves her hand
And has a million people do
The things I wish I'd done

But in the eyes of Heaven
My place is assured
I carry with me heaven's grand design
Gloria, glory, I will sing the name of the Lord
And He will make me shine

And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And I will give the world my eyes
So they can see
And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And the future of the world inside of me

In the eyes of Heaven
My place is assured
I carry with me heaven's grand design
Gloria, glory I will sing the name of the Lord
And He will make me shine

And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And I will give the world my eyes
So they can see
And I will be like Mother Mary
With a blessing in my soul
And the future of the world inside of me

And I will be like Mother Mary
With the power in my veins
To believe in all the things
I've yet to be
And I will be like Mother Mary
And I'll suffer any pains
For the future of the world
For the future of the world
Inside of me...

If you are like me and have never heard of this before and would like to listen to a version of it on youtube go here:

It was a great night and we had an enjoyable time.  Naturally we missed having our oldest daughter Jaime and Mike with us but we did have Megan, Hilary, Haleigh, Jeremy and Matt with Lisa and I (a full van I might add).  It was fun to share this tradition with our friends this time as well. 

I love our traditions that have helped us build a family with many great memories. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The gift I wish I could give

I am here sitting on the couch in front of the white Christmas tree.  The one with the hand made Christmas balls and photo frames from the girls years of growing up.  Everyone is in bed and I have nearly all the lights off in the house and am just looking at the tree with it's white lights and splashes of color coming from the ornaments.  I'm seeing what thoughts enter my head as I contemplate Christmas now only five days away. 

It occurs to me as I think of the girls that I wish I could give the gift of happiness to each one of them this year.  It seems funny to me that I would think of this because I think they all are happy.  I'm not sure that it is the gift that they need right at the moment.  At least they seem happy much of the time.   

Each one of them certainly has their stresses and concerns and has to work individually to fulfill their various needs: physical mental and spiritual.  Just like all of us.  I don't even want to take that away.  I want them to have to work and struggle, realizing that will build strength for them and help them in life.

Then why do I wish that I could give them happiness?  Am I unhappy, am I projecting my own unhappiness on each of them wishing that they could be happier than I am or some such thing?  I don't think so.  I feel happy, at least adequately so.  I am pleased with what is happening in my life and feeling like plenty of good is coming out of my life and it seems like plenty of good is coming from their lives as well.  Sure they have things to learn and plenty to do to grow in life.  Experiences to have, people to love and maturity to be gained.  Sure they each have quirks that may need conquering and things they could be doing to better themselves, but I am pleased with them and with each one of their efforts to grow and to recognize and approach and achieve their potential. 

I really enjoy giving them gifts in hopes of surprising them and finding something that is helpful and meaningful to them.  My ideal gift would be one that both said "I love you so much that I have paid attention and realized this was something that you would like" and says to them "I observe you and understand you and this gift will help you see yourself more clearly".  I would like my gifts to give insight, comfort, strength or happiness to them.  Something to open their eyes to see themselves more clearly.  Maybe what I really want is to help those I love see themselves as I do that they are good and loved and to have happiness and confidence result for a time.

As I look back I think of things I have given as presents in the past and there are two things I have given repeatedly and realize I will be giving again this Christmas as well.  Two things that I believe are symbolic to the receivers if they will open their eyes and minds to get the symbolism.   

What are those things you ask?  I give hearts which of course symbolize love and acceptance and I give blankets which symbolize warmth and comfort.  Maybe those are the things I have found that most closely match my desire to tell others what I think and how I feel for them.  I don't necessarily feel that is all I want to give but those two things I find giving over and over.  Ask my wife how many hearts she has in her collection, or maybe my daughters how many blankets they have received over the years.  Do they know my feelings about these things?  Do they see beyond the thing to the symbol and know it's meaning as I give it to them and my hopes for them?  Do they realize that I believe that as they are warm and loved that they are free to be happy and to embrace life more fully, even it's challenges and hurts? 

Well, realistically they will read this and know, but the real question is will they feel?  Over time they will, I believe.  It may not be now, but as they grow and especially if they have their own children then they will begin to see and feel what I see and feel about them and they will better understand my desire to give them happiness through giving them love and warmth. 

Needless to say the best way I can give this to them as a gift isn't with the blankets or the heart shaped things, but rather those are only symbols and reminders.  I really have to give it to them by example, by showing them how to love and be loved, by showing them how to be warm toward others and to allow themselves to be warmed and comforted.  I hope I am doing that adequately, I think I am. 

I hope they can be...not so much what I want them to be...not even so much what they want to be...but I hope they can find their way to be what God has for them to be and I hope they will not settle for anything less.  And though I anticipate my example will have failures and at other times will do great good for them and that my symbols as gifts will at times be misunderstood and/or lost, I hope they will nonetheless find their way to seeing their true value and strengths and weaknesses as God sees them so they can fully realize their identity as not just my children but as His children--Children of God.

Christmas tradition part 3: Coming Home from School

I realized that we had another Christmas tradition that doesn't fit the typical pattern.  And it happened last night.  It is something that gets planned months in advance and the cost is relatively high.  It is the day when the college students in the family come home from school to celebrate the Christmas season with us.

Yesterday early evening Haleigh and I were driving up the freeway to the airport to pick up Hilary.  She had come through Chicago which has had its share of bad memories for her in recent trips but today it seems that things went fairly well despite a delay.  It wasn't easy to figure out when she was arriving based on info on the computer because the arrival board at the airport simply said "delayed" which was a bit disconcerting so we went by what the airline site said and she arrived a few minutes early from that and got her bag and met us on the curb which was nice and smooth and easy.

I guess we had given her cause for concern as she was unable to reach us via my cell phone.  That is because Haleigh and I were listening to loud Mannheim Steamroller Christmas music and couldn't hear the cell phone.  But we made it and gave her big hugs and we are glad she is home!

Hilary is a great lover of Christmas as is most of the family but she has some unique-isms that add a lot.  For instance very soon, probably today she will have to check out every package under the tree and she will have some statistics in her head about how many presents for each person and so forth.  If you can't find a present you wanted to give Christmas morning ask her and she can probably tell you where it is under the tree.

You may wonder where was everyone else, why not pull out the whole brigade to meet her at the airport?  Well Megan was sick and at home resting and Lisa was making one of Hilary's favorite dishes to be ready when she arrived home for her immediate consumption.  Home made chicken pot pie which was appreciated by all quickly after we arrived home.

This year we had another student coming as well who arrived three hours later.  Jeremy flew in and again my limousine service was there to pick him up on the curb as it appears my timing skills work well with curb side service and not so well with greetings in the concourse.  Jeremy arrived being sick and tired from three flights on the day and having ear pain due to a probably sinus infection.  When Jeremy made his reservations with two layovers he thought he was being cheap, but with his sinus infection he turned out to be a cheap sadist.  So he was fed some fresh pot pie and pumpkin cookies (Pumpkin, I might add--oh did I say pumpkin?) upon his arrival and quickly taken to Mom's house where he will be sleeping during his stay.  He was glad to get an early night at least by college standards after several nights of studying late and taking exams.

So now the college students have arrived and the fun begins!
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