Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Post of the Year... 2011

Hi. :) It's hard to believe that right now I am writing my last post of the year, and will soon be adding to the last page in my 2011 journal. I love this time of year with the feeling of starting over fresh and new and time to bask in retrospection! :) Therefore, I will reflect upon this year that is being left behind and ending like a great novel being closed after the last few pages are read and reread for the savoring... But first, a few moments to savor in today... The last day of this wonderful year I have decided to leave with a small but wonderful bang of my own! :D

Today is a very good day! :D The main thing I like about today is that I got to go rollerblading in the beautiful sunshine, and that while out there I learned a new way of going backwards. Due to the long brake on the back of the right roller blade, I found it more natural to keep the left foot in front while going backwards despite which direction I am going (ie. both clockwise and counterclockwise). This means that one direction is more elegant to look at than the other is, but at least I don’t risk tripping over my break. I decided to find a pro to talk to about it before practicing a ton.

Despite being unsure of whether or not this technique is good for BOTH directions, I was so excited about figuring this out before the year ended that I asked Miles to go with me to an empty and smooth parking lot to tape me inline skating for a few minutes. Just when we thought we were done recording Miles asked me, “I thought you were going to do some really fancy cross over backward rollerblading or something…”    

My response...

:O “Ah!!!

"I DID! 

Evidently I was more impressed with my new accomplishment than he was! ;) But I still sort of hoped to impress him a little, so I continued...


After which I did a couple more backwards strokes hoping to do it a little better. A few seconds later the card was full so our recording ended (which suited me just fine, as I had already skated for about an hour before getting him out there with me and I was getting a little sloppy from my feet muscles being tired). Anyhow, you can see the videos if you want to… I decided that I'm happy enough about my accomplishment to record it and show it off - even if I don't look like a pro! ;)  Actually, I feel incredibly blessed to be given this developing talent which brings me so much joy, and I thank the Lord a million times over for it! He is so good to me! :)

The second thing I love about today is that it is New Years Eve. I thought it would be fun to look back on the past year so I made up two lists: the list of things I set New Years Goals to accomplish during 2011 and did… and the list of things which weren’t New Years Resolutions or goals, yet still managed to sneak their way into my life! :) Tomorrow I may share with you some of my 2012 New Years Resolutions and goals. Here are my lists...

What I first planned at the start of 2011 to do, then Did…

*Finished building a third garden-bed…

*Got to go ice skating again (Got to ice skate for the first time in November or December of 2010 – went skating and used a photo for my cheesy 2010 New Years card (I still need to find the video my son made of me ice skating that day). The experience was so marvelous I couldn’t wait to go again!!!! I finally got to go again two more times this December… a year later. This time I learned how to skate backwards with the cross over method (as stated above and shown in the video-?). Since the ice melted, I decided to apply what I learned to inline skates; I love this new technique I am learning because it looks more graceful than the technique I was using while rollerblading in backwards circles… :D

*Started running this year and ran a half marathon in May (13+ miles)...

*Participated in my first Mini-Triathlon –got last place with a friend (8 and 9/9) ha ha! But hey, I still swam a half mile for the first time ever! :)

*Learned to live in the now – It really is a miracle; I have made so much wonderful progress! So much, in fact, that it astounds me! :)

*Stored food for winter from the fruits of my own labors: fruit leather from the plum trees that I planted; canned homemade apple sauce from a friend’s apple tree (as the apple trees I planted are not yet producing that abundantly); froze a variety of frozen greens from the garden; made and froze homemade apple pie filling; various jams... ? other ?

*Continued doing Genealogy regularly (I do this just about every week, with exceptions to those surrounded by holidays)

*Finished refinishing the doors… (Check! Finally!!! Though I do have some other doors in the house that I now also wish the replace to match the ones I finished (all in good time…)

*Ditched the ugly couches, and purchased two old fashioned couches for only $35.00 each. Though they are not new or perfect - I love them! :)

*Cut my own hair once (I haven't done it for many years; it was scary but successful. Now that I have grown it out I will need to again muster the courage to cut it again! :o)

*Fixed a bunch of our fence with my husband (still need to screw in a few more boards and get around to the rest  of the fence... all in good time!)

What I Did Spontaneously…

*Stayed with one of my brothers and his family for a couple of weeks after their 5th baby was born (sister in law had a Cesarean, brother was in Chiropractic school with over 30 credits, and their family contracted head lice a few days before the baby was born; wow! I'm so glad I could help!).

*Took care of my mom for about a month while she recovered from a major infection (yes, it was difficult being away from home again)…

*Wrote a profile about myself on

*Started writing “5 Minute Friday” posts now & then (love it and plan to write many more!)

*Made some wonderful parenting discoveries and went from feeling like I didn’t have a clue how to parent “teen boys” to feeling like “I do!” :D  I’m really happy with the parenting progress!

*Did some de-cluttering of both house and mind…

*Got some excellent practice in long suffering! :D This has mostly occurred during this past month; sorry I haven’t had time to write and tell you about it. :o While we’re on the subject, I must make note of how incredibly thankful I am to again realize that God really does love me and is not abandoning me, but rather simply letting me go through the Refiners Fire; It seems to be an ongoing thing so I pray to remember what a wonderful blessing it is! ;o Honestly – I have cried more than my share, and I’m sorry I was too busy to tell you about it (or am I glad? ;). I pray to have greater faith and patience with future tribulations and to stop whining and be more like Job! I’m so thankful that God is so patient with me! I hope I don’t try His patience too much! :o He is so good to me! :)

*Got to attend the wedding of a childhood friend and see dear friends after many years. And, I got to do this with my dad and one of my brothers! :D

*Have been blessed with an increase in service opportunities with my new calling as Compassionate Service assistant leader… I am also blessed with added insights and an opportunity to learn to see and better meet the needs of people around me in various ways; I’m praying for this new talent and am confident I will be blessed with it. What a wonderful calling! :)

*Got to go camping and fishing with my family!  This too, I never found time to blog about (I’m sorry, but I just can’t write about everything! Here is a collage I made of photos I took at the camp out. I am so excited to go again in the coming year! :D

I had so much fun taking photos on this trip!
...wish you could see them all!

Here it is again with the "focal black and white" feature from Picasa.

I really hate to end this post because I am SURE to remember a multitude of things which happened during 2011 which I will want to add to this list. Like the little things that went on in my heart and mind all year long that helped to make me and my family better... Those are the REAL accomplishments to celebrate! And isn't that what New Years Resolutions and reflections of the past year are all about??? I am happy to say that there have been some very wonderful and glorious improvements take place in our home this year... There is more peace, more wisdom, more self control, and greater love and understanding...

I would love to tell you about some of these more valuable accomplishments, however, they would take time to put into words adequately, and for the sake of taking time to celebrate New Years Eve with my family - I will end this post here and now...

I hope you have a wonderful New Years Eve

Corine :D

ADDITION- JAN 1, 2012: I just remembered a blog post that I wrote some time ago about living in the now while rollerblading and also mentions my desire to learn to ice skate. It is so cool to look back, remember dreaming, and watch dreams come true. I wonder what else the future has in store for me? :)

Since I just posted a video of me rollerblading, here is a link to that post if you are interested in reading it: Living in the Now While Rollerblading

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Day 2011


Yesterday was
Christmas day...
It was wonderful! :)

And - yes - despite what I said in a previous post, there really are preparations to celebrating this glorious day...

There is baking and finger food making; gifts to make ready to give; assembly of a Christmas casserole the night before so it won't have to be prepared the sacred morning of; there may be a tree to decorate, gifts to wrap, and stockings to stuff etc...

Mostly, though, the preparations take place in our hearts and minds.
These are the preparations I most enjoy! :)

Despite all that we plan, we never really know what the day will be like until after it is through. There are experiences which don't occur as planned...

And there are experiences never so much as imagined which take ones breath away...

Laughing hard enough to cry...

For the record, I played, too and it was fun :)
You just can't see me because I'm behind the camera! ;o

We watched this movie on Christmas day - twice - It was a Christmas gift from my mother and the icing on the cake that brought our minds back to Christ and the great love that He has for each of us.

Watching this movie caused me to count my blessings and to reflect on how much I have.
Life is overflowing with blessings!!! :D

I don't have a photo of us watching this movie to share with you here.
But to tell you the truth, we were balling our eyes out, and I don't think puffy red eyes would have looked very good. ;)
Such is the spirit of Christmas... :)

After all is said and done, I must say, I still believe...

Thank you, Santa Mrs. Claus and Elves ;)
(My dear friends Dalva and Emily - and my sweet mother)
... for such wonderful gifts!
And THANK YOU Heavenly Father, and Jesus Christ... for the plan of salvation, and a wonderful life! :)

This is how Christmas was for us this year. It was magical. It was peaceful and wonderful! We hope yours was, too! :)

Corine :D

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Living Christ...

The last few lines of President Henry B Eyring's part in the this year's First Presidency's Christmas Devotional really summarize to me what Christmas is about and how Christmas can affect us. I'd like to share these few lines with you today:

"He gave us the gift of a Savior, His perfect Son, the Lamb without blemish. By personal appearance of the Father Himself and of the Son, and through angels, He has restored the Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days. He has called prophets and apostles to guide us to safety in this life and eternal life in the world to come. Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected that we may live again, that we may be purified and cleansed from sin, prepared for the glory of eternal life.

"Those are gifts to us that we can offer to others for Him. We do that by remembering Him and trying with all our hearts to do what He would do and love as He loves.

"There was a song in a film years ago with the line “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.”12 Well, you can give a great and wonderful Christmas if you remember the gifts God has given you and, as best you can, offer them to others as He would. That is the spirit of Christmas and of true happiness every day.

"I testify that Jesus is the living Christ, in His sacred name, amen.

I don't think I've found a finer reminder anywhere of what the true spirit of Christmas is than from this message of remembering the gifts that God has given to us, and then offering these gifts to the world... After all the fun and spiritual traditions to pave the way, I really look forward each year to the climax of it all - setting goals to do this very thing as my gift to our Savior Jesus Christ.

I would also like to share a small collection of short videos and one short writing which spread the joy of Christmas. I hope you have a beautiful, spiritual day!

Corine :D

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas without Presents???

Life is as busy crazy as ever... The thoughts entered my mind that I wished I had gotten ready for Christmas early this year, because Christmas is fast approaching, and I didn't feel one bit ready.

I mean... I did decorate the tree the first couple of days in December. I wrote a couple of blog posts... one about my philosophy on the nature of traditions, and one about some of the things our family has done traditionally during the Christmas season. I did read the Christmas story with my family, as found throughout the scriptures, and we did some other cool Christmas things (bake cookies, have a youth Christmas party etc); however, time continued to go by without shopping, or gift making...

I knew the season was not is not over, so we still have time to carry out more of our traditions. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking about how unready I still may end up being for Christmas despite carrying out our traditions. Why did I feel this way? I suppose it had something to do with not having done a bunch of shopping or gift making yet. I wondered if and when I would get around to these seemingly vital ingredients of Christmas. Then I found myself asking myself... "What is it exactly that I am getting ready for?" Shopping? Opening presents? Is this what Christmas is about???

We all know the story of The Grinch who Stole Christmas, and of how Christmas came "without presents, packages or bows." And many of us have experienced it. I know I have. But even after it happens, do we believe it can happen again? And what about having too many gifts? Can Christmas get lost in too many gifts and make it difficult to find the true meaning of Christmas? Do we allow ourselves to feel the true meaning of Christmas, or do we think that Christmas is lost without that great climax of presents under the tree? Do we get a little down if we think these ingredients are lacking in our celebration of, the, uh, you know... baby Jesus?
I know I did. It's silly, really! But without extra money for gifts or even materials to make gifts, I went through a couple of days in which I felt a little sorry for myself. I know this wasn't good, or even necessary. In fact, something really good came of NOT having money to shop with; I took the time I might have spent shopping to relax and read a couple great books: The Gift by Richard Paul Evans; and The Seventeen Second Miracle by Jason F. Wright. Soon I will be reading with my family Jacob Marley (Thank you Kendra!!!) and if the Library has it, The Mansion; I'm so excited! :D

The last couple chapters of the Seventeen Second Miracles were the icing on the cake that got my head turned around a little closer to where it ought to be. As I contemplated the inspiring message in these books, to give love, and go LIVE LIFE doing small random acts of kindness, even so small that they may take no longer than 17 seconds, I realized - I'm not GETTING READY for Christmas ~ The production is NOW. And how well I play my part depends upon how well I catch the true meaning of Christmas!

"Christmas" can already be happening, every minute of every day..."Christmas day" is simply a REMINDER of Christ's birth (something which already happened... no need to prepare for it), and a reminder of the opportunities of selfless acts of kindness which we have each and every day . . . all because of the life and gifts that Christ came into the world to give TO US.

We traditionally give gifts - not just because of the gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus... but more importantly because of the gifts that Jesus Christ gave to us; The Atonement, freedom to repent and make our lives better, and endless examples of how we can live with forgiveness, kindness, mercy, love... (I think I may ditch the tradition of giving my kids 3 gifts in remembrance of the wise men's gifts; I'd rather we focus on giving countless gifts to others as Christ has given countless gifts to us - even daily. I don't know; this may be a good tradition still, even if one or more of the three gifts are non-material...)

When I read to my kids or spend time with them doing what they love to do, I'm not getting ready for Christmas - I'm living the spirit of Christmas. When I visit the lonely or help someone who is sick - I'm living the spirit of Christmas. If I say a few kind words to someone, or lend a helping hand - I'm living the spirit of Christmas.

For those of you who must celebrate Christmas without the means of giving monetary gifts ~ I tell you this... If Christ's completely intangible gifts to us are the greatest gifts of all, then why should we feel that our gifts are somehow inadequate simply because they can not be placed in a box and under a tree? Upon careful reflection, I think we will all agree - the greatest gifts of all can not be touched with the hands or seen with the physical eyes; they are felt with our hearts...

And so, with what ever time is left of this season, this year, and of this life of mine, I hope to start performing many more 17 second miracles of my own. And I know this is how I will be blessed to feel Christmas all year long! :)

A new and solid tradition that I will now have is to participate each December in the "12 Days of Service..." And to make a greater effort to serve wherever and whenever I can, each and every day of my life throughout the years. I'm glad this bug is contagious, I'm glad I caught it, and I hope that if you haven't caught it yet - you will too! ;)

May each day of our lives be filled with the spirit of Christmas!!!!

Merry Christmas!

Corine :D

PS. I give you the Karaoke version because this is the one my daughter and I sing to together... :) Merry Christmas! :D

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Nature of Traditions

If you have already been to The Things I Love, then you may have already read this post. I post it here anyhow for those who may not read that blog as well as for myself... :o Enjoy! ;)

Some may describe a "tradition" as being a custom, ritual, practice, habit; or simply a set of "norm's" as to the way a person or group of people live their lives or celebrate events...

I say, traditions are the backbone of our very existence – they give us a sense of character, strength, purpose, identity, unity, belonging..., and create a sense of “coming home” in a way that nothing else can… Traditions set communities apart from each other. In Fiddler on the Roof the effects of traditions were stated like this...

"Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything... How to sleep, how to eat... how to work... how to wear our clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl that shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, 'How did this tradition get started?' I'll tell you!... I don't know. But it's a tradition... and because of our traditions... Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do."

I have two favorite lines from this quote. One is this... "Because of our traditions, we've kept our balance for many, many years."

I have found this to be true in our home. My husband and I have our family traditions on a printed schedule hanging on a wall in our home. Why? Because we have noticed that when we lose sight of our traditions - we also lose sight of our goals and life purpose... and the blessings of living a balanced life come to an end. Because we want much balance and happiness for our family, we expect much of our family in the way of righteous traditions...

The second line I love in the above quote is this... "and because of our traditions... Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do."

The traditions in our home help our family to receive the blessings of living a Christ Centered life, because that is the main purpose of most of our traditions... to ensure that we make time in our days and in our hearts, to live Christ centered lives. These traditions are simple things like going to church each Sunday... studying the scriptures daily, and kneeling together in a circle for family prayer each morning and night... Thankfully, these righteous traditions can help a child to know what is expected of him before he has grown in wisdom and insight to expect it of himself...

Now, because it is a holiday season, I wish to turn our thoughts now to holiday traditions...

When I was still very young, I believed that ALL holiday traditions held strong year after year, after year.... And not only that, it was the tradition that made the holiday, THE HOLIDAY! How could we possibly celebrate “that” holiday without “that” tradition?

You can probably guess how many traditions I had… That’s right, too many to count!...
(Although, these days life is simpler, and my traditions are fewer in number)

Back then... if a tradition lost its appeal to part of the group – oh what a tragic day it was! The holiday - was, after all, ruined by the lack of appeal to a once cherished tradition… almost like a thief in the night, some traditions loose popularity. Children grow out of childhood traditions by becoming teens, and spouses begin to ask questions like… “Are we the only ones in this town who still do this?”

Some of these traditions begin like a new romance… They seem so incredibly perfect, and you think the perfectness will last forever.

But newness doesn't stay new. The excitement of wondering anticipation wears off when you no longer wonder what something will be like. And even when you are excited, because you do know what something is like, and you liked it... the new enactment of an activity is NEVER exactly the same as it was the time before; that can be a disappointment when one assumes that enactments "can and absolutely 'should' be" the same!

And yet... traditions continue. What are the benefits of traditions, which are so compelling as to keep us "traditioning" despite the lack of predictability? There are many! Let me name just a few...

For those who do not expect exact replicas of a cherished experience, traditions offer bonds of strength and stability to a group like nothing else can. They give experiences to a group which are shared only by the group... this is sacred. Sharing activities with the same group of people, and looking forward to doing so with that same group of people - is a very powerful, unifying and bonding phenomenon... :) I suppose that is why traditions are so fervently shared among families; on some level, we all know we love each other MORE because of them...

And thankfully, we learn that SOME “traditions” don’t have to last for eternity to be of value, in the same way that “childhood play” is a blessing only during childhood, and “teen drama” may be unavoidable in the teens, but is gladly left behind in later years...

Another benefit is that while many traditions are created with a special purpose in mind, and these matter... What we make into a tradition isn't the only thing that matters - it's the fact that the tradition brings our minds back to the warm familiarity of the ones we love. I have worn a red shirt which says "I believe in Santa" since I was 17 years old. And yes... though Santa is clearly NOT the focus of the day or season, he did play a role in our family's past celebrations... after over two decades, I still have and wear that shirt. :) With this in mind, wearing my Santa shirt sometime during the holiday season became a very small and accidental tradition; but no matter what time of year I see that shirt, warm feelings associated with gathering around loved ones during the Christmas season flood over me. Wearing this shirt was clearly a seemingly inconsequential tradition that I had, for me...

"Fun" traditions are usually like that; we do the same things over and over again because WE treasured the experience; that is how traditions are made! And it doesn't take long for this to happen. Take childhood, for example. A few short years in the life of a child can feel like the biggest MOST IMPORTANT segment in a child’s entire life; what we do only two or three times will often be seen in these fresh young impressionable minds as strong and sturdy traditions which have gone on for half if not most of their young lives! If you do it more than once, you better make it count; for you are probably creating a “tradition!”

Some traditions are also performed as an act of service FOR ANOTHER, like grandma or grandpa, for example. These "other individuals" have a seemingly sacred tradition... one that they are bursting at the seams to share with us... and which usually teach something important or special about the day being celebrated (along with adding immeasurably to their own sense of happiness and well being). Because we love them... we selflessly oblige. :) (And if we're lucky... we catch the vision and come to cherish the tradition, too. ;)
We all know parents who insist that their kids participate in such traditions. It is good for youth to learn to think of others and be willing to perform a ritual which is important to another. In our family we have a tradition in which we each trace our hands onto green construction paper. We then write one activity we want to do as a family during the Christmas season on each paper hand. Since there are 6 people in our family, the 12 hands make up our activities for the "Twelve Days of Christmas." Each day, our family does what ever was written on one of the hands, then we place the hand on the ring cut from a paper plate (or flip the hand over if we create it from the start with paperclips). By Christmas time, we have created a wreath of family unity and never ending love, by taking time each day to do something that is important to someone else in the family.

Traditions such as this one offer practice and opportunities to make time for the people we love and in perform some selfless giving... a character trait that blesses individuals and their families for generations to come. And isn't that what Christmas is about, really? Remembering our Savior Jesus Christ and all He does for us... then striving ourselves to be a little more loving and giving... like Him... Learning to think of others, do for others, give to others, and discover joy in doing it?

I believe that is what traditions are about remembering the purpose or significance of a day or holiday, building bonds of unity and love, AND making memories to last a lifetime. To me, traditions are just THAT SIMPLE, and simply that wonderful! :)

I hope that as we create traditions for Christmas, we are blessed with inspiration to create traditions which help us and our loved ones to remember the significance of the birth and life of Christ... I hope our traditions draw us nearer unto Him and help us to become more like Him (fine purposes indeed!); and that we build bonds of love and unity, and memories to last a lifetime!

Merry CHRISTmas!

Corine :D

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I'm somewhere else today...

I'm a guest over at The Things I Love today writing about The Nature of Traditions on Kendra's blog. She is putting on the 25 days of Christmas and it has been great!

Kendra is a super neat gal who, like me... :) is a home schooling mama of one girl, and three sons. She also runs... (side note incidental ;)

Her blog is wonderful and there are a couple of excellent give aways going on there this week as well... I hope you check out her blog because I'm pretty sure you'll be glad you did!

And while you're visiting blogs, you may also want to check out this post and blog...

Our family will be participating in the 12 Days of Service, and I'm really excited about it. I don't think anything spreads the spirit of CHRISTmas like loving and serving!

Have a great day!  :)

Corine :D

Monday, December 12, 2011

Free Christmas Book - Giveaway

Yikes! I almost forgot to advertize this!

Kendra is giving away a book tomorrow on her blog... A really good book, I might add, which I secretly really hope to win! (or at least go purchase if I don't win it) ;)

However... I'd like to help her advertize, and give you a chance to win it (or find out about it so you can purchase it), too. So here is the link:

The Things I Love - Free Christmas Book Giveaway

What are you waiting for? Get on over there and make a comment TODAY!  Because tommorw she will be choosing a winner for the drawing!!! :o

PS. Good luck! :)

Corine :D

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Unexpected Blessings...

I realize that we are in the middle of the Christmas season and Thanksgiving is past, but I believe my thoughts and recollections can be great mental preparation for enjoying Christmas traditions, and I want to create some memories! Besides, today is my daughter's birthday, and she wanted me to spend it with her instead of writing about her, so I have decided to go ahead and share a couple of Thanksgiving memories and thoughts with you today which I already wrote about (One of the memories really brags a bunch about her!. ;)

Thanksgiving wasn't my favorite this year. My favorite tradition didn't go as it usually does; my stomach ached from only 2 bites of turkey, and I was falling asleep by 7:30... However, I have learned NOT to expect things to be "a certain way" anymore. Life experiences just aren't cookie cutter perfect. Life isn't predictable, and there is so much awesomeness to enjoy if we don't get caught up in expecting experiences to be "exactly as we planned" or "exactly as it was in 1982." I enjoy life so much more when I do this... :)

So, despite everything that wasn't this year as compared to past years... there were a couple of incredibly wonderful things that were; these came to mind...

*One wonderful thing I was thankful for happened the day before Thanksgiving. It all started because I thought a charity organization was coming to the house to pick up donations that day, so I decided to take all the yard sale items out of the shed and place them in the entry way of the house for speedy and curious pic-up.

I was in a hurry to do this before the donation truck arrived, so I petitioned to my family to help me out, telling them it would only take 15 or  20 minutes if they would all help me. Then I went outside and started working, hoping a few of them would hear my plea and quickly come help me before the truck arrived (Yeah, we had a lot! :o).

Honestly, teenagers don't get as excited as they did when they were elementary age when asked to help out. :o  So I was delightfully surprised when all the family came out to join me...

Not only did everyone in the family come out to help me... Dausen and Devry (the 17 yo twins), seemed to have noticed that I didn't have enough boxes set aside for all 6 family members to haul in an efficient manner, so after a few minutes they both grabbed rakes of their own accord and proceeded to rake the back lawn since more leaves had fallen since the last raking (honestly, I didn't ask them to do that! :o :). Levi soon joined them.

And though I didn't ask them to do it, these three awesome sons of mine stuck with it until the yard was not only raked up but the leaves were also in bags.

What would have been a 15 45 minute work party (everything takes longer than you think it will! :o) turned into a couple hours of work... which was completed - voluntarily - Wow! :D And Miles and Mindy ditched work of their own that they really wanted to do that morning to help me. See why I love this family so much! ;D

*The next thing that came to my mind when asked about my Thanksgiving was the surprise I woke up to early in the morning. Actually, I woke during the night hearing the sound of a sewing machine in the background, but ignored it and went back to sleep. Eventually though, I couldn't sleep, so quite early in the morning (around 4 AM) I came out to hear my daughters plea, "wait mom... Please don't come out here yet." I was looking down the dark hall as she spoke and saw her covering up something she obviously didn't want me to see. "Just give me a minute mom..."

"OK" I replied, "No worries, I'll just go read a book in my bedroom. Could you please bring me a drink of water?"

And so I spent the early hours of the morning READING (instead of cooking turkey :o) :D. That was a really nice way to start the day, but it isn't the part I told people about, or the part I am excited to tell you about;

This is...

When I was finally given the word that it was OK to come out, Mindy had a box on the dining room table and a big smile on her face.

"I have something for you mom... :) I wish I had wrapping paper. I hope this box is OK. :D"

I figured out that she was doing something for me by her display of secrecy, and yet, it was as if I had just heard it. She wanted to wrap it! This was something special!!!

I choked up a little just feeling the love she was displaying for me. Before I even looked into the box I hugged her. "Thank you, Mindy! Of course a box is OK. :)"

And then I opened the box. In it were two beautiful, home-made aprons.

"I was going to give them to you for Christmas, but decided you should have them for the holidays... since you will be doing so much cooking and baking."

My eyes started to tear... I couldn't speak. I just stood there looking into the box in disbelief. She waited until I had gone to bed to start this huge labor of love.

"Try them on, mom!" She encouraged me with enthusiastic delight.

I hugged her again and as tears slipped from my eye lids  (I know, I'm such a baby!) then proceeded to pull them out of the box and examine them.

"This one is SOOOO elegant! I'm wearing it TODAY! :D"

We didn't have our tree up that morning... We took these tonight... shhhh ;)

"I know! It is elegant, isn't it?" Mindy was beaming... :) "Bring the tie back around to see what it looks like tied in front. I think it would look good that way."

I brought the tie around the front, examining it as I looked down upon it while also admiring the apron and bow through the big dining room mirror in front of me. I would turn and look at the side profile and spin around a little to get a good view. "It looks awesome!" I love it!!!"

Mindy reiterated my words with her own, "Wow! That turned out really good! I really like the bow on the front!"

After a few minutes I took off the apron and ran over to the box to examine the second apron more closely...

"Oh my gosh! This one has snowmen on it!! I LOVE snowmen! And bows! I love bows too... it is so cheerful and cute!"
Photos taken in my adorable
pj's and apron... :o
I tried it on as Mindy shook her head, "You look SO GOOD in it! WOW! I'm so happy!!! I really hoped it would fit you right and look good; I wanted you to like it not just because it was from me, but because it looked good, and it does! :D"

We continued to talk about the apron and decided the tie looked best in back on this one.

Can I just tell you how thankful I am to have these kids amazing youth for my own? I am incredibly blessed!!! :D

Thanksgiving wasn't what I thought it would be this year. It was totally different than in years past. But there were also blessings I didn't dream of, blessings which I have come to treasure and cherish no the less than the memories of times which did go as planned... And you know, I'm glad life isn't "cookie cutter" the same... It is the newness, contrast, and surprises in life that make such beautiful memories! Thank God for the adventures of unpredictability!!!

PS. these photos were taken tonight. ( know... It would be so cool if they were taken the morning my daughter gave me the aprons! :o I have waited on posting this just so I could add the photos that had not yet been taken! Tonight, I was in my pj's when I remembered again, and decided that pj's would be just fine for these shots! LOL - So pj's I'm in! :D Seriously though, they are super cute! :) I probably should have taken a photo without the aprons as well just to show off the pj's! ;o

Corine :D

Corine :D

Friday, December 9, 2011

Symbols of Christmas...

I love symbols. They speak to our minds without us even knowing it. They remind us of ideas without saying a word. They are like parables; some times you get them, and sometimes you don't. When the kids were young we had a tradition of talking about the symbols of Christmas as we decorated the tree with them. These were tender moments for me...

Recently I sat alone and read the symbols of Christmas. As much as I always enjoyed the symbols before, this time was different; I got emotional. I'm not telling you that if you read them, you'll get emotional too. I've read them a million times before without getting emotional. But this one time... Wow! :)  Seriously... with the right frame of mind, and a whole lot of contemplation... these symbols are amazing! Christmas with all it's many symbols of Jesus Christ and His teachings - is a beautiful blessing! :D

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Traditions at Our House ...

Hi! :D I have been noticing that there are some very major differences between the way various people celebrate Christmas. Some just buy a million gifts and call it good... some have no Santa, and then there are a million other ways to celebrate Christmas. I don't think there are any two families that celebrate EXACTLY alike; and I think that is a GOOD THING. I don't believe there is one right way to celebrate. I think each family needs to do what is best for their family and not worry about what the rest of the world says or thinks they should do.

With that in mind... this is NOT a "here is how we think Christmas should be celebrated" post! In fact, our traditions and way of celebrating evolve and change as rapidly as our family changes. Therefore, this post is simply a compilation of thoughts and memories of our own families traditions. May we all show respect for each other and enjoy discussing our traditions without comparing or criticizing... :) And may we enjoy our own traditions, even when we find the need to change them up a bit... or even save them for another year...

OK, on with discussion about traditions! :D (BTW - I made a few additions and am re posting this. Sorry if you already read it! :o)

I recently noticed that the older I get, the more organized my mind seems to desire to be... and the more my desire grows to always live with purpose.

I'm thankful... :)

Because this helps me to waste less time and further engage in activities which help me to accomplish my goals purposes. And, yes, upon making a list of our Christmas traditions, then thinking about why Christmas is important to me... I realized that I even do this with how I celebrate holidays!

At the same time I also think it is important to RELAX and enjoy life. Since I am pointing out in this post the 3 purposes that I realized many of our traditions fill, I think I should point out that every tradition or activity does not need to serve some grand purpose. Sometimes the most grand purpose of all is simply to be happy and enjoy life with family and friends! I hope you catch the spirit of what I am expressing here today and enjoy this reading... ;)


1. Remember Christ and all He has done for us, and draw nearer unto Him. 2. Find ways to serve Christ by serving others and finding ways to follow His example more fully. And 3. Build memories to last a lifetime... and strengthen family ties.

*My husband and I want our kids to remember CHRIST at Christmas time, AND have fun (though we don't usually try to do them both at the same time). For our spiritual activities, we always re-read the Christmas story from the book of Luke on Christmas Eve. If we haven't already gone Christmas Caroling and delivered plates of homemade goodies earlier in the week, we do that too (purposes 1- 2). We also go visit the elderly in a nursing home near by (purpose #2). Of course, inadvertently we accomplished purpose 3 by doing these activities as well... :)

Once we came to the nursing home during the evening meal, and the employees, knowing our plans, invited us to go ahead and sing to the residents while they ate. This ended up being an incredibly spiritual experience! It was a great mixture of fun and playful songs mixed with sweet and touching songs of the Savior. The residents were so touched, that I was in turn touched to the point of holding back tears to continue singing. It was fun to have the residents join in and sing with us; and the friend we went there to visit (Marjorie) was incredibly happy to hear our children sing. After that, two of my brave children began to sing for this sweet friend in her room from time to time. :) I cherish the sweet moments we spent in the dining hall that amazing Christmas Eve...

*When the kids were very young, we did skits of the Christmas story with some friends (the Hayes family); man we had fun! Of course, after lots of practice (and a little bit of sweat and stress) we invited the neighbors to come watch the final production. It was awesome! (purposes 1, 2, and 3!)

*Christmas cards and/or letters are a must 90% of the time... :o (I love to write these! :D) (purpose #2 - and since writing can bring memories to mind this can sometimes inadvertently contribute to purpose #3 as well)

*When the kids were young we did lots of cookie baking and gingerbread houses, usually from scratch. They wrote letters to Santa and either mailed them off, or tossed them in the out of doors for the wind to carry them to Santa (they learned that from Winnie the Pooh; my kids were really big fans, especially the twins). We also read lots of Christmas stories (nightly) and sipped hot chocolate with tiny little candy canes after coming in from snow sledding (preferably on the huge and epic, "Cherry Hill! This tradition is simply about having fun together and is one we will never out grow! I hope there will be snow again this month so we can sled down Cherry Hill again soon!) (purpose #3)

*Speaking of baking... I love the way the counters look on Christmas morning! :D  ~ One of the things the family love most on Christmas day is waking in the morning to see the counter covered with Christmas goodies and the aroma of a delicious breakfast in the air. I will admit... I love it too! :) This year I am going to have a breakfast casserole ready the night before. It only takes 15 minutes prep time, and it smells and tastes divine! Of course, oranges or OJ is also a must! In addition to the food, I also have a small Christmas tree on the counter all lit up so there is a soft glow lit upon the goodies when kids wake.

These are a few traditions that make Christmas fun and memorable at our house... (purpose #3)

 *Another tradition I really enjoy reminiscing is a tradition we started many years ago in which we all traced our own hand to make a wreath with. We each wrote Christmas activities that we wanted to do during the holiday season on each hand - then scheduled these activities into the calendar, usually during the "12 days of Christmas." As we participated in the activities... the hands got placed on the wreath. This was a ton of fun when the kids were little.

In the past couple of years we have not done this tradition. We have focused on Christ, which is good... but I don't think we've focused enough on spending time enjoying each other. I missed this tradition and time spent with family. Now the kids are all teenagers, and we have a much harder time finding things to do together; our youth aren't as eager for family time as they were when they were kids (sniffle again...). When they were young kids we were very good about spending time together and they loved to do just about everything! I see the need now to double triple my efforts in this area and seek balance among the purposes of Christmas traditions and activities. I'm sure we will be doing Christmas activities with this tradition. But if activities are chosen which are simply "fun" that will be just fine! Because the focus of this tradition this year is simply to have fun together and on strengthen family bonds.

By Christmas day... we will have created a wreath which will be the symbol of having taken time to strengthen family unity and never ending love... by spending time with family members, doing what they want to do...  (purpose #3)

*This morning as we discussed our wreath tradition and reminded everyone to be thinking of two family activities they would like to do together, I came up with another idea. What if we did two wreaths... one for family activities, and another for service? Of course, we could use a chain or do any number of other crafty visual service reminders... Any ideas for teens? (purpose #2)
I think I will suggest our family do some simple service each day for the 12 days of service this year. I'm really excited about celebrating Christmas! :D

*For the first couple years Miles and I were married we had all kinds of decorations and hung anything and everything on the tree... including little miniature sleds. Then one year, as I was opening a box of candy canes, I looked at the back side of it and read the symbols of the candy cane. I then began reading the symbols of Christmas in other places and started compiling them into one place. Soon I had my own condensed writeup of symbols which suggest to our minds thoughts regarding the true meaning of Christmas. Thus developed the tradition of telling the kids about the symbols of Christmas while we decorated the tree. But there were still "other" decorations which could not be explained. Miles and I looked at our many decorations which had nothing to do with Christ, and agreed that our decorations needed to be simplified and focused on the true meaning of Christmas.  It is fun to find the true meaning of Christmas in practically every little decor! So, with exception to hanging the ornaments which the kids make, the only decorations and ornaments on the tree became those which symbolize the true meaning of Christmas. Even right down to the colors... Every symbol, every decoration, now directs our thoughts to Jesus Christ. (purpose #1)

*As I look at and contemplate the symbols of Christmas I become emotional. I look at the candy canes on my tree and remember the shepherds crook... I remember that Christ is the Good Shepherd who watches over His sheep, and that I am one of His sheep. I remember the bell, and of how each time I begin to go ever so slightly astray... He calls me back into his safe and watchful fold. As I think about these thing I get a little teary eyed and I know He is counting on me to help Him with His goal - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. I get nervous... I'm not sure if others will realize the value of what I have to offer; it takes courage to ask... But I don't want to fail Him, or my neighbors. So I pray for courage to invite them to church... to be a good example and to serve.

Thanks to these precious symbols, Christmas reignites within me the tradition to share the gospel... (Give to others by being a  Faithful Missionary - purpose #2)

*Many years ago our ward (local church group) had a tradition of giving each of the youth of the church $5.00 and inviting them to find a way to multiply their money for a Christmas fund raiser and bring all the earnings back to the church for Christmas shopping for families who didn't have the money for gifts. The youth got to go shopping together with their leaders, wrap the gifts, and present the gifts to families in need as they sang Christmas Carols (purpose #2 - giving to others). When Mindy was old enough to participate in the fundraiser, she began the tradition of purchasing ribbon and tying it onto candy canes to hang on trees, which she sold to neighbors and friends. Of course, I purchased some canes and bows and placed them on our tree. On Christmas morning the kids were allowed to eat the candy canes. Placing new candy canes on the bows each year to place on the tree for Christmas morning became another tradition in our home (an incidental tradition for fun and building family memories - something that just our family does...)

*One year, while Miles and I were both in school and we had NO money...  we had some wonderful friends from church offer to help out with Christmas. We were thankful and really did need some help, but didn't want to take advantage of anyone; so we told them the kids needed clothes but would be getting toys from grandparents. Unfortunately, it turned out that the grandparents all called to let us know that this year they either couldn't send gifts... or they would be arriving late. I couldn't bring myself to tell my friends about the mix up. I wished I had let my friends get toys as well as necessities for the kids. I knew we would not be able to purchase even one toy... This meant they would have their first Christmas with absolutely NO TOYS (I think the kids were about 8, 5, 5, and 2). I prayed and paced all night.

But when Christmas morning came, the kids were filled with gratitude and joy. The clothes had cute little pictures of the things they loved on them, and the kids seemed as happy to get clothes as they had ever been to get toys. Their dad took a sweat suit and painted it to turn it into a costume "from Santa" for one of the boys; it was a treasured hit! I don't recall what the other kids got "from Santa," but I do remember being amazed and relieved that they were all so happy; Christmas was not ruined with no toys!!! There was a feeling of absolute joy that filled the room. The spirit of CHRISTmas was there in full abundance.

I cried that morning, just as I had the night before... but this time, these were not tears of worry... this time I cried tears of relief and joy!

For the past few years, we have had the traditions of the number of gifts from Miles and I being three (the same number of gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus). Actually, there was a time when two gifts were from us and one was from Santa. :o We' may have outgrown that one... but still aim for three gifts for each kid. It is a good number. Not too much, but enough. :) We have had many Christmases with very little, but I have learned that even when I have no money, I can still find gifts to give... (purpose #1 - Christmas is about Christ... and gifts aren't always material)

*Sometime during the Christmas break, we go as a family to a small lake nearby (Avondale) which is completely frozen over and walk across the lake. When the kids were small they made snow angels on the ice. Regardless of age we all slide across the pond on boots. They also enjoyed sitting on a sled while holding onto the dogs leash as the dog drug them over the ice like he was pulling a dog sled! Now that the kids are much bigger we are starting new activities at the frozen pond, like ice fishing. :) Last year, I got to try ice-skating on skates for the first time! :D I'm really looking forward to doing it again! :) (another incidental... purpose #3)

*When the kids were little, we also painted ornaments and took them to the nursing homes and hung them on the tree while caroling. This started while I was a cub scout leader for my twins and the other boys their age. I thought it would be a good cub scout activity, and it was! :) After that, we continued to do it as a family for a couple of years. (purpose #2)

*Here is a tradition that everyone enjoyed years ago, but now my teen boys - (and sometimes my husband) - do it just to be troopers for me. Aren't they great! :D ~ Early in the day (when we're really organized, we do this a day or two in advance of Christmas Eve, to keep the workload down at Christmas time) anyone who desires to (usually everyone) will bake a different kind of cookie or Christmas candy. With these, we make up "goodie plates," which will also usually have a candy cane on them or some cute little Christmas candy figure and a Christmas card or print up of the symbols of Christmas typed on Christmas paper to go with it. Then we decide which families we will visit, (in addition to a nursing home), and deliver them along with some Christmas Caroling. Some years we deliver in the same night, and other years we deliver on Christmas Eve, just to make it more special to the elderly in nursing homes. We have also saved visiting the nursing home for Christmas day on some occasions (we're very flexible to keep the schedule relaxed and the atmosphere enjoyable).

When singing outside neighbors and friends homes; we always sing three songs (unless we bake that day and get tired or cold... in which case we once dwindle down to one or two songs per home  :o). The first song is always a fun and loud song to get the attention of the receivers (like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, for example). The second song is always a spiritual song about the true meaning of Christmas (usually Away in a Manger, or Silent Night). The third song is always "We Wish You a Merry Christmas!" After-which we deliver the plate of cookies and go our way, (unless we are at the nursing home; we usually stay there a while). This has always been an incredibly spiritual, memorable, and cherished tradition for me. (purpose #2)

*I usually wear my "I believe in Santa" shirt (I have had it since I was about 17) while decorating the tree, and sometimes again on Christmas day as well as a few other days in-between... :) (incidental... no purpose here except for me to have fun! :))

*Driving around to see the Christmas lights: We also walk the docks down by the Coeur d'Alene Resort and look at the thousands of amazing light figures there. One year we went on a cruise to the "North Pole." :) (purpose #3 -time with family).

*Watch Christmas movies and eat goodies. A few of my absolute favorites are Miracle on 34th street, It's a Wonderful Life, The Polar Express, Eloise at Christmas Time, White Christmas and some other great Christmas oldies..., and here is one I hesitate to tell you about and hope you'll not think ill of me for watching... Trapped in Paradise. The language isn't the best... and I seriously CANT STAND BAD LANGUAGE and am incredibly picky about watching only good clean movies... and yet, I still love this movie; it is THE BEST comedy Christmas movie EVER and more important, it has a really great message of repentance, redemption and forgiveness!!! It is seriously very sweet and funny. I'm going to have to find a company that can edit the language out of this movie so I can keep it... :o)

*We have a new tradition of having a teen Christmas movie party (at which the last movie mentioned is not allowed to be viewed for parties :o). The kids invite friends over to watch a favorite Christmas movie and enjoy a white elephant gift exchange for the gift exchange game. BTW - Levi just had his first Christmas party of his own with his friends. They watched The Grinch and had a ton of fun with gift exchange, playing Clue, Apples to Apples, and eating popcorn and Christmas cookies. I'm so happy that he got to have a party! :D (The purpose of this tradition is to have fun and reach out to friends... 3 and 2)

*One of the best traditions we have is to give a gift to Christ. When the kids were little we wrapped the gifts in tiny little boxes with bows and left them out on a mantle or in some visible place throughout the year. The next Christmas we would open the gifts to see if we remembered to follow through. We later decided that 3X5 cards worked better - to help us to see our goals and make sure we remember to follow through. I punched a hole in one corner of the cards and tied a ribbon through the hole to give it that "gift" look. Then I stamped a cute little picture on it of a tree, bells, or some other symbol of Christmas, along with the words... "My gift to Christ is..." Of course, each person fills out the card with a goal of something special we will do during the coming year to either serve Christ or better follow in His footsteps and become more like Him. (purposes 1 and 2)

OK, this post is plenty long.. and this list is plenty long too... I hope it gives you ideas and gets you excited to enjoy creating your own family traditions!

May you have a very Merry Christmas filled with purpose, fun, and lasting memories!

Corine :D