Thursday, December 30, 2010

Last of the December Loves

It has been a great December.

  • Megan and Ellie's 'Cooking Show' of how to make a bowl of cereal and a peanut butter sandwich (it was 10:00 at night, I refused to let them 'cook'). Complete with their new aprons, plenty of make-up and the camcorder recording them. I especially loved watching the recordings and hearing Ellie say at the end of each segment, "Let's go show Mom and" and Megan interrupting her sentence with, "ELLIE!" (The tone screams, 'Ellie, this is a professional cooking show. Don't say that when it is recording.')
  • The disputes over the stupid our dear Elf, Jingle, because he didn't disappear back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve like he was supposed to.  Three days post Christmas, when Ellie was distressed that Jingle still lingered in the same spot, we surmised that his extended stay was to monitor the post-Christmas behavior of the children.  He finally made his return to the North Pole.  I can't wait until Casey and Cindy's children get older and they can be gifted a smiliar gift of,  The Elf on The Shelf.
    • The nine 'knife holders' Luke made the day after Christmas with his received gift of leather and a leather punch.
    • The expression on Mike's parents faces, when they opened up our Christmas gift to them.

    • Family time together the week between Christmas and New Years.  
    • Children's excitement and exploration of new things.
    • Taking down the Christmas tree the day after Christmas. (Or two days after, because I didn't want to spend Sunday doing it.)
    • Husband having a procedure done on Monday that reduced his constant 7-8 pain level (on a scale of 1-10)  for the last seventeen years to a 3-4.  Perfect timing for a week off from work. 
    • Dinner out with friends despite the 4,371 phones from home.
    • Family party with a million cousins running rampant and a spirited game of 'Spoons.'
    • Late nights, late breakfasts and a warm home.
    It has been a great December.

    Tuesday, December 28, 2010

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    The Eve

    In keeping with tradition, we all enjoyed our Formal Christmas Eve dinner.  I commented to Mike during dinner, that it made me smile that nobody complains (okay one nine year old boy who shall remain nameless does) that I require encourage everyone to come dressed in their very best dress.  It adds to the spirit of the holiday and evening.

    (Whose kid is that, that did not dress appropriately for The Formal Christmas Eve Dinner?!?)

    This year we finally broke away from my dad, Cindy or Luke always winning and we all cheered when Kristin won the five dollar bill, courtesy of the quarter found in her chocolate trifle serving.

    I introduced a last minute game that my friend suggested while running with her Christmas Eve morning.  It required an early morning trip to the store, a lot of wrapping paper, some drying of tears and a few stern lectures after.  It is probably not high on the 'become a tradition list' . . .
    All in all though,
    What a great evening!
    Did I mention, I LOVE it?

    I think one of my favorites of the year.

    Friday, December 24, 2010

    A Christmas Lesson

    Ellie was reading a Nativity book to Joshua ...

    Joshua: "Ellie, how come there are no horses in that book?"
    Ellie: "Because they only had shepherds and camels and stuff like that."
    Joshua: "Ellie is that really true?"
    Ellie: "Yes."

    I love being surrounded by little children at Christmas.
    It is magical, sincere and simple.

    Merry Christmas!

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    More December Loves

    I love first grade programs.
    Actually, the first two I attended did not stir the same excitement and anticipation in me as this one did. Ellie has been singing the songs constantly for the two weeks preceding the program. A couple of days before the program Ellie heard me singing the song that had become stuck in my head for hours... "Christmas cookies and holiday cheer..." She looked at me with a shocked look on her face and questioned, "How do you know that?!?" "Hummm" I replied, I've heard you singing it constantly for days and days!" 

    Ellie was dressed, complete with her coat and back pack on thirty minutes before the departure time.  (Man I wish we could have a First Grade Christmas Program every day if it always elicited that much obedience and co-operation in the mornings from Ellie!)

    I love this year's Christmas tree with a western theme.  Even if it is already half dead and Christmas is still a few days away...

    I love an evening spent at Temple Square (even though we forgot the camera) seeing the beautiful lights and displays.

    I love Christmas music playing in my kitchen daily.  My favorite? And Mike's LEAST favorite? 'Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton's Once Upon A Christmas'

    I love more dinner parties.
    (Keith & Brandi (and Elizabeth) Wieland, Tiffany and Mike)

    I love that when I asked Megan if she wanted us to all squoosh around the dining room table when the Wielands came, or do a separate kid table she said, "As long as you set the kid table pretty too."
    (Luke, Lauren, Joshua, Drew, Kathryn)

    I love singing Christmas songs around the piano.  (Of all our dinner guests/December visitors, I knew that the Wielands would be the only ones to not scoff at the idea of singing carols around the piano.)  We all had a great, enthusiastic time.  (Except for one nine year old boy...)

    I love the Nativity story told by a three year old, "Jesus was born in a barn with horses and other animals.  Then after he was a baby Jesus he was big Jesus."
    Happy, Happy December!

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    A Memory For Monday (With Ornaments)

    This year, I broke from our traditionally decorated Christmas tree... Colored lights, and ornaments that the kids have picked out each year, and some traditional and sentimental ones from mine and Mike's childhood.  Instead, this year, I asked each person in the family permission to do a 'western themed tree' instead.   We all love it.  The children each have trees in their bedrooms, adorned with their own sentimental ornaments.

    Everyone wins...

    Though I love my tree this year, there are a couple of decorations that I miss having displayed.  None of the kids chose them for their bedroom trees, and they didn't really fit the western tree.

    They are treasured ornaments and memories.  And so instead, they will be remembered as today's Memory for Monday. 

    In December 1982, my friend Lynsey Dyki had a 'Fancy Dress' birthday party (English for costume party). I went as a Christmas tree. At some point over the years, the photo was turned into a tree ornament, and hangs faithfully on our tree each year.

    And no matter how classy one's Christmas tree decor is, who can resist hanging this ornament with a photo of Mike in it from 1982?!  (It is now intermingled with the western decorations...)

    Merry Christmas!

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    From Our Home to Yours

    (I couldn't get this to scan in straight! The card itself was not crooked!!)

    Our 10th annual State of Our Union Christmas letter:
    Merry, Merry Christmas.
    From Our Home to Yours

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Who Cares?

    I thought I would use my cell phone to help make a 'mind picture' I took today more permanent. And though it is a really poor quality photo, it was a moment that I don't want to forget for several reasons...

    This afternoon, Ellie accompanied me to the store.  While I picked out some tomatoes, Ellie wandered over to a nearby Christmas candy display.  The plastic candy canes filled with Hot Tamales immediately caught Ellie's attention.  (They are one of Mike's very favorite candies.) Ellie reached towards it and asked, "Can I please, please, get this for Daddy for Christmas?"
    It was a $1.00.
    I obliged her altruistic request. 

    Dinner time was quickly approaching, and in true Tiffany fashion, I began to hurry towards the checkstands.  Glancing over my shoulder I didn't see Ellie immediately following me.  I turned again to see where she had gone.  She WAS behind me.  I just didn't see her because she was crouched over to the ground using the 12" plastic CANDY cane filled with Hot Tamales as a WALKING cane.
    (Ellie with a sucker in her mouth, cheese nips in her arms and a 12" plastic candy cane as her walking stick.)

    She didn't have a care in the world that:
    a. She looked quite ridiculous
    b. I was in a hurry and needed her to walk faster
    c. It was 5:45pm on a December evening and the store was packed with shoppers rushing about their Christmas shopping who had to slow down to accomodate a six year old walking with a 12" candy cane.
    d. Did I mention the part that she didn't care that she looked kind of ridiculous.

    Thinking, she would stand up and walk properly, I told her to come along faster.  Instead, she continued with her crouched over position, picked up her speed as fast as one can in that position, and said, "I'm trying to be faster."

    It was truly one of those moments I didn't know whether to laugh or cry...
    Laugh at the sheer humor of it all or cry because surely her social protocol naivety won't last forever.

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    December Loves

    Though Christmas is certainly not my favorite holiday, there are definite things I LOVE about Christmas and the month of December...

    I LOVE new dresses:

    I LOVE dinner parties:
    (dinner with Tingeys)
    (dinner with Freys)
    I LOVE Christmas Crackers and the hats, jokes and prizes found inside:
    I LOVE that grown men still wear their Christmas Cracker hats a couple hours after dinner.
    I love that Luke still wears his Christmas Sweater (I don't love that he and I have to plan the responses to the children at church that make rude comments about it.)  I also don't love that this is surely the last year of the sweater fitting him.
    I LOVE Christmas books:
    (Alicia & Brandon Tingey, Ellie, Joshua, Megan and Luke looking at 'I Spy Christmas')
    I LOVE Christmas games:
    (Kari (& Damon), Ellie, Joshua, Luke, Megan (and part of Kellen) playing Christmas Bingo)
    I'm trying to LOVE the 'Don't turn your back for a second' stage:
    (Drew, jam, a spoon, a water cup and a pitcher!)
    But I don't care what month or season it is, I DO NOT love tantrums...

    Happy, Happy December!

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    A Memory For Monday (With Granny and Melanie)

    Probably close to seventeen years ago, my parents hosted a Christmas dinner party at their house. A long table had been set up in the kitchen/family room to seat all of the guests. Later that evening when the party guests had gone home, my BFF Melanie, and I found ourselves scavenging some of the left-over dessert. Probably without any conscious thought, but just because we always seem(ed) to do dumb things, one of us sat at one end of the long banquet table and one of us sat at the other as we delved into the surely scrumptious dessert.

    My Granny walked into the kitchen, and upon seeing us sitting at opposite ends of the table asked, (insert a proper English accent here)
    "Did you get in a row?"
    ('row' pronounced 'rou' means to get in a quarrel or disagreement)

    Every so often, I'll text Melanie to remind her of this memory.  Usually my reminder to her follows having had Mike's extended family over to dinner and/or another large dinner gathering that we have set up a long banquet table for to seat everyone.  It doesn't usually get taken down until the next day...
    Last night was no different.  After a dinner party last night with a decent size group, the tables were still up this morning.  As my children sat down to eat breakfast, I sat down at the opposite end of them to eat mine.  With a proper English accent I asked them, 'Did we get in a row?"

    Of course they all looked at me like I was nuts, and of course I regaled them with my story of Granny, Melanie and our non-row evening almost seventeen years ago.

    I insisted Megan take a photo and instead of texting Melanie, I decided to write the memory down.    And though the memory is inconsequential and of fairly little importance, it is one of those memories I don't ever want to forget.

    Happy December!

    Thursday, December 9, 2010

    In The Blink of an Eye

    The other day Ellie accompanied me to Costco.  As we walked into the store, Ellie was holding my hand skipping along at my side.  Ellie's skipping and carefree enthusiasm for being with me brought a smile to my face.  Though my thoughts also wandered to the thought, 'When exactly did Megan and Luke stop holding my hand when walking by my side?'
    I was reminded to savor the little things in life.

    Last night we visited Temple Square to see the beautiful Christmas lights and nativities.  While walking around, I could hear Joshua saying to no one in particular, "I love Jesus and I love Joseph Smith and I love the temple."
    I was reminded how easy, love and faith come to a child.

    Casey and Cindy gave The Elf on the Shelf  to my children as an early Christmas present.  I have a love/hate relationship with him.  It has gotten me out of bed more than once to check his whereabouts...  But seeing the excitement and enthusiasm of the children (especially Luke and Ellie) each morning to search for his new hidden location is contagious.
    Each morning I am reminded of the treasure my mental pictures/memories will one day be.

    This morning, Drew fell and bonked his head.  I put down the cleanser and sat down on the floor and held him.  He began 'singing' 'I Hope They Call Me On A Mission.'  It is his way of asking me to sing to him and then he stops and listens to me.  My days of rocking and singing to other children besides Drew are becoming very rare. 
    I was reminded of how quickly time flies.

    Each morning the children gather to the Advent Calendar House (and according to a 'Megan-imposed- order'), they take turns retrieving the small treat found in the house.  (If Drew doesn't happen to be in the room with them, the person 'retrieving' the treat gets to eat Drew's...)  Each morning Luke yells a number downstairs to me as he moves the Countdown Calendar to Christmas.  And whenever a new wrapped present appears under the tree, a child eagerly checks to see if it is for them. 
    I am reminded of the magic of Christmas.

    As Ellie and I walked out of Costco on the aforementioned day, Ellie's mood had changed.  She was now carrying tortillas in her hand, she had a slight wiggle to her bum, and her hand 'flipped her hair' just so.  The expression on her face clearly told me she was in 'playing grown-up' mode. 
    I was reminded that no matter what I do, the old adage 'They'll grow up in a blink of an eye' really is a reality.

    Most days, I'm trying my hardest NOT to blink. 

    Bracelets That Speak

    Surely I am not the only mother that throws in a bunch of phrases when saying the typical 'goodbyes' and 'I love yous' to my children.   Some of the last things I say to them when I say goodbye to them say to school, a birthday party, an extra-curricular activity, a church meeting, etc. are:  
    "Be good"
    "Say please and thank you."
    "Don't talk too much"
    "Make sure you wash your hands"
    "Be polite"
    "Be kind to the other kids"
    "Make good choices"
    And one of my personal favorites, which I use more with one child than any of the others is, "Act as though I will hear and see and know everything you're doing."  We expect (or just really hope) they remember everything we teach them from not picking their noses to not talking out of turn.

    Several weeks ago when Mike and I went away overnight I realized all those instructions are sort of a two-way street.  While changing into my white dress while at the Logan temple, the bracelets on my hand stood out prominently on my wrist.
    I had the orange Silly Band bracelet that I had been given for my birthday that morning by Ellie. I was still wearing the purple and pink friendship bracelet that Megan had patiently braided for a me a week or so previously, and not wanting Luke to feel left out, that morning, I had courteously put on the brightly colored beaded bracelet (complete with cat beads--which incidentally, I strongly dislike cats) that Luke gave me for Mother's Day a couple of years ago.

    I found myself thinking about all those phrases I utter as I say goodbye to my children and it seemed that those bracelets were really things my children would say to me.  Even though I didn't need to be told not to pick my nose or told to remember to wash my hands, the bracelets seemed to speak volumes of "We love you" and "We're glad you're our mom".  And just like my personal favorite "Act as though I will hear and see and know everything you're doing" the bracelets seemed to say, "Don't forget you're our mom."

    Ignoring the fact that the bracelets were colorful, and not exactly the most subtle accessories I owned, I tucked them up into my white dress sleeve and smiled.

    And even though I was enjoying my twenty-four hours away from my children, I was proud to be a mom.  The proof was on my wrist!

    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    Sometimes It's About ME!

    (Completely unrelated photo--but is one of my favorite Christmas pictures ever--Ellie, December 2006) 

    Lately I have been 'haunted' by a comment that a friend said to me years ago.  Though HE was much older than me in years, wiser than me in a lot of ways, and had a two or three children of his own, HE was not a MOTHER.  Bottom line, HE is not ME.

    His 'advice' almost ten years ago, when I had only one child and one on the way??

    "At the end of the day, parents should never say to their children that 'they need their personal time now'.  Their personal time will come when the children leave home."

    Ten years and a few more kids later...
    I do exactly what he advised me NOT to do.

    I tell my children I need personal time at the end of the day.

    Though I help lay out their clothes for the next day, I ask personal questions about their day as I tuck them into bed, I tell them I love them,  I help them say their personal prayers, I'll admit, I do often end the 'Good night routine' with

    "Now don't interrupt my time unless
    a. there is a fire
    b. you are bleeding
    c. you are dead

    I'm trying to forget what this friend of Mike's ever said, but occasionally I find it creeping into my psyche more than I'd like.
    Tonight was a prime example...

    Today was one of those days that I ran, ran, ran.  It kind of helped that Megan was (sorta) sick and stayed home from school and enabled me to run a bunch of errands kid-free.  I squeezed in a lot more than I typically would in a day, and so by this evening I was left feeling physically and mentally more tired than usual.  Add to it a school assembly, a difficult episode with a child, a toddler that leaves a path of destruction, a husband that was feeling discouraged about something, burnt homemade pizza, and a few serious stresses lingering in my heart and mind.

    Then to end the day was baths, reading, and the bedtime routine without my very helpful husband.

    I was tired, ornery, snappy, and had very little patience left. And I was just getting to the part about saying something along the lines of,
    "I need my alone time.  Hurry up with the bedtime routine."


    I almost allowed those haunted words to enter my mind and fill it with needless feelings of guilt and questioning my selfishness.  While thinking of this old friend, I picked up the knocked down towel rack, scooped up some wet towels and then stepped on one of the dominos strewn across my bathroom floor (yes, you read that right; currently a set of dominos are strewn across my bathroom floor!).  Instead of allowing his words to haunt me with the usual feelings of needless guilt and questioning my selfishness, I closed the bathroom door slightly harder than usual and said out loud to the children,  "I need my time, hurry faster."

    And so I say to Jim wherever he is (we've since lost all contact with him),
    "With all due respect, I am a MOTHER, you are not. 

    I could do a whole 'nother post on his other 'words of advice'--in fact I will soon.  It has something about keeping a clean and orderly house....

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    A Memory For Monday (With Auntie Sheila)

    One of my favorite decorations I use every Christmas is a little porcelain Santa & Mrs Claus sitting on a little couch.  I bought it for £5.00 at Harrod's in London in (I'm pretty sure) 1984 on an annual trip to London to 'see the lights' with Auntie Sheila.

    Auntie Sheila wasn't my aunt, in fact she was no relative at all.  She was a dear family friend, and as a form of respect and closeness we put 'Auntie' in front of the name, instead of a more formal 'Mrs' or 'Sister'.  Auntie Sheila was a lady of very simple means in a worldly sense.  As a child she spent time in an orphanage of sorts and as an adult had her fair share of challenges with finances, marriage, children, etc.  She could be a little rough around the edges, and though she had very little to offer in terms of material wealth, she offered love, acceptance, kindness and time.  Really.  The most important things to give.

    As well as being a frequent babysitter, Auntie Sheila frequently took me to London and frequently gave me books and/or lessons on the Royal Family.   It is from Auntie Sheila that I have a deep love and respect for England and it's beauty, charm and heritage.  Having never learned to drive, Auntie Sheila knew the buses of London like no one else I knew.  With her, we never took the train.  Always buses.

    I remember specifically the year I bought my porcelain Santa & Mrs Claus.  I remember standing at the bus stop late that Saturday evening as Christmas lights and city lights shone around us.  We were tired and worn out from a day in London.  I remember I started singing Christmas carols and was soon joined in by what I thought was a nice man.  (Auntie Sheila later told me he was 'a drunk old man.'--and incidentally, though Auntie Sheila was slow and older in years, she was probably just as capable and tough as any bodyguard.)  Auntie Sheila didn't take nonsense from ANYBODY.

    When I visited England alone in 1991 an 1996, Auntie Sheila made sure I set aside a day with her to visit and sight-see.  What treasured memories.
    (Tiffany and Auntie Sheila, Hampton Court--September 1996)

    When Mike, Megan and I visited England in 2000, I was so excited to introduce Mike and Megan to Auntie Sheila.  She (and her daughter, Ruth) fixed us dinner and made us feel welcome in her home.  In that brief visit, Auntie Sheila's love and excitement to be meeting Megan was obvious.  I knew when I said a tearful goodbye to Auntie Sheila that evening that I would probably not see her again in this life.
    (Auntie Sheila, Tiffany and Megan--November 2000)

    There are many nostalgic memories I have of people, places and things around Christmas time.  And each year when I set out my Santa & Mrs Claus, and we hang our seven crocheted stockings Auntie Sheila lovingly made (for my family growing up and Granny, that my mother kindly passed onto me), I shed a few tears and a few smiles. And I thank the Lord for good people that influenced my life.

    What about you?
    What people, places and things from years gone by do you treasure at Christmas?

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Prayers, Faith and Even Miracles

    Tonight Mike and I were supposed to be going to a Christmas get together dinner with a group of our dear friends; Scarlet & Mark, Kim & Alan and Keith & Brandi.  Instead, our 'get-together' was this afternoon in a hospital room.  I stood with my dear friends and watched my friend Scarlet kiss her husband on the cheek as he laid in a hospital bed fighting for his life.  It was a poignant, unwanted reminder of how life can change in a minute.

    Mark was assaulted by his brother on Wednesday night and is in critical condition with severe brain trauma.  Please keep his dear family in your prayers.  Mark's wife and three young girls need him to make a full recovery.  We have faith that each prayer will and can make a difference.  You can find more information here

    Now go hug those you love.

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Real Giving

    Each year during the week after Thanksgiving, our elementary school hosts a 'Santa's Secret Workshop.'   Managed by the Student Council with the help of parent volunteers, children are able to buy affordable gifts for family members.  (Personally, I have never been a big fan of the idea.  Think dollar store items meets overpriced fundraiser items...)  But with Megan on the Student Council, my volunteer time was requested and when Luke and Ellie came into visit me during my shift I allowed them to pick out a 'gotta-have' gift for Dad and Grandpa.

    Yesterday morning, Luke left for school with a few dollars in his pocket.  I bit my tongue from telling him not to spend his hard-earned money on junk that I imagined him buying for himself.

    I'm glad I bit my tongue when he returned home from school.  His smile was wide and his enthusiasm contagious as he excitedly told me he picked out a Christmas gift for Ellie.  He predicted she would love it and he couldn't wait to get it wrapped.

    And then Megan came home.  Luke excitedly began telling Megan about the gift for Ellie.  "Come upstairs and I'll show you" he pleaded.

    That was all I heard of 'Ellie's gift.'

    Until this morning.  As Luke was walking out the front door for school, he turned back around.  With a very serious and a slightly embarrassed tone he quietly whispered,
    "I have an early Christmas present for you, Mom."
    He pulled out of his pocket the bracelet he had so excitedly and proudly picked out for Ellie.

    He hadn't noticed, until Megan pointed it out to him that the pretty red bracelet packaged in the pretty red draw-string bag that he had thoughtfully picked out for Ellie, had a heart hanging from it that read M-O-M.

    It is an early Christmas gift I will always treasure.
    And though the inexpensive bracelet will surely not last long, the memory of my son with the true attitude of giving will last forever.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Tis The Season

    (New socks under the tree this morning to welcome December)

    My mother babysat Joshua on Tuesday and a conversation went something like this:
    Joshua questioned, "Why does Santa give presents?" 
    "Well," My mother replied, "He gives presents just like the Wisemen gave presents to baby Jesus." 
    "No Nana.  The wiseman built his house upon the rock!"
    Seems like a good time to review the nativity story with him.
    Happy December!


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