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GQ: Touch Hands

Years ago I attended a Christmas Relief Society evening with my mom. At least that is my memory. My friend’s mom, Connie, shared some Christmas stories and a poem. (Again, I think this is when I got them from her. Who knows for sure!) Each year, when Christmas comes around, I think of these poems and stories with fondness. I want to share them with you, too.

Ah friends, dear friends, as years go on
And heads get gray, how fast the guests do go!
Touch hands, touch hands with those who stay.
Strong hands to weak, old hands to young,
Around the Christmas board touch hands.
The false forget, the foe forgive,
For every guest will go, and every fire burn low
And cabin empty stand.
Forget, forgive, for who may say that Christmas day
May ever come to host or guest again!
Touch hands!

William H. Murray, “John Norton’s Vagabond”

That poem was touching, but this one mad me laugh as a child. As an adult, having suffered a nervous breakdown right before Christmas, it is not such a laughing matter. But it still makes me smile, and it reminds me that simplifying Christmas is always a good idea.

A Christmas Primer

I.

See mother.
See mother laugh.
Mother is happy.
Mother is happy about Christmas.
Mother is organized.
Mother smiles all the time.
Funny, funny mother.

See mother.
See mother smile.
Mother is happy.
The shopping is all done.
See the children watch TV.
Watch, children watch.
See the children change their mind.
See them ask Santa for different toys.
Look. Look.
Mother is not smiling.
Funny, funny mother.

See mother.
See mother sew.
Mother will make dresses.
Mother will make robes.
Mother will make shirts.
See mother put the zipper in wrong.
See mother sew the dress on the wrong side.
See mother cut the skirt too short.
See mother put the material away until January.
Look. Look.
See mother take a tranquilizer.
Funny, funny mother.

See mother.
See mother buy raisins and nuts.
See mother buy candied pineapple and powdered sugar.
See mother buy flour and dates and pecans and brown sugar and bananas and spices and vanilla.
Look. Look.
Mother is missing everything together.
See the children press the cookies.
See the flour on their elbows.
See the cookies burn.
See the cake fall.
See the children pull taffy.
See the mother pull her hair.
See mother clean the kitchen with the garden hose.
Funny, funny mother.

See mother.
See mother wrap presents.
See mother look for the end of the Scotch tape roll.
See mother bite her fingernails.
See mother go.
See mother go to the store 12 times in one day.
Go, mother, go.
See mother go faster.
Run, mother, run.
See mother trim the tree.
See mother have a party.
See mother make popcorn.
See mother wash the walls.
See mother scrub the rug.
See mother tear up the organized plan.
See mother forget the gift for Uncle Harold.
See mother get hives.

II.
Go, mother, go.
See the faraway look in mother’s eyes.
Mother has become disorganized.
Mother looks disoriented.
Funny, funny mother.

It is finally Christmas morning.
See the happy family.
See father smile.
Father is happy.
Smile, father, smile.
Father loves fruitcake.
Father loves Christmas pudding.
Father loves all the new neckties.

Look. Look.
See the happy children.
See the children’s toys.
Santa was very good to the children.
The children will remember this Christmas.

See mother.
Mother will remember this Christmas, too.
Mother is slumped in a chair.
See mother cry.
Mother does not look well.
See the dark circles under mother’s red eyes.
See everyone help mother to her bed.
See mother sleep quietly under heavy sedation.
See mother smile.
Funny, funny mother!

(Connie typed at the bottom: Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good sleep!)

 

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RWM: Christmas children’s book picks

Trees of Dancing Goats

We have an entire shelf in our home library for Christmas books. Picking just a few to highlight is hard! Too many that I love! So I just pulled some that are at the top of my list.

The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco is not officially our family book club younger read for this month. (Our family book club younger read would be the whole shelf, basically. That’s what they do in December. They get the books out and read them on the couch in front of the fire. And then they leave them on the couch and floor for me to put back. Kind of their tradition. I like the reading part. Not the cleaning up part. LOL.)

This is such a loving story, that I still tear up when I read it. If you can get the audio version of Patricia reading the book, you will love it. (I especially love how she does her grandmother’s accent.) Trees is a tender tale of a Jewish family who serves a Christian family who is sick with scarlet fever. It is a perfect (and true!) Christmas tale about sacrifice and true neighborly love.

The Night Before The Night Before ChristmasThe Night Before the Night Before Christmas by Natasha Wing tells the (could be true) story of a typical American family who is experiencing the stress of the season. Our dear friends the Mosbargers gave it to us for Christmas in 2003. I think Gloria knew I could identify with the mother. Because I was sick and overdone yesterday, Julia came in and saw me and asked how I was doing. She then quoted this book. She and Eliza walked in the door and sent me to my bed to take a nap, saying that they would finish the work I was doing. And they did. I felt extremely loved and nurtured. This book will make you laugh out loud. And it might inspire your children to tuck you in bed one day, too.

Christmas in Exeter Street

Christmas in Exeter Street by Diana Hendry was given to me last year by one of Sarah’s best friends, Taylor. We’ve know Taylor since she was little. (OK, to be fair, she and I may never outgrow that description, right, Tay? So good to have someone I can look in the eye.) She comes from Australia and has a delightful accent, and this is one of her favorite books. She said it reminds us of our home, which was the nicest compliment ever! This funny story tells about a family and home who welcome all kinds of friends, relatives, and strangers to spend Christmas Eve (and the night!) with them. Folks sleep on the sofa, in the sink, on the window sill, on the fireplace mantle, and on the china hutch shelves. It is DARLING. It is hard to get, and I appreciate the work that Taylor’s mom went to on both of our behalf to find this book! We love it!

Silent night holy night

Silent Night Holy Night by Werner Thuswaldner (illustrated by Robert Ingpen) is the beautifully illustrated of the history of the Christmas hymn, “Silent Night” (Stille Nacht). Ooh, I love these illustrations. They make me feel like I am back in Germany. The story of this hymn is one that all singers should know, because it was a gift to the world during a time of great difficulty. I love how God does that. He always has special gifts to give his children in the midst of adversity. I love how music is a special gift that He shares with us in a way that so many of his children can enjoy the gift. You will want to include this important story in the ones you share with the children you read to.

Too Many Tamales

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto (illustrated by Ed Martinez). I have reviewed this book before and surely will again. It is a classic tale of a child’s curiosity coupled with innocent misfortune. It’s a tale of honesty and repentance and wonderful humor. If you love children, you will love this story! And you will have to eat a tamale at Christmas to really enjoy it, too. (I have a friend who makes wonderful tamales! Conchita, thank you for sharing your tamales and friendship with me.)

Happy Reading,

Liz :)

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RWM: Christmas Chronicles

Christmas Chronicles

Whether you’re a Santa Claus believer or not, this tale is truly delightful! Better yet, you can listen to a wonderful audio recording of it for FREE on Classical89.org!

The man who reads the story has a lovely accent. It sounds just like a nice grandfather, and it’s a fun bedtime listen at this time of year.

FREE + GOOD = AWESOME

I’m particularly fond of Santa Claus’ wife’s name…

Happy Listening,

Liz :)

P.S. For other free audio recordings, go here.

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3T: On being a music lesson mom in December

Peter cello lessonI’ve been sick. So when I woke up one morning this week, I wished I could just skip going to Peter’s cello lesson.

(Nope. Did that last week.)

I decided we’d better go after all!

It’s not that I don’t like music lessons. I do! I mean, after all, I am a music teacher! And a music education advocate!

It’s just that I’m constantly challenged by my health and sleep issues and keeping up with my family, so before-school music lessons and orchestra are sometimes a little challenging to get to.

But music matters to me, so we go.

Practicing, on the other hand, seems to be more elusive.

I know. Why do lessons if you don’t practice?

A valid question.

At this stage in my mothering, I feel as much guilt as ever about my children not practicing. Practicing with them is not my strength. Balancing all of my families needs (clean clothing, food on the table, a house that is somewhat clean, physical/emotional/spiritual health) along with their education (homework, music, sports, personal management/self-reliance, etc.) and maintaining my own health is just something I have not gotten down to a science. I’m more like a butterfly! I flit from one thing to the next, touching down lightly in a sort of managerial/appreciation fashion. But practicing everyday with my younger children? I am so not there. So not.

Would I like to be? Mostly.

I know it is annoying to music teachers to have children whose parents don’t do what they are supposed to do. But part of learning to make music is learning to practice on your own, too. So we’re really excelling in that area! Hooray for something positive!

I will say that after having taken children to music lessons for the past 16 years, I have interacted with many different music teachers (Kindermusik, violin, piano, harp, voice, flute, bagpipes, cello). My favorite teachers are the ones who are kind and compassionate. They understand big families. They understand moms who are not “perfect” Suzuki moms. They understand that music may not be the number one priority in my life. What is my number one priority in life? Basically, God and love at home. I want my children to know that they are children of God and that He loves them and that I love them. I want my husband to feel that, too. And there is just this balance of trying to maintain that big picture that means things don’t go like clockwork everyday.

Especially in December.

I could list what has been happening in our family in the last 3 weeks. Should I? Would that be boring? Annoying? I’ll just say life has been full (as always) and had its challenges (as always), which means that even though we have a schedule, it is always changing. And you know how the holiday season is with all of its added performances and parties. And then there’s the flu. So getting practicing done with children? Practically unheard of.

Well, that’s the story for today. Just thought I’d write it down so that my daughters (and sons) can read it when they are having a challenging time helping their children with practicing during December, or any other month, for that matter. When they look at what they learned to do, they will see that in the long run, it was OK. They will see that they learned to make, enjoy, and appreciate music even with all of our imperfect practicing. And so they’ll keep trying.

And maybe they’ll do even better than I did.

Stand on my shoulders, that’s what Mom (and Isaac Newton) said.

Happy Practicing (or Simply Keeping Perspective or Feeling Understood, Take Your Pick),

Liz :)

 

 

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Sarah harp…or mahogany.

Sarah pulled the cover off her harp last night and started playing scales. She has been so busy with school this semester that this is the first time she has sat down to play.

Everything sounds good on the harp (when it is in tune). Even scales.

When she started playing her scales, I wanted to lay down on the couch and close my eyes and just listen.

(But we were walking out the door to Lane’s work party. Sigh.)

So I videoed her playing the scales.

And then Sunday I walked in the door from church, and Sarah was playing her other warm up exercise that is so cool, where one hand plays one rhythm and the other hand is playing contrarywise. It was my favorite exercise that she always played at the start of her harp lessons when we had lessons up in Salt Lake. I always felt like she was a genius simply for being able to do that. We’re talking much harder than patting your head and rubbing your tummy! I’m pretty sure I could not do that exercise no matter how slowly I did it. I’d have to be a child again to learn how.

So I videoed that.

Angels touching their harps of birch or mahogany or gold. Any kind of harp, it’s just wonderfully lovely.

Happy Listening,

Liz :)

P.S. Looking for a some soothing music to give to a friend for Christmas? Try “Breathe: The Relaxing Harp” by Yolanda Kondonassis. I have given that album to many people because I love it so well. Harp therapy is a proven physical therapy used in hospitals. I talked to one woman in a local hospital who feels that harp therapy helped save her life when she was recovering from a major heart problem. Need to relax? Listen to harp!

Breathe

Here is what one woman wrote about the benefits of harp therapy: “Studies show that harp therapy can equalize and slow down brain waves; affect respiration, heartbeat, and pulse; reduce muscle tension; and improve body movement. Premature babies who have received harp therapy are able to drink more of their mother’s milk and gain weight more rapidly, resulting in earlier departure times from the hospital. Harp therapy increases endorphin levels, regulates stress-related hormones, boosts the immune system, and stimulates digestion and the overall feeling of well-being. Therapeutic musicians help to create a relaxed, healing environment through live music, which studies find to be even more effective than recorded music.” –Marcie Swift, Psychologist & Certified Music Practitioner

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MF: Today’s recording

If Elder Livi could have sent a photo of his apartment today, it might have looked like this: two rooms, one painted orange, one pink. No Christmas tree (wishing for one), but lots of homemade snowflakes and a paper chain in red and green, with two felt stockings, all hanging on the wall with Scotch tape.

We are 10 days away from a Skype phone call with our missionary!!! Hooray!

Here are some great quotes from his recordings that came through today:

“Broke, but happy. That’s how it should be, right?”

“The best part of the week was feeling the Spirit.”

“It feels good to help people, especially when you’re putting a lot of effort into helping them.”

I love that he has an orange and a pink room in his apartment! That’s gotta do something to brighten up his day!

I wish I had sent that Christmas tree that I bought last year for his mission….Oh well, next year! I knew I should have included more red and green paper in his Christmas package! He is going to make a paper Christmas tree, he said. So glad I sent the Scotch tape!

Well, I have to say: after hearing Nate’s voice, I sometimes have the Monday morning blues. I wish he could read my emails and respond to them immediately. But then I remember my mission, and how letters to home took about 10 days or more, and then getting one back took the same, so it could be a month easily before a question got answered. So I guess I can wait a week! Oh, the impatience borne of first world life! I am SO grateful to get to hear his voice in his recordings, and to get to hear so many more details now that he is sending recordings!

 

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MF: A letter!

Elder Livi's stocking

Christmas care packages

Back in the beginning of November, Julia and I were wrapping little presents to send to Elder Livi and his companion for Christmas. Because packages often take six weeks to get there, I wanted to send them immediately, so that they could have their stockings hanging up to enjoy during the month. (When I was a missionary, one of my companion’s moms made a stocking for me! I was so touched! I still have it.)

The girls had also made some red and green paper strips (with some tape included) for them to make an advent paper chain. Each loop had a Christmas scripture on it. Here was the great thing: He got the packages in record time–in November! So he was able to start the paper chain on December 1. Hearing that made my day.

(I have an added measure of gratitude in my heart for all those who carry packages, including those on land, in cars and trucks and in airplanes. They work very hard this time of year!)

Last Monday, we didn’t get to hear from Elder Livingston because the computer in the internet café where they were kept crashing. I hope he got the news I had emailed him, since it was important about Owen. I’m grateful that there is the Holy Ghost, and prayer, because I’ve been praying for him to have gotten the news and to be comforted by the Spirit. I am grateful to know that Heavenly Father takes care of us, far and near. I am reminded of when my father-in-law was serving as a missionary in Japan. This was many years ago, when parents and family didn’t have the gift of email. He received news of his mother’s passing in a letter that arrived miraculously fast. God knows what we need and how to help us, so I know that He will help Elder Livi with whatever he needs, too.

Grandpa Joe in Japan

Here are a few excerpts from his letter:

“I always said that the best part of family reunions was family, and it’s true. There is nothing better than family. Actually, God thinks that, too. ‘The family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of his children.’ God has a plan for us, and the family is the biggest part.”

He is teaching a family with a little boy who is exceptional. The mother “wants to be baptized. The husband wants to change his life, so we’re trying to help him, too. But they are not married….So that’s the first step….We spend so much time trying to get people to get married, I feel like I convince myself first! Like I’m ready, why aren’t you? Haha not really….Anyways, I’m very grateful for a wonderful family who loves me. I’m grateful for parents who are married and sealed in the temple. I’m grateful for the wonderful opportunity we have to live together forever. I love you all so so so much!!

“P.S. Sarah, you have to wait for me before you get married, K? I have to approve!!”

I love how missions help us to focus on things of eternal value, because when we come back home and get back into life, we know what we want, and what will make us the happiest. And we’re ready to get working on those eternally important steps. Education, jobs–those are important, but missions, temple marriage: those are the things that make all the difference in the world. I was really grateful to hear from one of Lane’s employees last night who said that back when he was younger, Lane encouraged him to serve a mission, and he did, and now he is married with children. He told me how grateful he is that he served a mission. I’m grateful for a husband who encouraged him! And who served a mission himself, and the difference that it made in his life.

Happy Family and Mission Preparing, Serving, Enjoying, and Appreciating,

Liz :)

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Psst! Good timber, President Monson

jsmb-christmas-tree-1091749-tablet

There are some absolutely beautiful, tall evergreen trees that grow in forests around the world. I don’t know if this one in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building is real or not, but it is sure beautiful.

Growing up, my best friend’s family always had an enormous fresh-cut Douglas fir tree in their entry way, which was where their stairs were, so the ceiling was very tall. I stood in awe of that tree every year, towering over my short stature.

Yesterday when I was out on a much-needed walk, I listened again to President Monson’s conference address that he gave shortly after the death of his beloved wife of nearly 65 years.

I was considering how hard it would be to give a talk of that nature to an international audience. How do you maintain composure when talking about your best friend, your most faithful, eternal companion in front of hundreds of thousands of viewers?

You have to be built of good timber, that’s for sure.

President and Sister Monson

President Monson quoted part of the poem “Good Timber” in his address:

Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
The further sky, the greater length.
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.
(Douglas Malloch, “Good Timber,” in Sterling W. Sill, Making the Most of Yourself (1971), 23.)
President Monson is made of good timber. He has unselfishly and tirelessly served for decades under such challenging circumstances , including after the death of his wife Frances. And I felt grateful for Frances, whose unfailing support made it possible for him to lead and bless and inspire thousands of individuals, who like me, need inspiration and strength. His sacrifices have been a lifetime of Christlike love.
Feeling grateful.
Happy Feeling Grateful for a Living Prophet,
Liz :)
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RWM: A Christmas Carol, for free

christmas-carol-375x210_0I love listening to audiobooks when I houseclean, drive, and exercise. I love playing them for my children when they are sick, driving together as a family, or going to bed. I especially love audio books when they are FREE!

The Christmas Carol is a book that I don’t tire of hearing. I was delighted to find out that an audio version is available free for the listening online!

Just wanted to share!

Happy Listening,

Liz :)

 

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3T: Green Christmas (reusable gift tags)

Gift tags

I think the term “green” is interesting, because in our house, “being green” is simply practical, everyday living. There are many things we do all the time in a big family to reuse, save, and recycle because it makes sense and saves us money! We throw away less because when we make something that we can use over and over, and it makes definitely makes life easier, simpler, and more cost-effective. A side bonus is that is makes the world less full of trash and preserves natural resources for others who also need them.

At Christmas, we have gift boxes, bags, ribbons and tags that we reuse every year.  I started making something one year, and then each year I have been able to add some additional item as needed/desired, especially by getting things when they come on sale. I maybe buy 1 roll of Christmas wrapping paper each year to help out Santa.

IMG_0562

Someone gave us some Christmas treats in this tin one year. I use it for storing the tags.

IMG_0563

Laminating the tags has extended the life of the tags. I’m pretty sure they will last longer than our children are home!IMG_0579

gift bag

Gift boxes and tagsBecause of the bags, boxes, tags and ribbons we have now, when it’s time to wrap presents, (and once the gifts are all laid out and accounted for), I pull out all of the wrappings and can be done in about 2 hours. Of course, it took time to make and accumulate these resources, but year after year, little by little they grow, and so now it’s easy!

When my children get married, I want to give them (if they want) sets of bags, boxes, and tags to help them out with their Christmas-doing. It’s so nice to have more time for the things that matter more than gift-wrapping, like being together, serving others, taking time to draw closer to God, and enjoying the special events that happen this time of year.

Happy Being Green,

Liz :)

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