Friday, December 06, 2013

Christmas Prep and Sweet Surprises

Wow, Christmas is coming up fast!

We got out all the decorations and "decked the halls" last Saturday. Plus we got our Christmas tree, wreath and a bunch of poinsettias at Costco.

The kids are nostalgic about the years we treked all over in the freezing cold in the mountains to find the perfect tree. I'm so glad they have fond memories of those years when we found our own Christmas tree the old fashioned way, with a tree permit in hand. I remember lots of frustration since "perfect" trees just don't grow in the wild and since the kids were all crying (since we lived in a warm place, they weren't used to the cold in the nearby mountains and we didn't really have snow gear since we lived in a place where we never needed it - they had plastic bags tied over their shoes to tromp through the snow...). They remember the magic. And that makes me happy. 

But it also makes me happy that since we moved three years ago, there's no place within an hour's drive of here where you can cut your own tree and the tree permits are super expensive so we now spend 10 minutes in a truck at Costco picking a nice 8-foot Noble Fir for $42 rather than wandering through the forests or the tree lots looking for that elusive perfect tree and getting frustrated with each other and the situation. (The reason it only takes 10 minutes is because all the trees are wrapped tightly in twine and you have to pick one based solely on what you can see of the wrapped-up tree. You can bascially just tell how tall it is and how bushy it'll maybe be based on how big the base of the trunk is and how fat the bundle is. It's sort of exciting to get home, cut the twine off your tree and see how it actually looks. We got a good one. Maybe not perfect - it has a bushy side and a more scrawny side but we turned the scrawny side to the wall and did a little thinning where it was too bushy and it looks just great.) 

It took us a while to get around to actually decorating the tree since this week has been crazy. There's been a lot to catch up on at POM after the long weekend and tons of activities packing every evening. On Monday, we had the missionaries over for dinner and had a family the missionaries are working with join us for FHE (The twins have been the big missionaries really with this family. The 8-year-old in the family who goes to scouts with the twins decided he wanted to get baptized because the twins took it upon themselves to take him to see the baptismal font where they'd been baptized when we had a scout event at that building - and their excitement about their baptism spurred him to ask his mom if he could take the discussions and now we're working with the whole family...). 

Tuesday, we had a cub scout pack meeting and a court of honor for the older boys. Wednesday Eliza had Activity Days and ELiza's violin recital rehearsal followed by Eliza's basketball game while Jared did tithing settlement to do all evening (he's had to do a LOT of that - involves talking through what each member has paid in tithing for the year while checking in with them to see how they're doing - plus of course, he's got all his regular duties as Bishop of our ward/congregation which includes lots of special help for needy people at this time of year...). 

Last night was Eliza's recital and she did so well! She's practiced so hard and even though she's only been playing for a few months and got pretty nervous and worried right before the concert, she got up there and played a lot of songs with the other students and did really well. 

Tonight is the big ward Christmas party where hundreds of people come out of the woodwork for a free meal and it's anyone's guess how much food to make and how everything will turn out. I just love how there's never a dull moment in our ward - so many interesting and wondeful people, so many sad stories and glad stories - and Jared's doing such a great job as Bishop. I really don't know how he juggles all he has going on at work and at home with helping so many people in our ward both temporally and spiritually as they deal with hard situations. But he never complains and kindly deals with everything that needs to happen.

After the recital last night, we finally got around to decorating the tree (the kids were pretty concerned that it was so bare for so long). We turned on the Christmas music and the kids helped me untangle lights and get those on (never my favorite thing - I can't just put the lights on any which way, I just have to tuck the wires in just so as I put the lights on so it takes forever and makes my back ache...then we ran out of lights before we got to the top of the tree so I've got to get to the store and get another strand sometime soon - I could have sworn we had plenty of lights!). Then we pulled out all the special ornaments the represent our travels and experiences - each kid got to pick their three favorites to quickly tell everyone the significance of and place on the tree. Then it was free-for-all as everyone put everything else on the tree (and yes, there were some squabbles and some "you're doing it wrong" comments to keep it from being all sweetness and light).

Silas was the only one still around when I remembered to take a photo:

Here's my favorite part of the week: When we got the Christmas tree mostly done (other than the sad dark top that we'll finish at some point), we sat down by the fire together (love having a gas fire that adds ambiance at the flip of a switch!) and read one of our favorite Christmas books - Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl Buck. It's about a farm boy who gets up extra early one Christmas morning to milk all the cows and surprise his father so the good man could have one day off from the early morning milking. It's a beautiful story and there was such love in our cozy living room as we read it together.

Right after the story, as I was getting kids to bed, Silas snuck off and wrote a really nice "secret elf" note for Jared and put it on his pillow. 

Then this morning, Jared and I woke up to find this:

Eliza and Isaac had taken it upon themselves to get up extra early and shovel the new snow that fell last night. They did our parking area and the neighbors' parking area and the driveway and the walkways, leavning just one patch with a special message on it.

Oh how I love it when the spirit of Christmas really takes hold! And what dear, sweet children we're blessed to have!


Susan said...

Believe me, people don't come out of the "woodwork for the free food" at a Ward Christmas party. I may not go to Church every Sunday but I do make the effort to attend Ward functions like the Christmas party on the off chance that someone will maybe speak to me. No one usually does, but that doesn't keep me from hoping that one day someone will.

kms said...

It must be hard to be the wife of the bishop. It's the same in other churches. Good Friday, Easter and Christmas the place is overflowing and there is such pressure felt by those who help out to make sure there is enough of everything so people who come feel like there is room enough for them the entire year. The person who doesn't have a seat at Xmas, but one stuck in the lobby, won't feel like there is room for them next Sunday. If the parking lot is too full it just seems like a hassle. One Good Friday the communion was pretty much crumbs for the people in the back. So many came.

Saren Loosli said...

Susan, I'm sorry. I didn't state that very well.

It's wonderful that lots of people come to our ward's Christmas party. It's just a bit hard to know how to plan for adequate food and activities when we don't have a good idea how many will show up - and as we live in an inner city area, we do get people wandering in off the streets, glad for a free meal and some holiday cheer which we're glad to provide (that's what I meant by my "out of the woodwork" comment).

Last year, people were standing in the hallways holding their plate in their hands because we ran out of seating and then ran out of food despite everyone's best efforts!

Last night, however, everything actually worked out perfectly - I met some great people and saw people I haven't seen much and who were glad they made the effort to come. And we ended up with just the right amount of food and seating. It was just lovely.

It makes me so sad that people wouldn't talk to you at a ward party! It seems that those who come less often get inundated with people excited to see them and talk to them at our ward Christmas party. I love how our ward is so great about welcoming everyone with open arms and I pray that your ward will be more welcoming and kind to you.

You're right, kms, it is tricky to make sure everyone gets the welcome and attention they deserve during special times of the year like this! But we are blessed to have wonderful people who make valiant effort and who help so much. It is hard to be the wife of a bishop. But it's also a great opportunity to see more fully the goodness that is in this world.

kms said...

A regular meal weekly or monthly might be a great ministry and asset to your area.

Jenny (also) said...

"Inner city" Ogden?

kms said...

I live in a suburb in the midwest and there are homeless here and our church has regular meals for those having a hard time getting by. Some churches serve as rotating evening shelters during the cold months. Our local food pantries are seeing record numbers. Poverty isn't just in major metropolis.

Brooke said...

Oh Saren, bless you! Being the Bishop's wife can be so hard, especially at Christmas/tithing settlement time.

I knew what you meant by "coming out of the woodwork". I always feel like we're feeding the 5000 at the Christmas dinner even though I look around and usually recognize everyone there.

I also know what you mean by "inner-city Ogden". There are parts of Ogden that are very much like South Chicago where I lived for 3 years.

Keep up the good work and know that there are people (like me) who very much appreciate the good you are trying to do and share.

Camile said...

It does feel so good to see your children doing service within the family! Keep up the good work!


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