Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Crash

Yep, I did it again. In trying to keep the Yuletide burning bright, I totally overdid things. My body let me know what it thought about that tradition yesterday. I could barely move. Most uncool. ;)

Is it part of our human nature to make the holidays as wonderful as possible? I actually feel guilt over Christmas cards that didn't get sent this year. (I made a valiant effort, but did not get a card sent to everyone that I normally do.) And my mother's gift is still sitting on my piano bench---a testimony that the gray cells don't function as well as they used to. (It didn't click that I'd left it there until we were pulling in my mother's driveway down in Utah. I still can't believe I forgot it.)

I made a plethora of food and Christmas candy. Then after consuming my share of the goodies, my stomach rebelled. Toast wasn't even my friend yesterday.

What makes me sad is that I absolutely love the holiday season. I love hearing from friends and loved ones who also make a valiant effort to send out Christmas cards. It's the only time I hear from some of them.

I love Christmas music, I love the lights, and I especially love the reason for the season. As I'm busy bustling around, I figure it's my way of showing love and respect for our Elder Brother by doing as much good for other people as I possibly can. I participated in the Toys for Tots drive our valley sponsored yet again this year. I made well over 25 plates of candy to take around to neighbors and friends. And I did my best to make or purchase thoughtful gifts for loved ones. Even the one still sitting on my piano bench contains items that I know my mother will love . . . eventually.

I guess my question today (and yes, I'm a day late with this post . . . I do apologize) is: have we made the holidays more complicated than they need to be? Is it good to go around in a brain stupor for a couple of days afterward because we pushed ourselves beyond what our bodies (mine in particular) consider cool? Am I the only one who runs myself into the dirt each holiday season? I don't think so. I saw a similar glazed look on my mother's face a couple of days ago. She did most of the holiday baking in her abode this year since my youngest sister is still recovering from a car wreck she endured earlier this month. Then I arrived and took over the the helm . . . after already doing so in our realm. (We didn't head down to my mother's house until the day after Christmas.)

I'm already making myself a list of do's and don'ts for next year, in the hopes that it won't be as crazy as this year was. Any bets I'll ignore it? ;) What think the rest of you about this strange phenomenon? And what can we do to change things around? I seriously doubt our Elder Brother likes it when we make ourselves sick on His behalf. I suspect He likes it better when we strive to be more like Him all year long---stretching things out so it's not all clumped up together at the end of the year.

That's my goal for this coming new year---to slow down, savor the good stuff, and ignore my overactive conscience that constantly harps about the items I did not accomplish. I may not succeed, since being an overachiever seems to run in my bloodlines, but I'm going to give it a shot. (Bad diabetic pun) I would like to live to see other Christmas holidays. Words to live by . . . literally. =D

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas

Wow, where did this month go? ;) I can't believe how fast it passed by. True, we've had a few adventures in our family this month, but still, here we are---it's the week of Christmas.

Today, I plan to make several batches of homemade candy. It's a tradition in our small town to share plates of goodies with our neighbors and friends. It's a fun way to let people know you're thinking about them. And my husband and sons have always enjoyed sampling the delicious treats that arrive at our house each year. (I, of course, try to behave since I have to face the wrath of my diabetic doctor in the near future.)

Since today will be yet another crazy day . . . I decided for today's blog, I will share some fun holiday photos. Some were taken this past week, others are classic shots from the past. Enjoy and all of you have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Here's a shot my sons will cherish. A blast from the past--2001. ;) [They're all hams who take after their father . . .]

Here Devin and I are posing (not hamming it up) at a Crane family Christmas party in 2005.

Here was a fun food event at the same party. Wonderful creamy chocolate. Need I say more?!

And a shot of Kennon & I at yet another Christmas event--the traditional Christmas Eve feast.

Our sons love this event as well. Here are Devin and Kris getting into the holiday spirit.

My mother has always loved Christmas. Here she is posing as one of Santa's little helpers.

This is a picture of our sons enjoying the musical Christmas presents they received that year.

And what would Christmas be without snow? We usually have plenty of that. ;)

This was Kristen's first Christmas with our clan. It was a fun year.

The traditional Christmas penguins.

This shot captured the excitement Kennon's mother felt when she learned that her kids and her spouse gave her a trip to Hawaii this year for Christmas.

Grandpa Kennon reading a fun story with our cute granddaughter, Aari. It will be so fun with her at Christmas this year. =)

Remember that Santa is watching closely during this final countdown . . .

May you receive your heart's desire this year . . .

And may we all remember what this season really means.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Tender Mercies

The past few days have been rather interesting in our family. For a brief moment, we feared we were losing one of our loved ones. An accident had taken place and the details at first were sketchy. For nearly an hour we only knew that one of my sisters had been in a head-on collision and that she had been taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

This kind of news is not a pleasant way to start one's day. I know I was in a state of shock as I prepared to travel to Utah. Tears made an appearance as I packed and made necessary phone calls. Reason finally pierced the brain fog I was experiencing and I knelt in fervent prayer. Almost immediately my heart filled with a calming peace. Though I still didn't know if my sister would live, I knew I would have heaven's help to survive all that lay ahead.

Before I left Bear Lake Valley, I received word that all would be well. I can't fully put into words the relief that descended at that time. It was mixed with gratitude for the miracle we saw take place that day. This miracle became even more pronounced when we saw the condition of my sister's car. She had been watched over and protected, her life preserved in a manner that left little doubt as to Who had been in charge that day.

Last night I learned that my oldest son's life had been on the line as well late Saturday night. He had originally planned to journey to join up with family members that had gathered at my mother's home near Ogden. After his final class had ended for the day in nearby Logan, Kris called with the news that a raging blizzard had descended. He knew traveling through Sardine Canyon wasn't possible in his small car. So he tried a different route and when he saw cars sliding off the road in every direction, he turned back around and remained in Logan.

I was so relieved when he called and told me that he was safe in Logan, staying with friends for the night. One less worry, or so I thought. Later that same night as I knelt beside the guest bed I'm currently using, I felt impressed to pray for this son. Repeatedly I asked for things to be well with him, not knowing that his life was hanging in the balance.

It wasn't until yesterday that I learned what had taken place. My oldest son is allergic to tree nuts. If he eats anything that contains tree nuts, his throat swells shut, he has a difficult time breathing, and it makes him very ill. For obvious reasons, we are very careful to avoid making or eating foods of this nature when he is around.

He had a couple of scary incidents involving this allergy while serving an LDS mission. Twice he ate foods prepared by members of the Church that contained tree nuts, and with each exposure, the reaction grew more serious. Saturday night, he ate dinner at a restaurant in Logan with one of his friends. After he had consumed a portion of his meal, he began struggling to breathe. A waiter appeared and when questioned, he revealed that Kris' meal had been cooked with almond oil.

Kris experienced the worst allergic reaction of his life Saturday night. He spent over four hours in ER as he was pumped full of steroids to preserve his life. He didn't want me traveling during the blizzard that night, so he didn't contact me about what had taken place until his safe return home yesterday afternoon.

Once again Divine intervention preserved the life of a loved one. I have always been amazed by the tender mercies extended by our Lord. I will be forever grateful for the miraculous events we have witnessed this week alone. And you can be sure that this Christmas, my heart will be continuously filled with gratitude for all that our Elder Brother has done for our family . . . for me. His gifts to our fragile mortal world are beyond price. And while there is no way any of us can return to Him a fraction of what He has freely given, I believe that each time we attempt to act as He would do, His heart is touched with a joy we can't even imagine.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Let The Good Times Roll

As with every household this time of year, things have been slightly crazy here. We're madly dashing about, trying to keep up with all of the events\traditions that are a big part of this holiday season. The house is fully decorated with accompanying light strands hanging from various locations outside. This despite below zero temps in our neck of the woods. ;)

In way of good news, I finally finished up a project I've been working on for a couple of weeks for Kennon's side of the family. Whew! I'd reveal what it is, but they have a habit of periodically reading my blog posts, so mum is the word for now. Just know it's really neat and I'm hoping they'll love it.

I finally found the item on the tag I drew from this year's angel tree for our valley. Can I just say it wasn't easy?! ;) It involved traveling to another town to secure the heart wish of a five-year-old boy. To me, this kind of thing makes the holiday season complete.

I made round one of the candy I normally stir up this time of year. And most of it is already gone. Sigh . . . Oh, well---I guess that's a good sign. ;) Today I'll be making up my grandmother's old-fashioned caramel recipe. Yes, it's melt-in-your mouth goodness!!! Something we look forward to each year.

Once all of the candy is made, then it's time to put plates together for neighbors, and the lucky people I visiting teach, and home teach with my husband. (Yes, I'm doing double-duty in that realm these days. Good times.)

Most of the gifts for family and friends have been purchased. They're all still waiting for a wrap session in the near future. I'm anticipating tackling that duty tomorrow. And I still have a couple of packages to get in the mail if they are to arrive before Christmas Day.

Speaking of items that go in the mail, I have a mountain of Christmas cards that need attention. I'm not sure when I'll work that in. If you're reading this and you haven't received a card yet from me, no worries--they'll show up eventually.

Tomorrow is our ward's adult Christmas party. Every year we dress up and gather at the church for a delicious gourmet meal. It usually involves roasted beef or pork, mashed potatoes and gravy, veggies-and-or-salad, and all kinds of fancy desserts. Then as we sit back wondering how we managed to eat so much, we are entertained by a traditional Christmas program. It is filled with music and humor, and ends with something tender about the birth of our Savior.

For this year's event, I've been asked to round up a handful of YW from our ward (since I'm still their fearless leader) to help serve the food. This is proving interesting since our numbers are dwindling in the Young Women realm. We're currently down to five very busy Laurels, four Mia Maids, and one Beehive. Good luck to me I say. =D

Two of those girls are starring in a local high school musical. (My husband and I went to see it the other night and were so impressed. This year's musical production is "The Secret Garden," possibly one of the most difficult musicals performed by our high school to this date and time. And they've done a fabulous job with it.)
At least two of our YW have been sick all week with the gumbooie (My pet name for an undesirable bug) and one has been in Utah, stranded because of the weather. So today, I need to call around and see what I can come up with for serving girls. I wonder if I could borrow some from another ward . . .

I'm still in the planning stages for the traditional Christmas Eve festivities. All of our kids will be here for this event this year and we're really looking forward to all of it. It has been a tradition in my side of the family to create fun finger-foods, fondue, and yummy seafood like scalloped oysters and shrimp prepared in Louisiana shrimp boil for this dinner.

When I was a young girl, I loved Christmas Eve and all of the fun foods my mother created each year. This tradition started in her family when she was a little girl, and it has been a favorite holiday celebration ever since.

Years ago, our bishop at the time, gave each family a small white Christmas stocking. He challenged us to use it each year, giving gifts to the Savior as part of our celebration. Since then, our family has faithfully adhered to this important tradition. We gather around the Christmas tree and take the white stocking down. We empty out the pieces of paper we wrote on the year before and hand them around. Since this is a very private and personal thing, we never divulge to each other what our gift to the Savior has been during the past year. Usually it is something like being more Christ-like, rendering service to those around us, etc.

After we ponder how well we did with our gifts to the Savior, we use new pieces of paper to write down what our gift will be during the coming year. Then this stocking is hung in my china cabinet where we can see it all year---a reminder of our pledge to our Elder Brother.
This is a great way to keep our focus where it needs to be during this holiday season. A quiet reminder of what it's all about.

As we all continue to bustle about, preparing for the days ahead, may we periodically reflect on the reason for the season. Take the time to enjoy loved ones and favorite traditions without getting bogged down by life's crazy demands. Enjoy each day as it comes and do as much good as your heart can hold. That is when Christmas miracles begin to take place, and when the holiday spirit comes to life.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Best Gifts

Hi all. Sorry I've been remiss in posting to my blog this past week. I've been enjoying some time with loved ones, and to me, that's what the holiday season is all about. I'd like to add something further as we now face the onslaught of Christmas time: in my opinion, the best gifts in this life cannot be obtained with money. The best gifts are from the heart.

That said, I'll tell you a little bit about what took place in our family this past Thanksgiving holiday. Two of our sons were here for the occasion, Kris, and Devin, and we had a great time cooking up some family favorites, like huckleberry pie.

We eventually gathered around our dining room table for the traditional feast and after offering humble gratitude for the tremendous blessings in our lives, we savored all of those culinary delights.

We enjoyed our time together as we consumed delicious food. And yes, the turkey worked its yearly magic and most enjoyed an afternoon nap after the kitchen was restored to some semblance of order.

Since everyone's schedules were crazy this year, we celebrated Thanksgiving in spurts. Two of our sons had to work on the dreaded "Black Friday." One had to work a short shift on Thanksgiving afternoon. Our other son, and his wife and tiny daughter, spent Thanksgiving Day with Kristen's family in Wyoming. We were scattered here and there, and yet I sense in some ways, we've never been closer in spirit.

We've seen wonderful blessings take place in all of our lives this past year. Blessings of health, employment, and spiritual growth. For these items, we will be forever grateful. Myself, I will be treasuring precious words that my children presented to me on Thanksgiving Day. Most of the credit for this gift must be given to my husband. Kennon decided to surprise me this year with what he is calling a new tradition. During the days before Thanksgiving arrived, he had contacted all of our sons, asking them to write a paragraph about their mother. He encouraged them to include reasons why they were thankful for me. On Thanksgiving Day, I was presented with an envelope that contained three separate paragraphs that will be added to a special collection I've been keeping through the years. Inside a large envelope that resides in the safety of my cedar chest, I have kept items that mean the world to me. Among other things it contains a handwritten letter from my father that I received a week before I married Kennon; my patriarchal blessing; the testimonies our sons recorded one night for Family Home Evening; and now these wonderful notes that I was given last week. All are treasures that I will read and reread in the years to come.

I will freely admit that my sons and husband made me cry on Thanksgiving Day. ;) They were happy tears. As I read through the notes my sons had written, my heart turned to mush---I believe that was their intent. ;) Can I just say that notes like these are priceless gifts? Keep that in mind as the mad rush continues toward Christmas Day. As I stated earlier, the best gifts are indeed from the heart.

Our Thanksgiving holiday stretched over the weekend. Derek, Kristen, and Aari swung by on Saturday night. They had opted to take the loooonnnggg way home so they could spend some time with us before they headed to their abode on Sunday afternoon.

It was great to see them. We visited, enjoyed more good food, and played hilarious games, like Apples to Apples. Throughout it all, Aari tended to steal the show. She is so fun right now. She's a little over 14 months old and she embraces life with gusto. She runs everywhere and she is learning to talk, which is often a hoot. We keep a stash of toys in a large plastic tub just for her enjoyment and she has learned that it contains fun things like this singing frog puppet.

Aari already loves books and she enjoyed looking at a new one with her mother, while seated in a chair her father had loved as a youngster.

The next day, we all got ready for church, another way to express our appreciation for all that we've been given. Here's a shot of Aari running up and down the hall with Daddy, to get the wiggles out her system. She actually behaved quite well that morning. Sitting quietly for a lengthy bit of time is challenging for little ones. (Sometimes it's challenging for older ones, too. ;)

All in all, this past week has been filled with good food, laughter, and love. It was a great way to kick off the holiday season and we're looking forward to the exciting days ahead. May the coming days be charged with those things that mean the most, and may we all keep in mind what the true Christmas Spirit is all about.