Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The stockings were hung. . .

and now they are filled. Please make sure to check your five toed stocking sometime Christmas Day. You may find a surprise, but not much candy!

Your father's stocking is the oldest one. It was made for him by his mother before I was in the picture. Glen came to Arizona to meet my family after Christmas in 1974 and to go with me to a bowl game at ASU stadium in which BYU was playing. He can tell you much more about that game, like who the quarterback was and probably give a play by play account. We then traveled to California so that I could meet his family. He can tell you much more about that drive because I cried until I fell asleep. I realized that I would never be with or be a part of my family in the same way again. I was leaving home with this man who would soon be my husband and I was suddenly very homesick.

Upon my arrival in California, I was given a bear hug by Glen's father, Jordan. I soon learned that this was very much out of character, and I have been grateful for that hug ever since. Glen's mother, Elma, handed me a red felt stocking with five toes and told me I needed to decorate it. Five toes! It was so much her sense of humor and fun. So I decorated it and became a Jensen. When Eric and Ryan were born, she would bring or mail me another plain stocking. The felt for the stockings changed for David, Janae, and Nathan - so I think I must have started to make the stockings myself. BUT I always decorated them. I don't decorate them anymore (unless Eric talks me into finishing it up!) but I am willing to sew together a red felt stocking for any new family member who wants a Christmas stocking with five toes! Daughter-in-laws, rest assured that I am not offended when you choose to leave them hanging on my fireplace. They would not have necessarily been my first choice, but now I love them. They are full of memories and warm thoughts.

Friday, December 21, 2007

She is the reason for the tree. . .

Happy 32nd birthday Susan. I hope that your day is special and not too taken up with the making of donuts. We probably should have celebrated your birthday on Nutcracker day.

You are the reason for the fancier tree gracing the living room for the past 10 years. When you married Eric and we planned an open house for you in Arizona during Thanksgiving break, I decided that a decorated tree in the living room would be the perfect place to put your wedding gifts. I made a special trip to Michael's to find a few things in cream, gold, and white with which to decorate the tree and the house. I remember that Pam helped me to decorate and prepare the tree. If you look close, you will see the little cupids and there are few heart shaped ornaments. After the death of my mother, I started collecting the Humel ornaments in memory of her. So, Susan, we have been celebrating your birthday for 10 years in our family, but most of all, we are just so happy to have you as a part of the family. Happy Birthday!

(By the way, does anyone know a simple way to make pictures stand upright using this program:)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

He came home to "Little Drummer Boy"

Today is David's birthday. He was born in 1979 and came home from the hospital in Bountiful, Utah inserted into a great big red stocking. As his father helped us both into the car, giant snowflakes began to fall. As we drove down the hill toward our house, the car radio played "Little Drummer Boy." It was magical to have a baby boy so near to Christmas when we celebrate the birth of another special baby boy. On a later trip to San Francisco, Glen and I found this drummer boy music box. This year, I will present it to David on his birthday for the enjoyment of he and his two little girls.

David's birthday has always been imbued into the celebration of Christmas. His birthday presents always had birthday paper as my attempt to somehow separate the two events. Christmas decorations and events often find their way into his birthday pictures. The above picture was taken at a Smith family Christmas party in Draper, Utah. Glen is holding a two year old David. Five generations are present in this picture. Melissa Fitzgerald Smith is seated in the wheel chair. Her daughter, June Smith Baker stands in the center of the group with her daughter, Elma Baker Jensen on her left. Glen is Elma's son. David's older brothers, Ryan and Eric stand at the bottom of the picture. All three of these grandmas are no longer with us.

When David was four he told me that he didn't want a cake. He would rather have a giant cookie, so I baked and decorated a giant chocolate chip cookie for his birthday. This boy of mine has grown into a wonderful young man and devoted husband and father. We will celebrate with family tonight and there will probably be Christmas decorations in the background, but I want him to know that his birthday will always be a special day for me as I remember his many birthdays.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The reason for the season. . .

When I was the librarian at Augusta Ranch Elementary, I had an aide who would always wear her t-shirt this time of year that read, "Jesus, the Reason for the Season." She was an older lady whom I greatly admired for her goodness and generosity. I have always tried to designate a special place for Christ in our Christmas decorating. The living room holds the nativity collection. Our first nativity was the one with the blue cloth. It was made by Glen's mother, Elma and presented to us early in our married life and is still our favorite. The nativity with the red cloth was brought home to me from Peru by David.

The nativities have spilled out onto the other bookshelves in the room. We put books in boxes (which go under the tree) to make room for them.

I painted this wooden nativity years ago so that my children would have a nativity with which to play. This year instead of buying a nativity, Glen and I found a beautiful framed glicee print of Mary and her baby by Bloch at the Distribution Center in Orem to hang on the wall. We save the Santa things and stockings for the family room.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mid-day Nutcracker

Emilia, Susan, Heather, Laurel, and Ruby in our seats waiting for the show

Sally, Ruby, and Heather near the sleigh of the Sugar Plum Fairy

Last year, Susan treated all the "big" girls in the family to a performance of the "Nutcracker" by the Arizona Ballet at Symphony Hall in downtown Phoenix. They had just spent millions on new set decorations and costuming and we were excited to see it all. We were entranced with everything, but what we kept saying to each other was, "The little girls would love seeing this."

This year we took Ruby and Heather with us to the "Nutcracker." We chose a matinee performance for their benefit. They fit right in as there were many children in attendance. It was delightful to have them with us in their pretty new dresses and so full of excitement and questions. We also had another new "big" girl to take with us, Emilia. The girls were confused as to why those on stage did not talk, Emilia was glad that there was no English to try and understand. She could just sit back and enjoy the show. We were also privileged to have Susan's mother, Julia, attending with us. She had come for a visit from Washington state.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Red Door

I have always wanted a red door. This will not surprise anyone who knows me well. I drive a red car, pick out red clothes, eat off red dishes, and sprinkle red accents all over the house. Last summer Andrew helped me paint a very tired 20 year-old wooden front door red. Really red, no muted down barn door red, but as Ryan would say, "They can probably spot that red door from outer space" red. With new hardware, this door is quite smashing and might I even say, "Welcoming." Such a door needed a new wreath, one which cried out to be hung on a red door. It cried out to me at Target, only cost $25, for which I paid full price, and now graces the front door. If anyone can remember, with fondness, one of the old wreaths which used to grace the old, tired door, you are welcome to ask for them. They can be yours.

Janae and her family are on their way for a nice, long visit even as I write. I hope that the door shouts out "WELCOME."

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Stranger in Bethlehem

The 76th Ward Christmas Party was "A Journey to Bethlehem." A Bethlehem market place was recreated in the recreational hall at the stake center. Eight of the older couples in the ward were asked to recreate a stall for the market place. Glen and I were in charge of the "Bishop's Winery" and served a grape juice drink. Other stalls sold bread, trinkets, olives and cheese, fruit, treats, etc. Each family was asked to come dressed biblically and to bring a tax of a can of food for each family member. They were then given a small bag of gold coins (Heather was impressed that they had "chocolate money" at the time of Jesus) which they could exchange for items from the market. We invited our extended family for this fun activity followed by a wonderful nativity program using many of the YM and YW. Glen and Eric set up their laser star machines to create a starlit night in the darkened hall.

Ruby came as a miniature Mary with babe in arms, while Sadie was a shepherd with her lamb. Dave and Sally chose to dress like always and just hide behind their kids.

The proprietors of the winery dressed in tablecloths. The stranger (at least to Toby and Sadie) took heart in the admonition to grow a beard AND in just two days!

The beard was a huge hit and brought many comments and even compliments. So were the grape lights that we picked up in Utah last summer on clearance. We missed getting pictures with Emilia. Hopefully she will post some on her blog.

Doughnuts with the YW

Glen's Sunday Class had been asking if they could come learn how to make the doughnuts that we share each Christmas. The girls decided to leave out the boys (hot grease and they eat too much) and turn it into a YW activity for all the YW. They came on Wednesday night and we had a great time making 20 dozen doughnuts from start to finish. They ate and ate, but still had enough to take a bag home as well as deliver a bag to those unable (or unwilling) to come.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The first gift of Christmas

As I took down two boxes high in my closet this year, I realized that this special ceramic Christmas village was 30 years old. It is the first Christmas decoration placed out each year. When we were still a family with young children, it was our tradition to put it out on Thanksgiving night. Eric was 18 months old and I was expecting Ryan the year Glen's parents gave each of their children and their families a village for Christmas. They were presented after a large Thanksgiving dinner at a church hall in Draper for the entire Smith/Baker clan. At this time Elma and Jordan still lived in Hawthorne, California. Elma and her friend, Nellie Parker, had glazed and fired the pieces. Jordan had wired display boards with lights and an on/off switch. I was so excited. It was magical, beautiful and it fit perfectly on top of the cedar chest left to me by my Grandma Ostler. We've added a few extra things over the years like the cars, people, and pond BUT they had to look like they had always belonged to these houses, to this place.

I tell the following, not to tattle on Ryan, but to help explain how I feel about this village. We moved to a different house the summer when Ryan was 10 years old. I can't remember why he was upset with me, but when bringing one of the village boxes into the new house, he purposely dropped it on the floor instead of handing it to me. I looked at him and said, "I am not going to look into this box until Christmas. If I were to find broken pieces right now, I'm afraid that I might hurt you." Luckily, come Thanksgiving night later that year, all was well. There was not even a chip or scratch. To Ryan's credit, I'm not sure he knew what the box contained. Did I mention that the church contains a music box which plays "Silent Night?"

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pictures of those who did not decorate . . .

Sadie was also at our "gingerbread party." She loved eating the candy.

Toby was too busy "watering" my plants and playing with Grandpa's flashlight to help with any gingerbread decorating.

Baby Jesus

Raymond is showing me his very own nativity. This great, indestructible set is sold by Fisher Price. I made sure that each of my grandchildren had one for their home. When you press down the angel, it even plays music.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Williams Sonoma can be sneaky

Gingerbread houses have been a somewhat sporadic and longstanding Christmas tradition in our family. I had decided that the grandchildren were getting old enough to enjoy this activity, so just imagine my delight when I opened my holiday edition of the Williams and Sonoma catalog and found cookie cutters for all the pieces to make a snap together gingerbread house. Notice in the catalog picture the interlocking sides and a roof that simply slides into place. Not soo - after all, cookie dough has a mind and spreadability quotient of its own! I even used the enclosed recipe, making sure to chill the dough overnight which ordinarily I would not do. I tried to keep the edges parallel and even did a bit of cutting as the pieces came out of the oven. I baked pieces for three houses before going to church. After church, I began the process of putting it all together - or at least tried to snap it all together. The notches didn't match, the roof pieces snapped off (at least it left a ledge for the roof to rest on:) and I thought it was probably a good idea that I had also bought graham crackers. Finally, I decided that royal icing (aka mortar) could work if used in great quantities, and thus they finally stood!

TJ was his usual sweet self and decorated cookies so that each family could take home a house.

Heather enjoys a colorful, good time. The gingerbread men in the foreground also had their own little stands.

Sweet Ruby and Sally created a pathway to the front door (don't you just love Princess Ruby's crown?) The trees also slide together for a 3-D effect.

Heather and her mom, Susan worked together, too. Susan's job was sprinkle control.

Emilia had fun trying out another American tradition. Ryan's elbow rests on a photo album I pulled out after he remembered the big gingerbread house I made when he was in kindergarten. He spoke of his disappointment of being made to wait until after Christmas to eat it and how hard it had become. Although each child had a small house of their own to decorate, he had still coveted the big one with the balcony and stained glass windows! There were also pictures in the album of houses made when Glen and I were engaged 32 years ago. We had a great time, made a big mess, and will probably do it again! I hope the Raymond's parents get a chance to put together the gingerbread house kit I bought for them at Costco.

Home Sweet Home

This is my last shot of the Janae's family as I left for the SLC airport on Thursday evening. It's pretty amazing that Andrew still has his eyes open. I took over nighttime baby duty for 4 nights so that Janae could recover from an infection and Andrew could catch up with school. That meant that Henry and I were up while Henry ate and had his diaper changed. Andrew was just up all night hovering over his computer screen. Janae was thrilled to sleep ALL NIGHT - not even having to get up to go to the bathroom. Surprisingly, I had some adjusting to do once I got home. I still found myself awake part of the night the first night or two. I can't wait to see this family again in a couple of weeks for Christmas.