Monday, December 23, 2013

While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

And you thought my last few posts were short?  Watch this... all done!
This one is a poster available here.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

With Wondering Awe

Here is my homage to the carol about the wise men.  I guess I could do "We Three Kings" since I remember my brothers and boy cousins singing it every year at my mother's family's annual Christmas nativity production while they shuffle in with aluminum-foil crowns and holding my mother's fancy vase she got in Europe.  I was Mary for a long time, since I was one of very few grand-daughters.  I grew up with 23 boys on that side of the family, but I only had 6 cousins of the feminine persuasion. I do admit to being a little bit miffed when the next girl cousin got old enough for her turn as Mary.  I thought I should continue in a role where I did so well.  Besides, I was too big for the angel choir.  Wasn't I?

Kimberly sells this lovely green printable over at etsy.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hark, Harold!

As a kid, I always clalled this carol, "Hark, Harold!"  ...and unfortunately I've never quite gotten over it.  So hey, Harold, and everyone else, listen up!  Because the angels are singing.  They really did, and I believe they still do.

Thanks to The Moody Side of Life for this lovely red rendition.

If yellow is more your thing, try this one from Club Narwhal:
Yeah, the carol posts are getting shorter.  Deal with it.  I'm busy Christmasing with my family!  :-)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

The twins love for me to tell the story of the nativity.  For the last few weeks, they beg me to tell (over and over again) the story of the angels and shepherds.  Lately however, they are stuck on the King Herod aspect.  Ha!  I found this little printable for the whole scene, and I think I'll print it out for them to color and play with.  I'm even tempted to glue the figures onto wooden blocks so they are a little more than a "one-day-toy" if you know what I mean, mothers.

Oh Bethlehem.  What a lovely little story.  I hope we can keep our lights shining in the dark streets of our time.

Thanks to Gina for the printable!  Also, click over to Truth in Tinsel for a nice little discussion on this carol.

Happy Anniversary to Me

21 years since Jay and I got married.  I am celebrating the day by I am not celebrating.  I just don't feel like it today.  I've been missing him in a bad way.  Sometimes I just wonder if it will ever get any easier, or if the tears will stop coming.  And sometimes I don't care.

We will have a family birthday party on Saturday, though, with white grape juice and pizza on our fancy dishes.  And maybe, if I'm feeling festive by then, I'll even make Jay's cheesecake.  Maybe.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

I didn't know that this carol had five verses.  I've only been familiar with three: 1, 2, and 5 here.  Verses 3 and 4 are not as cheerful, but I think we can all relate to feeling "life's crushing load."

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold;
“Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From Heaven’s all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever over its Babel sounds
The blessèd angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophet-bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

The references to "angels bending near the earth" remind me of my mom.  I'm sure she is "bending near" us as much as she can, and that thought is certainly comforting to me.  And she'd be playing a "harp of gold" too - she always wanted to learn the harp!  Harp or no, I hope that we can one day "send back the song" that we hear from Heaven.

You can get this wall art here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Away In a Manger

I just sold the twins' crib.  It wasn't too nostalgic, as it has been kicking around in the garage long enough to become a nuisance.  But as the man loaded it into his vehicle to take home for his coming grandchild, I though of how many happy memories I have with that crib.  I loved seeing our little babies grow into toddlers.  I loved watching them snuggle up together and keep each other warm.  I loved the safe rails on the sides that wouldn't let them tumble out.

My new babies have slept in a lovely little bassinet, an heirloom cradle that my husband slept in as a baby, and a portable playpen.  I really wanted to get a Moses basket, but never did.  Sigh.  Once I thought I would need to use a dresser drawer for a newborn, but things worked out.  I can't imagine not having a safe and snuggly place for a new baby to sleep.

I like this song because it paints such a pretty picture.  The manger, the hay, the cattle...  it all seems more peaceful than I suppose reality was.  I do have a small issue with "The cattle are lowing / the poor baby wakes / but little Lord Jesus / no crying He makes."  I think He was a fairly normal baby, and I personally think that He cried.  Anyway...

I have a favorite memory of this song.  One year I was teaching my children the Christmastime songs.  It was just the older three boys then, and they loved singing the chorus: "Asleep!  Asleep!  Asleep!  Asleep!"  Then it was bedtime, and they had a hard time settling down.  Jay went to check on little Chris, who jumped into his bed when he heard his daddy coming down the hall.  He quickly pulled up his covers and screwed his eyes shut.  When Jay leaned close to check, little Chris wanted to make sure Daddy knew he was beoing good and going to sleep, so he whispered, "Asleep!  Asleep!  Asleep!  Asleep!"  It's been a fun story in our family.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Royal David's City

I found this lovely card which looks to me like Bethlehem.  I like the stained-glass look.  You can buy it if you are in the UK.  The best part about buying these kinds of cards is that they support several charities and help people who could use a hand up.

This is a lesser-known hymn, but I do like the poetry:

Once in royal David's city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And through all His wondrous childhood
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For he is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heaven above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Silent Night

Silent Night.  One of my favorite hymns, and one of the most popular.  It's the only one I can sing in three languages: English, ASL, and the original German.  I love the story of the song's genesis.  You can watch the whole story, filmed in Austria! - here, or get just a taste by watching this trailer:

I love the story of the WWI Christmas truce of 1914.  I know that such truces were not entirely uncommon in those days of trench warfare, but I can believe that the general goodwill of Christmastime, combined with the singing of Silent Night could invoke cherished feelings of peace.  Beautiful music can work miracles.

My favorite version of Silent Night is an instrumental one that begins with wind chimes and men's voices along the melody line in a mellow "ooh."   We played it in wind ensemble in high school, and I awoke to the magic of this beloved carol.  It makes my heart feel three sizes bigger every time I hear it, and then sad because I don't know the name of the arranger.  One day I'll find it again.

You can get this subway art here.

Thanks to SecondChanceToDream for this printable.

And tonight, "schlaf in himmlischer Ruh."

Friday, December 6, 2013

Angels We Have Heard

Today we are singing "Angels We Have Heard on High."  This is my favorite Christmas carol to sing.  Not necessarily my favorite to listen to, but it is hand-down the best one to sing.  And that favor probably comes from the fact that I sing alto and this song has a very fun alto descant during the "gloria" part.  It's just beautiful and nice to be out from under the soprano's shadow every now and then.  If I could sing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus more often, I would, for the same reason.  Oh, and more - Handel's Messiah is just stunning.  But I digress.

See what a lovely little question and answer session the sopranos and altos are having?  Fun to sing, and I can imagine being in an angel chorus.  Almost.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Let It Snow

Nope, not a Christmas carol post, just a comment about the suddenly-winter we have.  This fall has been gloriously autumny.  The leaves have turned brilliant shades and clung to their branches long enough to really take a good breath of the gorgeous.  Our miniature maple turned crimson, and the contrast with the green and the yellow of our honey locust was lovely.  I love watching golden leaves dance on a tree with the sunlight shining through them.  Quaking aspens in the canyon are some of my all-time favorite things to see.  This was one of our super-tall cottonwoods, which are a close enough relative to the aspens to take care of my yearly quakie longings.

I know I posted this before, but it was so golden and happy!

Some years the leaves just turn brown, then fall into soggy heaps in the yard that need to be scraped off before they kill the grass.  This year the weather was crisp and dry, with lots of crunchy leaves for kicking and raking into mammoth piles and dumping into the chicken run where they can scratch through them.  It really was a beautiful autumn, all the way through Thanksgiving weekend.

And now this.

Overnight, winter was coming.  I got a weather alert early Monday morning and Trent took the day off work to winterize the chicken coop and button up the yard.  He worked hard.  What a great man he is.  The storm rolled in with wind and snow and the little ones spent the day in and out of coats and mittens.  They couldn't get enough of the snow.

The storm blew away but left the cold.  We haven't been above freezing since, and the nighttime lows are in the single digits.  The biting air takes your breath away.  We'll be cold, cold, cold baby for another week at least.  We stay inside and drink herbal tea.  I think it's casserole night - again.  Or maybe hot soup and scones.  Do I have time to make chili?

And in all the bitter cold, there is so much to be thankful for.  Freddie and Georgie have taken to saying gratitude prayers.  Hemmy Fader, dank you for mine socks and bweakwast, and dank you for this and this and those and these and that over there... as they point to different things in the room.  The other morning Trent and I endured a particularly long breakfast prayer when there happened to be a grocery store ad on the counter and they had to point to every. single.  item and express thanks for it.  The twin not praying helped the prayer to not forget anything.  It took a long time!  But Trent and I were stifling laughter because it was so cute.

How often do we look around and say THANKS! for every single thing we see?  Made me think that maybe we ought to take a moment every now and then to do it.  Warms your heart.  And keep your toes warm too, willya?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Come, All Ye Faithful

Joyful!  And triumphant!  Don't remember when I last felt like that.  But I can come and see Him.  I can.

And I can print this one out to remind myself.

Thanks, AKAdesign!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Joy to the World!

I love Christmas songs.  Maybe it's because I know all the words and can sing along.  Maybe it's because everyone sings so joyously (so they can't hear me singing).  So here is the song for today... sing along (loudly please)!

Thanks for the printable, SimplyAlbany!

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Hope y'all had a lovely Thanksgiving.  We did.  I love spending time with my family, which is why I haven't been spending much time here on the blog.  Sometimes, when it is a matter of priority, the blog loses.  And that's ok.  I won't have my family around forever.  The twins are getting bigger every moment.  Angel is turning into a sweet little lady who makes dinner for all her dollies in her play kitchen.  Eddie is learning how to change a sour mood back to sweet.  David is drowning in junior high homework.  Chris is dealing with why-is-school-so-important-itis.  Ben is applying to colleges.  And Alec is doing this.

I'm amazed.  They all grow up so fast, and I don't want to miss a moment.  I'm afraid to catch a breath sometimes, and then the very next minute I can't wait for something to change.  In between the fear of losing and the excitement of growth, there is magic.  If I quiet my brain every now and then, I see it.  It comes in twenty hands and a hundred toes and a thousand chances to serve and a million heartbeats of love.

I love this family!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cooking on Vacation

Yeah, almost done with the vacation stuff.  I just go out so rarely that it's a big deal.  My dad said, after watching me have a panic attack just before the plane took off and took me away from my kids, that I either need to stay home or go out more often.  I'll stay home.

Really.  Besides my family being my huge-est-er ever joy of life, I have all my tools there.  Like my bed and my kitchen.

Eating on vacation is a challenge.  I want to chose foods that are good for us, but I'm hampered by not being able to cook or do decent food prep.  So we improvise.  Here is our kitchenette in the hotel:

I loved having this.  Full fridge, microwave, and medium sink.  Full dishwasher even though we only had a set of 4 dishes.  Ha.  Countertop stove with two burners.  No oven.  How am I supposed to make cookies to drive out the old-coffee-grounds-and-burnt-popcorn smell?

In a covered skillet on really, really low heat.  They were yummy.  Snickerdoodles were Jay's favorite.  How did they get such a funny name?

I laughed about having to buy such cute little containers when I usually buy the giant packages!

We ate sandwiches and soup and prepackaged hamburger helper and rice dishes.  Mixed with frozen or canned veggies and a loaf of French bread, it was pretty good.  Dad wanted to eat out for one meal a day, but we made the others.  Apples and bananas.  Cold cereal or fried eggs for breakfast.  And muffins in a microwave!

It's much easier than I thought it would be.  Grease coffee cups (one cup for each 1 1/2 to 2 regular muffins), scoop in the mix, and nuke.  I did four cups in 3 minutes.  The batter doesn't brown, so I sprinkled on some cinnamon sugar before I put it in the microwave.  And yum.  Now I have a new quick breakfast for the early-morning boys.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

More Pictures

And you thought I was done, huh?  Settle back in your seat.  I've got more pictures, then I'll be done.  Promise.

sucker for the flag - highway overpass, Petersburg

lovely wood detail -  farmer's market in old town Petersburg

wouldn't stop so I could shoot him

Civil War cannon - siege of Petersburg

long layovers at the airport

out the little window of the plane

happy to be nearly home

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Coming Back With Pictures

Wow it was hard to be gone from my family.  Surprisingly to me, it was even harder to come back.  I've spent the last week in a downward spiral, but I think I'm pulling out of it now.  What a mess I am sometimes.

But now I'll bore you with pictures from my recent trip to Virginia.  Feel free to duck out as I plug in the slide projector and set up the screen.

 icy sunset somewhere over the midwest

traveling buddies - glad we always got seats together

happy sign at the airport

colorful leaves for Opa and Alec

sightseeing with the army graduate

cute little garden - love the fence

Alec taking panoramic pictures of the colors

rail fence in Colonial Williamsburg

shoreline near Jamestown

fun fountain near to commemorate Jamestown

James River

Dad at City Point - loved the tree tunnel behind him

what kind of trees are these without bark?

did better than he thought he would

gorgeous sunset over the Appomattox River

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I've traveled six thousand miles over the past five days, left my home and family, and had bad jet lag - twice.  I have decided that I really don't like traveling.  Not without my family.  And nothing would convince me to leave some of my family... except my own flesh and blood.  In this case, my eldest.

When Alec started basic training, I waited anxiously for his letters. I loved it when he could call home, and I worried about him.  That's what a Mom is supposed to do, right?

I remember that when I left home for the first time, I was all too happy to leave.  And I didn't want to come back.  But I did.  And then I didn't.  And I loved being gone, and having my new, grown-up life.  But I loved coming back home gone with my family, too.  It was a hard, awkward mix for the first while.

Alec was glad to be gone, too.  I think most kids are.  But the first time he mentioned basic training graduation, it was only too obvious that he wanted us to be there.  Oklahoma was a long way from our home.  But we were there for him.  That's what families do.  We're there for each other.

Alec and his Opa have an especially close relationship.  Alec is his first grandchild, and they  have always been buddies.  I really wanted to take my dad with us to see Alec's basic training graduation, but I was afraid the long trip with our rowdy active family would be too much for him.

So we hatched a plan to get my dad out to see Alec.  After basic training, Alec had nine more weeks of training in Virginia, and I thought it would be fun to fly out for that graduation.  Obviously it is too expensive to take our entire family (even though Angel cried to me on the phone first time I called home that she needed a "ticket to the plane, too").   But my dad and I could go.

We had a good time, even though I cried all the way as I was leaving.  I'm a mess like that.  This Mom has a hard time going away from her kids.  Dad and I went to Alec's graduation, did some sightseeing, rested lots, and spent some good time with this boy who is quickly becoming a remarkable man.  How did that happen, I'd like to know!  I'm sure I haven't had him long enough.

And now I'm returning home.  I'm melancholy to leave Alec there, but he has another month of Airborne training before he can come home.  But I miss my other kids.  I miss my man.  I'm sure my bed has missed me.

And I can do without being away for quite a while.  I'm really just a homebody... and I like it that way.

The Call

After graduation, Alec had to return to his barracks with his group,and I picked him up later so we could spend the day with him.  When he slid into the front seat of our (much nicer than I thought it would be) rental car, there was a pile of papers on the seat.  As he reached to grab them, he realized that the big white envelope was for him, and his eyes flew open wide.  I got him.  Evened up the score a little.

A few weeks ago, Alec called home like he usually did. In the course of the conversation, he casually mentioned that when I flew out, I might want to take a later flight that day, as his mission call might be coming in the mail.  Ok.  Wait.  Your what??

Alec had prepared the paperwork necessary to send in his mission application before he joined the army.  We were working in it back here.  He told me that he would wait until he got home to send it in.  But then he sent it in earlier, and didn't.  tell.  his.  mother.  I'm sure his dad was laughing his head off in Heaven.  Jay loved to pull surprises on people, and Alec has a healthy dose of that in him, too.

So when I got the big white envelope in the mail from church headquarters...  as I was pulling out the driveway to head to the airport, of course...  I didn't tell Alec that I had it.  We had hoped, but not expected it to come that day.  It was a good surprise.  Touché, my dear boy.

We hurried back to the hotel where Alec carefully opened the letter.  Tears ran down his face (manly ones, I assure you) as he read, "You are called to serve in the Cape Town, South Africa mission."  I'm still teary, and excited, and gonna-miss-you-honey as I type. He'll report to the missionary training center there in South Africa in the spring.  He made some happy phone calls and posted his news on Facebook.

Coming kind-of-soon, to an area not-so-near you (actually more far, far away than anything): my Alec.  And he'll be awesome.