Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hey Mom...

...look what found us this morning:

I looked out later and it had brought a friend!

(It looks like they have eaten tons of food, but a lot of it blew out during a big wind storm we had a few days ago.)

They are feeding at the finch feeder, so I am assuming they are some type of finch.
Will need to get that bird field guide one of these days!
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Happiness is...

...getting to see this everyday.
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Saturday, December 22, 2007

It won't be a white Christmas... least not according to the current forecast. I took some pictures right after the last big snowstorm and freeze. I thought the branches looked so pretty with the ice on them. We had a huge bayberry bush that toppled over from the weight of the ice, but seems to have recovered with only a few minor broken branches.

Above is Spirea, and below is a Japanese Maple.

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A week in review

This week has been very busy! I was so grateful for Friday to arrive. After getting a doctors appointment for Ethan out of the way, we made sure we had no other plans, except getting our house ready for Christmas! Today we scoured from the top floor to the bottom, finished getting rid of the old, broken toys and games, and have been relaxing and finishing our holiday baking this afternoon.

Elliott started the week off in the Bay Area, so the boys, Sophie and I were on our own at Emma's Christmas Program. Thus, the lack of photos! Here she is reciting a Santa poem.

It was a very cute Christmas program. Emma's teacher had been teaching for many years, and has the children perform at Christmas and for Mother's Day. It is one reason I love the program so much.

Apparently Sophie's jacket is really cozy, because she likes to bring it to me at various times throughout the day and have me help her put it on. Then she wanders around contentedly until she gets too hot.

I turned ** this week, and mom sent me this awesome bird feeder system. She was inspired by the pictures I sent from Robin's Nesting Place. I think it will be lots of fun to watch the birds in action. Sophie and Emma have already spent a good deal of time watching out the window, but alas, no birdies yet. We have no grasses or bushes with berries for them to eat, so it may take a little while for word to get around that we have a feeder. The red one has seeds in it to attract cardinals and other birds, and the copper feeder should suit the finches nicely.

I also got a fun package from Kathy at Michael Miller. They are coming out with some new trims in January, including bias trims and ruffled ric-rac in various fun prints. I won some, and it just arrived today. I think I am in love with the ruffle ric-rac... it will be so fun to play with.Notice the cute log cabin quilt in the background? That arrived as a birthday present from my wonderful in-laws. They also sent a gift-card to a local spa... Can't wait to use it!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Who knew...

Ten years ago, I thought a ten year anniversary sounded so far away...

I suppose the good times are what make it seem to have flown by, and we have had lots of good times!

I would love to have posted a wedding picture, but I can't find them... maybe Elliott hid them, knowing I would be sentimental!
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Be jealous...

Look what just arrived on my doorstep... yummy chocolate criossants from Williams-Sonoma. Mom and Dad sent us these for Christmas, and I see a delicious, lazy Christmas morning breakfast in our future!

Gift tags

Angry Chicken has some adorable gift tags... unfortunately I already sent presents to everyone who would think these are funny, but it might not be too late for all you that live close to family!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Family in Need

This time of year there are many families in need, and this story especially pulls at my heart strings... please help them if you can.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

24 days of Christmas, cont...

"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom we seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of Hosts." Malachi 3:1

Carol: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Keeping Baby Warm
by Lynda H. Laughlin

It was an inexpensive dime store Nativity set, and he was only three years old. His back was toward me, but I could see that his chubby little hands were busily working on something at the old table.

"What are you doing?" I asked him impatiently, annoyed at him for touching the decorations after he had been told not to.

As I started toward the scene of his latest mischief, he turned toward me with wide blue eyes filling and a single tear starting down his cherubic cheek. Then I saw it. A carefully folded tissue had been tenderly placed over the small ceramic infant.

"Baby Jesus was cold, mommy," he whispered.

Ten years have passed, and the tiny Nativity has been replaced by a much larger one. But this year, as every year, I found a carefully folded tissue covering the baby Jesus. I think I know who did it, and I hope he never stops.

12 Days of Christmas


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White Christmas, a little early....

I hope it snows again for Christmas, but this is fun for now.

It started yesterday morning at 7am. This was the scene about noon.

It stopped snowing for a few hours in the afternoon... this is about 2:30pm.

It started up again overnight, after raining quite a bit, so we have a good sheet of ice under the new snow. This was about 7:30am this morning.

It is super windy out right now, and still snowing a little. The wind and ice are the biggest concerns... it is possible we will lose power, but hopefully not! Poor Elliott, I am sure he is dreading shoveling the walks and driveway. The kids, on the other hand, are begging to go outside!
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Christmas Meme

We are snowed in today (pictures to come later!)... and church has been canceled! Elliott is getting a rest from his Sunday meetings, and the kids and I are relaxing, and I am close to being caught up on all your wonderful blogs.

Here is a little Christmas meme I saw on Ami's blog...

1 Apple cider, eggnog or hot chocolate? Definitely hot chocolate.. mom got me addicted to Ghirardelli's Double Chocolate hot chocolate. YUM!

2 Turkey or Ham? I prefer ham and funeral potatoes for Christmas... after all, we just had turkey at Thanksgiving!

3 Does Santa wrap or just set them under the tree? Santa does both in our family... but if it were up to me the stockings and just a few big presents would be unwrapped from Santa, and the wrapped ones would be from me and Elliott.

4 Colored or white lights on the tree? I prefer white lights.

5 Fake or real-cut-it-yourself-tree? Fake all the way... We get it out the day after Thanksgiving, keep it up for a few days after Christmas, and never have to worry about watering it, or needles dropping on the floor! Plus, it is pre-lit, so we don't have to struggle with lights!
6 Favorite Christmas song? Don't make me pick... I do tend to love traditional songs best. And as a soprano, I love to perform O Holy Night! But I love to sing and hear all of them. I would listen to Christmas music year round if Elliott would let me!

7 How do you feel about Christmas movies? I love them. My favorite is Its a Wonderful Life.

8 Favorite Holiday dish? Pumpkin Pie!

9 When is it too early to start the Christmas music? This year I wanted to play it while we were getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner, but DH had other ideas ... so I humored him, and waited until the next day!

10 What is your favorite holiday smell? Cinnamon or pine

11 How did you learn the truth about Santa? Hmm, I can't remember. I do remember spending one Christmas Eve sitting on my bunk bed looking out the window for Santa, and seeing a red dot flying through the air. It must have been an airplane, but I was sure it was Rudolph's nose! I must have been at least 5...

12 What kind of decorations are on your tree? I have mentioned before that we collect ornaments from the places we travel to, and we like to talk about those memories when we decorate the tree.

13 Open presents Christmas Eve or Day? We save everything for Christmas Day.

14 Go to someone else’s house or have them at yours? We like to be at home on Christmas Day.

15 Giving or receiving? I love hunting for presents I think the recipient will like. I am sure that I am off sometimes, but it is still fun to search. I especially love giving to my kids now that they are of an age to get excited!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snow is falling all around

Emma and I have spent the last few days making lots of snowflakes. These are simple, run of the mill fold-and-cut snowflakes, but they are quite addicting to make!This is what they look like from the outside.

Sophie enjoys ripping them off the window, much to Emma's dismay!

Emma has gone through quite a few rolls of tape... we are still getting the hang of how much we need to tape a snowflake to the window. If I was really a good mom, I would get glue dots, so the tape wouldn't show on the window, but alas, I ain't that good! Ethan made that one on the upper left there... he is becoming addicted too!

24 Days of Christmas, continued

"Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, he is the King of Glory."

Carol: While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

A Brother Like That
from Especially for Mormons, Vol. 11, Pg. 40

A friend of mine named Paul received a new car from his brother as a pre-Christmas present. On Christmas Eve, when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it.

"Is this your car, mister?" he asked.

Paul nodded. "My brother gave it to me for Christmas."

The boy looked astounded. "You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn't cost you anything? Gosh, I wish..."

He hesitated, and Paul knew what he was going to wish. He was going to wish that he had a brother like that. But what the lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels.

"I wish," the boy went on, "That i could be a brother like that."

Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then he impulsively added, "Would you like a ride in my new car?"

"Oh yes, I'd love that!"

After a shot ride the urchin turned, and with his eyes aglow said, "Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?"

Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the boy wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again.

"Will you stop right where those steps are?" the boy asked. He ran up the steps. Then in a little while, Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little polio-crippled brother. He sat down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed upright against, him and pointed to the car.

"There she is buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas, and it didn't cost him a cent, and someday I'm going to give you one just like it; then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I've been trying to tell you about."

Paul got out and lifted the little lad into the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride.

That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus mean when He said, "It is more blessed to give..."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I am SO behind!

It is a good thing all my Christmas shopping is done, because it would just add to the stress. I am sorry (again!) that I haven't been posting stories every night, but I have so much to do lately. You can see some of it here.

Add in the holiday baking and merriment with the kids, and you have an exhausted momma at night. I sat down thinking I would post a story, only to find out that I had 59 posts on all of your exciting blogs backing up in Google Reader. Please know that I am finally reading, if not always commenting!

Emma and I have been busy decorating our front windows with snowflakes. Next year I will buy pretty paper to make them with. Look for photos tomorrow (?) of all our handiwork!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Secret Santa

First, an apology... I promised I would update every evening with a new story for Christmas, but I have been uber busy the last few days! I hope to get back on track tonight.

I was in a Secret Santa scavenger swap on the quilting forum I belong to, and wanted to show what I sent...

The person I sent to said she loves snowpeople, her favorite color is green, and she didn't need any edible sweets. With that in mind, here is the list, and what I sent:

1. Something with a snowman on it: snowman salt and pepper shakers
2. Something shiny or sparkly: Nail polish in "pure pearl" (I love this on my toes!)
3. Your favorite Christmas Tradition written on a card: We travel quite a bit, and collect ornaments from the places we visit.
4. Something homemade (by you or someone else): Cute strawberries pincushion made by Anina of Twiddletails
5. Something that can be hung: handmade gift tags (they have ribbons to hang on the gifts)
6. Something that warms (your body, your belly, your home, or your heart): Santa socks!
7. Something sweet (tasting, smelling, or thoughtful): Soaps made by Savor... 3 types: Orange Blossom, Chocolate Berry, and 3 "lumps of coal"!
8. A fat quarter of fabric: She got half a yard of that pretty green stuff.
9. Your favorite recipe: Tuscan Chickpea Soup (recipe to follow soon!)
10. A Quilty Gadget: Disappearing Ink Pen (I LOVE using mine for marking quilting or drawing cutting lines for triangles.)

I am eagerly awaiting my package, and will post in when it comes!
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Friday, December 07, 2007

Hem your jeans tutorial

If you have a pair of jeans that is too long, but you are hesitant to hem them because you want the seam to look the same as when you bought it, here is the tutorial for you... You retain your origianl hemline, so it still has the stonewashed/acidwashed/waterever-is-in-style-at-the-time-washed look.

I haven't actually used it yet, as most jeans are too short on me, but I may order some tall sizes and see if this works. I have a long torso, and getting pants to fit is a nightmare!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

24 Days of Christmas Part 6

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform that god thing which I have promised unto the House of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the branch of righteousness to grow up unto David." Jeremiah 33:14-15

Carol: Joy to the World

The Sixth Word
Especially for Mormons, Vol. 2

Just a week before Christmas, I had a visitor. This is how it happened. I had just finished the household chores and was preparing to go to bed, when I heard a noise from the front of the house. I opened the door of the front room, and to my surprise, Santa Clause himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree. He placed his finger over his mouth so I would not cry out.

"What are you doing..." I started to ask, but the words choked up in my throat as I saw he had tears in his eyes. His usual jolly manner was gone --- gone was the eager, boisterous soul we all know.

He then answered me with a simple statement of "Teach the children." I was puzzled. What did that mean? He anticipated my question and with one quick movement brought forth miniature toy bag from behind the tree. As I stood there bewildered, Santa said again, "Teach the children. Teach them the old meaning of Christmas --- the meanings that Christmas nowadays has forgotten."

I started to say, "How can I..." when Santa reached into the toy bag and pulled out a brilliant shiny star.

"teach the children that the star was a heavenly sign of promise long ages ago. God promised a Savior for the world and the star was the sign of the fulfillment of that promise. The countless shining stars at night --- one for each man--- now show the burning hope of all mankind." Santa gently placed the star upon the fireplace mantle and drew forth from the bag a glittering red Christmas tree ornament.

"Teach the children red is the first color of Christmas. It was first used by the faithful people to remind them of the blood which was shed for all the people by the Savior. Christ gave his life and shed His blood that every man might have God's gift of Eternal Life. Red is deep, intense, vivid --- it is the greatest color of all. It is the symbol of the gift of God."

"Teach the children," he said as he dislodged a small Christmas tree from the depths of the toy bag. He placed it before the mantle and gently hung the red ornament on it. The deep green of the fir tree was the perfect background for the ornament. Here was the second color of Christmas.

"The pure green color of the stately fir tree remains green all year round," he said. This depicts the everlasting hope of mankind. Green is the youthful, hopeful, abundant color of nature. All the needles point heavenward -- symbols of Man's retuning thoughts towards heaven.l The great green tree has been man's best friends. It has sheltered him, warmed him, made beauty for him," Suddenly I heard a soft tinkling sound.

"Teach the children that as the lost sheep are found by the sound of the bell, it should ring for man to return to the fold --- it means guidance and return. It further signifies that all are precious in the sight of the Lord." As the soft sound of the bell faded into the night, Santa drew forth a candle. He placed it on the mantle and the soft glow from its tiny flame cast a glow about the darkened room. Odd shapes in shadows slowly danced and weaved upon the walls.

"Teach the children." whispered Santa, "that the candle shows man's thanks for the star of long ago. Its small light is the mirror of starlight. At first, candles were placed on the trees --- they were like many glowing stars shining against the dark green. The colored lights have now taken over in remembrance."

Santa turned the small Christmas lights on and picked up a gift from under the tree. he pointed to the large bow and said, "A bow is placed on a present to remind us of the spirit of the brotherhood of man, We should remember that the bow is tied as men should be tied, all of us together, with the bonds of good will toward each other. Good will forever is the message of the bow."

Santa slung his bag over his shoulder and began to reach for the candy cane placed high on the tree. He unfastened it and reached out toward me with it.

"Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherd's crook. The crook on the end of the staff helps bring back the strayed sheep to the flock. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show at Christmas time. The candy cane is the symbol that we are our brothers' keepers."

As Santa looked about the room, a feeling of satisfaction shone on his face. He read wonderment in my eyes, and I am sure he sensed the admiration for this night.

He reached into his bag, and brought forth a large holly wreath. He placed it on the door and said, "Please teach the children that the wreath symbolizes the eternal nature of love; it never ceases, stops or ends. It is the one continuous round of affection. The wreath does double duty. It is made of many things and many colors. It should remind us of all the things of Christmas. Please teach the children.'

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

24 Days of Christmas Part 5

"In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name whereby he shall be called The Lord our Righteousness" Jeremiah 23:6

Carol: The First Noel

The Cobbler and His Guest
A yuletide legend, by Anne McCollum Boyles

There once lived in the city of Marseilles an old shoemaker, loved and honored by his neighbors, who affectionately called him Father Martin. One Christmas Eve as he sat alone in his little shop reading of the visit of the Wise Men to the infant Jesus, and of the gifts they brought, he said to himself, "If tomorrow were the first Christmas, and if Jesus were born in Marseilles this night, I know what I would give him!" He rose from his stool and took from the shelf overhead two tiny shoes of the softest snow white leather with bright silver buckles. "I would give him these, my finest work." Then he paused and reflected, "But I am a foolish old man," he continued, "The Master has no need for my poor gifts."

Replacing the shoes, he blew out the candle and retired to rest. Hardly had he closed his eyes it seemed, when he heard a voice call his name... "Martin! Martin!' Intuitively he felt a presence. Then the voice spoke again... "Martin, you have wished to see me. Tomorrow I shall pass by your window. If you see me, and bid me enter, I shall be your guest at your table.

Father Martin did not sleep that night for joy. And before it was yet dawn he rose and swept and tidied up his little shop. He spread fresh sand upon the floor, and wreathed green boughs of fir along the rafters. on the spotless linen-covered table he placed a loaf of white bread, a jar of honey, and a pitcher of milk.

When all was in readiness, he took up his patient vigil at the window.

Presently he saw an old street-sweeper pass by, blowing upon his thin, gnarled hands to warm them. "Poor fellow, he must be half frozen," thought Martin. Opening the door he called out to him, "Come in my friend and warm yourself, and drink something hot." The man gratefully accepted the invitation.

An hour passed and Martin saw a young, miserably clothed woman carrying a baby. She paused wearily to rest in the shelter of his doorway. The heart of the old cobbler was touched. Quickly he flung open the door. "Come in and warm while you rest," he said to her. "you do not look well."

"I am going to the hospital. I hope they will take me in, and my baby boy." she explained. " My husband is at sea, and I am ill, without a sou.

"Poor child," cried Father Martin. "You must eat something while you are getting warm. No? Then let me give you a cup of milk or the little one. Ah! what a bright pretty fellow he is!...why, you have put no shoes on him?

"I have no shoes for him," sighed the mother.

"Then he shall have this lovely pair I finished yesterday."

And Father Martin took down from the shelf the soft little snow white shoes he had admired the evening before. He slipped them on the child's feet... they fit perfectly. And shortly, the poor, young mother went on her way, two sous in her hand and tearful with gratitude.

Father Martin resumed his post at the window. Hour after hour went by, and though many people shard the hospitality of the cobbler, the expected guest did not appear.

"It was only a dream," he sighed, with a heavy heart. "I did hope and believe, but He has not come." Suddenly, so it seemed to his weary eyes, the room was flooded with a strange light. And to the cobbler's astonished vision, there appeared before him , one by one, the poor street sweeper, the sick mother and her child, and all the people whom he had aided during the day. And each smiled and said, "Have you not seen me? Did I not sit at your table?" Then they vanished from his view.

At last, out of the silence, Father Martin heard the gentle voice repeating the old familiar words; "whosoever shall receive one such in my name, receiveth me... for I was hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in... verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Christmas around the World

Feminist Mormon Housewives has set up a donation page for Heifer International. If you want to know more about the charity, read through their website. There are also some great comments on the blog post at FMH.

I will also plug my favorite charity again... Smile Train. 100% of your donation goes to help with the surgeries... the founders set up a grant to pay all administrative costs when they formed the charity.

Monday, December 03, 2007

24 Days of Christmas Part 4

"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgement and justice in the earth." Jeremiah 23:5

Carol: O Come All Ye Faithful

The Night Before Christmas
by Clement Clark Moore

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Meet Little Emma

For Emma's brithday this year we bought her a Bitty Baby from American Girl. The company sells matching clothes for baby and "mother", so we bought them matching nightgowns too, which Emma has worn everynight since then! Maybe the matching nightgown is what convinced her the doll's name needed to match hers, so the doll is now affectionately called Little Emma. Of course, Little Emma will be sad if she doesn't get any Christmas presents, so she is getting new clothes and a crocheted blanket.
(Today in the car Emma informed me she was changing the name. I got excited until she told me the doll's new name: Poopydiaper. I think I'll stick with Little Emma!)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Yep, that about sums it up!

(you can buy me this t-shirt at Natalie Dee)

purl 4, knit 2

I am taking a little break from quilting to crochet a baby blanket for "little Emma" (you haven't met her yet... hopefully I can post her tomorrow!) for Christmas. I have also been looking at winter scarf patterns, and came across the Lion Brand Yarn website which has all kinds of fun patterns and tutorials... After the holidays I may have to take up knitting!

24 Days of Christmas Part 3

"But thou Bethlehem...though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." Micah 5:2

Carol: O Little Town of Bethlehem

A Different Kind of Christmas
author unknown

Martha had tried to ignore the approach of Christmas. She would have kept it almost entirely out of her thoughts if Jed had not come eagerly into the cabin one day, stomping snow from his cold feet as he said in an excited voice, "Martha, we're going to have a Christmas tree this year, anyway. I spotted a cedar on that rise south of the wheat field, over near Norton's place. It's a scrubby thing, but it will do since we can't get a pine. Maybe Christmas will be a little different here, but it can still be the kind of Christmas we used to have."

As she shook her head, Martha noticed that Daniel glanced quickly up from the corner where he was playing, patiently tying together some sticks with bits of string left over from the quilt she had tied a few days earlier. She drew Jed as far away from the boys as possible.

"I don't want a tree, she said. "We won't be celebrating Christmas. Even a tree couldn't make it the kind of Christmas we used to have."

"Martha, we've got to do something for the boy at least. Children set such store by Christmas."

"Don't you think I know? All those years of fixing things for Maybelle and Stellie. I know all about the kids and Christmas." She stopped and drew a deep breath glancing over to see that Daniel was occupied and not listening. "But I can't do those things for him. It would be a knife in the heart, fixing the tree and baking cookies and making other things for another woman's child when my own girls are back there on that prairie."

"Martha, Martha," Jed said softly. "It's been almost a year and a half. That's over, and Danny needs you. He needs a Christmas like he remembers."

She turned back to his pleading face. 'I can't," she said.

Jed touched her shoulder gently, "I know how hard it is for you, Martha. But think of the boy." He turned and went back to the snowy weather.

Think of the boy. Why should she think of him, when her own children, her two blue-eyed, golden curled daughters, had been left beside the trail back there in that endless, empty prairie? The boy came to her not because she wanted him, but, because she couldn't say "no" to the bishop back in Salt Lake City last April before they came to settle in this valley.

Bishop Clay had brought Daniel to her and Jed one day and said, "I want you to care for this lad. His mother died in the trek last summer and his pa passed away last week. He needs a good home."

Jed had gripped the bishop's hand with tears in his eyes, thanked him, but Martha had turned away from the sight of the thin, ragged, six-year-old boy who stood before them, not fast enough, however, to miss the sudden brief smile he flashed at her. A smile that should have caught her heart and opened it wide. Her heart was closed, though, locked tightly around the memory of her two gentle little girls. She didn't want a noisy, rowdy boy hanging around, disturbing those memories, filling the cabin with a boy's loud games.

Yet she had taken him, because she felt she had no choice. Faced with the bishop's request--more of an order, really--and Jed's obvious joy, she couldn't refuse.

He came with them out to this new valley west of the Salt Lake settlement and had proven himself a great help to Jed, despite his young age. Sometimes Martha felt pity for him, but she didn't love him. With Jed it was different. He had accepted Daniel immediately as his own son and enjoyed having the boy with him. They had a special relationship.

Daniel mentioned Christmas only once. One day it was too cold and snowy to play outside and he had been humming softly to himself as he played in the corner. Suddenly, he looked up at Martha and asked, "Can you sing Aunt Martha?"

Martha paused and straightened up from the table where she was kneading bread. She used to sing for her girls all the time. "No, I can't, Daniel," she said, "Not anymore."

"My mother used to sing a pretty song at Christmas," he said, "I wish I could remember it."

On the day before Christmas, Jed went through the deep snow to do some chores for Brother Norton, who was ill. Daniel was alone outside most of the day, although he did make some rather furtive trips in and out of the cabin. On one trip he took the sticks he had been tying together.

Toward evening, Martha went out to the stable to milk Rosie, since Jed had not yet returned. As she approached she saw there was light inside. Opening the door softly, she peered within. Daniel had lit the barn lantern, and with its glow, he knelt in the straw by Rosie's stall. In front of him were the sticks he had tied together, which Martha recognized as a crude cradle. It held Stellie's rag doll, all wrapped up in the white shawl Martha kept in her trunk. Her first impulse was to rush in a and snatch it, but she stopped because the scene was strangely beautiful in the soft light from the lantern. Rosie and two sheep stood close by, watching Daniel. He seemed to be addressing them when he spoke.

"The shepherds came following a star," he was saying, "And they found the baby Jesus who had been born in a stable." He paused for a moment, then went on. "And his mother loved him."

Martha suddenly felt that she couldn't breathe. Another mother, another day, had loved her boy, and had told him the beautiful story of the Christ child with such love that he hadn't forgot it, young as he was. And she, Martha, had failed that mother.

In the silence she began to sing, "Silent night." she sang. "Holy Night."

Daniel didn't move until the song was finished. Then he turned with that heart-melting smile.

"That's the one," he whispered. "That's the song my mother used to sing to me."

Martha ran forward and gathered the boy in her arms. He responded immediately, clasping his arms tightly around her.

"Danny," she said, sitting on the edge of Rosie's manger, "Let's go in and get the cabin ready for Christmas. Maybe it isn't too late for Jed--for Pa to get that tree. It might be a little different kind of Christmas, but it will still be a little like the Christmases we used to know."

"Do you mind it being different?" asked Danny. "I mean with a boy instead of girls/'

Martha wondered how long it would take her to make up to him for the hurt she had inflicted these many months. "No," she said. "after all, the Baby Jesus was a boy."

"That's right." he said wonderingly.

She set him down on the floor and put her arms around his shoulders.

"Merry Christmas." she said. "Merry Christmas, Danny."

He looked up at her with a smile that did not fade quickly this time, a sweet smile full of love he had been waiting to give her.

"Merry Christmas," he said, and then added softly, "Mother."

Saturday, December 01, 2007

24 Days of Christmas Part 2

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Might God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

Carol: Away in a Manger

Ancient America Views the First Christmas
(excerpts from The Book of Mormon)

I looked and beheld of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. And (the) angel...said unto me: Behold the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

And... I be beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time... I... beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms. And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea even the Eternal Son of the Father! (Nephi, about 600BC, 1Nephi 11:13-21)

And the... angel... said unto me... Behold, the time cometh, and is not far distant, that with power, the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is for all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay, and shall go forth among the children of men, working mighty miracles...

And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary.

And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name. (King Benjamin, about 124 BC, Mosiah 3:3-9)

For behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people... And behold, He shall be born of Mary at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshasowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God. (Alma, about 83 BC, Alma 7:7, 10)

And Behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness insomuch that it shall appear unto men as if it was day.

Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and... ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also the setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night, nevertheless, the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.

And behold, there shall a new star arise, such as one ye never have beheld... (Samuel, about 6 BC, Helaman 14:3-5)

And it came to pass, that in the commencement of the ninety and second year, behold, the prophecies of the prophets began to be fulfilled more fully, for there began to be greater signs and greater miracles wrought among the people.

And behold, they did watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been in vain.

Now it came to pass, that there was a day set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass, which had been given by Samuel the Prophet.

Now it came to pass, that when Nephi, the son of Nephi, saw this wickedness of his people, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.

And it came to pass that he went out and bowed himself down upon the earth, and cried mightily to his God in behalf of his people, yea, those who were about to be destroyed because of their faith in the traditions of their fathers.

And it came to pass, that he cried mightily unto the Lord, all the day: and behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him saying: Lift up your head and be of goo cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on the morrow come I into the world, to do the will both of my Father and of the Son--of the Father because of me, and of the son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.

And it came to pass, that the words which came upon Nephi were fulfilled, according as they had been spoken; for behold at the going down of the sun there was no darkness; an the people began to be astonished because there was no darkness when the night came.

And there were many, who had not believed the words of the prophets, who fell to earth and became as if they were dead, for they knew that the great plan of destruction which they had laid or those who believed in the words of the prophets had been frustrated; for the signal which had been given was already at hand.

And they began to know that the Son of God must shortly appear; yea, in fine, all the people upon the whole earth from the west to the east. both in the land north and in the land south, were so exceedingly astonished that they fell to the earth.

For they knew that the prophets had testified of these things for many years, and the sign which had been given was already at hand; and they began to fear because of their iniquity and unbelief.

And it came to pass that there was no darkness in all that night, but it was light as though it was midday. And it came to pass, that the sun did rise in the morning again, according to its proper order; and they knew that is was the day that the Lord should be born because of the sign which had been given.

And it had come to pass, yea, all things, every whit according to the words of the prophets.

And it came to pass a;so that a new star did appear, according to the word. (Nephi, at the time of Christ's birth, 3 Nephi 1:4-21)