The Watchman

The Watchman

Friday, December 21, 2012

All I Want For Christmas by Emily

This morning I was greeted by an early Christmas gift from Emily.  It was a little book she had written and illustrated in her class entitled, "All I Want For Christmas".  Each page is written in the form of a letter.

While Rick didn't see the humor in it so much, by the time I finished reading, I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.  It is worth sharing:


I need a hamster so when you are gone I can have someone with me so I won't be alone.

Your Amazing and Awesome,

I can play with it and feed it with a bowl of food and water and I could give it treats.

Your Sweet,

I would have it for keeping company when I am in my room and no one is in there with me.  I would have it in it's cage so it wouldn't escape.

Yours Truly,

I could read it stories and listen to music with it and when Lela is in the shower I could play with it.

Your Sweetpea Girl 5,

If you really want to make me happy this Christmas than can you please get me a hamster.

Your Thoughtful,

When I was young and would ask for something, my dad would expect me to provide him with reasons why what I desired would be beneficial not only to me, but to him and the family.  I think this little book reminded me so much of myself and that is why I love it.

And no, there is not going to be a hamster under the tree on Christmas morning, but her birthday is coming soon, so maybe......

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just thinking.....

I am sure that I am just like many of you who feel numb and shaken with disbelief by the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  The fact that the majority of the victims were so young has really upset me.  For years when my boys were in elementary school, I worked at the school they attended in the kindergarten and first grade classrooms.  These little children were so sweet, so loving, so excited to learn.  They were always filled with funny stories and laughed so readily.  Even those that I knew came from difficult situations at home were full of kindness and hope when they came to school.  School was a refuge where they were surrounded by love and acceptance provided by the most amazing teachers.  How I loved those kindergarten and first-grade teachers.  They brought so much joy and enthusiasm and patience to their classrooms.  They made their classrooms a haven, a secure and safe place for all their students.  I am sure that the teachers at Sandy Hook were the same.  It takes someone very special to teach our youngest children.

Yesterday I made sure that I told each of my children I loved them before they walked out the door.  Actually, I know I said it more than once, probably more than twice.  This time I didn't receive the standard "I know mom" or "You already said that" in response.  Each time they said "I love you" in return.  We didn't focus on the tragedy at our house over the weekend.  We limited news coverage, but we did encourage our children to ask questions and answered them with straightforward answers.  I appreciate that their teachers did the same thing yesterday at school.  When Lela came home and told me that the glass in the windows of her classroom are bulletproof, I did take a moment to pause and recognize that the world my children live in is so different than the world I grew up in.  I can guarantee that my elementary and junior high schools did not have bullet proof glass in the windows.

I worry about balancing the need for my children to feel safe, providing them the knowledge to be safe, and not letting them become accepting of these acts as normal or commonplace.  We do not want them to become distanced emotionally from the world around them or become incapacitated by feelings of inconsequence or ineffectiveness and fear.  While talking to them about all the things their schools have done to make the environment safe, we have also talked to them about things they can do to be safe.  We have encouraged them to be involved and be aware.  If they see something that seems wrong, they need to tell an adult.  I appreciated the email from the elementary school that stressed this and let us know that there was help and support at the school for children who are having a difficult time.

Now I want to get on my soapbox for a minute:

Gun control legislation:  I understand that guns don't kill people, that people kill people.  I understand that guns are just a tool in the same way a shovel or a hammer or a knife is a tool.  Any of these tools could be used to kill as well and have frequently been used so.  In fact, I love to go shooting.  Guns have always been a part of my life.  All my children know how to use and RESPECT a gun and my children go shooting with their father quite often.  My daughters have a collection of tin cans, plastic bottles and even a pumpkin to use as targets at the gun range.  We do not hunt in our family, but my father and brother used to go hunting and my brother still does.  If our children wanted to go hunting, that would not be a problem with us.  Our guns are stored unloaded in a locked gun safe and/or have trigger locks.  I remember one incident reported on the news where children were playing with a gun and one shot the other.  At the time, my boys, who were children at the time, were shocked that a loaded weapon was stored unsecured where children could reach it and that they would think it was a toy.  That concept was so foreign to the way they had been taught.

But let's be real, there are certain guns that are made for the sole purpose of killing people.  There is no need for the average person to have a clip that holds 30 rounds of ammunition.  These are the weapons that have become the weapon of choice in the tragedies in the news headlines today.  Do I know individuals that own these types of weapons?  Yes, I do.  Why did they purchase them?  To feel macho, to boost their ego.  Do they use them much?  No. They aren't good for target shooting and defeat the purpose of hunting.

Last night, David Letterman stated that he had had his team research school shootings - only SCHOOL shootings.  Since 1995, there have been 70 such shootings.  How accurate this is I have not verified myself, but using that information it is disturbing to think that in simpler terms that is over four SCHOOL shootings a year or on average one every three months.  Many of the political rhetoric posts on Facebook "recite" incidents where a teacher or principal has stopped a potential shooter by using their own weapon.  I have yet to see one such post that says the lifesaving individual pulled out his handy AR-15.

Please contact your Congressional representatives and let them know that you would support a ban on assault-style weapons and the paraphernalia that goes along with them.  I am sure that there are many who will say that this starts us down a path that will take away our constitutional rights.  But let me say this, no law will ever be passed that will do away with an individual's right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes.  The Supreme Court has upheld this right on numerous occasions.  But it has also upheld the right of legislatures to  prohibit or restrict possession within limits.

To me it comes back to these two questions: Will my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness be lessened if I am unable to purchase an assault-style weapon?  Will my children be safer if access to such weapons is lessened?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Music

I admit it, I love Christmas music.  When I listen to the songs of the Holidays, I feel peace.  I feel the love of my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  I am not talking about songs like Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, that focus on the commercialism of the season, but the traditional Christmas Tunes that I learned as a child and that were played in our home each year.  I can remember sitting for hours by our old record player putting on one record after another.  Songs like Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer reminded us to have fun and that everyone was important.  The Christmas Song with lyrics of chestnuts roasting and Jack Frost brought visions of comfort at home and family togetherness.  O Tannenbaum spoke to my heart of hope, everlasting life and the steadfastness of God's love, while Silent Night told the story of that miraculous night with simple words and tune and O Holy Night resonated with the power that single event had to change the world.

This time of year, I can come out of the closet with my love of Christmas music.  I can openly admit that I own every Mormon Tabernacle Choir Broadcast on DVD I have been able to find.  The Playlist on my MP3 player changes over to Christmas tunes.  I am a sucker for a good Christmas CD.  I also love a good Christmas special.  Whose heart doesn't beat a little faster to the extradornary kicks and heels clicking of the Rockettes? How I miss the days of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Andy Williams.  Thank goodness for YouTube, so I can share some of those magical moments of childhood with my own children.

Here is my all-time favorite memory from Bing Crosby:

So to all of you I say Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and enjoy the songs of the season.

(If you don't want to buy all the DVDs of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas concerts, you can watch the abbreviated version of many of them as shown during Music and the Spoken Word by clicking here via the Mormon Tabernacle Choir YouTube Channel.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Christmas Traditions

Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.


I was raised in a home with many family traditions: New Year's Eve we would all stay awake till the ball dropped in New York, snacking and doing jigsaw puzzles.  New Year's Day was ham for dinner and football on the TV while the Christmas decorations came down.  Easter brought dying eggs - dozens of eggs; Easter baskets hid in the living room, hunting for eggs in the yard and ham for dinner with the addition of -surprise - deviled eggs.

On the Memorial Day Sunday, the family would gather after church, taking cuttings from our gardens and put together bouquets and taking them to the many cemeteries where our loved ones were buried.  This was always a special time as my grandmother, my great-aunts and my father would share stories of those we visited that day.  I remember that as a young girl, I was always asked to put together a bouquet for a cousin who had died as a young girl.  I grew up feeling very close to this relative whom I had never met.

Then on Memorial Day Monday we would gather with the Roberts family relatives and have a big picnic filled with good food, softball games, frisbee, and lots of family stories.  It was this reunion that I took Rick to as one of our first dates and it was then that he decided that he wanted to be a part of such a large and loving and fun family.  My own dad shared a similar feeling when he was dating my mom.

July held more family picnics, sparklers on the front lawn and the Pioneer Parade in Ogden.  Also, July was my birthday and each year for our birthdays, our dad would take us to do something special.  We looked forward to this time every year.  Summers were also full of a road trip somewhere across the country.  My parents would pile us into the back of the old Chevy Impala station wagon and off we would go to explore new places and visit family.  By the time I was 18, I had been to Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa.

October was Halloween and trick-or-treating with my dad as chauffeur.  He had a route set up, where he would drop us off at one place and tell us to work our way to a destination.  We would always find him at that location drinking hot chocolate or eating a cookie or doughnut.  November was Thanksgiving with family dinner, parades on television and football.  December was Christmas.

Christmas at our house when I was young was always fun.  The big trunks in the basement filled with decorations would come out.  The lights would go up on the front of the house, the mistletoe would be hung in the entrance to the living room and the bells would be hung over the entrance to the dining room.  The tree was decorated with glass balls and the ornaments my aunt and uncle gave us each year picked up during their travels.  Christmas Eve was my dad's birthday, so the house was always full of people stopping by to wish him the best.  Then it was off to bed - all seven of us in the same room just for that  one night.  After lots of giggling and whispering and being told to go to sleep or Santa wouldn't come, we would finally doze off only to awaken before the sun and creep into the living room to a wondrous sight and we knew we had gone to sleep just with enough time for Santa to stop his sleigh at our house.  The day was always a magical starting with that clandestine peek at our presents from Santa to the time spent visiting our extended family.  It was always best when we had snow we could walk through.

Now I am the mom and Rick and I have tried to establish traditions with our children.  We have taken some from my childhood and some from his, along with starting a few of our own.  We try to make sure that whenever possible, extended family is included.  We still attend the Memorial Day Reunion every other year and watch football on Thanksgiving, but where we really excel is Christmas.

I wrote before about some of our Christmas traditions here.  As much as I love the countdown traditions, my personal favorite are the gift traditions we have established.  Rick and I decided when the boys were young, that we had the potential to get really carried away with our gift giving, so each year, we have limited ourselves to three gifts for each child.  One is always pajamas and a new book to be opened Christmas Eve.  Then on Christmas Day the other two gifts have a theme with one being something fun that the child has requested during the year and the other is something meant to remind them of family and faith.

When I was a young girl, my aunt told me a story of how she and her sister were receiving beautifully wrapped boxes for Christmas.  They were so beautiful that they couldn't help but peek, so they carefully sliced the tape holding the paper and found they were each receiving a special dress.  Problem was, they each liked the others more, so before re-wrapping the boxes, they exchanged dresses.  On Christmas morning, it was their mom who received the surprise.

With this in mind, and realizing that my children did take after me in their impatience in learning what was in the box, Rick and I established a wrapping tradition that has turned into an annual game.  While the presents are wrapped and placed under the tree, no gift tags appear on the packages from us.  Each child's presents are wrapped in their own unique paper for that year, and it is up to them to figure out whose is whose.  ONLY AFTER solving the puzzle may they open their pajamas on Christmas Eve.  Each year there are conversations of "What will mom do this year?" and once the presents appear the debates and discussion on how to decipher the clues begins.  My lips are sealed until Christmas Eve and so are Rick's.

It has been exciting for Rick and I to watch how these traditions have become ingrained in our children's lives and bonded them together.  His first year away from home, Hunter called and said he was wandering the grocery store trying to find something to eat and just couldn't make up his mind.  He knew he wanted something.  It was tugging at his brain, but he couldn't figure out what.  Since it was Halloween, I suggested chili.  "That's it!" he exclaimed.  "In a bread bowl with doughnuts and apple cider."  This year, I was taking soup to an activity and decided to make chili, with enough for the family to have some for dinner.  Jon was taken aback.  "It's not Halloween yet, mom.  We don't start having chili till Halloween."

As my children grow up and start families of their own, I am looking forward to seeing which of our traditions they take with them, which traditions their spouses bring and what traditions they establish as a family.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Spirit

Our decorations are mostly up . . . finally.  I just need to finish decorating the tree that sits in our living room/kitchen.  While the tree in our family room has always been decorated with the "kids' ornaments", the tree in the living room is decorated with nativity ornaments and other ornaments that have a significance to our family.

This morning I was kind of kvetching to Rick how decorating has seemed more difficult this year.  I am normally the Day-After-Thanksgiving-The-Decorations-Go-Up type of person, but this year I have been dragging my feet and putting it off much to the dismay of my daughters.  I know that part of it is that my decorating buddy is far away in Japan and not here to help.  Wil has always been the one most interested in the process of preparing the home for the Holiday Season and I have never had to worry that if Wil did it, it would be done right.  (Someone should ask Jon about leaving price stickers on ornaments and hoping no one will notice.)  

I also know that while last year was exciting because it was our first Christmas in our new home, this year I am missing the routine.  After 20+ years, I knew every ornament and where they worked best on the tree, where every Santa or Nativity would be placed in the house, and which wreath hung on which door.  This year it is still a process of trial and error, locate and relocate.  This has also made me a little melancholy, reminding me again of what used to be.  Yesterday I ignored the bare tree in the living room, actually turning on the lights so it looked a little less forlorn, and the boxes of ornaments sitting hopefully awaiting to be placed on that tree.  Today I woke with the determination that I will get this done if for no other reason than so we won't trip over them anymore.

As I was going through the ornaments, I pulled out a pine cone.  This ornament is very simple with a couple of pieces of evergreen, a silk flower and a maroon bow attached to the top.  This ornament is a a part of Christmas Past.  I shed a few tears (well more than a few), as my heart was filled with what this pinecome represents to our family.  

When Rick was stationed in Virginia, we were limited in the amount of stuff we could move with us.  With three small children, including a brand new baby, we had to choose carefully, so all the Christmas decorations were left in Utah to be shipped to Rick's permanent duty station.  That year, Hunter and Wil, Rick's sister-in-law Mary and his niece Brittney, and I made ornaments for both our tree and their tree.  I had almost forgotten those chilly afternoons in the trailer in Prince George County.

On the first Christmas after the fire, we received a beautifully wrapped box from Steve and Mary.  Inside were some of those ornaments made that year far from home surrounded by very little that was familiar to us, along with the following letter from Mary:

Dear Rick and Ann,

I have a very special memory of the first year Steve and I were married.  It was Christmas time, we were far from home.  We were so happy to have you as near to us as Virginia.  You helped us get a tiny little tree, and when we worried about what we would hang on its branches, you helped me make many beautiful little angel ornaments.  I remember thinking that they looked difficult and I was sure I would make a mess of them.  Ann, you were so positive and patient.  You assured me that I could do it, and you were right.  We Spent many happy afternoons on weekends in Virginia, sitting in the living room of your little rental mobile home, putting together tiny little lace angels.  I remember you had Rick and the kids gathering up pinecones for some other ornaments you were going to make, and I could not conceive of how you were going to make them into ornaments.  We were very proud of our tree that year.  It was a little sparsely decorated, but very pretty.  They you presented us with a package for Christmas, and to our delight and awe it was filled with many many more beautifully crafted hand made ornaments!  Our tree was no longer sparse, but every bough was weighed down with crocheted wreathes, butterflies, and candy canes, and wonderful pinecones decorated with glitter and ribbon.  (The pinecones were my favorite.)  No Christmas tree had ever been more beautiful to me.  Your family had spent countless hours to give us a gift we still cherish even now, nearly two decades later.  Now we have to decide which decorations to leave off the tree.  But each year I make sure we have at least a few of those very special ornaments on the tree.  As each of my children leaves our home to start their own families, I plan to send them some of these decorations from our very first Christmas as a married couple.  This year I was thinking of you guys, and how in so many ways you are starting over.  So, I thought you might like a few little hand made angels, wreaths, pinecones and candy canes to decorate your tree this year.  We hope they remind you, as they remind us, of what a miracle and a blessing family is.  You were our Christmas miracle that year.  It is a memory we cherish, and we hope it will be a happy little walk down memory lane for you as well.  Merry Christmas!!

May the Spirit of Christmas fill your hearts not just now but always!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Month of Gratitude - November 30

So I am a little late writing this.  I ended up spending the last day of the month feeling ill and sleeping.

As I look back on the previous posts in November, I found a common theme: Love of family, friends, home and faith.  These are the things that shape my life and make me know that I am truly blessed.

Now we enter the Christmas Season.  How I wish that the Spirit of love and peace that is felt by so many at this time would last throughout the year and be felt by all.  

I know that Jesus Christ was born in a stable over 2,000 years ago.  He marked the path and led the way back to God.  By following Him, we can be truly happy.  He is my Savior and because of Him, I know that my sins can be forgiven and that I can live forever with my family.  This gift is given to all.  It is this knowledge that lets me know that I am truly blessed.

Here is one of my favorite Christmas stories:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."