Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Silent Night

I feel it only appropriate that for my final post on Christmas Eve to share my feelings about "Silent Night."  This has long been a favorite of mine because is gentle, spiritual, and gets right at the heart of Christmas.

My sister pointed out to me something amazing about the lyrics in the third verse a few years ago.  I've always sung it imagining the punctuation as such:

"Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God loves pure light."

But that's not how it's written. It's:

"Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love's pure light"

Do you see the difference?  It's not that Christ loves the light.  He is the Light.  This was such a remarkable discovery for me and made me love the song even more.
I hope your Christmas are filled with joy, and family, and friendship, and peace.  Merry Christmas!

"Silent Night"

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and Child.
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace;
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight!
Glories stream from heaven afar;
Heav’nly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Savior, is born!
Christ, the Savior, is born!

Silent night! Holy night!

Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from thy holy face,

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth;

Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Text: Joseph Mohr, 1792-1848;
trans. by John F. Young, 1820-1885
Music: Franz Gruber, 1787-1863

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holly Jolly Christmas

"Holly Jolly Christmas" is one of my personal favorites.  It conjures many childhood holiday memories like Christmas pajamas, mini-boxes of cereal, the family Christmas carol mix-tape, rushing to bed so Santa will come, and candles in the windows.  I'm pretty sure we danced to this song once or twice.

My favorite lyrics this year are:

"Have a holly jolly Christmas
And when you walk down the street
Say hello to friends you know
And everyone you meet"

In the final rush to prepare for Christmas, let's all do our part to be friendly to those around us.  When the lines at Walmart are outrageous and the exhausted postal worker delivers your final packages from Amazon, don't forget to say "Thanks and Happy Holidays!"

Monday, December 22, 2014

Haul Out the Holly

"We Need a Little Christmas" is a perky Christmas show tune that I love because sets a joyful Christmas mood.  Rather than hauling out the holly, I prefer to haul our my nutcrackers and nativities.

Youtube had this fun rendition of the song.

Some of the lyrics have left me with a few questions,  And I'm feeling free to provide the answers myself.

"For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute
Candles in the window
Carols at the spinet"

Q:  What exactly is a spinet?
A:   According to Google it's "a small harpsichord with the strings set obliquely to the keyboard, popular in the 18th century."

"So climb down the chimney
Put up the brightest string of lights I've ever seen
Slice up the fruitcake
It's time we hung some tinsel on that evergreen bough"

Q:  Fruitcake?  Really?
A:  May I suggest pumpkin roll, or pecan pie, or chocolate pudding with candy canes crushed up in it.  Now those are real holiday treats.

"For I've grown a little leaner, 
grown a little colder
Grown a little sadder, 
grown a little older"

Q:  Can I help you feel happier>
A:  Perhaps some food besides fruitcake, a warm blanker, some age defying face cream, and the company of some good friends would help you.

"And I need a little angel 
sitting on my shoulder
I need a little Christmas now"

Q:  Do you really want a shoulder angel?
A:  Yes.  Well I have just the thing.  Thanks, Studio C!

"We Need a Little Christmas" was written by Jerry Herman

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ere Zij God

No compilation of my favorite carols is complete without a Dutch hymn.  Christmas always makes me nostalgic for my mission.  Unlike most sisters, I served for two Christmases and had a chance to learn many of the songs in Dutch.  "Ere zij God"  brings back memories like singing in the Missionary Training Center, sharing songs in a family's home on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day services with the members in The Netherlands.

If you're wondering about how to possibly understand the lyrics, I will tell you.  In the Bible, we read the story of the shepherds watching their flock.  An angel appears to them and tells of Baby Jesus in Bethlehem.  Then "a multitude of heavenly hosts" (Luke 2:13) appeared and sang praises.
This song is the Dutch translation of Luke 2:14, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
"Ere zij God in den hoge
Vrede op aarde 
un de mensen 
een welbehagen."

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I found a great version on Youtube.  It's a little jazzier than I would like, but I really feel that is captures the spirit of the song.  Even if you don't speak Dutch, please watch.  It's beautiful.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

O Little Town of Bethlehem

"O Little Town of Bethlehem" has only recently become on of my favorite carols.  When I was younger I thought the tune was too slow.  But these words in the first verse finally struck me.

"Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight."

I love the image of dark alleyways contrasted with a bright light shining from a stable.  In such a small, humble place something so miraculous occurred.

I'm no Bible scholar, but I do love learning the meanings of names and places in the Bible.  According to the Bible Dictionary, Bethlehem means "House of Bread."  It is only fitting then that Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:35), would be born there.

Feel free to share one of your favorite carols in the comments.  I'd love to get an idea of what others like to listen to over the holidays.

"O Little Town of Bethlehem"

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above your deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.

O morning stars, together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God, the King,
And peace to men on earth.
For Christ is born of Mary,
And gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love.

How silently, how silently,
The wondrous Gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

written by Redner, Lewis H / Brooks, Phillip.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Christmas Song

I was raised on "Christmas Classics" when it came to Christmas carols.  Singers like Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, and Burl Ives could be heard throughout our home in December.  We giggled at the Beach Boys track on The Timelife Treasury of Christmas because we knew they were of a lesser caliber.

Thus it would only make sense that one of my Christmas favorites is "The Christmas Song."  It's about the joy of children at Christmas and how we can all have childlike joy at Christmas.  I feel especially connected to that this year with Joshua.

"And every mother's
Child is gonna spy to see if
Reindeer really know how to fly"

In his rendition, Bing Crosby perfectly described this song as a musical Christmas card.  While there are dozens of versions of this song out there, the best is certainly from Nat King Cole.  Enjoy this gem which I found on YouTube

The Christmas Song

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight

They know that Santa's on his way
He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother's child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety two
Although it's been said many times,
Many ways, Merry Christmas to you

written by Wells, Robert / Torme, Mel.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

 As a Christmas countdown of sorts, I am going to write about certain Christmas carols that I truly love.  You will probably notices themes of peace, love, joy, and hope.  To start, I chose this oft overlooked song by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow because, well, we need a little more peace in this world.  Also, I love church bells.

If you've even glanced at the news lately, you'd hopefully agree that a little more peace would go a long way.  But thanks to Christ, there will one day be peace on earth, and we can all work to make it just a little more peaceful now. 

This rendition of the song by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir is absolutely stunning and reminds us that inner peace is possible despite the terrible things going on around us.  It's worth the nine minutes and really gives tribute to this song better than I can.

Then maybe we can all choose a way to bring a little more peace to the earth.

If you don't have time for the video, please peruse the lyrics.

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th'unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

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."

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."

Text: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882
Music: John Baptiste Calkin, 1827-1905

From:  LDS Hymnbook page 214

Monday, December 8, 2014

The House

During our long wait for a home, Jerry and I watched ridiculous amounts of HGTV.  It's embarrassing really.  But as I describe this house to you, imagine the narrator of House Hunters, Property Brothers, or Love It or List It.  They are all basically the same show anyway.

A 1 1/2 story fully detached home with:

  • 4 bedrooms
  • 2 bathrooms
  • An open concept kitchen, dining, and living area
  • not-so marble countertops
  • an unfinished basement
  • a detached garage
  • and a fenced in backyard
And it's dripping in character which according to HGTV, just means it's a bit old.

There's a lot about the house that I love.  I sit on the couch and stare at this staircase and our mantle, and feel like we have the cutest house ever.  I love that it is not a cookie cutter house.  No homes on the street match it.  I love that I can see Joshua while I'm cooking, and I love the previous owners were good at decorating. 

The house has its quirks.  If you ever decide to come stay with us you will likely stay in a violent pink room.  Maybe in the spring or summer we will get to that.  I'm learning a lot about sump pumps, roofing, caulking, etc.  The joys of home ownership. 

Joshua's Stocking

Joshua's stocking has now been added to our collection of homemade family stockings.  The most notable thing about this project is that is was so easy.  Three years ago, I posted about the stockings I made for Jerry and me.  It was my first successful project as a novice seamstress, and it was difficult.

Today, this project would have taken no time at all, if I wasn't playing interference with my army-crawling infant.  If you took a close look at my sewing from three years ago, you would see a lot of problems with the rounded edges.  But today, that seemed easy and fast.  I still have a long way to go to improve my skills, but it's nice to feel like I've improved a bit. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

We Went On A Bear Hunt ...

... and found the cutest cub possible.

Thanks to a hefty storm, we enjoyed a White Thanksgiving.  Joshua got his first experience in the snow.  I think he liked it.

I winced through this whole experience, because I do not love snow, or cold, or ice.  But I am determined to have a child who does.  So, here we are.

Jerry on the other hand loves all things snow, and cold, and ice.  He had a great time with our little man. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Infant Mutant Ninja Turtle

Ig you read my blog at all, you will have already seen the process of creating this year's Halloween costumes.  Now you get to see, my cute little turtle. I learned that it is awfully difficult to get a good photo of a baby in a costume if you can't sit up yet.  Here are my best efforts.

This is my little turtle at storytime.  He was not even going to consider wearing his headband.  He did enjoy eating it.
Ninja Turtles were a very popular choice this year.  But these two were the cutest at the ward party.

It was past Joshua's bedtime.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Literary Tourism - New York, revisited

As none of you remember, I have already visited New York in a literary sense.  The problem is there is so much literature based there, and I don't feel that my selection did it justice.  I reread a book that I have loved since I was ten.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsberg

Claudia feels largely unappreciated in her comfortable upper middle class family and plans to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  For financial reasons, she brings her brother Jamie along with her.  While at the museum they discover a new acquisition  called Angel and are determined to discover whether it is an authentic Michelangelo.  For a week they sleep, eat, and bathe in the museum until their curiosity over the statue drives them to visit Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler's home.  She is more than happy to learn their story.

I love this book!  I also know that I am not the only one who does.  I have discussed the merits of this book with a surprising number of fellow admirers.  When I recommend it to kids at the library, they typically return with a positive review.

Reasons I love this book:
  • Like Claudia, I enjoy the finer things in life.  If I were to run away, it would be to someplace classy and easy.
  •  Perhaps because of this book, I love fiction about art.  Others that I enjoy include Chasing Vermeer, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, and Hana in the Time of the Tulips.  One exception being the Da Vinci Code. 
  • The theme of family and particularly the importance of motherhood. 
The first time I went to New York City, I was determined to visit the Met largely because of this book.

When I visited, I randomly found myself in the wing with all the furniture and thought to myself, "Hey, that's where Claudia slept!"  I wondered about all the adventures a young runaway could have in the museum.

When I worked at the library and had to check the bathrooms every night, this book reminded me to be sure to check every stall.  A kid who wanted to sleep with the books might be hiding in there.

 And really, who wouldn't want to bathe in a fountain?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Crafting Costumes

I started pondering Halloween costumes this summer.  I'm not good at this whole Halloween thing and knew I would need that much time.  I came up with the idea of ninja turtles.  Jerry thought that was great and we wanted to be a family of fighting turtles minus Raphael.

So, I Google-imaged DIY Ninja Turtle costumes.  DO NOT DO THIS.  Seriously, save your eyes and your innocence.  Amidst the filth, I found a cute kid idea on a blog called The Almost Perfectionist.  I took her ideas and my desired modification to the fabric store in Utah.  Said fabric is sitting with my sewing machine in a storage unit somewhere in the Midwest. 

While I was in Maine, I found some fabric and used my mom's sewing machine to make the costumes.  It was that important to me.

Unlike the blog I found, I am not even close to being a perfectionist.  The costume is far from flawless, but hopefully the gym at the Trunk-or-Treat will be a little dim and I don't think anyone will care that much.

For the turtle shell, I started with two circles of broadcloth and stuffed it.  Easy-peasy.  The original plan was to use felt, but supply did not meet my demand.

Initially, I was going to attach a shirt-like front (bottom of the above photo) to the turtle shell, but my mom talked me into just adding ties to the front and back.  Also very easy.

I highly recommend stick-on felt pages.  It was a great finisher for the front.

After all the sewing was done, I pulled out the hot glue and added a felt turtle pattern to the back.  I also used red, blue, and purple broadcloth for head and arm bands, but they aren't really special so I didn't post them here. 

In total, I made four turtles - two Leonardos, one Donatello, and one mini-Michelango.  You will see photos of us in costume next week.

Now, I am faced with one problem.  What can we be next year to use up all the green felt?  Suggestions are welcome because I don't think Jerry wants to be a lettuce leaf. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Bookworm

I have a little bookworm.
His name is baby Josh
I gave him a new board book
To see if he could read.

He chewed up all the pages.
He swallowed all the words.
Now he's joined his parents.
They're all a bunch of nerds.

(adapted from "Tiny Tim the Turtle")

*No library books were damaged in the making of this post.

Friday, September 26, 2014

7 Months

Somebody is seven months and cuter that ever today.

His hobbies include but are not limited to:

Rolling from back to front ...

But getting stuck on his front.

Putting everything in his mouth.  (I'm trying not to think about the hotel carpet.)

Teething so good-naturedly that we barely even noticed.

 and practicing his high pitched squeals.  (no sound file available)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Waxing Sentimental

I've daydreamed of having a little boy who plays with his feet for a lot of years.  When I say I lot, I mean a lot.  Like, more than I'd like to admit.  And here he is.  He's a little tinier than I imagined him.  But he is a million times cuter.  And he's living proof that daydreams can come true.  I'm grateful for him every day.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Making Our Hotel a Home

We've been living in a hotel for about three weeks now.  You know that feeling when you walk into a hotel room and it's empty and organized and clean.  That's not how it feels to walk into our room anymore.  We've made ourselves at home here. 

But it's home for the next little while so that's okay.  It's not an ideal home, but it has it's perks.  Beyond binge watching the Food Network and HGTV, (we don't have cable at home) we have done other things.

  Our little home comes with an indoor pool, so Joshua got to go for his first swim which lasted for about five minutes.  The water was pretty cold. 

We get an all-you-can-eat breakfast every morning.  When we started out, I was determined to eat a waffle everyday.  Waffles are a sometimes a food.  I try and mix things up a bit now.

We're on our own for the other meals of the day.  Our microwave and mini-fridge just weren't cutting it.  Occasionally the hotel lets us use the breakfast kitchen to make burgers and such for dinner.

It's the good life.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The King

Joshua is feeling so at home in the hotel.  We have finally let him stretch out in the king size bed.  This crazy moving experience has only been made better with him.  As long as we keep him fed, he has been relaxed and patient as we've eaten out, viewed homes, explored the city, endured laundromats, and gone on long walks.  I'm so grateful for this little champ. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Views of Zanesville

We've been in our new town for about a week now, and while Jerry has been at work, Joshua and I have done some exploring of the the little city.  When I first arrived I said it reminded me a lot of my hometown of Augusta, and I still hold to that.

There are a ton of churches in the downtown.  They are all very large and stately looking.  This is just one.

The sign in front of this building advertises furniture sales and Reuben sandwiches.  I'm confused though; I thought Ikea was blue and yellow.

Pottery in this area is very famous.  The clay from the region is very good.  (Beyond that I know nothing.)  All of the vases are massive.  Quite different from Grandma Houghton's mini-pots.

No exploration of a city is complete without a visit to the library.  I loved this artwork outside of it.

But the best view of Zanesville is in our hotel room.  His new goal is to fit everything in his mouth simultaneously. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Endearing Quirks

Three poems about Joshua, by Joshua, as dictated to his mother.


Sometimes when mommy bumps my bed, I become
After raising my arms I
Rest quite comfortably.
Though it appears rigid, it feels
Like my arms are resting on a cloud.
Even my
Dreams improve.


For weeks, I have tried to fit both in my mouth
In vain, I struggle day after day.
Someday I will be the master of my jaw.
Today, I will grunt and growl and
Squeal until finally, ten fingers fit inside.


Little tears
Are a sign of my sweetness.
Crying doesn't mean I'm not
Happy.  My eyes are a faucet with a slow leak.
Really I'm fine.
You can save your sympathy.
My mother's traits inherited are an
Even she agrees.