Cousins

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My husband and I were commenting the other day and wondering why it seems to take a funeral; to get together with cousins that you have not seen in a long time. Another observation we made was how much laughter there could be at funerals.

It doesn’t seem like laughter and funerals go together but I must confess, around here they do seem to end up that way. This past week an aunt on my mom’s side passed away. She “went home” on Christmas day and her family knew she had the best Christmas ever.

We will be gathering to lay her to rest….and we will be gathering to remember the life she lived. I have a feeling there will be a lot of reminiscing with all the cousins that will be there. I also have a feeling that there will be lots of grins and laughter.

I think that at some points it will resemble a celebration of sorts. A celebration of life lived, a celebration of family gathering, a celebration of what makes family…family.

We will realize that family isn’t perfect and that is okay. We will remember the childhood nights spent at cousins’ homes and games played in those home. For those of us who grew up in our small town….we loved to go to the farm homes of our cousins.

There was always something exciting to do there. You could ride the pigs (when your uncles were not looking), you could stand on top of the cab of an old pickup in the grove and launch yourself onto a gunny sack swing and soar high into the air. There were board games to be played, games of Kick The Can and Moonlight Starlight Hope To See The Ghost Tonight.

You just knew it was a successful time when you went home in the back seat of your parents’ car feeling tired, having a cut on your shin from running into the cistern in the dark and feeling slightly sick from to much running in the heat and too much really sweet Kool-aid.

It was a carefree time to be a kid. There didn’t seem to be any big worries that we had. Some of our biggest concerns were, if we would be able to talk our folks into letting us stay overnight so we could have more time together. We also did our best to talk our folks into letting us each take a chicken home. (Even then I wanted chickens! …. and yes…we were successful on that one.)

There are so many wonderful memories of times spent with cousins on both sides of the family. I was fortunate to have a girl cousin my age on both sides. I went to school with them and spent my childhood years surrounded by cousins of all ages.

I can only hope that in the future my grandchildren will have those same close ties and connections with their cousins. I know they will be miles apart, instead of town blocks apart, but my prayer is that family ties stretch across those many miles.

I hope that someday when those future cousins meet to celebrate my “home-going” there is lots of laughter, lots of love and so many good stories to be told of time spent together at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. Time where they played games, got into a little (only a little) mischief, and made memories that will bond them together for a lifetime.

 

 

A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.
Marion C. Garretty

Cousins are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.
Ed Cunningham

Sticking Close

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I have spent the day finding my house back. By that I mean….clearing off the counters, putting away dishes used for Christmas, storing away bedding till the next time the family comes and picking up small Lego pieces from some of the oddest places.

When I got to the crate that held the nativity set I had to grin. This year we chose to let the grand-kids help set up the nativity set…..not because it was in the original plan, but because I had run out of time to get all my Christmas decorations put up this year.

As I read Luke 2, my husband handed out the pieces as they were mentioned. The virgin Mary was placed gently, by small hands, on the crate, followed by the donkey and Joseph. As the story unfolded the pieces found their way to their places. (We did realize that the wise men were not mentioned in that chapter but we gave them a spot anyway.)

For me, reading that chapter was a time I will always cherish. I got to see the events of that miraculous night, through the eyes of a child in all its’ wonder and joy. They did wonder why my set did not have the angels and the heavenly host or camels for the wise men……and I had no answer for that one. (I later headed over to Amazon and E bay to see if I could find some, but obviously my set has been long discontinued.)

The thing I noticed about the placement of those involved in the Christmas story was how very close my grandchildren had placed them together. They were all huddled as close as they could get to the baby Jesus.

Their closeness made me grin but it also made me stop and think. What if we all huddled and stuck that close to Jesus? What if we lived life with the wonder of a child and the simple faith they display? I have a feeling this world would be a much more peaceful place if that were the case.

I love all the little reminders, in my home, that my family has been here…..candy canes have disappeared off the tree.  I love the fact we had a few hours to spend all together….all at the same time. I am humbled by the grace displayed by my children and by their willingness to make this day special when we gather.

May we all “stick close” this coming year. May we all be blessed with grace and all the little reminders of those we love. Blessings to you all!

 

“While we try to teach our children all about life,
our children teach us what life is all about.” 
― Angela Schwindt

 

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you,
but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind,
your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” 

― Frederick Buechner

 

Winter Has Arrived on Time

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This year winter seems to have actually taken a look at the calendar and agreed to abide by what it says. We had unseasonably warm weather right up until December 21. On that day, the first day of winter, the temperature dropped, the wind picked up and it started to snow.

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I really like my seasons to work out in such a tidy fashion…..usually they do not. I will have to confess that I really did hope for a white Christmas. A gentle white Christmas snow….not the horizontal type that sometimes seems to visit our part of the country….and this snow totally fit my idea of a Christmas season snowfall.

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There is beauty in the still, whiteness that snow seems to bring. There is an odd excitement in the “bite” that is in the air as I go outside to take care of the girls. Maybe it is just a primitive reaction to the elements…I am not totally sure what it is, but at this point in the year I am okay with it. I have a feeling that come the middle of February that excitement is going to be long gone!

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I enjoy looking out my patio door and seeing the smoke rise from the chimney on the old milk house. My husband hangs out there in the winter and gets it cozy warm by stoking up a wood stove. I think that milk house is his version of a man cave.

A few years ago my husband took our grandson out to the milk house with him. At that time our grandson was 3. My husband offered him peanuts in the shell. James politely refused. My husband shelled the peanuts for him thinking that might be the issue. Again….a polite refusal. My husband tried one more time and finally James told him that he did not like peanuts…..monkeys ate peanuts.

Later that year our son was out for a walk with James and they were finding acorns. My son asked him where they came from and was told from trees.  Then our son asked him where peanuts came from…..he received a very enthusiastic answer on that one. He was told, “Peanuts come from Grandpa!”

I begin to wonder if I love those first snowfalls because they bring back those fun memories of holidays with the family. Time spent with loved ones can be some of the best times. Family is truly a gift.

Those first snowfalls bring a quietness and stillness to the end of a busy day. Standing outside after locking the girls in for the night, feeling the sting of the cold on my face, and smelling the fresh winter air brings a calm to my soul.

There is a hush in that space of time in between day and night…..a silence broken only by the call of a screech owl in the grove, the lonely sounding cry of geese, the rustle of my chickens settling in for the night,  and the distant sound of a train whistle.

It is a wonderful time for reflection. It is a time to realize that there is an order to this life and to the seasons. They arrive at the perfect time every year. There is comfort in that fact and it brings a contentment to the soul to know that someone bigger than me orchestrates this life.

May you be blessed this Christmas season and may you be a blessing to those around you. May your soul find stillness and contentment in the busyness and may you have time to stand outside and let the beauty seep deep into your bones.

Winter, a lingering season, is a time to gather golden moments,
embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.
John Boswell

 

 

 

Five Days Till Christmas??

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I am having a very hard time realizing that Christmas is a short 5 days away. I am not sure if it is the lack of snow (though I hear that should change tomorrow) or just too much other “stuff” going on right now.

I do know that even if I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that Christmas is almost here….it will most surely arrive on time. Soooooo…..I had best be picking up the pace and getting ready for all the gatherings that will be happening.

Some things are just a tradition around our house. Things like buffalo and pig cut out cookies (see previous post) and the way I tag our wrapped Christmas presents.

Ever since our boys were small I have tagged the presents….I have just not tagged them with their names! When our children were young they had trouble keeping their hands off the presents that they knew were theirs. (How many parents can relate to that problem?) To correct that issue I started out using numbers instead of their names.

In later years I moved on from using numbers; to using my card making rubber stamps. I would make a bunch of tags and stamp them with a variety of images. The images were everything from Christmas trees to penguins, to fish to fruit etc.

To make sure I knew who went with what image I had the “Notebook”. In it were the stamped images that were on the tags of the packages. Each image had a name by it and what was in the package. I made sure to hide that notebook in a good place ….. but not to good that I couldn’t find it!

This year I tried a different type of tag…..I used my new Cricut Explore One to cut out tags. The tags are not my own creation. I found them on Pinterest.  (If you want to make the set of six tags just follow the Pinterest link and they are a free downloadable svg file.) I also don’t make a cent promoting Cricut or Pinterest….I just want to share my sources because I thought they were really neat. And yes….I realize that I only pictured five of the six tags…The last one was already stuck on a package!

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I thought that when my sons grew up and got married I would probably start putting the names on packages. When I mentioned doing that some years back I was told, “No!  this is our tradition.”  I would love to know what some of your traditions are. I have a feeling that everyone has something totally unique to their families.

Tags, with or without names, seem like such a small thing at Christmas time and yet they have become part of the fabric of our holiday. Sometimes it is the small things that people remember the most. For me that is a good reminder to do those small things.

In all the busyness of the season, the shopping, the wrapping of gifts, the planning of parties, the food preparation the small things remind me to slow down and take a step back. To step back and realize that all that stuff could go away and the reason for the season would remain…..Faith, Hope and Love….and the birth of the Child who makes a difference. Blessings to you all as Christmas draws near!

Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love
–and the greatest of these is love.
New Living Translation

Christmas Traditions

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Some things are a Christmas tradition that have no basis in anything Christmassy whatsoever. For us that would be some of our cut out cookies. We have the traditional bells, trees, stars and snowmen but we also throw in buffalo, doves, pigs (we are in Iowa!), geese and jackrabbits. I am not sure how the animals became part of our tradition but they have been included for a long time.

Christmas is the only holiday that I really take the time to make cut out cookies. They are so time consuming to make as you have to mix the dough, chill the dough, roll out the dough, cut out shapes, roll again, cut some more, roll some more, cut again…repeat…repeat…repeat. It is a process that goes on and on till there is only a tiny little blob of dough left. I am grateful that my husband helps with this process!

While all this cutting and rolling is going on you are also baking cookie sheet after cookie sheet of cookies. I usually try to set the timer for each batch as I always tend to burn some of them. The ones I burn; are typically those on the last couple of cookie sheets. I am not sure if it is because I am too busy with the other cookies or just plain sick of cookies!

After all the baking they still need to be frosted. I will never win a cookie contest for looks with these cookies but they do taste good. Fortunately for me, my husband is more concerned about taste, texture and flavor than he is with presentation when it comes to food of any type.

The recipe I use is one I have used for years. It came from a co-worker from years ago and is always a favorite. The amount of dough may look meager but it really does go a long way.

Cut Out Cookies
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 cup butter (real)
2 eggs
4 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon almond flavor
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cut butter into dry ingredients (like you do with making pie crust)
Add eggs, cream, and flavorings

Chill a few hours
Roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness
Cut with cookies cutters
Bake at 350º till edges are just brown
DO NOT OVERBAKE
Frost with a powdered sugar frosting….I don’t actually have a recipe I follow for this.
I just put a couple cups of powdered sugar in a bowl,
add 1 tablespoon melted butter,
add 1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
then add milk a little at a time till you get a spreading consistency.

The only downfall to these cookies is that they do not last! I kind of think I tend to only make them for the holiday because then there are more people around to help eat them. If only my husband and I had to eat them we would probably end up in a sugar coma.

I am glad that my family looks beyond the looks of these cookies. The cookies are a good reminder that it is always good to look beyond what you can see. So many times, in so many circumstances there is so much more than what is visible.

The old saying about not judging a book by it’s cover is still so true today. To paraphrase it…don’t judge a cookie by it’s frosting! And definitely don’t judge people just by what you see.

Let’s take this weekend to really see, hear, and understand people and their circumstances. Let’s give a little grace to those we find hard to understand and let’s show some love to those who frustrate us. Let’s take the time to really taste those cookies instead of just looking at them.

Blessings to you all this weekend!

“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating.
By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil
and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” 

― Dietrich BonhoefferThe Cost of Discipleship

 

 

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.”
–   William James  

 

 

Celebrations and Family Ties

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There are times in a person’s life that can get bogged down and overwhelmed with all the busyness and stuff going on…..and then you are gifted with a space of time where you are allowed to be reminded of what is important……relationships.

This past weekend we were gifted with such a weekend. We made the journey to our son and his family’s home to attend grandparent’s day at our grandson’s school, watch his school Christmas program, make cookies, and also see both grandkids’ Sunday School program.

Our Friday started early in the morning so we could drive the four hours to the school and be on time for grandparents day. Once we went to his room we were treated to a tour of the school with our 6 year old grandson as tour guide.

The energy in that school was amazing! Hallways full of children hauling grandparents around to various rooms they had classes in. The music room was a big hit…..I think it might have been the gong hanging on the wall that every kid had to demonstrate for their grandparents.

We journeyed to the art room, science rooms, the library and our grandson also asked if we wanted to see the principal’s office. I asked him if it was a good thing that he knew the way to her office….his response…”Only if you’re bad.” It was not exactly a saintly response and I had to stifle a chuckle on that honest answer!

That evening we were treated to an amazing concert by the K-5th grades. I am pretty sure that when I was a kid we were not that talented…. We got to hear recitations, praises sung, drums made from buckets and garbage cans played in perfect time and kids playing ukuleles.

The fun continued on Saturday as we made Christmas cookies. Three generations, two grandmas, one mom, two grandkids all making cookies makes for lots of fun.

I will admit our cookies may not have had a lot of elegance to them but they did taste good! We knew they tasted good because we had plenty of volunteers for the taste testing job.

While we rolled, cut and baked the guys did some late season yard cleanup. Watching them work outdoors it was hard to believe it was December.

The few days spent with the kids were busy but it was such a good type of busy. We were able to spend time talking with our kids, giving hugs, and fill our laps with grandkids and learn about life from their perspective. It slowed the season down, narrowed our focus to what was important and made us grateful for family and things that hold us together.

I love the fact that small kids are masters of cutting to what is important. They have an artless way of reminding us that life is short and we should cherish the moments we are given. They are honest in their emotions, excited in the wonder of life, and seem not to hold grudges when things don’t go as planned. It makes total sense that the Bible tells us to become like children.

There is a lot to learn from a child and I, for one, am ready for more lessons.

 

43 Life Lessons from Kids.

1. Be grateful for what you can have.
2. Hold hands with those you love.
3. Celebrate the seasons.
4. Make every day the best day ever.
5. Even if it’s not fair you don’t stop trying.
6. Fight for what you believe is right.
7. If you’re bored, find something to do.
8. It’s good to dream.
9. Tell those you love that you love them.
10. Time together matters most.
11. Things don’t have to always be sorted perfectly.
12. Sometimes spontaneous days are the best.
13. Often structured days are needed.
14. Don’t be afraid to speak the truth.
15. Humming and singing can be beautiful.
16. Observe others.
17. Never by afraid to try something new.
18. Sometimes it’s best to just jump.
19. Live fully.
20. Share with others about things you love.
21. You’re never too old to play outside.
22. Forgive and move on.
23. Name calling gets you nowhere.
24. Even if you don’t feel tired, still go to bed.
25. Talk with each other.
26. Imagine all that could be, and not what cannot.
27. Look people in the eye when you talk to them.
28. Laugh.
29. Always say thank you.
30. Little gifts mean a great deal.
31. Wake with a clean slate for the day.
32. Respect your elders.
33. Give things away – don’t hold onto everything.
34. Find out more about people.
35. Make sure to tell others why they matter.
36. Some days you don’t have to make your bed.
37. Run in the rain. Or the snow.
38. Care.
39. Listen to your emotions, but don’t sit in them.
40. Be genuinely interested in others.
41. Don’t give up.
42. Love today.
43. Be free to be you.
Te
d Rubin