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Traditions

Christmas is not my favorite holiday as holidays go, but I love the whole holiday season, from about a week before Thanksgiving until the New Year. My kids all loved Santa growing up, as most kids do. But we always tried to emphasize throughout the holiday season what Christmas is really all about. This picture above is one of my favorite Christmas pictures because it really does emphasize who Christmas is all about, Jesus Christ, and that they can coexist, Jesus and Santa.

We have a few holiday traditions that I love this time of year. The first one deals with focusing on Jesus. A friend made us a wood manger and gave us a little doll wrapped in swaddling clothes. When she first gave it to us, she gave us straw separately that the kids were to add a piece every time they did something nice for someone else. We get pretty busy this time of year, so we don’t add the straw one piece at a time anymore. But I do set up the manger at the beginning of December and it sits in our living room all season long as a little reminder of who we should be focusing on throughout the month, and hopefully coming year. I love this little reminder every time I walk in my living room. I don’t know if my kids even notice it anymore, but it helps me remember.

We always go and get a real Christmas tree. This is one of those things that isn’t necessarily my favorite thing, it if was up to me we would just get an artificial tree, so I didn’t have to worry about watering it, all the pine needles on the floor, and the bareness of the branches and trunk. Some years we drill in extra branches to try and fill out the tree, other years it’s just a perfectly imperfect tree. But my kids love going and picking one out. We have a friend who has a large open area that grows pretty full trees, so the last few years we’ve gone to his house and cut one down. It’s almost always in the dark, so we tend to guess as to whether it actually looks good or not, but we get it done and the kids are happy. Even though it’s not my favorite tradition, I love that it makes my kids happy, consequently I have never bought a fake tree, and probably won’t until all the kids are gone.

I make a lot of hot chocolate during the holidays. This one does seem to carry over into January and February as it’s still cold and hot chocolate is good. But I have a recipe that I’ve used for years that is my kid’s favorite hot chocolate. My daughter who just returned from her mission even asked for this recipe so she would have it during the holidays. Maybe one of these days I’ll share it here. During the Christmas season we like to add candy canes to the hot chocolate. We don’t do this any other time of year, even in January and February. I used to buy candy canes to decorate the tree, but now they’re just for the hot chocolate.

I don’t know if I’m just getting older or just tired, but I don’t enjoy decorating too much for any holiday. But my kids enjoy decorating for Christmas. They do all the tree decorations, and I have a few things to put around the house that we’ve collected over the years. They love getting the Christmas boxes out and finding all the beloved treasures from Christmas that we’ve collected over the years. I love that they do most of the set up, and as they have gotten older, they also help with a lot of the cleanup. This has made it so much more enjoyable to have the house decorated every year and it brings a fun holiday spirit to our home.

Every year we have a Christmas Eve party. It started when our house was being built and we just had insulation in the walls and the fireplace to warm the area. We invited family and a couple neighbors who didn’t have any family close by. It has grown over the years to include many more people without family nearby to celebrate with. We have become family and I love it. This is actually my favorite part of the holiday season and I tend to focus on this particular event more than any other part of Christmas. I love the associations with others, some who we don’t see very much any other time. I love the people who have become family over all these years.

I love Christmas traditions, and I love that they make the season enjoyable for our whole family. I love this time of year! If you have Christmas traditions that you have enjoyed over the years, I would love to hear what they are, maybe we can add some new ones to our list!

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Missionary

This was an exciting week. We had the best Thanksgiving ever! Our oldest daughter, who has been serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the last 18 months has completed her mission and returned home. We are so proud of her and the many lives she was able to touch while she was serving. She had mixed feelings about coming home, and when she was officially released from her mission it was a bit sad even though she was excited to see her family and to sleep in!

The mission that our youth serve now is similar to what it’s always been, in that the goal is to bring people closer to the Savior, whether they join our Church or not. But how they go about doing that has dramatically changed. With the increased technology available and ever since Covid, they have been using a lot more online resources to reach out and connect with people. Our daughter had the opportunity to help with the Social Media portion of her mission quite a bit and learned how to create online content that would publish peace and help them connect with those who were interested in hearing more about Jesus Christ. She left the mission with a unique to our times set of skills that she can now take into her life going forward to help her in future schooling and business interests.

Another big change that has come about more recently is how much communication missionaries are able to have with their family and close friends. Obviously as times have changed, we went from almost nothing except an occasional correspondence to more regular letters to emails and now messaging apps. Missionaries used to be able to call home only 2 days a year, Christmas and Mother’s Day. Now they can video chat with their families once a week. This extra ability to call has given missionaries another layer of support to bolster them through struggles as well as keep families involved in missionary work in their own areas because of how they see their kids/siblings changing for the better because of missionary work.

Our daughter has grown so much through her mission, both her commitment to our Savior Jesus Christ, as well as her confidence as a person, and her ability to handle situations as they arise and come out on the other side a better person. She had so many wonderful experiences, but the mission isn’t all peachy. She had a number of scary situations along the way, but always, with the Spirit, was able to navigate and stay safe. She came home with a lot of great habits like studying her scriptures daily, praying, time management, being efficient and effective in what she does, focusing on what is important, and loving the people she has opportunity to come in contact with. Most importantly, she came home with a peace that I hope she can hold on to for the rest of her life. Her mission blessed her and our family in more ways than we may even be aware of at this time, and I’m so grateful for her willingness to serve the Lord and the people of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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Pecan’s

I love pecan pie, but I have only attempted to make it one time. Pecans being as expensive as they are, that once was enough to convince me I didn’t want to try again. There was too much of the goo inside and not enough pecan. It didn’t really set up into a thick goo, and it didn’t taste right. I had given up on making pecan pie and decided that buying one if I ever wanted another, was the best way to go. But, if you know me, I don’t like to let things beat me.

Last year I found a recipe for pecan bars. I decided to try it. They were pretty good, but a little bit of baking knowledge, I decided to make up my own recipe. I made the recipe I found online for Thanksgiving. my husband, who is the pecan lover, loved the bars, but surprisingly, so did everyone else. Then I made the recipe I came up with for Christmas. He loved them, so they have become, as of this Thanksgiving, a tradition for our family. Today I thought I would share that recipe with you!

Pecan Pie Bars

2 cups Flour

1 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup butter

3 cups chopped pecans

1 – 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour and brown sugar. Cut in the butter until crumbly. The mixture will be very dry. Press in the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Top with the pecans and then pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool before cutting into bars.

At some point I will have to remember to add a picture, but they’re usually gone so fast I forget. If you try this recipe, I would love to hear what you think!

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Church

I love Sundays, and the older I get the more I have decided that it is my favorite day of the week, mainly because I love Church. When I was a kid and throughout my teenage years however, I went to Church not for the Spiritual uplift, but for the social aspect. Being raised in Utah, a lot of the social activities I participated in revolved around Church activities anyway. But as I have gotten older, my perspective of what Church is, and why I go has changed.

As a teenager I never felt invincible like many teenagers feel, but I felt like I was pretty knowledgeable, pretty set on the right path, and that I was pretty much right in most of what I did. I did try to listen to my parents and be obedient, but I felt like, as an all-around person, I was doing alright. I rarely struggled with doubt within myself and have always been a pretty happy person.

First, let me say, I still am a pretty happy person, almost all the time. I feel like that is not a state of being, rather a choice that we make each and every day. It’s how we choose to look at life. But, as I have had children and had lots of, I guess, “adult” things happen in life, like we all do, there are days when I need help, strength. I find that strength most often at Church through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as well through my daily scripture study and prayer. Sunday’s have become a day of rejuvenation, rest, a time to be filled and prepare again for the coming week.

I remember when my kids were small, and we would prepare to go to Church. It was always hectic and crazy getting everyone out the door. My husband usually had a calling that took him to Church earlier than me, so I had to get myself and 4 kids ready to go. There were weeks that if I hadn’t understood the lift that I get, I would have thrown the towel in and stayed home. But I knew that I needed to be there, and I knew that I would leave Church with an added inner strength that would help me get through the coming week. It never failed, I always left more at peace, and better prepared for my coming week.

Many people in today’s society are drifting away from religion and church attendance of any kind. Many say that being out in the outdoors is just as good, or that spending time with family or friends instead of attending Church is a better way to spend Sunday’s. Being outside is definitely rejuvenating, I love being outside in nature and in the fresh air, it’s rejuvenating to my mind and body, but not quite the same way as the Gospel rejuvenates my soul. I love spending time with my family, more than just about anything else. One of my favorite parts of spending time with my family is the joy they bring me. But that joy is often fleeting, only lasting until the family jumps into the week and their busy lives, not that the joy of family disappears, but things get hectic and chaotic during the week. The joy that I feel through learning the word of God at Church, and the Spirit that attends that learning continues to fill me during the week and helps me remember in all those chaotic moments what is really important, how much I love my family even when they frustrate me, and that my family is eternal. There is a peace that permeates every aspect of my life, that I can’t get anywhere else.

Church for me is not just another thing to check off my list every week, but a necessity to keep me going. Sometimes I go and look for others to help, or ways to lift. Other times I go looking for relief. But either way, I know that when I leave, I will have been filled, lifted, and prepared for whatever challenges I may encounter in the upcoming week. I know that I can leave there with peace that will stay with me, a peace that isn’t achievable except through the Lord.

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Honey do list

I try not to have too many things on my husband’s to do list. I have learned over the years that I am pretty capable of fixing certain things in the house. I have also appreciated how handy our kids are, if I can’t get it often one of our boys can so I don’t have to bother him with little things. When my husband has time off it’s nice for it to be actual time off once in a while! I have found the internet extremely helpful learning how to fix the little things, YouTube being great for the visual of how to do various repairs. But sometimes we have to bring in the big guns asking him for help.

My husband isn’t retired but being self-employed he has occasional larger chunks of time off between jobs. During this time, he tries to get everything fixed and working well before he has to go back to work. So, an update on the dishwasher. He checked out the dishwasher and determined that the pump was fine. This is what usually breaks. We cleaned out the filters that were already pretty clean, cleaned out the drain lines, and did everything we could think of. At that point my husband decided it must be the control board. Our power isn’t always the cleanest, and it tends to mess up electronics. He looked up the cost of a new control board and found one for a little over $100. He then priced a new dishwasher and found one at Lowes for a little over $300. Not knowing for sure if the new control board would actually fix the dishwasher, and not wanting to spend more money than we needed to, we opted then to just go ahead and buy the new dishwasher. He was able to get it installed that afternoon and I now have a functioning dishwasher! I am so very grateful.

He was then able to look at my oven. We have had problems with the oven not staying lit. It will light just like it should initially, but if the baking time is more than about 20 to 30 minutes it stops lighting. We have several extra ignitors because that has always been the problem. In the past it has always broken at the most inconvenient time, like Thanksgiving and we didn’t have any way to fix it, so we got smart. We bought 2 extra ignitors the last time we had to fix it. This time however, he determined that the ignitor is working fine, and again, the control panel seems to be what is messing up. At this point we aren’t sure what we’ll do there, we need to price out a new control panel versus a new range. For now, we just have to restart the oven periodically throughout the baking time. I am grateful to know what it’s not, and we’re hopefully closer to what it is. I am also grateful we have a wood cook stove as a backup for our propane range.

I am so grateful lately that I don’t have to go through my life by myself. There is so much I am capable of doing, and so much that I could learn how to do myself, but it’s nice that I don’t have to. I am grateful I have my husband to carry part of the load with me. We each have our own strengths and knowledge and are very capable as individuals, but together I feel like we can accomplish anything we set our minds to, and that we can help each other through about any situation we may find ourselves in. It seems like this world is so focused on being an individual, on self-care, on focusing on what makes you happy and avoiding at all costs anything that might be uncomfortable or hard. We often forget that we don’t grow when times are easy, we don’t grow without opposition. But facing that opposition is so much easier when we have someone who’s got our back, someone we can rely on to carry a little bit of that burden with us. Today, as most days, I am grateful I have my wonderful husband through thick and thin, working together toward a greater good than either of us could accomplish on our own.