Monday, November 26, 2007

The Little Black Dress

I've never been one to buy designer labels, or even to know who the "right" designers might be. But yesterday, when I put on my black "concert" dress, you'd have thought it was a high-priced original! It made me feel fantastic!

For four years now, since its inception, Woody has been the tenor soloist featured in a Messiah Sing-Along concert held in the gorgeously-elegant-decked-out-for-Christmas East Room of the Nixon Library, in Yorba Linda, CA. Yesterday afternoon, he outdid himself as he sang (both Every Valley and Comfort Ye) to ring in the holiday season for two nearly-packed-out seatings of concert goers, including the Woodyettes (who were much praised by complete strangers for their excellent concert behavior) and their Aunt Debby, who gave us the opportunity to share our whole Thanksgiving weekend.

We began a tradition four years ago, when we saw how lovely the setting was, of taking a family picture at the end of the concert. So, this year, as we prepared to get ready, I was thinking of how nice it would be to have an updated family portrait. Then it occurred to me that I didn't have anything to wear. My usual Christmas dress, a simple burgundy, was in the laundry! As he searched the depths of the closet, Woody unearthed several dresses that I haven't worn for years due to the fact that they haven't fit since I had the girls. Now, we've done lots of decluttering (a la Flylady), but my Scottish heritage makes it hard, sometimes, for me to get rid of things that I KNOW I'll use someday.

Out of sheer desperation, I decided to try on the "little" black dress. To my absolute amazement, not only did it fit, but it fit well!!! Go me! (I have a long way to go, but I'm so on the way! "Little" is, obviously, relative. Scottish or not.)

So, this year, our family picture features not Christmas colors, but concert black. And the pic we took in the East Room turned out less than stellar, but the one we snapped in the Rose Garden came out, I think, quite nice.

You be the judge.

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Giving Thanks

Counting blessings is always encouraged, but at this time of year it seems like it just happens - like spontaneous combustion! I'm on fire with gratitude. Here is my list - I'm VERY thankful for them all:
  • My testimony of the Plan of Salvation; a loving Father in Heaven and His Son, our Saviour and Redeemer - supreme examples of giving
  • Woody - the best of the best for me; add no. 1 and together we can do anything!
  • The Woodyettes - being a mom is a wonderful challenge, but the perks and job satisfaction are so worth it!
  • A cozy, comfortable home that is just right for us and where family and friends are always welcome.
  • Extended family who are all real blessings to us and whom we keep always in our prayers.
  • Friends who feel like family - you know who you are!
  • Woody's good job - we often complain about all it requires of him, but appreciate his willingness to do so much to provide for us.
  • A free country - even with all its challenges, there is nowhere I'd rather raise our daughters.
  • Homeschooling - see the first four items on this list and then note the links in the sidebar to some of the awesome curriculum we use!
  • Health - we're doing our part, and know that the Great Physician has greatly blessed as I've overcome some huge obstacles this year. The power of prayer and the priesthood are real!
  • Our church family - so many truly Christ-like people!
  • Scrapbooking - my creative outlet and family history all wrapped up together.
  • Our minivan - it provides opportunities for so many amazing family adventures.
  • My laptop - when my arthritis won't let me do anything else, there is still so much I can do and still feel productive.

And, as they say, the list could truly go on and on and on!!

My prayer is that I won't ever take ANY of these incredible blessings for granted, and that I can help our daughters learn to be ever thankful.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

How They Grow

Seasons are cyclical. We are, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, in a season of harvest. The preparation of the ground, the planting, and the nurturing and caring have been accomplished for this season's crop. The harvest, thankfully, is bountiful!

We have, since January, been singing the songs that are taught in Sharing Time to be featured in this year's Primary Sacrament Meeting Program. We have also been, since September, memorizing and reviewing the scriptures that were the girls' assigned parts for the annual program. But most importantly, we have been, since the girls were toddlers, encouraging both Jelly and Doodle to overcome their nervous trepidation enough to fully participate in song and speech as the children in church present their message. This year's theme was "I'll Follow Him in Faith."

The program that the children have been preparing for all year was presented yesterday. There were the usual congregational giggles due to the incredible cuteness of the little ones, but the overwhelming feeling was an amazingly tangible sweet spirit. Their message of faith came through loudly and clearly, even when the microphone posed a few problems.

And our Jelly and Doodle came through "loud and clear" as well, even when the mike didn't. They sang and spoke like the program veterans that they are. There were even joyous smiles as they realized that they were succeeding.

Yes, indeed, the harvest this season was indeed bountiful.

But we don't have the luxury of letting things lie dormant as we lie in wait for the spring.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Newspaper Craze

For years now, there have been no subscriptions to any newspapers in the Woody household. We weighed the pros and cons, and the trees won. That was then.

Currently in our home can be found the following periodicals:
1) The Wonderwood (published by Jelly, fairly regularly)
2) Doodle's Daily News (published whenever she feels like it)
3) The Daily Prophet (which arrives once a week via owl post)

The Wonderwood, editor - Jelly Woodyette, is an 11" x 8 1/2" three-column format. There is usually a color-scheme coordinated to whichever holiday is closest. This newspaper contains a variety of articles written by Jelly and also by guest writers ("Mama, Daddy, Doodle, would you please write an article for the Wonderwood?" - and how can one refuse those baby blues and dimples?), illustrations, puzzles, games, contests, and even "links" to online news.

The Daily News, editor - Doodle Woodyette, is published in a 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" two-column magazine format. So far it is only black and white, but with many pencil illustrations. Again, some articles are written by the Doodle and others are solicited contributions. The mix tends to be a bit more ecclectic than that found in the Wonderwood, but is always equally entertaining.

The Daily Prophet, as previously mentioned, arrives each Saturday by owl post. It is in 8 1/2" x 11" two-column newsletter format, printed on parchment paper, as used by wizards and witches at Hogwarts, naturally. The girls each have their own subscription, because each is a contributing staff writer. Jelly's articles usually contain reports of the escapades of a small witch called Nanzy. The Doodle, again, is more ecclectic in her writing. Her last article was a report on a nature center, where creatures of all kinds (magical and muggle) can be seen and studied.

We are "ecclectic" homeschoolers, with a preference for unit studies adapted to the Charlotte Mason style, with a classical twist. The child-led learning evident in this newspaper craze is a happy addition to our curriculum.

Apparently the number of writers in the family has now officially doubled. ;o)

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Saving Daylight... or Family Time?

My internal clock has been working overtime ever since the change back from daylight saving time. I used to wake fairly regularly sometime between 7 and 7:30 a.m. - a nice, sane time of the morning, in my opinion. For two weeks now, though, I have been waking up at nearly 6 a.m. on the dot, and it is making me crazy! You'd think that the extra hour of peace and silence would be something I would appreciate, and maybe I would if it didn't mean that I get tired and am ready for bed before anybody else in the house.

I have been making good use of the early hour, don't get me wrong. BUT most nights I've also been beyond frustrated when evening comes. There is a sweet feeling in our home as everyone settles in for some family time - sometimes doing something together and sometimes just doing our "own things" but usually in close proximity - and I just can't seem to keep my eyes open long enough to fully enjoy it!!

My good "neighbor" has suggested that we get some room-darkening shades or curtains to curtail my waking up with the sun. Guess if I want to lose my self-declared rep as a "party pooper" I'll have to give that a try!

Now I know what to put on my Christmas wish list. ;o)

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Dancin' in the Rain

I don't read a LOT of blogs, but once in a while I'm led to read just the right one at just the right time. Don't you LOVE it when that happens!!

I was looking for something and found this post instead, on The credit goes to Syndee. She wrote:

Attitude is everything.

Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly.......

Leave the rest to God.

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...

It's about learning to dance in the rain.

Sometimes I think we get confused though. We think it's raining, when really it's just us, using a watering can to pour water on our own heads.

I think all that extra water is helping me grow. I'm gonna keep on dancin'!


Monday, November 12, 2007

On Strength in Diversity

The Anaheim Mormon Chorale, which is Woody's main musical outlet these days, participated on Sunday in an Interfaith Concert. Earlier that day, Woody and I both had teaching assignments - the lesson being "Strengthening Our Families." The lessons and the concert were both wonderful experiences for us, and the lesson I learned that day concerned how much we have to gain individually and collectively when we work to increase bonds of unity while still appreciating the strengths of our differences.

When I first read the "Strengthening Our Families" lesson, I knew that there was already a LOT of expertise among my class members. The Spirit whispered, and we all benefitted as so many amazing women shared bits of wisdom regarding successes in their homes. Simple things, like a rule that nobody can say anything bad about anybody else (and if they do they have to follow up by saying three nice things about that person), maintaining the habit of family prayer (even if it has to be done on a speaker phone when a father is traveling on business) and encouraging family members to keep daily "Gratitude Journals" (recording at least one blessing received each day), really can work to make each person, and our entire family unit stronger.

And in the same way, I was reminded to appreciate the strength that can come through the diversity (as represented by the choral groups and representatives who spoke at the Interfaith Concert) of people in our world as we come to understand that we are all children of the same loving Father, no matter how we choose to address Him. The girls and I learned so much as we listened to declarations of faith and gratitude through song and speech. It was the first time I had ever heard from people of some of these faiths - Baha'i, Jain, Muslim, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Buddist, Hindu, and several different Christian groups(including Mormon) were represented. The culminating message was delivered by the combining of all the choirs as they sang "Praise to the Lord", under the guest direction of Craig Jessop (conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). It was truly a wonder to behold!

I have the priviledge and responsibility to live in such a way that my life reflects the light of Christ, who is the foundation of my own faith. Some days I do better than others, but I will keep up the effort because the goal is so worthy!!

I do so love this season of gratitude!!

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I'm afraid that Veteran's Day for many has become nothing more than one of those "sale holidays" where you can get special deals on everything from mattresses to big screen TVs. Our own family's remembrance will not be big or fancy, just a special devotional - discussion, patriotic songs, and helping dad raise the flag - but we do appreciate and love our servicemen past and present. We are truly grateful to live in this "choice land" and to enjoy the blessings of freedom.

We are very proud of our 11-year-old goddaughter, SwimChick. She is an amazing girl with a lot to give. Her even-more-proud mama sent us the following poem, which took 3rd place in a schoolwide contest this week.

Our Heroes
By SwimChick

They fight for our nation
They fight for our pride
They fight for our future
They fight far and wide

Five different Branches
All equally strong
Making sure that in our world
Nothing will go wrong

Many are old
Many are young
Many survived
Too many are gone

God bless our Soldiers
Keep them safe from our foes
God bless our Veterans
God bless our Heroes

Thank you, SwimChick, for helping us remember to keep this holiday real.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

I Think I Can, I Think I Can...

I didn't get as much done yesterday as I wanted to, and nearly let my frustration sidetrack me. (More train analogies :o)

The good news is that first thing this morning, a wonderfully warm feeling started to fill me up as I was reflecting and preparing for a new day.

Phillipians 4:13 says "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

Like the Little Engine That Could (okay, okay, so we LIKE trains!), I know I can work this plan and make it work. I don't have to do it alone. I have the best support system to be found anywhere in the world.

I'm absolutely sure of it.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Moving Right Along

A week after the official Halloween, ours will be officially over today when the girls take down the trick-or-treater window clings, we fold up the black cat and pumpkin tablecloths, and replace them with turkeys and fall leaves. We're not late in getting these things done, but right on OUR schedule.

Last night (thanks to the flexibility of homeschooling and due to an agreement I made with Jelly to stop school a bit early in the afternoon so that she could attend an online birthday party) we finished our Hogwarts Halloween by assembling the lapbooks that the girls have been working on since last Wednesday. Both Jelly and Doodle are very proud of the way they finished up, and rightfully so. Jelly especially can't wait to show her origami ghost to her origami-loving friend.

Their work showcased the studies we did on: History of Magic(al Holidays - Halloween); Herbology (Pumpkins and how they grow); and Halloween Celebrations and Customs Around the World (anthropology and geography). Of course, we also included jokes and riddles, pumpkin poetry and a concentration game, and a build-a-skeleton game (Science - Body Systems) played like the classic game of Beetle/Cootie.

Now we move on. Our to-do list system of post-its in view full of the world (you get to take them down when you've accomplished what is assigned) is working pretty well. Only Woody is struggling a bit with getting things done, but it's not for lack of desire. They are keeping him WAY to busy at work, surprise, surprise. So meanwhile, his girls are doing what we can to support him and help him "get his train back on track." ;o) We have no doubt that he will... he always does.

It's not a race to a relaxing Christmas (relaxing race - wouldn't that be an oxymoron?), but a joyous adventure as we all move right along the track together.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Train is On Track!

Day 1 of The Plan was at least partially accomplished, and I'm calling it a success! We didn't get everything done that I had hoped for, but we made good progress. The train is NOT stuck at the depot, but is on track and moving forward. :o)

I know I'm not the only one who has noticed that no matter how well we plan, things ALWAYS seem to take longer than we plan for. EVEN when we know that they do, and we PLAN for taking longer, it still takes even longer than the planned-for longer time. (Whew!) However, I will NOT be distressed this time. I will NOT get discouraged and stop working The Plan. We WILL have an amazingly relaxed holiday season this year, and we can even enjoy the journey along the way.

I spent some time with each of the girls yesterday beginning the process of readying their rooms for the holidays. It was wonderful. One of the best parts was just listening to their chatter. I do love being a mama. They are both actually quite excited about giving away some of their toys. It is a must - there is no room for new ones unless they make some space - but their attitudes about it are a blessing to my mama heart. "I think some little girl will really have fun playing with this, because I really have." "I can't wait to give this to _____ (the granddaughter of a neighbor)! She's going to love it!"

I have another segment of our journey all mapped out for today... and I can't wait to see how far down the track we get.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I Have a Plan

It's just after 6 a.m. and the house is still quiet.

I've meant to get back in the blogging habit for a while now, but got all hung up on the fact that I've "missed" so much. This weekend, our first away from home since I got sick in July, helped me realize that what really matters is that I'm ready to go on from here.

Being sick was not fun, in any sense, but it did bring MANY blessings. I am so grateful for the watchcare of a loving Father, for the love and support of an amazing husband who consistently gives more than 100%, for two precious daughters who've been willing, even anxious, to learn to do more so that they could help more, for extended family who never forgot us at prayertime, and for a church family who truly follow our Savior's example of unconditional love through service freely given. As we experience the "grateful" holiday season for the next couple of months, it is a perfect time of year to be able now to begin to give some back. It feels so good to feel good!

Our holidays were not exactly wonderful last year as my mom struggled in her final battle against her cancer. From early September when we had to put her into the hospital, to New Year's Eve at my sisters where we were with her when she slipped through the veil, we learned an important life lesson. What matters is who you are - what you stand for, and what you do with what you are given.

Being together to support Mawgs allowed us to share some sweet moments that will be always treasured, and to anticipate with joy a blessed reunion. It helped me to better understand who I am, what I want to stand for, and how I can give. I look back on those months last year and know that they were what they needed to be.

And now, we move forward.

I have a plan for our holidays this year - it is in place, and it begins today.

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