Friday, December 31, 2010

Santa & The Helicopter

I was reminded this week about the year Danny took a part-time job for extra Christmas cash with a temp agency. They sent him to Santa school, and he "worked" at the local Lumberjack store. Lumberjack flew him in by helicopter.

Molly was about 14 months old, and we had one car. We all drove to Sacramento Executive Airport together. "Daddy" walked into a conference room at the airport for a "meeting." A few minutes later, "Santa" came out of the conference room unexpectedly, and Molly watched and waved to Santa as he got on the helicopter. Since "Daddy" had to stay for the long meeting, we went home and picked him up later that evening.

Santa had a great time, and would have loved to have done it year after year. However, we weren't at all sure that was a smart thing to do if we wanted to keep the magic alive in our household. By the next year, it would have gotten entirely too complicated. It was very fun while it lasted!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gratitude to Community and Camp Fire

I owe a lot to my community. I also owe a lot to a youth organization, Camp Fire Boys & Girls. My kids grew up to be pretty decent individuals and contributing members of society through their membership in Camp Fire and because of the support of our community.

Our neighborhood is a very interesting place to live. When my kids were small, it was a mixture of retired couples (who treated my children like their own grandchildren), people from various ethnic groups who got a start in our little neighborhood and then moved on to better things, and the gangs. You could not get a more "random" mix of people if they were computer selected at random. As a matter of fact, the high school my kids attended is the most "diverse" high school in the nation (or so I'm told).

It became apparent very quickly that it was either sink or swim with my kids. Either we got them involved in something that taught good principles and kept them out of trouble, or they would be a gang statistic. Thus entered Camp Fire Boys & Girls. Camp Fire takes kids from kindergarten to senior in high school. So my kids literally grew up in Camp Fire.

The kids LOVED Camp Fire camp. Since my husband is not a camper, Camp Fire camp provided a unique experience for my kids that they would not have received any other way. We weren't rich, by any stretch of the imagination, and even though Camp Fire tried to keep their costs down, camp cost times four kids was astronomical. Fortunately, there was the Camp Fire candy sale once a year. If the kids sold enough candy, they earned certain amounts that could be used to help cut the cost of camp. Also, a good portion of the proceeds from the candy sale came right back to the individual clubs. As a leader, if a child wanted to go to camp, I made those funds available to put on their camp bill. This meant that my own kids, as well as the kids in my club, sold HUGE amounts of candy. There were several years in a row that my family sold in excess of 1,000 units as a family. Each of my kids had a personal goal of selling at least 300 units each, and it often exceeded that.

Selling candy was a great experience in itself. My kids all learned to change a $20 bill in kindergarten. They learned how to speak to adults. They learned business skills. They learned how to do a business transaction with a blind person. (Blind people fold each denomination of money a different way so they can tell one from the other.) The kids learned to be aware of their surroundings. We sold a monumental amount of candy in front of Mervyns Department Store. The kids learned to tip off the security guards when they saw shoplifters. They learned to be polite and businesslike. I remember them making jokes during the 1987 floods about selling candy in the rain to get the "sympathy" sale. Many times people would ask the kids what kind of candy THEY liked, and then people would buy the candy and give it back to the kids to eat. We met so many wonderful people selling candy!

To this day, my kids can tell you which neighborhoods bought Camp Fire Mints, and which ones bought Almond Roca and Almond Caramel Clusters. On certain streets, they can point out houses that were a sure sale year after year. They reminisce about how I would wait until they got tired and then say, "One more house, I just know this one is going to be a sale." (Growing up in Reno, I knew that the law of averages dictated that if they hadn't sold any candy for 5 or 6 houses, I had a pretty good chance that the next house would be a sale. If it wasn't, I could usually stall the kids for 2 or 3 more houses before I had mutiny on my hands.)

I'm grateful for Camp Fire, a supportive community, and the Camp Fire law (which goes hand in hand with the LDS Articles of Faith, by the way).

Camp Fire Law

Worship God
Seek Beauty
Give Service
Pursue Knowledge
Be Trustworthy
Hold onto Health
Glorify Work
Be Happy

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Snipits of Christmas Memories

I think I was about ten years old when Mom and Dad decided it was time to let me be Santa’s helper for my little sister. They bought Colleen a baby doll–the drink and wet kind. I played with that doll for weeks when Colleen wasn’t around, and I was looking forward to watching her eyes when she saw it for the first time.

Christmas Eve we all gathered around the Christmas tree to open our gifts. Colleen’s doll was sitting right in front of the tree. I looked at the doll, and then I looked at Colleen. I kept waiting for her to pick it up, but she had found something else for her under the tree. Anticipation was killing me. I tried to guide her to the doll, but Dad shook his head. Mom finally told me that I’d better look at the gift tag on the doll. Santa apparently decided that since I’d had so much fun with the doll, it should belong to me. I was thrilled! All thoughts of Colleen with the doll vanished in an instant when I saw that she had something under the tree that delighted her.

The year my older sister, Cheri, went away to Washington to teach school, I couldn’t wait until she came home for Christmas. Up until that time, Cheri had never been much for knitting or crocheting, so what was to come was totally unanticipated. Cheri made a very trendy looking green shawl for me, and I think she’d made one for Colleen, as well. There were also “nose warmers” for us all that were crocheted or knitted and had tassels on the end of them. We had a great time laughing at each other with those things. I saved mine, and years later used it to teach children at church that you can have fun at Christmas without spending a lot of money. One adult teacher, in particular, laughed his head off when I put that nose warmer on!

The year Danny and I were dating, I spent a great deal of time decoupaging little plaques for everyone in the family. I had visited every construction site within walking distance from my apartment to beg for scrap lumber to sand down for the plaques. Fifteen coats of decoupage later, they were finally ready for Christmas. It never occurred to me that they would be too bulky to put in my suitcase on a Greyhound bus to go home for Christmas. Danny, bless his heart, knew that you could ship things by Greyhound (something I didn’t know). It was about 2:00 a.m. one morning when I finally wrapped up the last plaque, and Danny took me to Greyhound to ship them off in advance of my arrival. I had prearranged with Dad to pick them up on the other end.

One year when my kids were small, I went bonkers embroidering dishtowels. I embroidered sets of seven dishtowels for each female in the family. They looked beautiful when they were done, and I was so pleased to be able to give them away.

Danny was the master of freeway finds. Every time a kid needed a new tricycle or bicycle, he’d just keep his eyes open for a freeway find. I took the rust off of quite a number of bikes, painted them, and coerced my next-door neighbor, Harry, into making sure they were in good working order for Christmas.

When the kids were growing up, I used to hide my gifts at Harry and Alma’s house next door, or at Pauline’s house across the street. Then I’d just go to their house to wrap.

When the kids were small, we spent a number of years going to Cheri's home in Dayton, Nevada for Christmas. I don't know why Cheri put up with us all, but she seemed to take everything in stride. Cheri had the perfect house for Christmas. It was an old historic boarding house. She heated it with wood stoves. One room (the red room) was dedicated to a huge pinion pine Christmas tree each year. It just made for an old-fashioned Christmas! We have many memories of Christmas at the boarding house.

As a family, we always did some special "deliveries" each year. We had many fun experiences. I think my favorite memory was the year I accidentally made the delivery to the wrong house! I didn't want to disappoint anyone, so we did "double duty" that year so that BOTH houses received our deliveries.

Christmas Eve we tell the Christmas story, and we have different members of the family fill in parts of the story. We remind the children about the true meaning of Christmas, and why we give gifts. Then, tradition dictates that some of the adults take all the children to "look for Santa." In years past, they couldn't come home until the porch light was turned on, which was the signal that Santa had arrived.

Traditions will be modified to accommodate a growing family. Grown children will also begin their own family traditions. Traditions are fun, and they are good, but they are only as good as the true meaning behind them. I have always loved Christmas because of what it means to me personally. I love celebrating the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. I love to ponder on Mary and Joseph, and what they must have been thinking at that special time. Each time I carried a child, I ached for Mary when I thought about her traveling by donkey. I've wondered if Mary and Joseph really understood the colossal proportions of their stamp on the whole human race. While we talk about the awesome privilege of caring for God's only begotten son, we often forget how much adversity and sadness they had to endure. How grateful I am that they were worthy and up to the challenge! How grateful I am that Heavenly Father gave us the most precious gift ever given; His Son.

Note: Pictures from here: