Thursday, 30 December 2010

December (Part 1)

I am almost scared to write my blog again, and have been putting it off... over a month to catch up on, and it has been one heck of a month. If I have ever said I was busy before, I lied... this has been busy, and not only busy, but emotionally demanding too.
Jack had his 11th birthday party on 27th November in advance of his birthday on the 8th December - a sleepover with some school and church friends. They decorated his birthday cake (I like this new tradition which seems to be developing - saves me a job!) - it's a desert island in case you were wondering.
By the morning, I was vowing never to have another sleepover ever again... Jack managed to stay up ALL NIGHT! This has been a very cold month! We are a bit fed up as a family that we seemed to miss virtually all the snow that the rest of the country got - this picture was of pretty much our only snowfall, at the end of November. (Scott walking down our street.)
Harry was ill, and missed playing out in it, so we made mini snowmen on the bedroom windowsill instead. The lowest daytime temperature we saw on the car thermometer was -8. I did enjoy all the white that stuck around for ages though. Very pretty. We all enjoyed walking to school a lot. (Though the first week of December I had a child at home every day - Harry, Tom and Lucy for 3 days - she was really quite poorly.)Harry turned 5 on December 3rd, and that was also his school fair day. I am a member of the parents' association, so was helping out with the fair, including making the cake for 'Guess the number of Sweets on the Cake'. Harry also won the colouring competition for his age group, on his birthday!
In the evening I went ice skating with all the 12-18 year-olds from church, the Youth leaders and some other parents. It was so much fun!! I laughed SO much... One of the boys did challenge me to see if I could skate a whole lap without screaming though, and followed me to make sure!A week into December, and we managed to get some Christmas decorations put up (mainly on the kids, by the looks of it.)
I was busy preparing for the first big event as Stake Young Women's President - a Youth Celebration Evening (which I also had to speak at, and prepare the refreshments for, including making over 100 cupcakes!) I travelled the hour to our Stake Centre 4 times within a week of being called, and after my hand-over with the old President felt well and truly overwhelmed! I think I am slowly getting an inkling of what I am meant to be doing now.
We also adopted a missionary. Friends of ours who are responsible for one of the New Zealand missions, told us about some of their missionaries coming from very poor backgrounds. As a family we have 'adopted' one, to write to while he serves his mission. The kids and I had fun choosing Christmas gifts to send to him, and writing letters!
On Saturday 11th December, we travelled to Scott's parent's house for a get-together with all Scott's family, including Trevor over from Estonia, and Scott's cousin Andy over from California. We did have a lovely time together, but with an underlying sadness over the recent news of Scott's Nan having lung cancer.
Mum rang me on Sunday to say that Grandma had stopped eating and drinking, and probably would not last very long.
On Monday 13th December, while my Visiting Teachers where over, Mum rang again to say that Grandma had died. I have already written about Grandma on this blog, but it is strange to feel happiness (for her), and relief (for my parents) and sadness all at once. Mum asked me to speak at Grandma's funeral.
On Wednesday 15th Harry took part in his first ever school play. He was 'Herod's Helper'!! It was wonderful to watch a school play without struggling to keep a younger child quiet for the first time, and the play itself was very entertaining!Also that week we were busy getting gifts made for teachers and friends. Lucy made this lovely lot for her friends. She is getting very proficient in the kitchen.
Tom was 8 on the Thursday 16th December (and I had a meal out with my book club girlies that night), and then Tom had his party 2 days later. Tom also wanted to decorate his own cake (hooray!), and I think he did a great job with this football pitch cake.
Also on Tom's birthday (just as the kids and I had all piled in the car to take dinner to some friends who's Mum was in hospital), my car broke down - something to do with the immobiliser. We managed to get it sorted out a day or two later, in time to take Tom and his friends to the cinema for the party (they wouldn't have all fit in Scott's car).
Got to go with Anna and see the latest Harry Potter film at the cinema on Friday night. (We were meant to go earlier in the week but were both ill.) Thought it was very good, but not the most cheerful film ever created!
On Sunday 19th Tom was baptised. (People are at least 8 when they are baptised in our church, so there is some understanding of just what it means, and of knowing right from wrong.)
He was interviewed by the Bishop, and then after church was baptised by immersion by Scott. It was a lovely simple service, and afterwards lots of my family came home for food.Harry getting tickled by Grandad!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Florence Asher

On Monday 13th December, my Grandma, Florence Asher, died. She had cancer, and has not been well for several months. She was 91. Although we are sad, it is a great relief to know that she is free from her pain, and discomfort, and immobility, and that she will be surrounded by her family, friends and my Grandad, in the next step of this wonderful plan.
I like these photos of her, from her 90th birthday party, last year. Typical Grandma - giggling at something!
Grandma, with my Mum (one of Grandma's 2 children), Dad, and the four of us kids with our families.
Grandma' funeral is next Tuesday. On Monday my Mum, sister, sister-in-law and I will dress Grandma in her burial clothes. In our religion, we dress the dead in white to be buried.
The things I want to say about Grandma, which sum up what she means to me, I wrote to her in a letter several weeks ago. Some of it is here:

Dear Grandma,
... I just thought I would write and tell you some of the things I was thinking about, and all my good memories.
I was thinking about when I would come and stay with you in the school holidays in between Christmas and the New Year. I loved coming to your house. It seemed different from everywhere else on earth, even with a smell of its own - a kind of clean smell. I remember your living room, with the carved wooden animals (from South Africa?) over the door in front of the glass panel. I remember you having your chairs around the fire, and the tiles round the fire - especially the brown hearth bit with the lip, and your companion set. And you had a white dial thing around the corner from the fire, that clicked round in a satisfying way. (I don’t know what it was for!)
I think my best bit about the living room was the book case in the corner, with the wooden detailing with glass behind. I read some of the books while I stayed with you, but my favourites were ‘The Quest of the White Merle’ which I still have here, and a book called ‘The Rookery’. You would have little treasures on the shelves in front of the books.
In the dining room, the bureau was the thing of most interest to me (now in Bel-Air!!), but I liked the china doll you had that wound around and played music - on your window sill? I also liked it that you had a cotton checked table cloth (we always had lace ones at home). My most vivid memories in the dining room are of eating porridge - you made the best porridge - and explained to me that you made it partly with water, and me having sugar on it. I also remember a rice and tomato dinner that we had with peas, that I loved. I’ve still got the recipe for it that I think Grandad typed out for me.
I loved your kitchen too - the twin tub washing machine in front of where the doorway would have been, and everything so different from home, with no modern units, and the shelves lined. There was the wooden clothes horse - very good for dens. I remember a panel stuck on the wall low down by the back door, where Grandad had chopped a hole so that a trapped pigeon could be got out.
Even the downstairs toilet was interesting to me, with a big stack of newspapers near the door.
I liked the room I stayed in too - with lino on the floor, and not a duvet, but layers of sheets and blankets, with one of them a dark peachy coloured, shiny padded blanket.
In the front little bedroom, I mainly remember there being lots of jars of jam and things stored on the floor, with your handwritten labels on them. Your raspberry jam is the best jam ever.
And the garden! Hydrangeas in the front garden, and your side gate with latticed wood at the side, and your front gate with the latch. And in the back garden, the square of lawn in front of the apple trees, with the path running down, and the whole rest of the garden full of fruit and vegetables. I remember your raspberry canes behind the apple trees, and in particular brussle sprout plants growing, and lots of rhubarb.
Remembering the rhubarb reminded me of all the pies you must have made in your life! And Christmas cakes! And coconut domes, Eccles cakes, butterfly cakes (my favourite), mince pies, the ones with pink icing, and all the other goodies filling those tins every Christmas!
And talking of food, also reminds me of your Wednesday visits. I always liked it that you had been on a Wednesday when I was at school, because there would be the treats left behind - the bag of nuts and raisins from the market that got shared out, and a packet of biscuits- Malted Milks or Hobnobs, or something nice that we wouldn’t normally have!
Going back to my visits after Christmas, I also used to love going to the shops with you. I liked going in the cheap shops, and buying birthday presents for Mum and Dad with some of my Christmas money. I thought Bilborough was great! I can remember feeling surprised years later to hear that Bilborough was a bit of a rough place - it certainly never seemed that way to me. It also had the park behind your garden, with the climbing frame tank on it, and a good see-saw.
I liked the evenings at your house too - the programmes you watched (like Coronation Street), the peace, and best of all the mug of Barleycup and restrained treat - like two Quality Street chocolates, or something. I always think of your house as being a place of frugality and sensibleness, cleanliness and moderation. (The one exception being Grandad’s wonderful hoard of stationary in the wardrobe!! I still remember doing drawings on quite thick paper that had some kind of form on the back.)
I have also always had in my mind you being the yardstick of a perfect person. I vividly remember thinking quite naturally ‘well obviously Grandma is going to the Celestial Kingdom’ and measuring all else up to you.
I don’t think I have ever heard you shout! I sometimes wondered how you raised Mum (who I thought of as being sometimes a naughty/cheeky child - though maybe that’s because I asked you for stories of naughtiness!) - you seemed too calm and quiet to be someone who raised kids!
The missionaries in our ward must have thought so too - calling you the exact opposite of your nature: Ferocious Florrie!
When I think of you as younger though, I like best the description Mum gives me of you being the one getting in trouble with your Dad for giggling at the dinner table!
Anyway Grandma, I just wanted to share with you what my memories are - and all of them good and happy.
I’m sorry you are having such a horrible time right now. I love you ever so much and am grateful for the inheritance of goodness you have always given me.