Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Winter Solstice

Now that I am a grandma and more than half of my grandkids live out of state and only gather during the holidays and summer vacation, I am always looking to make every minute I have with them memorable.  So this last December I figured that I had plenty of extra time- besides running a bed and breakfast/lunch/dinner for 13 assorted descendants, 52 church/work/neighborhood deliveries, 2 extended family Christmas Dinners, Christmas Eve Nativity Play, not to mention Christmas Day- of course I could fit in a Winter Solstice Celebration!

I enlisted my daughters (hereinafter referred to as “the mommies”) who would be in town into helping me make December 21st a big deal this year by turning it into a “pinable” event.  They were instantly and enthusiastically on board.  It would be my job to make it fun, and their job to stage and capture it.

December 21st and Winter Solstice dawned, late.  I gathered everyone around the breakfast table to introduce them to the theme and activities planned for the day.  The nice thing about trying to make an important point first thing in the morning is that most folks are still sleepy enough that they aren’t making a lot of noise, so there is a chance that you can get your point across.  BTW, also, too sleepy to really give a hoot.  

“My darlings, welcome to Winter Solstice, the day of the year with the fewest hours of sunshine. If you want to know more about the whole earth and its axis and it's trip around the sun, be sure and ask your science teacher”.  I moved on quickly before the 4 year old could ask what a science teacher was.  “Today we are going to do some super fun things to help us remember how much light we have in our lives.”

We started by making Bunny Buns (Recipe/Children's Friend).  I told them that bunnies do not hibernate, so on this day they have just a few hours to find food and scurry back to their dens.  “This is a great chance for us to be so thankful for our warm homes and how easy it is for us to find food” (ie, stumble to the breakfast table and see if Mimi made muffins or french toast). It took longer for the fog to clear for some than others.

So after everyone had washed their hands we handed out chunks of bread dough and showed them how to roll it until it was nice and long and then twist it just so.  
Some of the kids made little dough suns.   
They carefully placed their creations on the cookie sheets, and looked up at me with their beautiful little faces and said ,”But Mimi, we are starving NOW”.   

So while their creations raised, baked, cooled and were glazed, they got cold cereal.  Their creations made for a great afternoon snack.

Next up - try to make ice lanterns.

“Tonight the sun will go down earlier than on any other day of the year.  So we want to light the way for all who pass by our home.  I have gathered some evergreens and we will add some yummy red cranberries for color.  We will freeze them now so that we can put candles in them later.”

Though I had imagined how I would do this, I hadn’t actually practiced, so for a moment my confidence waned. My wonderful son-in-law is a very good and sport brainstormed with me for about 20 minutes on the specifics.   Some of the children gave up and went to play and others began to roll the cranberries off the edge of the table..  

We finally came upon a plan and went to work.  Christmas music blasted in the background, after all there was only 4 days left to listen to it.

Our creations looked amazing as we made room for them in the freezer.  The smell of fresh evergreen permeated the house for hours.  Perfect.  However, the lanterns had taken longer than planned, so we bumped the bird feeders to the afternoon and moved onto lunch.

At some point during lunch one of my grandaughters, who had turned 3  just two weeks earlier turned to her mother and asked her if today was the day she was going to have her Birthday Tea-party.  I looked sideways at her mother as she paled and asked her daughter  if she would like more marshmallows in her hot chocolate.   A quick conference was convened moments later in the kitchen.
“I thought she forgot!”
“So did I!”
“Apparently we were wrong.”
“So, can we figure something out?”

By ditching the bird feeder craft we could make way for the Tea Party.  In no time at all, we sent the boys to the basement, the bigs bribed to shepherd the littles, and set to work creating a Winter Wonderland Tea Party for the four girl cousins.  In less than ten minutes and 10 bags of fruit snacks for bribes to change into dresses and hold still  we had this…

It lasted 8 minutes-the fruit snacks ran out.  Then while the mommies cleaned up the tea party, Mimi entertained the party goers.  “What” I asked, “ is another way to have light when it is dark?”
I am like a star shining brightly
Shining for the whole world to see
I can do and say
Happy things each day
For I know Heavenly Father loves me
The big boys downstairs had done an excellent job with their shepherding, so well deserved bribes and thanks were generously distributed.

Naptime at last...oops, spoke too soon, the mommies decided on a whim to bundle up their kids and take them for a quick photo shoot in a nearby canyon.  

My granddaughters are well documented popsicles.  I took a nap.

Now, to prepare to light the night.

“OK, everyone, let’s make lanterns!”   Everyone who was old enough to use scissors came and pitched in.  The 3 and 4 year olds tried to pass off themselves as old enough, but I had my glasses on and called for Papa.  Off he whisked them into the kitchen to make a cake!  
I took this opp to string up even more Christmas lights.  Oh my poor electric bill.
As we gathered for dinner it took me a minute to get everyone to quiet down so I could make another one of my speeches.  This was accomplished by grabbing all of the serving spoons and holding them hostage.  To their credit, I didn’t catch a single offspring rolling their eyes.  

I said, “We had so much fun together today!  Thank you all for helping me to think about all the ways we have light in our life and find ways to celebrate that light.  We have worked all month to support the challenge to “light the world 25 ways in 25 days” (video/lds.org).  We have learned that we can light up other people’s lives by being kind, even in small ways.  We did this to share that we believe that the Savior would want us to serve each other the way He served us. I just wanted to let you know that the most important light in my life is the Savior.  He can light our lives, even on the darkest days.”
At last the food was blessed, utensils returned to their dishes, and the darkest day of the year had been celebrated with creativity, gratitude, family, and the thing that was most important to me, a chance to tell future generations that it is all because of Him.
Special thanks to Xan Craven for the photos. See more at http://www.xanseye.com