I worked and worked and worked all day on Saturday to clean up the house. I hate it when it gets so bad that it takes forever to clean. But, my life is hectic and cleaning is not my favorite thing to do so it often sneaks away and gets all messy and dirty and then it just takes me longer to clean, as happened today. One really GOOD thing though was that I cleaned the wood floors today and no streaks! I've been so frustrated with the streaks since we got these floors that I've almost said let's bring the carpet back! But, today was a good day. Poor dog, he had to be locked up in his kennel all day so I didn't have him underfoot, running under the fully decorated dining table, etc. He would have probably knocked something over or his hair would have gotten all over someone's plate and I certainly did not want something like that to happen! I was so frustrated with the cleaning that I even resorted to calling two of the young women in the ward to see if they'd be willing to come help me clean and I would pay them. But, neither of them were home so I guess it was to be a lesson to me to get better at keeping it up.
I finished all of the cleaning, platters, and even took a shower and got myself ready before everyone got there. I was just starting to take pictures (with my new DSLR camera which is TOTALLY COOL) as everyone walked in. The clam chowder wasn't even started yet though and I was shocked to see everyone walk in about 20 minutes early. That's okay though...we all pulled together and got it made. The table was GORGEOUS, the food de-lish, and the company great. For those of you that don't know, our family Christmas Eve traditional fare consists of homemade Bratten's clam chowder, special sandwiches, and usually a huge tossed green salad - all eaten on the china on a beautifully set table with lots of candles. We didn't have the salad this year because it would have gone bad by the time we got back from Utah. Plus, most of us don't eat that much of it anyway since we're slurping up tons of chowder and pounding down the yummy sandwiches we make.
After dinner was over, we had our Christmas Eve program. Becky read a story. Lisa did the "Wright Family" story and went very fast in telling it so it was crazy passing the gifts from left to right. Uncle Ward did the traditional 12 Days of Christmas with his worn out poster that he's had for over 30 years that we all still love. He surprised us this year though because usually we get to the 6th or 7th verse and Lisa and I are leading everyone in going faster and faster back down the days toward the next verse. This year, as we started to do that, once we got to the 5th day, Uncle Ward would suddenly skip days 2-4 and just sing out "and a partridge in a pear tree!" We were all cracking up laughing. I read two stories I had found to share. One talked about celebrating Christmas in Israel. It mentioned the olive trees and how they lead to the Garden of Gethsemane. I always try to give each of our guests a token gift as a reminder of their time with us that evening. This year was no different. I had found these beautiful wooden ornaments of the nativity. Just below the scene the name "Bethlehem" was handwritten in a beautiful hebrew-ish looking font. The little card that came with the ornament told that these ornaments were carved from the pruned branches of the olive trees in Israel. I thought that was so fitting to the story - even if I had found the story after I found the ornaments. The other story I read was about a gift given by a mother to each of her children. It was a picture of Mary with the Baby Jesus. At first, the family members were unreceptive to the gift, but as the mother explained more about the picture and why she gave it to them, there were many tears shed. I gave each family a beautiful picture of Mary and Jesus and asked them to remember that not only do our mothers love us, but so does Jesus Christ. You can read this store here. Just scroll down a little bit and read the story called "Picture a Christmas."
Curtis then read the story out of the Bible and we sang Silent Night. We then exchanged gifts and people slowly left to go home. I then went to go try to write my talk for church the next day...still not knowing what exactly I was going to write about.