Today while looking for ways to explain more about Veterans' Day to my children, I came across a Muppets version of "Stars and Stripes Forever". 
We started watching it, but then it became apparent that the music meant nothing to them. So we started on a learning journey.  If you want just the more serious side, skip down to the last video on here.  The one that, while we watched it, my 11-year-old turned to me and asked, "Is this something real?"  Yes.  Yes, it is.  I'm not convinced that we've been truly justified in many of the wars in the last 100 years, but I recognize the intent and courage of those who were doing the actual fighting, among whom are family members  Thank you, veterans.  

First, we learned that "Stars and Stripes Forever", by John Philip Sousa,  is our official national march.  (I didn't know we had a national march...)

A little about the music: Sousa was on a tour of Europe in 1896, when he got word that his band director had suddenly died.  Here's what Sousa himself said in his autobiography, Marching Along, about this time and how the march came about:

"Here came one of the most vivid incidents of my career. As the vessel (the Teutonic) steamed out of the harbor I was pacing on the deck, absorbed in thoughts of my manager's death and the many duties and decisions which awaited me in New York. Suddenly, I began to sense a rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain. Throughout the whole tense voyage, that imaginary band continued to unfold the same themes, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever changed."

Sousa later wrote words to go along with the music; in the National Band version below, they use only these words as a verse:

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.


If you want to know all of the words, they're at the very bottom of this post.
Now my kids had some context for the Muppets' version:
Complete lyrics- written by John Philips Sousa- to "Stars and Stripes Forever":

Let martial note in triumph float
And liberty extend its mighty hand
A flag appears 'mid thunderous cheers,
The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true
Its folds protect no tyrant crew
The red and white and starry blue
Is freedom's shield and hope.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.

Let eagle shriek from lofty peak
The never-ending watchword of our land;
Let summer breeze waft through the trees
The echo of the chorus grand.
Sing out for liberty and light,
Sing out for freedom and the right.
Sing out for Union and its might,
O patriotic sons.

Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation,
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.

Hurrah for the flag of the free.
May it wave as our standard forever
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right
. Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with might endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.
 
 
This year the theme for Primary-- the children's organization-- is "I Am A Child of God".  Our ward typically gives the children and teachers a small gift each year.  We've also recently had a lesson called "Jesus Christ is the Light and the Life of the World" (Dec. 2012, week 3), and I read a talk by Sister Elaine S. Dalton called "Now is the Time to Arise and Shine".   It also fit with our first Sharing Time lesson of the year, "God is my Heavenly Father.  He Knows and Loves Me." Connecting all these things, this is what we did this year:

I bought a number of chandelier crystals, strung a ribbon through, and attached a poem, which I titled  Illumination:

Hang this crystal in your room
Where light is bright and clear.
As light reflects and shines, think of  
The temple’s chandelier.

I am a child of God
His light can shine through me.
If I am clean and pure and serve,
I can help others see.


The poem can be sung to the tune of "I Am A Child of God"; we sang just the second stanza.  

Maybe the poem should have specified to hang it in the window; my children have theirs hanging on the wall, where they are not close enough to a light source to throw rainbows.  Hmm.  Maybe "In your window this will go/ Where light is bright and clear..."

Something like this poem and chandelier crystal could be used as part of a Family Home Evening lesson, especially along with either of the Sharing Time lessons or Sister Dalton's talk.  

I know that I am not the light but I can help share it.  The closer I am to the Source of light, my Savior, Jesus Christ, and the more pure of heart and willing to serve His children I am, the more I am able to share His light with others.  They will see it in me and hopefully want to shine, too.

_______________________________________________

How about the expense?  Each one cost just over $1, I ordered some from Amazon, $8.99 for 10 crystals, plus shipping.  They didn't have enough for me (we needed about 120), so found more at D. Lawless Hardware, $1 apiece with free shipping (and my favorite crystal of the two kinds).   Thin gold ribbon was on sale at Hobby Lobby, a 30-foot roll for $ .79, it took 6 spools to have 14" per crystal.


 
 
Picture
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

-William Cowper

See here to listen to a simple version of this, with the lyrics.

With the attacks all around us on family, morals, and religion, I want to share where my hope and determination come from: 

The Father to whom we pray is the glorious God who created worlds through His Beloved Son. He hears our prayers as He heard Joseph’s prayer—as clearly as if they were being offered in His presence. He loves us enough that He gave His Son as our Savior. By that gift He made it possible for us to gain immortality and eternal life. And He offers us, through prayer in the name of His Son, the opportunity to commune with Him in this life as often as we choose.

We gain a testimony of any commandment of God by keeping that commandment (see
John 7:17). This is true of the command that we pray always vocally and in secret. As your teacher and your friend, I promise that God will answer your prayers and that by the power of the Holy Ghost, you can know for yourself that the answers are from Him.
- President Henry B. Eyring, “Exhort Them To Pray”, Feb. 2012

I know that God is real, that his purposes will be fulfilled, and that he has a hand in our lives.  Things that were hard, difficult, or unfair in my life, have helped me be a better, more loving person, because of his healing grace.  He helps me learn what is right, stand bravely for it, and have confidence in his ability to help me become what he needs me to be.  “The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.”


Have you heard about the new federal health mandate?  It requires all religious organizations- including schools- to provide not only contraception, but also abortion services.  Read Tim Dolan's article on it and think what you can do.  One really good option is to contact your friends or neighbors who are Catholic, see what you can do to help, and/or visit
http://join.catholicadvocate.com/hhs/
 
 
Picture
My husband remembered pieces of this poem from when he was little; we looked online and found this gem:

 
A Cookie and a Kiss

A house should have a cookie jar
for when it half past three
And children hurry home from school
as hungry as can be.

There’s nothing quite so splendid
In filling children up
as spicy, fluffy ginger cakes
and sweet milk in a cup.

A house should have a mother
waiting with a hug,
No matter what a boy brings home
a puppy or a bug.

For children only loiter
When the bell rings to dismiss,
If no one’s home to greet them
With a cookie and a kiss.

-Author Unknown
_________________________________


So here are some super-simple cookies:  (pictured above; the recipe is also in my cookbook)

Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies

1 c. peanut butter
3/4 to 1 c. sugar (I like this better with 3/4 c.)
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease or spray a cookie sheet.  Mix peanut butter, sugar, and egg together in a bowl. Drop by heaping spoonful onto the cookie sheet, keeping them two inches apart.  Flatten with a fork if you like the crosshatch design that makes.  (If you use the lesser amount of sugar, the cookies don't flatten as well on their own; I recommend the fork!)  Bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the bottoms of cookies are browned. 

1/2 tsp. vanilla is nice to add.

Make Chocolate-Peanut Butter cookies by mixing 1 melted square of unsweetened chocolate (or1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder and 2 Tbsp. softened butter) into the dough.  Use the full cup of sugar.   Or stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips for a different form of chocolate.

Peanut Butter and Honey cookies: use 1/2 cup honey instead of the sugar.  The cookies will bake up puffier and more cakelike.

Peanut Butter Banana: Mash half a banana with 3/4 c. sugar.  Beat in egg, then peanut butter.  They'll require a couple extra minutes to cook.  These are more cakelike, too, like the honey version.