Wonder and Joy

I need to say thank you.

Thank you to the internet for inspiration. Thank you to all the people who do the holiday season up big. Thank you to the Heather Lands of the world who make me belly laugh about our silly traditions. Thank you for the conversations of dear friends as we eat delicious food, do laundry, and find humor in our family and our work. Thank you for far away friends as we compare notes and ideas to make the holidays wonderful, and commiserate with us when they go awry. Thank you, Mom, for the conversation about the wonder of Christmas, and letting kids be kids.

And a special thank you to Hannah’s teacher.

You see, her teacher shared that she had said her home elf was quite boring. Dobby only moved around but never did anything funny or amazing like the elf in the classroom. She wasn’t shaming me or ridiculing me by sharing what Hannah had said, but was simply sharing the magic of the season…she loved how her students’ faces lit up each day as the elf did some new and crazy thing – even simple things – all by themselves.

It woke me up. Big time.

In a season where perfection abounds, it’s hard when things aren’t they way we’d like them. My person is deployed. (No, they don’t get Christmas off. Or New Year’s. Or the kids’ birthdays. Or their birthday. Or any of the other holidays this year.) The kids are missing their dad. It sucks. Yes, it’s part of it, but it still sucks.

And yet….it’s Christmas.

Hannah’s teacher sharing reminded me that even though it’s not an ideal holiday, that while our hearts are hurting, they can also be filled with joy.

And wonder.

And the magic of a silly elf on the shelf.

Not only did he do all these silly antics over the past month…

…he reminded us all that wonder and joy can still be found.

Kind of what Christmas is all about anyway, right?

❤️ Wishing you joy and wonder this Christmas season ❤️❤️❤️



Like any good road trip/family vacation, there are nuggets of joy tucked in amongst the agony of the drive, the “are we there yets?” and the hustle and bustle of traveling during the holidays.

We’ve been able to see Eric’s family, celebrate Christmas, and even Santa came and delivered his goods in our hotel room! Of course no family vacation is complete without the hotel pool, to which we have been nearly daily visitors. Enjoying the kids’ next level of independence as they can both swim has been especially joyful for Eric and I.

Christmas is wonderful, and one of the most anticipated holidays in our home, but is often rife with high expectations, anxiety, and of course missing far away family. Today, the day after Christmas, has been a really great day. We lowered our expectations. We took things as they came, had (mostly) more patience with the minions, and had loose plans to go skiing and tubing. Skiing (and skating tomorrow) are the two bucket list items that Hannah has been begging to do.

Hannah had her first ski lesson, and Jake and I tromped off to the snow tubing park!


It may not look like much, but it was quite the hill! Above is looking up to the top, and below is the bottom straightaway.

When we hopped onto the conveyor belt to take us to the top, Jacob stated that “this was not what I expected” and that he “would not be doing this”.

“Okay,” I said. “But we have to do it at least once, because that’s the only way down.” I told him to take his time, and that when he was ready we’d do it. Giving it some thought and watching 3 or 4 people gleefully fly down the hill, Jake decided he was ready. “Alright. Let’s do it.”

At the bottom of the hill, he was grinning ear to ear and yelling, “That was AWESOME! We are doing that AGAIN!”

And we did!

Two hours later we were tired and cold, but had a blast! Jake and I took solo rides, and then at the end we rode tandem and giggled all the way down!

At the end of our time, we met back up with Eric and Hannah and went to the lodge to warm up and grab some dinner.

It was just one of those days that could have gone wrong in many ways, but didn’t. Hannah went skiing and did fantastic! We all got to play in the snow and had a wonderful time. It was a day that had joy woven through the decision to simply go with the flow and have no expectations.

I need to remember this day when I get caught up in the busy and the to-do list. Going with the flow always beats the alternative!

Merry Christmas!

When I was around 6- or 7-years-old, my parents got me an entire bedroom set. It wasn’t furniture under the tree or in the garage. We went to bed just like any other night. After I was well asleep, they transferred me into their bed and set to work. When I woke up Christmas morning, Santa had arrived! I blinked my sleepy eyes and gazed around – pretty pink bedspread, new sheets, a big bed, night stands, dresser, and a desk and chair! It was simply amazing.

This is one of my favorite Christmas memories. I feel giddy as we are recreating that Christmas for our daughter! When she wakes up, she will be in princess sheets, a new bed, rearranged room and a big dollhouse that she has been asking Santa for (for 2 years!) and I simply cannot wait!

Get up! Get up! Get up!

Santa was here! Santa was here!

Is it time yet???

Bah Humbug

I’ve been fighting it for a while.

I just can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit this year. Part of it is that we are far away from family and in a new state. Part of it is the weather. It’s kind of hard to feel festive about Christmas sweaters when it’s 80 degrees outside. “Frosty the Snowman” and 100% humidity just don’t jive, you know? I even bagged out on my Christmas cards/letters this year. I just haven’t been  that into it.

The Christmas shopping not even started yet, I sat down to get organized and it just felt like more heavy demands. “Bring the party tray for Hannah’s pre-k Christmas party…bring a wrapped book for Jacob’s gift exchange…don’t forget the gingerbread house supplies! Pajama day on Friday! Can you spare a few hours to volunteer in the classroom? These kids are our future you know!” These little things aren’t much in and of themselves, but when piled together it makes a giant pile of to-dos sucking the joy right out of the season and sends me under my covers not wanting to be vertical at all. It’s just pressure that I dread.

Throughout December, I usually play holiday music to center myself. It gets me in the holiday frame of mind, as the music and lyrics take me back to past Christmas seasons. I can still hear Elvis singing “Blue Christmas” as my mom and I wrapped presents in my childhood home. “Mary Did You Know” and “Immanuel” will put me right back into that Christmas Eve service where they had arranged for a stunning live nativity with real farm animals! My favorite hymns and carols all have specific memories attached. I even got desperate and played Faith Hill’s “Where are you Christmas?” Because that is essentially how I’ve been feeling. Even my runs the past few days have felt sort of “meh” with not one butterfly sighting. (I usually see small yellow butterflies on EVERY run, and look so forward to them. It’s like a visual hug from the universe.) I went out to tackle the bulk of the shopping and was striking out at store after store. (This year I did not plan ahead like I normally do. I like having it all done by December 1st, so I can sit back and enjoy the season.) I started to notice the people out and about and not one person seemed really happy or content. Everyone, including myself, oozed rushed, harried and tired energy. No smiles, no joy, and definitely no holiday magic. The holiday music just wasn’t working the way it usually does. it felt, well, forced.

At the end of the excursion, I had accomplished little and felt like time would have been better spent just staying home with my family. After a good night’s rest I tried again. Hit the toy store, stopped at Target, and was finally making some headway. Then something shifted when I stopped at the book store. I asked an employee about a book, and looking at her computer she said they didn’t have anything like what I was looking for. Bummed, I strolled down some aisles looking for new inspiration – that perfect gift. A while later lost in thought and browsing titles, this same employee came around the corner carrying a book. The biggest grin spread across her face, her eyes dancing she said, “I think I have found something like what you are looking for!” As I flipped through this beautiful book and gazed at the photographs within, my mouth dropped and gratitude washed over me. “I could just hug you right now! Thank you! This is perfect!” She laughed, and we shared a wonderful moment. What I couldn’t articulate at the time was that she not only found a gift I had been searching for, but her kindness allowed me to see a spark of authentic cheer, and it started with gratitude. When you find that gift that you know deep down all the way to your toes that the person receiving it is just going to LOVE – that moment of anticipation to me, embodies the tradition of giving a gift. What I had failed to remember up until that point is that these nuggets of Christmas cheer are embedded in the busy. She gave me a gift without ever realizing it. Her joy in helping me find that item was magic as I finally started to feel ready for the season.

Part of our holiday also usually involves a visit with Santa. The idea of standing in a long line while trying to entertain the minions was not high on my priority list. (It was, not surprisingly, on the “don’t wanna at all” list.) Eric was a bit surprised at my reluctance. We went anyway, and as I looked around at all the parents, we all wore that same expression of wanting to be ANYWHERE but in that line. But the kids? They had a blast. My daughter’s excitement was palpable. They wore what they wanted, I kept my perfectionist expectations low, and we had a pretty fun evening. We played thumb war in the line. We took turns holding them, then playing silly little made up games, and Hannah spent time on Daddy’s shoulders. I was having fun in spite of myself. After they had their visit with Santa, my daughter, who is a hugger by nature, ran back to Santa to say thank you and gave him the biggest hug! I love her little huggy heart.

Feeling somewhat lighter yesterday, (and seeing the light at the end of the shopping tunnel) I again had one of those runs. The ones where you feel light and could go for ever.


The dogs are doing great on the leash, and the butterflies returned. The little yellow guys flutter across the path as we glided along the trail. And then I saw a GIANT monarch like this one:


After that sunrise, and a heavenly run, I was having a game of fetch with the dogs in the backyard and there was yet another one of these monarchs fluttering around – in my backyard! I am always reminded by these little experiences that joy is where I find it. It happens when I am looking for it, when I’m open and have a posture of gratitude. It doesn’t matter if it’s during a deployment, a cross-country move, a trail run, or even during the holidays in my yard. Joy waits to be discovered as we look away from the unimportant and toward the things for which we are grateful.


IMG_0691  I am grateful.

Making Memories

I have visions; ideas about the way things should go. I’m sure we all do to some degree. I thought it would be fun to drive around looking at Christmas lights, which is something we do every year. We’d drink some cocoa in the car, I would introduce the kids to more Christmas carols while oohing and ahhing at all the festive decorations. A fun evening out of the house, or so I thought. We had the cocoa, the carols were queued up, and for about 5 minutes my plans for a nice evening actually matched reality. They got a kick out of The Twelve Days of Christmas (I think they liked the repetition and the fact that I kept flubbing up the words!) There were some festive displays (some a la Christmas Vacation) and tons of blow-up yard “art”. Then, as if they’d been injected with the crazy minion-making serum from Despicable Me 2, things took a turn.


Suddenly, my pleasant car ride turned into songs (screams, really) about all things toilet, which is what they currently think is beyond hilarious. Pee, poo, toots, boogers, burps – essentially any and all bodily functions are fair game. Yes, these things are funny, but that funny?! Really?!

I know, I know, it’s their age. It’s all a phase. I should really dial down my expectations a bit. Even if they aren’t the picture perfect memories I envision, at least they are making memories. Memories about how they drove their mother crazy, perhaps, but memories all the same.

What traditions do you do with your kids around the holidays? Ever have plans that failed miserably? Share your holiday “joy”!

Holiday Hiatus

I “decided” to take a holiday hiatus. It wasn’t really planned, but just sort of happened! Now that the family has left and the after-Christmas calm is settling in, I thought I’d sneak in a post before I return to my unscheduled break.

This year we were fortunate to be able to spend Christmas with our whole family! This is a rare occurrence with us being a military family, and most of the “kids” grown and having kids of our own. This is 2 generations of cousins!


It was a great time with great food and lots of fun! I love enjoying the holidays through my kids’ perspectives. It’s all so new to them and watching them watch it all unfold is magic. The anticipation of the entire month nearly did Jacob in. He made it though, as did Hannah, and their holiday hopes were granted. And now it’s all over. (We say over because New Year’s eve isn’t the hoopla it was pre-kids. Let’s face it – we’re parents and if we stayed up for New Year’s eve, the 1st at our place would be a grouchy tired mess!)

While it was so much fun celebrating, is it weird that a part of me actually enjoys taking it all down, the quiet resolution of another holiday having past, and the breath of fresh air of getting things back to normal? Some find it sad to have it all over, even Hannah lamented she “hates that Christmas is over!” I don’t. I love Christmas, the build up and anticipation – all the festivus activities. But I really do love the calm and the return of normal routines!

With that return of normal, my husband just made my year! We stripped all the beds, did laundry like it was our job, shampooed carpets, Hannah scrubbed toilets, and my hubs scoured the kitchen – like pulled appliances out, vacuumed behind, took the burners off the stove, – you get the idea. It was deep spring cleaning in winter at my house. I helped a bit, taking down the tree, putting all the Christmas decorations away, purging the broken ornaments that couldn’t be glued together anymore, but mostly my other half did the work. Hannah and I fell asleep. For three hours.

When we woke up and came downstairs, I was delighted to see our house transformed: to the cleanest version of normal since we moved in! Perhaps it makes me a tad obsessive compulsive that a clean house excites me to the point of spending almost an entire post about it, but clean = calm and peace in my mind and spirit. I can think clearly, I can give freely, and enjoy my kids more fully when our home is in order.

I love Christmas. I love celebrating the season with my family. And I love the return of normal. What about you? Do you like the return of routine, or is it melancholy when it’s all over?

More Crazy Ideas: Christmas Edition

I get these crazy ideas and then halfway through I am wondering what the heck I was thinking when I thought whatever it is I’m doing was a good idea.

Today was a classic example. It usually begins with a day with nothing planned.

Hmmm, what can we do today? Ah! I know! Let’s put up Christmas lights!!


Forget the fact that I have never put up outside lights before. (I mean really, how hard could it be?) In our house it’s considered a boy job. Since he isn’t here, why not give it a shot? My neighbors are all putting up all kinds of festive yard art and if they can do it, so can I! (I did consider letting Eric do it once he gets home, but since we don’t know the exact date yet, I figured if I got it done, he would have one less thing to do!)

So, scouring the garage for our outdoor lights, I vaguely remember them crapping out in Hawaii last year and Eric tossed them (later I confirmed this).

So off to the store we go. As usual the kidlets are excited by all the lights and fun Christmas paraphernalia they can hardly keep themselves contained, much less in the cart! We picked up a couple strings of multi-colored lights, some yard trees, and little path lights. We made it home and unpacked all the boxes. I grabbed a ladder and set to work.


In between trying to map out my plan of attack, I break up kid squabbles over the monster truck, whining “I wanna go insiiiiiide!” followed immediately by “I wanna come ouuuuuut!” “Let me climb the ladder!” “I need a hammer, too!” (Always a recipe for disaster) not to mention sideways freezing rain, wind blowing hair in my face, and hanging precariously from the rickety ladder that feels like it’s about to disintegrate beneath my feet.

Oh and did I mention that our house has some gutter hooks already set up for lights? Yep – that should make it easier.

Only not so much. They have been up there and out in the weather for who knows how long so now they are fragile and break off every other time I attempt to fasten the light string into the hook.

Off to Eric’s trusty toolbox to find a hammer and something to fasten the lights up with. Supplies gathered, I climb the rickety excuse for a ladder (have I mentioned I have a fear of heights?) and promptly hammer my thumb.

I did manage to keep the expletives in my head, but they wanted to come out so bad that they took on liquid form and leaked out of my eyes!

After the throbbing (and sobbing) subsided slightly, I managed to finish getting the lights secured. I also set up the extension cord and little tree path lights. The other trees are still in the box. I ran out of energy and the minions were demanding food. They get cranky when they don’t eat regularly. Go figure! I plan to snap some pictures of our completed yard art once I get it all up….

For now, it is time for first aid, tissues, and tea!