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 ❤️❤️❤️

Flow

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!

img_1179.jpg

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!

Resolutioners

I love this season. Reflections, taking stock of accomplishments, setting new goals, appreciating the good of the past while looking ahead with anticipation of what the next year might bring.

Lately much of what I hear at the gym is, something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, just wait until January! All the New Years’ resolution makers will be in here making the place packed…”

I love a new year. Why not make a plan to achieve a goal? Even if the goal isn’t completed, isn’t it better to make steps in the direction of your dreams than to not try at all?

How about this: instead of eye rolling the new members of the gym, why not smile? Why not give them a nod of encouragement?  What does positivity cost you?

Nothing.

Maybe if we are kinder to people, they won’t find the gym such an intimidating place. Instead of complaining about a lack of parking, let’s be a community of encouragement.

Let’s make one of our resolutions to be welcoming rather than arrogant. Remember how scary this stuff was when you started?

Perhaps this really is the year.

Their year to make lasting healthful changes.

Your year.

2016. Let’s dream some big dreams and chase them with abandon!

Halloween

I LOVE Halloween.

Like, a lot.

Probably more than most people. More than Christmas and my birthday put together. It’s one day a year where you can dress up like a lunatic, act crazy, get candy from strangers and it’s all perfectly acceptable! What’s not to love, right?!

Previously I’ve been Cat in the Hat and the minions were Thing 1 and Thing 2. cropped-img_4310.jpgThe hubby and I have done the Outlet and Plug in (and will reprise our roles this year while trick or treating with the kids). Dressing up is just fun and we get into it big time. Even as a kid, I remember dreaming up all kinds of craziness with my parents each year.

At the gym, we had a Star Wars-themed dress up day a few days before the main event. I still had clients to train, but I came armed with my buns and a borrowed-from-my-son light saber.

12189943_10205313978513401_5562249899373037477_n

Those buns, however, did not come without some work!

IMG_0426

It’s been about 10 years since I’ve done this….and I quickly remembered why!

IMG_0427

Dead animal, anyone?

We were told that we could of course dress up on Saturday – the big day. I hadn’t given it much thought, other than going trick or treating with our kids in the evening. I hadn’t planned on dressing up that morning for spin and training sessions…but then I got to thinking….

What could be fitness related, but allow me to actually train?

Enter the grand-daddy of fitness costumes:

IMG_0446

“Let’s sweat to the oldies!!!!” Thank you Richard Simmons!

I didn’t know it was possible to love the holiday more than I already did!

Happy Halloween!!

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.

VUQrTOr

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”!

Questioning Tradition

We all have that friend. That person in your world that bucks the mainstream and does their own thing. Recently such a person in my circle posted about how they don’t celebrate many national holidays, but instead, as a family have chosen to make new traditions that align more with their values. I have to admit, my initial reaction was somewhere along the lines of, “Oh, come on. What’s the big deal about celebrating gratitude with a meal surrounded by loved ones?” I read the post a few days ago and find that I am still thinking about it as well as the online conversation that followed. Linked to her thoughts was an article about the Wampanoag side of the First Thanksgiving.

Knowing that much of what we were taught in grade school was watered down, polished up, and neatly packaged, I read the article and followed the conversation as others chimed in. Despite various opinions, the general consensus was that it’s good to question why we do the things we do.

Are we really celebrating Pilgrims, or Native American culture on Thanksgiving?
Are we celebrating a kick-off to excess spending and holiday shopping?
Are we just there to catch the game, a retail parade, and some food?
Are we celebrating a posture of gratefulness, gathering with loved ones for a meal?
Are we only getting together because that’s what we’ve always done?
Are we staring at our phones waiting for the time to tick by until we can leave a place we really didn’t want to be?
Why do celebrate the way we do?
Should we celebrate at all?

As a military family, it just isn’t possible for us to do things the same every single year. Often we have to make up new traditions for our children because who knows where we will be stationed next. (In Hawaii, for example, it’s kind of hard to build a snowman!) As a family with little ones, we’ve decided that we will mostly not travel on holidays. (It kind of ruins Christmas for a kid who spends the day in the car house hopping for hours on end.) But that’s just us, and our doors are always open for any family and friends that would like to join us. We evaluated what works and what doesn’t and made our own tradition.

In the same vein, I found myself over the past few years reevaluating our traditions around food, in part because our son doesn’t eat a large variety of foods, but also because over the last few years, we have converted to a generally more healthful diet. This year we did a smoked turkey breast (because it’s essentially 2.2 people eating it, why do we need an ENTIRE turkey?), roasted garlic green beans, rustic potatoes (rustic=mashed with skins on), some chopped salad, and diced canteloupe. No gravy (we just don’t eat it). No store-bought dinner rolls. Do we need to make apple pie AND pumpkin pie AND cheesecake? No. So we didn’t do it. Last year we did all the traditional dishes (green bean casserole, dressing, etc.) but made everything from scratch. No matter how our menu changes from year to year, what I keep coming back to, is: if I wouldn’t buy the Stove-Top canister of “stuffing” any other day of the year because I don’t eat like that, why would I do it on a “special” day, just because that’s “what we’ve always done”. Will it cease to be a special day if I don’t gorge on food that makes me feel gross?

Most of us rarely question the why of what we do. We go through the motions of our lives, ticking the seasons down the calendar and it never occurs to us to take a moment and ponder the point, or the even the benefit, of our celebrations. While we personally celebrate Christ at Christmas and Easter, we don’t have to buy into the consumerism of these or any other Hallmark holiday. We can gather around a meal with loved ones and give thanks. We can use Santa as a metaphor for the wonder, innocence and magic of the Christmas season. We can do it however we like. Traditions can be comforting, sentimental, and wonderful, but if it no longer serves a purpose, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate.

What’s your favorite tradition? Have you ever considered “swimming upstream” to buck tradition and do your own thing? Do you have a person in your world that does life a little differently? Does that cause you to reconsider how you do things? Please share in the comments!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love food. Good food. Not drive thru fill-your-gut-but-feel-like-crap-5-minutes-later type of ‘food’. Real nourishment. The kind that feeds your tummy AND your soul. In today’s daily post, we are asked to “describe a favorite childhood meal. The one meal that was a treat, meant “celebration” or was pure comfort!”

Meal prep was fun in our house. My mom loves to cook and taught me to love it as well. Some of our best family conversations were around food preparation, at the dinner table, and sometimes the coffee table where we ate dinner. I remember conversations over potato peeling, chats over veggie chopping, as well as being asked to grab some ingredients from the garden for dinner that evening. There is nothing fresher than your own backyard garden!

The best, yummiest, celebratory meal has always been turkey day. It’s the day of the perfect bite. My perfect bite. Like most families, we have certain food traditions around the holidays. My favorite Thanksgiving foods are always the same; white meat turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, and a roll. A tiny little morsel of all of these ingredients perched atop that piece of bread create the perfect Thanksgiving bite. I love that bite. And I recreate it every year, even as an adult.

While I don’t do the canister stuffing anymore, and opt for healthier versions of what we prepared when I lived at home, I loved this last Thanksgiving when we prepared all dishes from scratch and my mom and I and some friends were gathered once more in the kitchen. We’ve been fortunate to live close to my family this tour and have created wonderful memories for our children with them. I love that even as time goes on, we can continue to pass on our love of all things cooking, but in a healthier direction.

That perfect Thanksgiving bite is my favorite, partly for the food itself, but mostly for the memories made in the preparation of that bite.