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.


It Wasn’t a Mushy Banana Day….but…..

Had a great time in Minnesota (will blog about that one later tonight after the kiddos are asleep) but I am so glad to be home and in my own bed. We have a tempurpedic mattress and sadly it makes us wimps when it comes to staying in hotels with crappy beds. Yeah, I know – more of my 1st world problems.

So after a great night’s rest under our own roof, I get up this morning and am ready to tackle the day.  Bootcamp workout, mounds of laundry and a grocery trip await.  (Oh, I know – how do I handle the excitement?!) Incredibly, we make it out the door after my workout with my mom and sister. I have even had a shower! Somedays, just the shower is a miracle in itself! So off we go down the road after our usual cajoling of Hannah to get in her seat and get buckled and playing “find Jacob” as he hides in the very back of the car and won’t get buckled until we sing, “Where is Jacob? Where is Jacob? I don’t know, I don’t know….” Oy.
The kids have begged me to let them go to the “Freddy’s Playland” at Fred Meyer. If you don’t know, this store is AMAZING. Not only do they have everything you could possibly every want or need available for purchase, they also offer a 1 hour child care room so one can grocery shop in peace. GENIUS. But for whatever reason, we have yet to utilize this. Until today.
After filling out a little form with our information, they run into the play area and I jet off to get done in 20 minutes what usually takes me an hour and half with the kiddos in tow. I am meandering through the apples and pears, contemplating what to have for dinner. Perusing peppers in peace. Ahh. I sigh and breathe. This is what shopping alone feels like. It’s been so long I hardly remember what it’s like. I then hear:
“Lori Stoffers – Please return to Freddy’s Playland please. Lori Stoffers – to Freddy’s playland please.”
Back I go and Hannah isn’t digging it. I ask Jake if he wants to stay and play and he does (hooray!)  Hannah and I head back to get the shopping done. Shopping with just one of two isn’t bad! Only one pair of arms to keep “inside the ride”! After 50 times of, “Sit down, Hannah!” and “Don’t grab the eggs” and “Not for you” and “Nope, not today” and ten more “Buckle up please’s” we make our way to the checkout line, only to hear:
“Lori Stoffers, please return to Freddy’s Playland.”
You’ve got to be kidding me. I am almost done. So the checker kindly calls the playland attendant and lets her know I will be right there. I pay (all the while shoeing Hannah’s hands away from the debit card machine buttons and keeping her in the cart and away from the eggs) and head to pick up Jake. They called because he had to go potty. Hooray for potty training!
With the cart full of groceries we head once again to the bathroom and by this time Jacob is starting to wind up about a missing sticker (he had 2 but suddenly needed 3 stickers on his shirt). We avoid the Sticker Crisis of 2012 by my careful distraction of hand washing and peeing. (YAY me!)
Loading up the groceries into the back, I let the kids crawl over the seat from the back into their carseats. They LOVE this and think it’s great fun. Ok – knock yourself out. But the rule is that by the time I get the groceries in, the cart put away and come back – you need to be in your seat so I can get you buckled. And of course they never are lest we miss out on a riotous game of “How far can we push mommy before her head explodes”.
While my head stayed attached, (barely) it just wasn’t getting done so I picked Hannah up and placed her in her carseat to which I was met with (LOUD) protest and sudden “No Spine Syndrome”. (You know the drill – where suddenly they become a noodle and slither to the floor?!) Crying all the way and Jacob complaining that Hannah was growling at him and he didn’t like it and could I tell her to stop – I drove as quickly as I could. Nap time. We all need to just chill out.
The car parked safely in the driveway, I let the minions out, unlock the front door and head back to the car to drag in the groceries. I lift the handle on the first bag and find cracked and broken eggs. Awesome. At least it wasn’t a mushy banana day, right?!
Is it too late to want to still be on vacation!!?? They say not to cry over spilled milk, and I have to say – I actually didn’t cry over the broken eggs either! I laughed knowing that this day was yet again going to make a funny blog post and the 4 people reading it would have a chuckle!

Old vs. New

It has been a crazy couple of weeks getting settled and unpacked!! Went for an icy bike ride with the kiddos today and am gearing up for working out in the morning bootcamp style with my mom and sister!

Over the past week or so I’ve noticed some astonishing differences being back in my hometown area as the new me vs. the old.

Eric has done deployments before, and while they stink – doing them with kiddos is just a whole other level of suckiness. However, before I would have been terrified of the responsibility of two kids on my own. Now, though – yes it sucks and I would much rather have him home, the fear is no longer there. I know some days are going to be better than others, but the terror has been replaced by an acceptance and a sense of “Yeah. I got this. I’m not going to sit around and be sad. We are going to make the best of it and have a life and not just sit around waiting for Daddy to come home.” This is huge.

I meet peoples’ gaze and am the first to wave or smile and say hello. This is such a seemingly small thing – but huge for me. Old me would wait for others to approach me or make the first move. Not so much anymore. And everyone in our new neighborhood has been so friendly. For some reason I don’t remember the valley being so friendly… But perhaps I’m just seeing it with new vision 😉

Went shopping yesterday for winter clothes for my new body and had a blast with a good friend. Old me never let thin friend into dressing room. New me: fashion show parade in the room!!!
Lots of laughs, catching up and cute new clothes that I’ve worked so hard for. And I didn’t even charge her for the tickets to the gun show! 😉

Going to church and watching my mom watch me and seeing her see the differences in dropping off the kiddos at Children’s Church. She even remarked at how dropping the kids off was “something you would have never done before”. The kids have a great time, get to interact and play and learn with other kids and I get a much needed mental break and spiritual recharge for the week. Win win!!

I have scheduled a test date for taking my certified personal trainer exam. NEVER would I have thought I was good enough, athletic enough, or whatever excuse to do something like this. And I find all I feel is excited!!! Yeah, a little nervous because I want to do well and not have to retake the thing – but mostly just excited! I can’t wait to help someone else to feel as good as I do. I can’t think of anything better.

Instead of waiting until __________ , I am getting out and making things happen. I’m more proactive. This is partially due to wishing I had found bootcamp and done it sooner. I don’t want to miss any opportunities in our new location. Hit the ground running baby!!!

It’s just a bunch of little things like this that in the past week or so have been very apparent to me.

I can appreciate old me. She got me to here. But new me is way more fun, has so much more energy and is comfortable in her own skin. And I love that!


So I have a, shall we say, love/rage relationship with the commissary. Here on the island it is by far the most economical place to shop. It does have its drawbacks though: EVERYONE and their mother is there on the same day since department of defense employees all get paid ON THE SAME DAY. The produce can be very lacking in terms of quality. And there is a very weird smell in the fish section. Yuck.

Well today I left my brain at the house and decided to brave it – on payday. Did I mention it was crowded? Oy. So I’m behind two ladies in the produce section waiting very impatiently for my crack at the red peppers. Meanwhile, both of my children seem to turn into octopi the instant we walk through the sliding doors grasping at every carefully arranged pile of fruit just threatening to create a lovely spectacle just for me to clean up! So back to the peppers and the ladies having a very in depth conversation (who knew bell peppers were so dang fascinating?!) completely oblivious to my impatience. So I spy a stray red pepper in the green pepper section and I grab it thinking, “okay, I’ll just grab that one and be on my way” – when suddenly out of nowhere,this “lady” SLAPS MY HAND and says “nananana!” or something. It really sounded like some kind of primal pepper scream! REALLY!? Apparently the green peppers are the holding area for this lady’s red pepper selections.

Based on years of obtaining food for my family, as well as my personal pet peeves (aka rage inducers), let me just offer a few words of advice to my fellow grocery getters:

1. If you see a mom in the store struggling with her kids – she is in fact struggling and REALLY does not want or need your look of disdain that plainly says she is doing it all wrong. As moms, we think we are getting it wrong half the time anyway. Your look helps no one.

2. Be aware. When traveling down an aisle – STICK TO YOUR SIDE! There are other people trying to get through and yes, you are in the way!

3. I love looking at ingredients and discovering new product, but does it need to take you an hour to read the bag of marshmallows? It’s sugar. Put the bag down you don’t need it and move on!

4. Watch where your cart is. My heels and my rear do not appreciate being biffed and bashed. (Although a case may be made for not seeing my rear as it has shrunk considerably! 😉

5. There will be enough meat. Knocking me down to get that t-bone really isn’t necessary. Maybe the 500 other packs of steaks are somehow invisible.

6. When my kid is having a meltdown, please don’t offer to “help” or give advice. Mostly it just makes it worse.

7. Don’t park your motorized ride-on cart in front of 3 doors of milk while you peruse your shopping list. Really?!

8. Do you really need to inspect (and by inspect, I mean touch, finger, and massage) every piece of produce after I just watched you not-so-discreetly pick your nose! Gross!

9. Definitely do not tribal scream at me and slap my hand! A bell pepper is simply not worth me giving you a beat down! (and I could’ve totally taken her! I’ve been working out you know!)

10. And finally, to the very kind lady at the checkout – thank you so much for saying how beautiful my children are. You made my day!! And after I got slapped, I really needed that!! 😉

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