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.

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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”!

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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!

Gratitude

Ah, gratitude.

It’s hard at times to cultivate a posture of gratefulness. There are days when it’s just not easy.

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Today is not that day. It’s Thanksgiving. And instead of blowing up the Facebook newsfeed with daily gratitude thoughts (which are nice), I decided to post my gratitude days in one giant post. Here are 20 things (in no particular order) that I am grateful for right now:

1. My Family

I’m missing my sister and her family, who moved a state away at the end of summer. But I’m so happy for them being able to live where they want, how they want. I can’t wait to see their place when we come to visit. I look forward to Christmas when they will be back to celebrate with us. I love the family Eric and I have created. Despite the normal parenting beat-your-head-against-the-wall days, I am still so very grateful for the minions, and the lessons they are teaching me everyday. Today we will have a feast with my parents and get to watch my kids climb all over them! I am thankful for family.

2. Health

You don’t appreciate it until you don’t have it, or so the saying goes. I am thankful for my family’s health. I’m thankful for learning about healthy living and eating well to nourish our bodies, and putting physical fitness into action. I’m beyond grateful that I’ve had the opportunity, and the energy, to model this for my kids. I’m glad I’m active and healthy enough to keep up with them!

3. Laughter

I love to laugh. Growing up, making my parents belly laugh was immense fun. I would go to great lengths to make them laugh, even lying in wait behind a door to startle my dad, who would freak out, but then chuckle and call me names! Even today, I like the sound of a big guffaw from my dad, or the silent-can’t-breath-convulsion-near-hyperventilation laugh of my mom. My husband, by nature, is not a laugh-out-loud kind of person. It takes something VERY funny to bring that out. I love being the one who can. My kids’ laughter is like music in soul. I love the uncontrollable giggles at whatever randomness they find amusing – like when I tickle them, or threaten to pinch their cute little butts all the way up the stairs as they scramble up as fast as they can to avoid mom’s “crabby hands that go pinch, pinch, pinch!” Laughter is my favorite medicine.

4. The Sun

I’m thankful that even on cold days, the sun has been out. I love the sun. The more places we live, the more I realize that I am a fair-weather girl. I need sunlight on my skin, the warmth reaching through to chase out the cold-to-the-bone raw iciness of winter. I need the vitamin D that chases away the winter grays and blues. The bonus is that these sunny days have provided cold-but-doable days at the play park to get the kids out of the house.

5. Friends

Old and new, near and far – I’m so very thankful for great friends. Real, authentic, see-me-in-my-p.j.s-and-morning-hair-and-still-wanna-hang-out friends. Friends who call from around the world for the 7 minutes we have to spare before going to bed/starting our day. Friends who while we may not talk daily, can pick up a conversation as if we do. Friends who are never far from our thoughts, those we bounce ideas off of, vent to, cry with, and smile for. Real friends are treasures for which I am extremely thankful.

6. Spin

I love spin. I don’t know if I love it more than running, but it may be a tie. Spin, especially in the winter here, is my current favorite way to get my much-needed endorphins, sweat out life’s frustrations and listen to some great music. It’ll cure what ails you.

7. Writing

Doing it for me, doing it for others – either way, I get to be creative, research, and learn. I love it and I’m thankful for the opportunity!

8. Vacation

The hubs has been on leave from work for almost 2 weeks. He’s taken over dish duty, early morning minion patrol, as well as preschool taxi service so I could get some vacation from the norm, too! I even got a few days to sleep in past 5am. There is no doubt I am thankful for the gift of sleep!

9. Grown-up playdates

Coffee and dinner dates with friends are one of my favorites. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been excited to have multiple dates over great food, coffee, and manicures – which result in wonderful conversation. Adult conversation is a gift beyond measure for someone who primarily converses with 3 and 5 year olds.

10.  Coffee.

If I have to explain this, you are not a coffee drinker and will probably not get it.

11. Anticipation

The holiday season is here and with it comes all the palpable energy of anticipation. I love watching the kids getting excited for the festivities to come. Often the anticipation and excitement are better than the actual events. Viewing holiday traditions and get togethers through the lens of my kids’ eyes is magic.

12. Food

Yum. I love Thanksgiving and all the trimmings. I also love starting new traditions and rethinking old favorites into healthier versions. I’m making scratch stuffing for the first time today. I can’t wait!

13. Funny inside jokes

I love those moments between Eric and I when we are sharing an inside joke, or spelling out things in front of the kids that we don’t want them to hear. It’s just fun.

14. Books, blogs, and magazines

Having a voracious appetite for reading, I love all kinds of books. I’m thankful for the many mediums to learn and read. Blogs, magazines, websites, and books to dig into, ask questions, get curious, escape into adventure and grow from are limitless.

15. Time

Grateful for time spent with my family, our kids, just the two of us, friends, or even just time to be alone. Deployments put time into steep perspective. “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” -Mae West.

16. The Ocean

Simple words from my keyboard will never do it justice, but there is something about the ocean that I love and am grateful for. When I stand at the edge of the sea, I am reminded of the vastness of God, the universe and our planet. I am once again reminded that I am so very small. But, like the tiny peoples and grains of sands under my feet, I’m also reminded that small things, when grouped together, can do great things. I am grateful for the metaphors of nature.

17. Lessons Learned by Being a Military Spouse

The list is too long to count here, but there are some valuable lessons I’ve learned by being a military spouse. The community of spouses from all walks of life that come together over the thread of common experience is astounding to me. It proves in a small way that all kinds of people with differing viewpoints and backgrounds can get along – and thrive – despite hardships, heartbreaks, and distance. I am proud and thankful to be among the ranks of some of the strongest people I know.

18. Preschool

Yes, I am thankful for preschool. Not only for the mommy breaks it provides for 2 and half hours three days a week, but for the chance for the minions to play with other kids, to learn, and gain the foundation they will use for the rest of their lives:

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19. The Basics.

Food, shelter, clothing, transportation, running water, etc. We live a very comfortable life. I am grateful for it and hope to never take it for granted. Life is so good.

20. Gratitude

Yes, it’s kind of circular, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to be thankful. I hope to cultivate a spirit of gratitude in my kids, that they always look for things for which to be grateful. Hard times are made that much easier by taking the time to look to the positive, and to have a posture of gratitude.

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What are you thankful for today?