Happy New Year from Bloggyland!

I tiptoed into Bloggyland exactly a year ago today when I moved our family website from iWeb to Blogger. A little while later, I made my first comment on a "stranger's" blog. I think it was Amber who brought me out of hiding. She has such an enchanting writing voice, I couldn't NOT comment when given the opportunity. And of course there was Shannon, the matriarch of sappy mommy blogging, whose wit, authenticity and wisdom encouraged me on a daily basis. When she offered free Little Debbies to the best new year's resolution haiku, I didn't really have a choice but to jump in with both feet.

I used to think it was weird (and lame) to spend even five minutes reading, let alone commenting, on what random people had to say about their lives. And now? Well, in the next few days, I'm meeting up with one such random person for a playdate.

(My husband would like to interject that, if he said he had a "playdate with someone he met online", he would get in big trouble. And he would be correct.)

I had no idea that blogging would be more than a way to record memorable family moments. I had no idea I would "meet" people and form real friendships. I had no idea I would grow to enjoy this outlet this much.

For the record, I still think it's weird. If my mom was the one blogging, I would totally make fun of her. (Confession. She WAS the one blogging back in 2005, Xanga style. And I DID mercilessly mock her for it.)

All this to say (which is my clue to you that I just wasted the above five paragraphs of your time leading up to a quasi point), I've really enjoyed my journey into Bloggyland this year.

Happy New Year!

And now....the year in posts...the first line from the first post of every month in 2009. Because inquiring minds want to know have long ago stopped reading this blog.

January: Happy New Year! (A video of the kiddos).

February: On Rejoicing & The Ridding of Rubbish. The trucker rattling along in the right lane surely heard us singing loud and clear, over and out...

March:
Taking Care of Business (As Usual). What do you call it when you get a winter storm (in March) that drops over a foot of snow at your doorstep...

April:
"I Do it Myselt". "Mr. Fear? No, I don't believe we've ever met. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go freak my mom out with my sweet balancing moves."

May:
There's an App for That. Missing your Nana from far, far away?

June: So Darlin', Save the Last Flush for Me. The toilet gurgled and the toddler giggled. It was the classic soundtrack for mischief.

July: Do it Yourself Sunshine. When you're ten years shy of a teenager, sun is (fortunately) not a necessary ingredient for a delightful afternoon at the beach.

August: Happiness Wins: Part I. It all started Thursday night when my saintly husband surprised me with a sought after bib in the Beach to Beacon 10k and volunteered to hold down the fort on Saturday morning while I ran.

September: Weebles Wobble But They Don't Fall Down. And this is motherhood. I pray for a spring in my step and get a slinky in my shoe.

October: A Walk in the Wide, Wide World. This morning, we went for a walk...

November: Nature Rarer Uses Yellow. Nature rarer uses yellow, than another hue...

December: Little Scouts. When your only neighbors are the deer and the evergreens of the Forest Preserve, it's only natural that a boy and his father should go exploring.

Linked up to Jo-Lynne's 2009 Blog Recap Carnival.

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And Again with the Christmas Stuff

I should really finish the rest of the Christmas recap for Nana before the blue moon rises and the new year dawns.

So let's get to it. First, allow me to play right into the geographic cliche.

Yes that really is a Lobster Trap Christmas Tree. And it even lights up at night. And yes, even after more than two years, I'm still a wee bit infatuated with Maine. (Though admittedly, I'm always tempted to "take a break" from my dear state the minute February rolls around).

Cut to the Christmas morning scene. Incessant smiling and pillaging.
By mid-morning, it became clear to my wise husband that the only way to keep our wits about us was to escape the toy store that threw up in our family room get outside for a breath of fresh air.
So we did.
And it was good.

And that is all.

Let the blue moon rise. Let the new year dawn.

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The Brave New

It smells of parsley and split peas,
Green circling green
In my crockpot.

The wind stirs up white against white,
bullies the bland winter skies,
the tasteless backyard snow.
Evergreens sway,
But won't let the wind see them shiver.

And I wish it again (as if wishing works)
That I could be
Green with flavor
Or green with year-round grit.
And not wide-eyed green,
The one who hasn't walked the block around.
The rookie.

And I wish it again (is the third time a charm?)
That I was brave enough
To wear the flavor or brave the wind,
Or to walk un-shivering into new.

beginnings
::

Ok, so bear with me for a minute. While my random posting of a (kind-of) poem might baffle those of you expecting consistent content (yeah, whatever that is), I do have a reason for it. You see, I've been struggling with fear of what lies outside my comfort zone for my entire life the past few months. I gravitate toward the familiar path, and I'm certain (yes certain) we're heading straight for its unbeaten opposite in 2010.

And I'm a total chicken when it comes to poetry and fiction. So, I figured, what better way to cultivate bravery than to push myself with a poetry writing prompt over at Seedlings in Stone.

(And here's hoping I sway, but don't shiver, when I hit publish.)

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Just Us

Three years ago, it was "just us" for Christmas. Three years ago, Dani was six days old.

And if you'd have walked in our front door, as many neighbors did that week, you would have bumped into the pack-n-play in the dining room. And you would have picked up one of the diapers from the antique buffet buried under baskets of butt paste and burp cloths. And you would've waved it around with a "Oh would you look at how TINY these are?"

And you would have asked how I was holding up. And I would have said, "Better than it looks!"

And you might have seen an empty box of Hot Nows that the McCoys delivered straight from Krispy Kreme. And a guilty look on my face.

And I would have told you that it was just us, that my mom would come in another week, when Larry had to leave again, and that we were just so happy to be a family of four.

(Well, at least Larry and I were happy. I'm not so sure Caed had warmed up to the idea. And yes, Dani is screaming her ever-loving head off in this picture. Little did I know this would soon become the norm.)

:::

This Christmas, Dani is three years and six days old. And unlike the past two years, Larry did not have to work a 30 hour shift starting Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. He was home. It was "just us"--all of us.

And it was wonderful.

Other than nearly knocking over the lobby Christmas tree on two separate occasions, it was a beautiful, peaceful Eve.

And isn't it good to see how they've warmed up to each other over the years? How far they've come from this....
To this?
Three years ago, it was "just us". And it was just the beginning.

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I'm (Im)Perfectly Happy

Did you know there was such a thing as "ocean effect" snow?
I didn't either.

My husband even asked me, "Are you just calling it that? Or is there really such a thing?"

Oh yes there is. The weather channel told me there is. And then I saw it--felt it--with my very own eyes. I went for a run in it, and carried home a few flakes on my eyelashes. It sure beats mascara.

Do you know what else is crazy about today? I accidentally created coffee art.

I swear I didn't plan this emoticon that showed up in my latte. It must have been the way the spoon rested while the shots poured. I probably cannot duplicate it. So I was sure to document it.

In other bizarre news, I think my personality was switched on Christmas Eve. I was so laid back and chill and go with the flow that Larry probably wondered on more than one occasion whether I needed to be resuscitated.

And since I wasn't trying to will every last second into unison with my plans, I enjoyed these messed-up moments so very much. I tasted the minutes like a snooty glass twirler. I swirled and sniffed and sipped. I savored it.

And I loved it.

And what is more amazing is that even today was happy. Even today was chill. Today. The day that I ran out to the "the Walmarts" with a toddler, during lunch time, to buy batteries for aforementioned toddler's new boom box. (Thank you Grandma, she will love it. I might have to hide it on occasion, if only to SURVIVE MY DAY, but she will love it.)

But as I was saying, even today, in the nightmare that was (and always is) Walmart, I stayed in my happy rhythm.

It is a Christmas miracle. The ocean effect snow, the face in the froth, the smiles amid the big box aisles, the perfect delight in the imperfection that is family time.
Merry Boxing Day.

So, how was your Boxing Day?

p.s. Don't worry, Mom, I promise I will get around to the lengthy Christmas recap. Even this apparent overdose on chill pills will not thwart the traditional over-documentation of our holiday.

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Peace & Joy

I remember Dani screaming and Caed whimpering. I remember asking what in the world was wrong. And I remember Caed's answer. "Dani's crying cuz her sandals fell off. And I'm crying cuz I just want PEACE!"

You and me both, Bud.
Fast forward six months. And I just want PEACE. More. Than. Ever.

The Christmas season is quite literally branded as Peace (on earth! Goodwill to men!). And as Joy (to the world! The Lord is come!).

But where is the peace as we jockey for a place to park at a mobbed shopping mall?
And where is the joy as we squeeze into line at the post office, scramble to get the exterior lights up, scribble addresses onto the holiday cards?

Yes, excuse me, I'm looking for Peace and Joy. Do you have them in stock? What about special order? Surely you at least have some samples...perhaps in the back?


I’ve seen their shadows. I’ve watched them flicker across my path like characters in a silent film. And all I want for Christmas is to catch them--to grab them by both shoulders and sit them down on the couch.

Come. Stay a while. Let’s linger together while the snow falls and the cookies bake. And if at all possible, can you figure out a way to quiet the children? They just might ruin you with all that racket.

I know I won’t find Peace and Joy at the mall or under the tree. I won’t find them at the bottom of a Napa-born bottle or at the top of a luxury hotel. I won't find them in the perfectly orchestrated Pageant, or in my desperately stroked attempt to stage a Normal Rockwell knock-off in my dining room.

Instead, I’ll find them in the sitting still, the reading of the Advent book, the holding of hands. I’ll find them in moments deliberately emptied, the white spaces on the calendar.

I’ll find Joy in the swishing of snow pants when the first of the snow-fort-worthy flakes fall.

I’ll find Peace while we listen to the unconventional rhythm of snapping flames and watch the smoke waft chimney ward.

I’ll find Joy as I consume less temporal and treasure more eternal.

I’ll find Peace as I cease striving for a picture perfect Christmas and simply blink into memory the unstaged moments before me, just the way we are.

So here’s to finding Peace amidst the bustle and demands of real life.
And here’s to finding Joy in the middle of our everyday mess.

We wish you the Peace that surpasses all understanding.
We wish you the great Joy that will be to all people.

And we wish you a merry, meaningful and memorable Christmas.


Linked up today with Just for the Joy of It hosted by Good, True & Beautiful.

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This Chapter

I've been too sick to run lately, and it's been too cold to hike with the kids. I was starting to go a little crazy.

So I paid a quick visit to my happy place.

I usually make the journey on foot, sans camera. But the cold in my head and the cold in the air demanded I drive. And like a neurotic good little blogger, I keep my camera in the car.

This could be the last Christmas (ever or for a long long time) that we spend in Maine. I'm trying not to already miss it. The way I already miss Dani saying "swimmin' soups" and Caed singing Auld Lang Syne.

I know change is good, especially when it's the kind that moves our story forward. But there is something about a page turned, especially one so thoroughly read, earmarked and tattered, that brings my eyes to a blurring stare. And in all the anticipation about the next page, in all the nostalgia of the last, sometimes I can scarcely read a word.

I want to keep reading, to keep turning pages. But today, in this small chapter called Christmas 2009, I am going to rest right here, and listen to the silver swells.

I'm going to rest right here, and watch the snow and sand go overboard with all glitter and no glue.

I'm going to rest right here and feel the sting of winter sun, bouncing off snow and into my eyes.

I'm going to rest right here, and let the story unfold without fanfare.
Like a branch without accessory. Just happy to be included.
I'm going to rest right here until it's time to turn the page.

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The Unforgettable Old Long Since


"Auld Lang Syne is French, Mom. It means 'Friend'." Caed informed me.

"Will you sing it for me again? I loved hearing your class sing it, but I want to hear just your voice."

"Ok. Lemme see. I can't remember how it starts...."

"Should..."

"Oh yeah yeah. Okay. I remember."
"Should old appointments be forgot and never come to mind,
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne!
Should old appointments--(wait--no--that's not how it goes. Umm, oh yeah.)
We'll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne!
CHEERS!"

::

*Auld Lang Syne is not French and it does not mean "Friend." Please do not glean your holiday music history from a five year old who still sings "bells on popcorn ring, making spirits bright." Or who for the life of him can't remember old appointments, err, I mean acquaintances. Whatever. Same difference.

**He's adorable, no?

::

You guys, we've got to remember that these days, this season, these will someday be the days gone by, the auld lang syne, the old long since. Let's make them the best kind of unforgettable.

And here's the hand, my trusty friend
And gives a hand of thine
We'll take a cup of kindness yet
For Auld Lang Syne.

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Family Time

Five heavy breathers.

One still asleep. (He is trained to sleep through anything except the slightest sound of danger or the pager. It's a survival skill.)

One tail-wagging awake and annoying the rest of us.

And the other three. My boy, my girl and me. All laboring winter through our noses. One cuddling, one kick-testing boundaries, one shushing.

The wind murmurs and lashes out. It feels personal. But with a rattle and a shudder, the window takes the blows intended for us, and we are spared.

I'm trapped. And I mean literally. Pillows and blankets from neighboring rooms construct the walls. Warm snotty-nosed bodies anchor me on either side. And I don't care as much about freedom (to sleep in, for once) as I used to. I'm okay with being boxed in and stepped on (ouch! that was my shin! please lay down!). I'm okay with being forced out of bed before my time. Because....

"I need tissue!"
"I'm ready for break'ast."
"I need ta go potty."

"Okay," I say. And the dog jumps for joy and shakes her booty all the way to the door.

"I feed her, p'ease?"

"Okay," I say. And the girl gets the kibble and grins through the pouring.

"Can I pour my own orange juice?"

"Okay," I say. And the boy gets the juice and grins through the pouring.

"What are we going to do today?" they ask, before coffee, before I have plan A or B or really, any coherent thought.

:::

It's 7 a.m. Breakfast is over. We have colored and cut and glued Mary & Joseph onto a blue paper frame.

"Hey, we don't cut the glue, Honey." I say.

"I not!" she denies.

"I'm done. Now what can I do?" he asks.

"You can wipe your nose." I cough and grab a tissue. Make that two tissues.

We are sick enough to hide out at home, but not sick enough to sleep.
We are well enough to build block towers, but not well enough to build a snow fort.

"Come on, Mom. You do the train tracks. I'll do the parking garage."
"Okay," I say.

I feel the minutes rolling one upon the other, like snowflakes to a snowman. We pile and gather and pack it all down.

And later I step back. And I smile at the lopsided hours we've fashioned into the shape of family.

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The Polar Express

Y'all, last night it was FREEZING at the North Pole. And also in New Hampshire. And who are we kidding? Maine wasn't much warmer.

As Caed said in between chattering, "I bet it's not even ZEE-ROH degrees here!"

So just to keep in mind, if you want your Polar Express trip to feel realistic, New Hampshire is the place to do it. Wicked cold, my friends.

And you guys, we had a BLAST. Both in the arctic sense and the fun sense. You can't really tell from the pictures, though. You'll just have to trust me.
Our wonderful neighbors and friends scored Polar Express tickets (via lottery) and invited us to come along. We owe them big time.
And would you like to see the look on Dani's face when she first saw Santa?
She looks a bit wary, but no sooner did he walk past than she turned to me and grinned, "Mama, Dat was Santa. He's heeeere. I saw him!"
And the above picture is of Dani giving Daddy the boot. Hiiiyah!

On the return trip, we joined in a sing along with a train engineer/Sinatra wannabe who liked to add his own little cadence to the Christmas songs. Dani jingle jangled her sleigh bell for a solid ten minutes, and Larry very enthusiastically sang about figgy pudding. It was a jolly good time.

Both kids fell fast asleep on the drive home, ruddy cheeked and snotty-nosed, clutching their treasured sleigh bells that only those who believe can hear.

If I was one of those sappy mommy bloggers, I would end by saying "It was magical."
Oh right. I am one of those sappy mommy bloggers. Yeah, well it WAS magical, okay?

FREEZING. But magical.

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It's Not Always About My Kids (And other lies I tell myself)

You were warned.

You wanna know how bad it is? Well, just watch how I turn a You Capture prompt of "Holiday Decorations" into a You Blubber post about my daughter turning three. Go ahead and stage an intervention. It is TOO LATE. By the time you get here, she'll have already turned three, and I will be a hormonal heap on the floor. Hopefully I'll be able to pick myself up in time for Christmas.

Which leads me to decorations...
Here is the first and only non-Sheridan-related shot I took. It is essentially an up close look a semi-natural, fake-pine-coneish, bling-infested bird's nest in the shape of a Christmas tree. It came all the way from China to adorn my kitchen table. (Thank you Target and your rockin' after Christmas sale).

And then, what's this? A shot of the Christmas tree! And whose beautiful face should appear but, look...can it be?...why yes it is! It's the lovely almost-three-year old Sheridan, back when she was (sniff sniff) not quite a year old. Sigh.
And would you look at that? A red stocking. Right next to (yep you guessed it) my darling Dani girl. Can you believe she's turning three already? What is UP with that?

And I would be remiss if I failed to include a glimpse of the train that circles the Christmas tree. It's one of our favorite traditions to pull this out and take turns pressing the buttons to make it chug-a-chug around the tree. Oops. Apparently there is not even a glimpse of the train in this one. Just of my sweet daughter watching the train. I guess that means I'm remiss.

Oh well. Who cares about a silly old train? Christmas is about the children, people. MY children. And even more specifically, my Dani girl.

So if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go curl up in the fetal position, eat the rest of the red-wrappered reeses cups and reminisce about this very day three years ago when I was as a big as a Christmas tree and just hours away from meeting my one and only little girl.

Photobucket

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Don't Go Baking My Heart

When Caed turned five, I perseverated on it with at least a half dozen sappy posts about how I simply couldn't believe my baby was turning five. So the precedent is set. Dani turns three this week, and I feel a week-long sappy tribute welling up in my drafts folder.

::

Navigating the grocery store parking lot this morning, my shopping partner mimicked what she'd heard me say a few minutes earlier. "Oh my goodness gwacious, da pawking lot is so pull! Ebebybody ees comin' here today!"
Oh my goodness gracious, I can't begin to tell you how cute her little voice sounds to me right now.

::

She's a very stubborn, independent, confident, enthusiastic little girl. I am very very afraid of what 14 years old will look like for her (and for me). She flashes a silly grin at me with her three year old dimples, and already I feel her slipping out of my reach. So tonight when she walked by with her baby doll stroller and bid me a faux farewell, I pulled her in by her belly until she plopped into my lap. And I asked her:

"Are you going to grow up and break Mommy's heart?"

"No," she smiled.

"Do you promise?" I pressed.

"No," she squirmed.

"Tell me," I said, "Say, 'I won't ever break Mommy's heart'."

"I mon't b'ake mommy's heart evah."

And off she ran. Already, I can feel my heart baking.

::

Tonight after I tucked her in, sang her sleepy time song, administered hugs and kisses and kerpows and high fives, she asked for more. "Will you cuddle wid me?"

She's never asked that before. A drink of water? Oh yes. To locate her baby doll? A dozen times. But to cuddle? No way. This is the girl who wrestles and thrashes when she's asleep. Staying still in my arms while she's awake? Honestly, she's never wanted anything to do with it.

But tonight was different. She asked to cuddle.

And we did.

And it was a gift.

Shared with the Tuesdays Unwrapped crowd that gathers at Chatting at the Sky every Tuesday to perseverate on the good stuff.

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Inching Along

Last week, my little monkey said "TaDa!" when her last gymnastics class came along.
She took a break from going bananas long enough to pose on the beam.
Once she had collected her lizard green participation ribbon (which is now housed in her 'pecial drawer), off we went to collect big brother at school.

After school, we joined our neighbors for some cookie decorating. Pictured below: Caed diligently decorating and Dani furiously shoveling in her second cookie in a matter of 30 seconds.
This past week Dani also began attending "school" one day a week. She was beyond excited. It took me no less than 15 minutes to get her dressed because she insisted on doing a new special song for me about how much she loved school, one for each article of clothing added. One sock? A NEW special song. Two socks? Another NEW special song. A shirt? Pants? MORE NEW special songs.

Incidentally, all the special songs went as follows:
I loooouuuuuvvvve to go to 'coooooool. I go to 'cooooooll TOOOODAAAAY!! Lalalala I am so happy por my 'coooooolll!

On our way to school that morning, Caed burst out randomly, "Oh Mom, I'm so happy for you!"

"Why, Hon?"

"Well, you know, since Dani is going to be in school today too, you will get to have time to yourself with no kids bothering you. I mean, after you get your work done, you can just take a nap or have some peace or do whatever you want. I think you're gonna like that."

---------

This morning (Monday) starts a new week chock full of a 3 year birthday, a 14 year anniversary and as much holiday scrambling as one can do in between. The kids are perched at their breakfast post, happily chatting and trading crazies. Milk spilled this morning, and I didn't fall into the normal rage that usually appears when gravity trumps dairy.

Now the kids are pretending to go on camping trips, using the mudroom and bathroom as their sleeping areas. It's a little bit gross considering neither have been cleaned within an appropriate time frame, but they are happy campers. And happy overrules gross for the moment.

These are the inches we travel on Mondays that add up to miles over months and years. As my good friend and colleague Louise used to say to me, shaking her watch, "You've got one shot, Joey. Just one December 14, 2009, just one 7 a.m., one chance at it. Whatcha gonna do to make it count?"

I'll tell you what I'm gonna do, Louise. I'm gonna go all in. Because when I wake up and my almost 3 year old is almost 30, and my bathrooms are finally spotless, but without a camper in sight, I'm gonna be glad. I'm gonna be glad that I made these moments mine.

So what's on tap for your week? What are YOU gonna do with your one shot at December 14, 2009?

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I'm Still Learning What Not To Wear

The day was soiled before dawn. It started with the stripping of sheets and polka dotted sleepers. The freeing and feeding the dog. Shushing the shaking collar and singing toddler.

The morning rushed out ahead of me like that darn dog, hurdling over my feet, extending not even the courtesy of a moment to step aside. Sure. Just bound over me and remind me I'm not the alpha.

I am a human doggie door. A shoe courier, the route from the mudroom to the bedroom now an eyes-closed path.

I am a directions dispenser, opening my Pez mouth in the over and over speech. I redress the mattress, scrub the unsanctioned holiday d├ęcor off the walls, and check the urine samples. (Did you really pee in the potty or are you just pretending to get a candy?)

I am anything but alpha.

Continue reading at (in)courage.

**********

I'm excited to contribute to (in)courage with this (slightly modified) post from my archives. So for those faithful readers wondering "didn't she already post this?", you get points for noticing. But I'll double your points if you go read at (in)courage. And triple them if you comment.

Fine print: Points from me are pretty much worthless and cannot be exchanged or redeemed for, well, for anything. Other than maybe a big smiley emoticon or an all caps THANK YOU. :-)

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Hope is Overrated


It bounces into view and disappears in the dip of a sidewalk's smile. A few strides later I catch another glimpse of rolling blue sloppily tracing the sky's edge. My head bobs, feet taking turns at the lead until the path opens up to miles on end of blue against blue.

White interrupts sporadically with caps and clouds only to corroborate the sea's on-and-on story.

I ran three miles knowing an ocean view would be waiting. I've shed three pairs of tread along this path, and I trust the shore is there, even when the horizon tells me otherwise. It keeps me going when my lungs tell me to stop.

Had I been lost and only hoping that the sea might be near, I would have slowed to a walk a mile ago. I might have even turned around.

But I knew where I was, where I was going. I knew it would be there.

They say hope floats, and likely it does.

But if hope floats, then belief swims. Belief urges us forward, toward deep blue truth.

Hope leniently lets us tread in circles. But belief locks on, swims straight, tells us not to fear the point of no return.

I can't help but hope for happiness in this world.
But whatever happens, no matter how awful and out of breath I feel, I believe in the joy of the next.

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A Tale of Two Trees: A Lesson in Spontanaeity

We laughed the whole way home from the tree lot.

We had barely a year of marriage under our belt and one car to our name. She was an '84 Maxima equipped with a talking lady who informed us (repeatedly) when the door was ajar or the light was on. By the time '96 rolled around, she'd long replaced her chipper door status announcer voice with the dying battery demon voice.

"Dooooor eeeessss ajjoooooaaa," talking lady told us as we sputtered home with a Christmas tree in our back seat.

Branches back-stabbed us for calling shot-gun. With needled arms stretched through the sun roof and out both windows, if ever a tree could be embarrassed, this was the time. (Oh no. A totally hip Spruce just drove by in a perfect netting tied to a roof rack, and here I am squished in the back seat of a beater. Just great. I'm never gonna live this down.)

We scooted our seats so far up we could barely sit, let alone drive. Oh, and we couldn't see out the back.
And we couldn't stop laughing.

No twine, no roof rack, no plan of attack. We just showed up, bought the tree, shrugged our shoulders and looked at the bright side. Because what better than pine needles to temporarily displace the gross old car smell?

______________

Now we do things a bit differently. For the last eight years, we've carried on a tradition of cutting down our own tree. We come prepared. We have morphed into the perfect Spruce family.






But the truth is, we aren't the perfect family, Spruce or otherwise. Dani was obstinate and unpleasant yesterday. Caed was hyper and would not (for the love!) stop eating snow. Larry was stressed out and not in the mood to play Christmas lumberjack. And I was in the I'll-force-this-nice-family-memory-if-it's-the-last-thing-I-ever-do! mode.

It wasn't that great. We would have been better off stuffing a pre-cut tree into the backseat and laughing all the way home.

But tonight, unplanned and unforced, tonight was the gift. We spontaneously decorated the tree, wearing the most mismatched jammies you've ever seen. The kids giggled as they hung the picture ornaments.

"That was me when I was Dani's age? I'm not sure about that. I think it looks more like my cousin."

"Oh, dis one's mines! I'm an angel in dat one!"

Tonight, unplanned and unforced, tonight when Mommy and Daddy's eyes met, it wasn't to roll them.

It was to trade knowing smiles, to make sure we were both getting this, soaking it in, calling it the gift that it most certainly was--a sweet, un-manufactured family memory.

Linked to Tuesdays Unwrapped hosted by Emily of Chatting at the Sky, where we hunt for gifts in the everyday mess.

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Home Is Where the Snow Is

It's so good to be home again.

Home, where the snow is real (and therefore edible). Where you can whoosh down the hill without waiting in line. Where the walkways don't move and the unpacked bags can be left unattended as long as you darn well please. (Or at least until you run out of underwear).

We arrived home just in time to enjoy the first true snowfall of the season. It was the most magical moment of our week. And to think....it didn't even require a Fast Pass!
Dani went from window to window describing the scenery. "My p'ayg'ound has snow on it! All the grass has snow on it! The houses have snow on dem! Look! The driveway has snow all da way around!"

Caed took one look and began petitioning to play outside. At 6:30 a.m. Nah, they weren't excited or anything....(Notice the princess dress was already on at sunrise. Sheridan barely opened her eyes before she asked for her "dindralella dress".)

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It Starts with a "D" and Rhymes with Quizz Knee

We returned home today after a week at Disney World. We are all so completely spent. Even Mickey couldn't imagine, nor could Minnie ever dream of how absolutely fried I am. This is my brain. This is my brain on Disney (splat, sizzle, sizzle).

(If Disney is where dreams come true, really, tell me, why didn't I get to sleep in?)

We won the trip from a local business, and though it (blessedly) didn't strain our wallets, we paid for it with every ounce of energy we could muster.

So earlier in the week, when I bellyached about how I couldn't process and write about all the memorable moments, that was me letting myself off the hook for not having the gumption (or time or computer access) to do a big in-depth Disney recap. Or a big Thanksgiving-with-my-whole-family recap. There was just too much material, every hour of every day for ten days straight.

So I didn't record any of it. And I'm totally okay with that.

Because I'm quite certain I'm not going to forget how a dozen times an hour I zoomed in with my gaze, caught their gleaming eyes, and returned their unstoppable smiles. The kids loved their Disney experience. And I loved seeing them love it.

And the looks on their faces? Photos or not, they were unforgettable.

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I've Misplaced My Copious Mental Notes (Again!)

I have a little problem. (Just one, you ask?) Well, just one that I'm going to tell you about.

I want very much to be in the moment. (You know, be all there, just this one life, yadda, yadda, yadda).

I also want very much to remember the moments. To say what they mean in my own words. To paraphrase my life. And I really like to do that here. But that takes time and a computer and an internet connection. Three things to which I have very little access lately.

So what do I do? I take copious mental notes and then misplace them.

If it weren't for the pictures I took, I might have forgotten how Dani reached up to pat her cousin James' head, how he put his arm around her and laughed at her silly faces.

I would have forgotten the sound of my brother's voice taking his son and mine from hyper to sleepy with a bedtime book that went on forever. How he looked at me and quipped, "No page passes without commentary."

I would have forgotten how Dani held hands with Emily in every waking hour, calling her "Darling", kissing her cheek and saying, "Come on, Daughter, time to go to da doc'or!" And how Emily sweetly played the part of the baby even though she was many years Sheridan's senior.

I'm thankful to at least have the pictures, but I still don't know what to do. How do you live a life this full? How do you find time to give thanks, be still, build relationships, carry on traditions, and still have time to notice and write and remember?

And that's not a rhetorical question. I really want to know. Any ideas?

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Little Scouts

When your only neighbors are the deer and the evergreens of the Forest Preserve, it's only natural that a boy and his father should go exploring. Just like Indian scouts.

On Thanksgiving day, these two scouts paddled out in search of adventure. Though Dad was all for getting into character, he opted to sit instead of stand. Good call, Dad.

Some of the other tribe members tested the waters as well.
And came back to report that the waters were quite hospitable (so long as you didn't get splashed). Brrr.

Caed's imagination latched on to the Indian scout idea, and he stayed in character in nearly every outdoor moment. So the next day, when Dani tagged along with Daddy and Caed for a walk in the snowy woods, she was severely admonished by her big brother for her excessive chattiness.

"Dani, you have to be quiet! We're Indian scouts, and we have to sneak around and be super quiet!"

"But I can't be quiet, Caed!" She explained.

(Such profound truth from such a wee little Indian.)

Finally, after a long (not quiet) walk in the woods, Caed and Daddy brought Little Loud Mouth back to base camp to scout out some Hot Cocoa.

A perfect ending to any adventure.

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