Thursday, March 28, 2024

December Kickoff

Traditions are built and refined over time. While the core might remain strong through the years, the details that make it interesting are dynamic and change to fit the needs of an ever changing family. It has taken me many years to see this, but the best traditions embrace this flexibility, and if the core remains strong, the tradition feels the same.

Our annual Christmas kickoff night spread beautiful branches of detail all over the core tradition this year. We began the evening by talking about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and we wondered what her life must have been like. We read every scripture we could find about her and pulled all the lessons from those words and vowed to try to emulate some of her characteristics as we moved through our own December.  

We talked about the way she must have carefully wrapped her little baby in those swaddling clothes - her first child, did she even know how? - and how it must have been an act done with so much love and wonder. I told the kids as much as I could about how a mother's heart feels about her babies, what it was like for me to wrap each of them in their first clothes. And then I gave them all their new Christmas pajamas - swaddling clothes - that they could wrap themselves in all season long to think about Mary and Jesus and feel how much I love them.

We wondered about how much Mary knew about Jesus's life. She knew the prophecies, of course, and she knew what the angel had told her, but there must have been so many surprises. I told the kids about how beautiful it is as a mother to watch your children grow and become, but even though you have a front-row seat to it all, you are not on the stage with them. They are in control of their own lives, they get to craft their own stories and bring about the results of their own lives; a mother gets to watch.

I then pulled out each of their new ornaments for the year (things I've been able to watch happen in their lives) and took a minute with each one to tell them how proud I am of them.

We felt McKenzie's absence keenly, but that didn't stop us from taking a moment to 'give her her ornament' and talk about how much we love her.

Carson got a tennis racket to represent his hard work and success on the tennis courts this year.
Miles got a chest cavity to represent the mature and delightful way he has handled his pectus carinatum and treatment this year.
Timothy got a circular ornament with three painted peppers, all singing, to represent 1) his incredible sense of humor, and 2) the vocal solos he has received throughout the year at the hand of his choir teacher who absolutely adores him.
And Eliza got a piano to represent her launch into learning how to make that particular instrument sing.

After we put them all on the tree, we sat around the table and ate heart-shaped desserts and drank hot cocoa.

When our bodies were filled with sugar, we opened up the boxes of previous years' ornaments and took our time to read the little note on each one. When the hot dog ornament came out, we remembered the year that Carson ate everything in sight and earned the nickname 'Garborator.' When the sandcastle came out we could see 4-year-old Miles digging in the sand day after day after month after month on the beaches of Miami with a big blue shovel as tall as himself. We remembered the year McKenzie was the scarecrow in Wizard of Oz, and how she was just so dang HAPPY her whole freshman year at BYU, we remembered the time Timothy made a music video about toilet paper during the quarantine, and we sang Let it Go with ornament Elsa and pictured 3-year-old Eliza in her Elsa dress day. after day. after day.

This tree will never make any fashion blogs or catch the eye of someone passing by. But it doesn't have to. It catches my heart every time I look at it. An ornament for every year of every child's life (almost, I didn't actually start this tradition solidly until Kenzie was five... but close enough), and it is everything to me. 

And then at the top, we put an angel holding a circle... an angel that watches over all the years of our lives together and reminds us that families are eternal.

I really do feel lucky, blessed, and proud to call that man and those kids (and this dog) mine.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Thanksgiving boating

The Saturday after Thanksgiving we went boating.

Most of us, anyway. 

Miles had a basketball tournament, so he, Cami, Eliza, and I went to that instead... but the rest of everyone went boating.

Merrill had purchased a new dry suit for an upcoming rafting trip that would take him down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon through the middle of December 🥶, and wanted to try it out. 

It worked great and he was kind enough to let anyone else try it out, too.

Of course, not everyone could fit into it, but that didn't stop Timothy from putting on his own wet suit and joining the party.

It sounds like it was a fun afternoon with Brian at the wheel.

Cami and I had a good time together with Eliza at Miles's basketball tournament, and then came home and took an evening/night hike up to the top of black mountain.

The Birdnos are fun friends who love to adventure, so it's always fun to have them around. 💙