Our First Christmas

1 01 2019

One of the super fun parts of having a baby is getting to see everything in a new light. The little tot is experiencing the world for the very first time, and we get to witness that. For the first couple weeks especially, one of us could be heard exclaiming, “Aw, it’s his first time ________________!”

Some of these things were memorable enough to land in his baby book, like his first outfit, his first bath, his first (intentional) smile, his first hike.

baby's first bath

First time in the tub – not sure about all this splish-splash business…

baby visiting Natural Bridges, Gifford Pinchot

First family photo while on our first walk in the woods!

baby's first hike to Falls Creek Falls, WA

Snuggling with Auntie Em on his first hike to overlook his first waterfall! It was a big day.

Some were not so note-worthy, though at the time, equally exciting. His first diaper blowout, his first solid 6 hours of sleep, his first trip to the grocery store, his first selfie, his first time spitting up down the front of Momma’s shirt…twice in a row.

baby sleeping at Mexican restaurant

First time to Momma’s favorite Mexican restaurant…only 5 days old! Momma was hungry…

baby's selfie with mom

First selfie with Momma – obviously not impressed…

stroller ride on the waterfront, Hood River OR

First stroller cruise on the waterfront in Hood River – slept through the whole thing.

Just as everything is brand new for him, the whole parenting thing is brand new for J and I. We often look at each other with matching “what now??” expressions on our faces, usually followed by a Google search of whatever just happened. But so far, we have successfully kept everyone alive and even feel like we’re starting to get the hang of it. (Well, most days, anyway…)

That said, I was not prepared for the delight that was Baby’s First Christmas. We did just fine at Baby’s First Halloween – he wore a pumpkin onesie and hat to his doctor’s appointment! Baby’s First Thanksgiving was wonderful with the visit of Auntie Em and all our favorite holiday foods. But nothing spectacular or earth-shattering made these holidays any more exciting than they ever were, so I assumed we would glide right past Christmas with the same ease and normalcy. Oh how wrong I was.

baby pumpkin costume

I’m sorry I didn’t get you a lion tamer costume complete with a real lion – but you make a super cute pumpkin!

siblings together for Thanksgiving, Bingen WA

Yay for stretchy pants on Thanksgiving!! Little Z’s just mad he can’t eat any of it.

Something about the magic of Christmas for our little family just caught me by surprise. It didn’t happen during our hunt for a Christmas tree (“He hates the snow hitting his face!! HURRY!!”)…

Christmas tree hunt, Trout Lake WA

What is this cold wet stuff hitting me in the face?! Make it stop!!!!

It didn’t happen during the Christmas parade or our quick visit with Santa (“Whoa, not impressed, hurry before he screams!”)…

baby's first Santa, Hood River OR

Really guys? I just want some milk and a nap.

It didn’t even happen when we attempted to make Christmas cookies (“Just smear some icing on and eat it, I gotta feed the baby!”) or at the several Christmas parties we attended (“Who wants to hold the little elf?!”)………

baby in Christmas lights

Ho Ho Ho, let’s party!

I don’t know what changed, but tears filled my eyes as we snuggled together Christmas Eve in front of the stove in our matching jammies. Just the four of us, with some hot cocoa and Bing Crosby, everything seemed utterly perfect.

family matching Christmas pajamas

Yes, Grammy even sent pj’s for Simba. ❤

baby and his dog, best friends

Brothers and best friends.

Even though Z isn’t old enough to be all excited (or even really know what’s going on), our lives have changed so drastically since his arrival. We’re wearing matching pajamas, for one thing. Packages kept arriving full of baby items from the grandparents. The focus has shifted and J and I had several conversations regarding the traditions we want to start/keep/ditch for our own little family. And Z was just so enamored with the Christmas lights!

baby and Christmas lights


Christmas morning was relaxed and quiet, with a few small gifts exchanged and stockings emptied. The magic from the night before seemed to have dissipated a bit in the morning sunlight. Maybe I was still a bit hormonal, or maybe there really was a little magic in the air. Whatever it was, I hope it comes back every year.

And now we head off into 2019 with a whole lineup of adventures in store. First up: figuring out how to function as a human and return to work with a baby who can’t sleep through the night yet!

Here’s hoping for another wonderful year! ❤

Spectacular Seville

31 12 2015

The high-speed train from Madrid to Seville was AWESOME. America is totally behind the times in terms of transportation. We flew through the countryside at about 186 mph in comfortable cars that definitely beat any economy airplane seat.

I felt so sofisticated tucked into my little seat between J and the window. I had grand plans of writing away the 3 hours to Seville, letting my imagination run wild through the Spanish countryside out my window, merrily making friends with the English family sitting in front of us….

Unfortunately, I was sound asleep before the train fully left Madrid. The change in time zones and schedules and my cold that was clinging on made sleep elude me the night before. The gentle sway of the train took care of that in a jiffy.

The train stations are super easy to navigate and we were in a nice Prius taxi zooming off to our next AirB&B in no time. I needed no more convincing that Spain is a lovely country, but Seville threw in its two cents anyway, adding more and more to my list of things to adore, just from  the cab window! After a bit of a scare when our taxi had a bump-in with a scooter, we settled into our new apartment and dashed out the door.

It was Christmas Eve, after all, and places had different operating hours than normal. And we had things to do! Well, specifically, I had a castle to conquer: Real Alcazar.

The first section was a castle built in the 900s by the Moors. Christians took over at some point and various royals added their own touches. Extensive gardens go on and on and various patios, niches, and hidey holes took a while to explore. The intricate tile patterns made me dizzy but I loved the baths underneath and the patios around every corner. We spent a considerable amount of time here and even bought some postcards!

Alcazar, Sevilla Spain

I now declare this Castillo de Kalista!

Seville was once one of the most major cities of the area. Isabella and Ferdinand met with Columbus here, after his second voyage, at Alcazar! Trade with the new world was regulated exclusively through Seville’s ports! There’s a piece of a Roman aqueduct still standing in the city!! So many things.

We spent a lot of time wandering the beautiful streets, admiring the architecture and the Christmas decorations and the interesting people. We found another mercado that had stalls of tapas and wine and enjoyed some more incredible food. I love these places, with ham hocks hanging from the ceiling and happy folks congregating around the groups of tables. Such a warm ambiance.

Christmas morning came and went…we slept right through it! We knew everything would be closed anyway so we didn’t bother to wander outside til evening. Back down to the old plaza by the castle, we slowly circled the grand cathedral, soaking in the expansive wonders. It’s the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe and ridiculously intricate and ornate on the outside. We knew it was closed today so we were just admiring the outside…

Then I saw a line of people going in a side door! Hoping for maybe a quick walk around this side chapel or a glimpse into the big chapel, we slipped through the door…and accidentally joined Mass. The priest said the opening prayers as J and I quickly stood in front of a pew as though we belonged. We took a minute to gape at the incredible alter and stained glass and paintings – and this was just a side chapel!! – before sneaking back out the door to the street. Oops.

I wanted to see inside the main part, especially the tomb of Christopher Columbus, but we didn’t manage to make it happen. I so wanted a picture to show my 5th graders – they’re studying the explorers right now!


We did some more exploring of the city, passing some more grand buildings and fountains and statues. The sun set over the river in a blaze of color as we strolled down the main avenue, trying to guess what was on the other side of the wall we walked next to. Flowers draped over the edge and every once in a while, a domed tower or spired rooftop would poke into view. We passed a stadium used for the great bull fights (a Plaza de Toros), and a fancy building with a concert on the steps. We entered a huge park, quiet and empty in the dark, save for a few runners.

Then BAM! A building such as I had never seen stretched before my eyes. A tower at each end and an enormous fountain in the front, I was immediately convinced I had found the royal palace. I don’t even have the words to tell you of the intricate details that made this place so stunning – I just stared and stared. A little water canal ran the length of it, with pretty bridges crossing to the building. Balconies and columns and mosaic tilework…. Straight out of a fairytale. We found a staircase to climb up to a second story balcony and I was absolutely in heaven. Whatever this majestic place is, I was ready to move in!!!

We finally ventured back towards our apartment, my head full of dreamy stories. We tucked through back alleys and tiny streets, hoping to come across the secret local flamenco club, but they weren’t having a show that night. Ah well, we had to get up early the next morning.

And up early we were, to try one last time for the cathedral. A no-go yet again, we settled for mini ham sandwiches and a cab ride to the train station, we braced ourselves for the next leg of the trip: we rented a car for a road trip to Ronda!!! I was sad to leave this beautiful city and all its history. I hope we meet again, Sweet Sevilla! Hasta luego!

*Stayed tuned for the next exciting chapter!

Happy Christmas and Merry New Year!

28 12 2014

Another year is almost completely gone! Where did it go? Why do I ask the same question every year? (Insanity is sounding more and more familiar….)

Through the years, Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Even when I worked in retail and saw the worst side of humanity. (Grown women throwing blows for a cheap laptop? C’mon people.) The festivity of December just excites me, and fills me with wonder and joy and all the other emotions Hallmark writes about. The lights! and the carols! and the cheer!

cutting our own christmas tree

We chopped our own little bitty tree to fit in our little bitty living room!

This year, we kept it quiet. We learned our lesson trying to travel at the holidays (or in the winter in general…) and just stay home. My heart aches at being so far from my family this time of year, but I’m blaming my extra sadness on the lack of vitamin D. We’ve seriously had maybe two full days of sunshine for MONTHS – I’m so sick of the rain!

We also didn’t get a white Christmas, which was just one more thing for me to be sad about. But as I snuggled with my boys during my full 5 days off work, all I could feel was a heart overflowing with gratitude for the abundance I have to be happy about.

Looking around our tiny little house, the colorful lights reflected off the windows and silver garland, our two-foot Charlie Brown tree shone in the corner, three bulging stockings hung from the shelf, and I was snuggled up between my sweet J and my snoring pup. Our bellies were all full, we were all warm and safe, and the three of us were together. Our own little family.

Christmas on the Columbia, Hood River OR

My boss sent a company-wide email Tuesday afternoon announcing that he was giving all of us Friday off as a paid holiday, giving the whole company 5 days of uninterrupted holiday. J and I went for long walks, took the dog hiking up in the mountains, cooked a Christmas feast together, unwrapped our gifts, and spent hours playing our new board game and helping Simba break in his new toy. It was a wonderful time for us to catch up on “us”, spending quality time with no obligation to rush off somewhere, or get something done.

Christmas tree decorations of love

And that’s all I really wanted for Christmas. To spend time with those I love, re-energize after the “holiday scramble”, and take the time to acknowledge this wonderful life we live.

I sincerely hope yall had a wonderful holiday, whichever one you celebrate. I’d give every one of you a hug if I could, so hug yourself for me. And may 2015 bring all sorts of wonderful things your way!


we wish you a Merry Christmas

Holiday Time Travel

23 12 2013

Geeeeez the end of the year gets so CRAY-ZEE!! I’ve been dying to get a post up, but finding the time is a different matter all together.

Why? Because I’m pretty sure there was a big bend in the time-space continuum right after Thanksgiving. We were just minding our own business, driving home from our fabulous Denver trip, and *WHAM*! Suddenly it’s the night before Christmas Eve. What the what?

Let me just veer off track for a moment to tell you how much I adore the Christmas season. The twinkly lights, the decorations, the carols, the shiny wrapping paper, the stockings hung with care, the perfect union of peppermint and chocolate, the Santa hat I repeatedly fail to get the dog to wear – all of it. I.love.all.of.it.

So the build up to the next few days actually excites me – to the point of jittery agitation where J won’t even let me have my morning coffee. But I look back and still wonder: where has the time gone?! How did we get here ALREADY?!

So much bold font to my thoughts! To clear things up and make me feel better, we’re going to go over a quick run-down of the latest adventures of KSnapped and Company, since Thanksgiving.

1. Cold Coastal Magic

I could have written multiple posts on the incredible weekend we spent with 22 other amazing folks in a gigantic vacation house on the Oregon coast. This is a truly magical place – and even more so in the blustery cold of winter, in my opinion. J and I took an incredible sunrise walk along the sand, crusty with ice and snow (!), picking up starfish. We spent the days exploring the coastal towns and the natural wonders of the beach, and the nights in rowdy games and family movie nights. Meals were shared, friendships strengthened, memories made in abundance. I wish we could do a trip like that much more often!

winter on the Oregon Coast, Manzanita OR

Winter at the coast – pretty perfect, if you ask me! (Don’t ask the starfish, he’s dead.)

2. Company Christmas Party

This may not seem exciting to you, but then you probably don’t work for the same company I do. It’s the event of the year for us – this year, it was an unforgettable gala to rival all past years! After being home two measly days, Simba and I hit the road once more, bound for Bend. J came up a few days later, just in time for the party. This year’s theme was “Mad Men” – and my coworkers proved once more why they’re the coolest cats I know. The ladies really out did themselves; the hair! the dresses! the hair again! And so many dapper gentleman appeared out of the woodwork! The ’60’s was alive again that evening, and I absolutely can’t wait to see the shots from the professional photographer roaming the Great Hall all night.

Mad Men themed Christmas party, Bend OR

Ignore the blur and blinding flash – doesn’t J clean up well?!

60's Mad Men themed Christmas Party

The fabulous Nikki and I, chatting about doing dishes in our pearls. And heels.

3. Christmas Prep Time

Finally home, we relished the time to unpack and unwind and settle in for a while. Also, time to get the house looking like Christmas!

First things first: a TREE! We took off into the forest and didn’t have to go far – the cutting done around here leaves some lovely open spots, perfect for a full, well-rounded fir to grow. And be chopped down.

Christmas tree hunting, Mt Adams Gifford Pinchot NF

I thought this one looked pretty good! (J said no.)

Christmas tree hunting, Mt Adams WA

And J thought this was enough. (I said no.)

Then we had craft night in the living room making ornaments. I’m still trying to get the glitter and glue and teensy bits of construction paper out of the rug. But our beautiful hand-made creations are now hanging from the most perfect tree that ever came from the Wild Forest. The strand of lights isn’t quite long enough, the Santa hat on top looks like it had too much spiked egg nog, and there’s a whole section with no ornaments at all, but it’s the best tree in the world.

Christmas tree with diy decorations and stockions hung on the windowsill

I could sit and stare at this all night!

4. All the Other Stuff

And then there’s all the other stuff that’s been happening. We’ve hit the mountain several times to shred the pow. Except there wasn’t any. Mt Hood hasn’t had any new snow in weeks. But they’ve had freezing rain! Don’t ski on that mess, trust me – it’s terrible.

The Christmas shopping was pretty much finished up before Christmas this year – a rarity around these parts. We’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s too difficult to travel this time of year to the far reaches of our parents’ houses, so we just ship the presents. And they’re never there to open on Christmas morning. But this year, they make an impressive pile at the base of my beautiful tree!

There was a Christmas party at the Trout Lake Inn that we just had to attend. My sister and I donned our fancy party frocks and J was so impressed, he danced with me. But all the fun of Saturday night couldn’t stand up to the massive disappointment of the Seahawk loss on Sunday. To the Cardinals!! Just ridiculous. Still, bonding with the other Hawk fans at the sports bar was entertaining, to say the least.

Last and littlest, but far from least, my just-about-to-be newest sister turned two. The adoption is not quite all the way official, but she’s been ours for a long time. I had to settle for a Skype date to sing to her, but she showed me how much better her new legwarmers look when worn on her arms instead of legs. She’s such a little ball of fire, and I can’t wait until the courts catch up and say, Yes, ok fine, she’s now your legal sister. Stayed tuned for a post or two all about that!!

And now the day before the day before Christmas is over, but I feel much better acknowledging that I didn’t actually miss all the time between holidays. So much happened! So much fun was had! So much good stuff to take pictures of!

The next two days are guaranteed to be just splendid. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday, whichever one you may (or may not) be celebrating. Any new traditions made? Any old ones broken? Anyone have a ridiculously funny story to share?!

Best wishes, happy holidays, Merry Christmas!!


Where are all the elephants?

16 12 2012

Every year a friend of ours throws a white elephant Christmas party. Being a good friend, we would go regardless, just for the visit, but we’ve come to learn that the party never fails to disappoint, either.

Have you ever been to a white elephant? They can be hit or miss.  The key: the participants. White elephant parties are all about the gifts…and about the stealing. People have to be willing to get into it. And they can’t be big cry babies when they unwrap just what they’ve always wanted and the next person pounces over the couch, through a pile of children and under the coffee table to snatch it out of their shocked hands.

We had thirty something guests, making for quite a wild time. Booze was flowing, people were laughing, anticipation was building. J and I, unfortunately, held up the whole process since we were the last to arrive, so the party jumped into action as soon as our coats were off. Gather ’round, folks, its GO TIME.

The first 14 people picked new presents. What the hell were they thinking??? Being number 15, I changed the game and stole a girl’s hot pink ’80s ski bibs. Take that!! She stole someone else’s skateboarding lawn gnome, and game faces began appearing across the crowd. Before long, key items were being stolen, snatched, re-stolen, passed back and forth, won and lost. Unbridled joy and disgusted contempt passed across the same faces in the matter of moments as they would win back the super soaker only to have it taken again.

The much-coveted item last year was a gigantic Hannah Montana pinata that didn’t survive 10 min after the present exchange was over. (It was not only beat to pieces for the crappy candy inside, but also stomped, kicked, broken and lit on fire.)

Hanna Montana pinata

It didn’t burn well. And the candy was gross. But EVERYONE wanted this bad boy!!

This year, the gifts somehow got even better!! Several changed hands more times than a blonde in a frat house, including my neon ski pants. Also popular were several gnomes, a dart board shot game, the super-soaker, a clapper (J was SUPPOSED TO STEAL IT BACK), and a lovely lavender Snuggie with peace signs all over it. Surprisingly, the alcohol was not a big hit. After getting the shot darts stolen from me, I unwrapped the best gift EVAH – a betta fish! He even came with food!! I immediately named him Julius Caesar and started thinking of containers I could put him in so he could sit next to Spartacus on the table at home.

My pirate-hooker lovely friend Kristen stole him away. I didn’t even get the chance to steal him back. She tried to remember his name, but by night’s end, he was christened Julius Cornelius Bob Ceasar. Bob for short. What did I end up with? The last unwrapped gift, which is ALWAYS a terrible idea. But the same people kept going in circles stealing back all the same things, so I took the chance. And ended up with two pairs of underwear. At least they were women’s underwear. We also ended up with an extra gift, so the kind host threw in the $10 Starbucks giftcard with my fancy new polka-dot drawers.

As we sipped vodka drinks and ate buckets of jalepeno artichoke dip and stuck everything edible we could find into the chocolate fountain (cheetos dipped in chocolate is not tasty, fyi), we held highly educated discussions with our highly sophisticated friends. Such conversations included the merits of used clothing from Goodwill, which turned into a discussion about my sweet friend’s ginorous Christmas sweater vest and whether or not it was made for one or two people, which turned into a very scientific test to see just which it was. I can say without a shadow of doubt that her sweater vest does, in fact, hold one blonde and one brunette at the same time, buttoned up, as long as said participants remain in a bear hug. I’m sure you get the idea of how the rest of the evening progressed.

The party slowly died down to just those of us crashing on our beloved host’s floor. The hostess’s sister and brother-in-law called dibs on the spare bedroom, so J and I took the air mattress. Snuggled up under the quilts, surrounded by great friends (literally – one on the floor next to me, one on the couch at my head, the other on the couch on the other side of the gal on the floor!), my sleepy brain couldn’t leave one fact alone….

Where were all the elephants? That would be the best present of all!


white elephant

This is what I was REALLY hoping to find under the tree!

Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

14 02 2012

Well, actually Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles sing a whole song about it, which will now be stuck in my head for next week or so….

Aren’t you excited you haven’t just opened up yet another post about Valentine’s Day?!  I neither love or hate this holiday – I’m indifferent.  My sweetie-peatie sugar bear is good to me all the time, and an unexpected bouquet of wild flowers or surprise pizza after a rough day of work beats anything given out of a sense of obligation just because its February 14th.

Ok, that rant over, here’s the good news: we finally made it to Texas last week and had a great trip!  Lady Winter cooperated this time and we had no problems whatsoever.  Over the pass, night in Seattle, early flight, landed in DFW by 2pm – wam bam thank you ma’am!

We did some touristy stuff in Ft. Worth to give J a feel for the place – it was his first time.  So we visited the Ft Worth Stockyards and Billy Bobs dancehall.  We ate some awesome Mexican food and drank a ZiegenBoch.  It was fun.

Ft Worth Stockyards, Texas

Historic Texas

Over the next several days, we relaxed and enjoyed just being off work.  My mom and I chatted up a storm (as though we don’t talk at least once a week on the phone).  Thankfully my brother had brought his XBox, so they were happily occupied.

One day we jumped the border into Oklahoma and went to the casino.  I’m sad to say I came out with less than I went in with.  Maybe it was all the free Dr Pepper, but I just turn into a wild child!  The bright lights and exciting sounds of the slot machines lure me in.  Don’t worry, I don’t stay at the same machine if I’ve lost 50 without a win.  I know my limits.  No gambling addiction here!  I finally started winning towards the end, but it wasn’t enough to make up for my initial losing, so I had a net loss of $200.  Oops, forgot the period: $2.00.  So what if I was playing the penny machines?!  Don’t judge me!  And I still got all the free popcorn I could eat, so there.  Losing 50 cents at a time still hurts.

The weather cleared up and we took a little trip out to the ranch.  I’ve been so excited to show J my world – the different landscape, different flora and fauna, different everything.  He’s now been introduced to mesquite trees, briars, red clay, oil wells and a foraging armadillo.  Being true rednecks, we of course brought an arsenal with us, hoping to track down a few wild hogs to shoot.  They’re taking over out there, running off the deer – bad news for our deer lease.  Sadly the only thing anyone shot was the can I killed when Dad showed me his fancy 6-shot revolver.

The second time we went out there, Dad put us to work.  The briars are really trying to take over, which is no bueno when you need grass for cattle.  Briars are basically just a long vine that reminds me of the blackberry brambles we have up here in Washington.  I’ve never gotten close enough to the blackberries for a comparison, but the briars of Texas are covered in these vicious thorns that make them the biggest pain in the rear to clear.  It had rained the night before (gasp! rain?!) so we couldn’t resort to the usual clearing method of setting everything on fire.  My family is a bunch of pyros who will burn anything given the slightest reason.

To keep up the redneck-ness, we went two-stepping the very same night.  We couldn’t go to Texas and not show J a real-life honky-tonk!  Truthfully, I think he was more amazed at the 75-cent drink special than at the dancing. But we had a great time spinning around the dance floor.  I even got him out on the floor for the Cotton-Eyed Joe before my brother or dad could warn him otherwise.

It might be February to the rest of the world, but this trip also happened to be my family Christmas.  My mom even kept the tree up.  So Saturday we opened presents, giggled in our pjs, and cooked a big lunch.  Well, Dad did most of the cooking, watching the ribs out on the grill.  Then the entire family came over to eat, visit, and laugh.  Just wonderful.  The party included both grandparents, aunts, uncles, my cousin and her new baby, and my uncle from Houston whom I haven’t seen in years – a party indeed!  We stuffed our faces with bar-b-que, beans, potato salad, and coleslaw.  The living room chatter lasted well into the afternoon.  I basked in it.  🙂

Before flying out on Sunday, we managed to squeeze in one last visit.  Two of my besties from college drove over to meet us for brunch.  It was a mini reunion full of reminiscing and catching up.  I really miss my ladies.  And J got to meet some of my old pals.

You know, I have a hard time defining “home.”  I mean, I live in Washington.  Sometimes I say I’m from Oregon – that’s the last place I moved from.  My high school years were in Kansas and I did a stint in Colorado.  But there’s something about Texas…something that gets in your blood and pumps through your veins, no matter where you relocate to.  I may never live in Texas again (don’t tell my momma) but I’ll always be a Texan.  Like they say, born and bred.  So even though I came home with a sad face and a lovely case of poison ivy, happy to be back in my mountains with the snow and cold, my heart belongs to Texas.

heart of Texas

Deep in the Heart (decalzone.com)

Wrapping up 2011

29 12 2011

Can you believe 2011 is almost over?  Done-sies, the end, fin, gone, OVER.  Crazy how fast it seemed to fly by….

By the way, Christmas was good!  How was yours?  Were the halls decked with holly, and twas the season jolly?  Better yet, did Santa bring you all that your little heart desired?!  I came pretty close.  J and I made the trek back to Bend, of course.  Ashlee always jokes that I didn’t actually move, I’m just commuting.  I’m starting to believe her.  I’m also beginning to think a pilot’s license and a private jet would be terribly handy…

Anyway, Christmas in Bend was pretty awesome.  We stayed with my sister this time, although she had to work both Saturday and Sunday, which was a bummer.  Ashlee let us hang out at her house as much as we wanted, and we spent a good amount of time with her and her Momma.  Both of them feel like family to me, which really helped ease the pain of not being with my own Momma on Christmas.  So a great big shout-out and thank you, Momma Ellen, Ashlee, and Morgan, for including us and letting us have “family time” with yall.  It’s a big deal to me, even if I’m terrible about expressing it.  And don’t worry, folks!  I am heading down to Texas to see Momma and Daddy for a belated Christmas at the end of January.  “Christmas” to us is a very flexible holiday and hasn’t landed on December 25th in quite some time.  It’s more about the ability to get together, to eat and laugh and talk and eat and drink and eat; to catch up and pass around pictures and hug a lot.  We really don’t even do presents anymore.  I’m heartbroken that Brea won’t be able to go with us this year.  Circumstances have made it pretty impossible for her to be able to afford a plane ticket, which just makes me outrageously angry at everything – the circumstances themselves, myself for not being able to buy the ticket for her, the government for not being able to fix the economy, and Al Gore for obviously causing global warming.  But that’s life, and the world will continue to spin.  It still sucks.

Back to Christmas, I was tickled pink to get to see my best friends and stuff our faces with Nicole’s heavenly homemade cookies while chatting.  J and I got a wild hair and went to the movies on Christmas Eve and saw Sherlock Holmes 2.  (Its pretty good, you should go see it.)  We did presents with Brea that night since she worked Christmas morning (angry face) and took nice long walks in the lovely Bend weather.  A few gifts here and there, lots of laughing, lots of eating and drinking and merry-making.  You know, all the things Christmas should be.  Delightful.

Up next: New Year’s!  I’ll admit, I really like this time of year.  Not the party and ball drop and staying up past my bedtime – I’ve never had much luck with that part.  I’m more partial to the introspective part, looking back over another year gone, looking ahead to new adventures, new plans, new anything!  I love the fresh feeling of waking up January 1st, the feeling that a new slate is before me, ready to be filled.  Of course, I’m fully prepared with countless pieces of scrap paper and sticky-notes proudly listing goals, projects, ideas, places, sketches, dreams and plans.  I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  I can’t get into the tradition.  Resolutions are too confining for me.  To me, a resolution is something you want to change – lose weight, spend more time with the family, stop picking your nose – and that has negative connotations to my brain.  I don’t want to resolve to do anything.  I just want to plan and dream of all that I could do.  Besides, lets me honest, who ever actually follows through with their resolution?  I much prefer my to-do lists.

Looking back is entertaining, as well.  Look at all we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished!  Due to my unnatural obsession with lists, I like to bust out a blank page and jot things down – new friends I’ve made, new places I’ve seen, new skills I’ve learned, new schemes I’ve hatched.  I’ll even throw in things like projects I never finished, people I’ve lost touch with, items that never received their scratch-through on the to-do list.  I get a real sense of relief by doing this, by reminding myself that I’m not a wart on the face of the planet, stagnant and ugly.  No, I’m living as I want to, most of the time, taking a stab at all this journey has to offer.  And even when I don’t do all the things I want, or forgot to finish something, or never gathered the courage to tackle that belly-dancing class, I can still see that I am moving, pulsating with life, challenging myself to push my own limits.

And that makes me feel good and alive and excited!  I can’t wait for another year to forge ahead, see what experiences I can rack up for next year’s lists.  How utterly awesome to have so much before us, the choices and decisions and unexpected! I can hardly wait to get started!

Oh, and we’re going up into Canada to Silver Star Ski Resort for a little mountain action to ring in all this excitement.  My new snowboard is at the shop right now, getting a nice wax job.  (Not me, just my board.)  Don’t worry, as much as I hate it, I did buy a helmet for this year and plan to at least take my wrist brace with me.  I’ll try real hard to keep all bones intact and other injuries at bay.  Cross your fingers for me….

What’s your favorite thing about the holidays?  Do you make new year’s resolutions – what’s yours for this year?  And do you have any plans for the big transition to 2012??  (I really do want to know!)

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