loss, faith, & celebration.

i’m a new year’s girl; there’s no disputing it. it’s not about resolutions (which i love) or being over christmas (impossible), or even the countdown to my impending birthday (christmas + the new year + my birthday = a trifecta of goodness). it’s the fresh canvas…the newness…the hope of what’s to come.

last year was the first year in a long time that the new year came & went, and i didn’t pay it much attention. ditto for my birthday. i actually kind of dreaded both of them; my heart just wasn’t ready to celebrate. when i am most honest, when i looked out to the 2014 that was ahead of us, i was anxious, scared, & desperately wanted to wish it away.

you see, just one week before christmas the year before (2013), we had an appointment that confirmed that the abdominal surgeries i have had in my life have done permanent damage that would not allow us to get pregnant. we were told that IVF would be our only option for trying to have a baby and that there would be a number of things that would need to fall into place in order for that to even be a possibility.

for a girl who had spent most of her childhood boasting that she was going to have 14 kids and most of her adult life thinking there was good reason to scale back just a little but still dreamt of a big family, the news was devastating.

to put it simply, 2014 was not my best year. it started out tough (lots of tears on new year’s day & we went to an IVF info session on my birthday), and it felt pretty awful more often than i’d like to admit. however, for all the hard stuff it brought, 2014 was undeniably a really important year. (do not be fooled – there were no rainbows & sunshine. remember the new year’s & birthday dreading?) in my heart, i knew it would be a long year.

early on i remember admitting that i had a deep sense that it would be a year of mountain-top-highs and deep-valley-lows. that could not have been more true. there was sadness, loss, heartache, and grieving that i still can’t quite put to words, yet there was sweetness, too. it was a year marked throughout with wonderful celebrations of my husband – things he worked incredibly hard for, and celebrating him was wonderful, with our first wedding anniversary, with deepened relationships that brought healing, and with words spoken over me & us by people that have been relentless & intentional about sticking right by our sides through everything.

the Lord is tender like that. He knows about the heartache & loss & sadness, and He carries us through. He gives us strength in ways we never though possible. He brings beauty from ashes.

although i closed the door on 2014 with a bit more gusto than other years and am deeply thankful for a new year, 2014 was – and still is – a formative year for me. in the way that only challenges & grieving do, i was faced with questions, fears, and decisions that helped me dig deeper into my faith, priorities, and dreams. i was invited to sit in hard places with people that love me & know me – people that reminded me i wasn’t alone, encouraged me, and supported me. we have a little tribe of people that continue to pray us through doctor’s appointments, procedures, and decisions…offer to come to doctor’s appointments…and text, call, send cards, and shower us with love – in person & across state lines. through it all, i can honestly look back on 2014 with a thankful heart – holding all of the joys & all of the sorrows – knowing that i & we could not be in this place today without what we came through. i know a greater depth of the strength the Lord through me, i know His character more intimately, our marriage is stronger, and our faith in the Lord’s provision, nearness, and grace is even stronger.

to bring things full circle, 10 days before this past christmas (2014), after a year of appointments, waiting, procedures, and more waiting, we got the news we had been hoping & praying for – one of the biggest pieces in our journey to IVF fell into place. with hopeful anticipation, we scheduled our last two appointments for January 2nd, and got ready to celebrate 2015. this year, i was ready to celebrate again. not because we got good news (although that was certainly a big part of it) but because we had come so far.

and celebrate we did. we even managed an extra fun celebration a few days before my birthday when we officially got our IVF protocol & found out that we could start our first cycle of IVF the next week! i think we both floated out of the doctor’s office that day! then my husband planned the sweetest birthday for me, and we got to sit and revel in the glory & grace of it all.

i wouldn’t have ever willingly chosen the path that we have been on for the past year, but i know that i know that i know that God is with us in it. i know that our babies are being fought for with every shred of our beings & that one day we will tell them the story of how we longed for them & loved them well before we ever knew them.

this isn’t easy to share, but i genuinely believe that each our stories matter. over this past year, it’s been the voices of women & my incredible spiritual dad (who walked this road with his daughter, Nicole) who have been down this awful infertility road that have brought me comfort, relief, and encouragement – blogs, conversations with the dearest friends, and even instagram posts. although each journey is unique and personal, there is a shared ache & hope that knits us all together. for that reason alone, i want to share our experience. because if it offers hope, encouragement, or makes just one person feel a little less alone, that’s all that matters.

[i’ll recount what our first few days have been like & our first check-up (which is tomorrow – Monday – morning) in the next post.]

holding hope

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2014 in pictures & squash ginger soup.

i’ve never been one to be all that short-winded, so if a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s probably fitting that the pictures below are what i could “cut down” to as a summary of 2014. the majority showed up along the social media path, so they aren’t new, but here, together, in chronological order they remind me of the story of our year. a little year in review is after the recipe, if you’d like.

2014 in pictures

:: squash ginger soup ::

squash ginger soup

per usual, this recipe is highly adaptable. if you don’t have a leek, you can throw in another ¼ cup of diced onion. we didn’t have a full 4 cups of butternut squash, so i used buttercup squash, too. for the ginger & curry, i recommend starting on the lower side of the measurements, unless you have strong feelings about either ingredient. use more or less depending on your preference. for example, we do 3 teaspoons of ginger because we like the kicked-up flavor it offers, and we do about 1 ½ teaspoons of curry. the orange juice may seem to be an unusual addition, but it blends all of the flavors really well.

ingredients

2 thick cut slices of bacon, optional (if not, 1 tablespoon olive oil)
2 cups carrots, sliced
1 medium leek, sliced
½ cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons ginger, peeled & minced
4 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, & cubed (1 – 1½” is good)
1 medium celeriac, peeled, trimmed, & cubed (1 – 1½” cubes is good; approx 1½ cups)
1 medium apple, cored & diced (you can keep the peel on)
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (not powder)
4-6 cups stock (vegetable or chicken) or water
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
½ cup orange juice
½ cup milk, milk alternative, or cream, optional
salt & pepper, to taste

instructions

  1. in a large stock pot over medium heat:
    if you’re using bacon, cook it until crispy. place on a paper towel to drain until cool, then crumble into small pieces. if there is more than a tablespoon of bacon fat, pour it off & discard.
    if you’re not using bacon, heat one tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. add carrots, leek, onion, garlic, & ginger to pan. sauté 2-3 minutes (your kitchen will smell dreamy!).
  3. add squash, celeriac, apple, & thyme to pan; stir to combine.
  4. add stock to cover vegetables, depending on how you want your soup: 4 cups will result in a thicker soup; 6 cups will be less thick. even 6 cups will not result in a runny soup, though.
  5. increase heat to medium high & bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. simmer until squash & celeriac are fork tender – 15-20 minutes.
  6. remove pot from heat & stir in curry powder & orange juice. if you have an immersion blender, you can purée the soup until smooth in the pot. if not, wait until the soup is cool & blend it in batches in a blender or food processor.
  7. serve warm; we love it in any number of ways – plain, with a dollop of plain yogurt, bacon, & croutons, or with a little hunk of crusty bread.

yield: approximately 10 cups (depending on amount of liquid used)

– – – – – – –

2014 was a pretty quiet year. i struggled for the first few weeks of last january to settle on a word to focus on for the year and was actually just fine with not having one. the point of having one was if something came to mind & felt fitting, so there was no need to force one…and then one day it hit me: abide. if it’s even possible, i think my soul sighed in sweet relief – “abide” felt perfect looking ahead to 2014.

i am the vine; you are the branches. if you remain in me and i in you,
you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
john 15:5  

this year has been one of deep, deep thankfulness for my incredible husband &, fittingly, having wonderful things to celebrate him for throughout the year. we’ve tried new things [knitting socks (me), calligraphy (both), homemade bitters (him), a fantastic class at the kitchen window (both), & lots of new recipes (both)], explored our city, traveled well-worn paths at our favorite farmer’s markets, & got outta dodge for a week-long, wonderful road trip to see friends (in chicago) & family (in ann arbor) this summer. the cherry on top of our summer was a visit  from nieces cuter than you could fathom, full of adventures & fun.

i got a few more stamps in my passport, soaked up encouraging words & quotes that resonated truth, and was attuned to growth all around me. part of that was in the patio garden we had – i was mildly obsessed with having my hands in the dirt & watching everything sprout & blossom. the rest seemed to purely be nature’s gift. our house plants grew like crazy, our wedding lemon tree continued to be a rockstar, & even our christmas tree sprouted! have you ever heard of that?! it’s for sure a first for us! they were the simplest, often tiniest little things, but seeing the sprouts & buds kept reminding me in quiet, consistent ways of the new things always waiting just around the corner.

the unrivaled highlight of this year, however, was celebrating our first wedding anniversary. we looked back on our first year full of deep love, true heartache, & the sweetest comfort in knowing that we are richly blessed to do this life together. in the same way, looking back on 2014, we see a year full of those very same things. i cannot imagine going through this past year with anyone other than dustin by my side. this year was filled with more joy & more laughter-until-i-cried thanks to him.

here’s to deep, abiding love, hope, & the new things in store for 2015!

gratitude, day 29.

gratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what wegratitude_xs have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for traditions.

christmas tree 2014i would go out on a limb to say that in our family, i’m probably the biggest sucker for traditions. i’m ok with them changing a little in some ways – like our thanksgiving being just mom, jerry, dustin, & i since alli & jeff are in michigan, but other ones i seem to have a much stronger allegiance to.

take thanksgiving this year as an example: jerry wanted to spoil all of us a bit with tenderloin for thanksgiving dinner. my response: “that sounds delicious! the traditionalist in me would like there to be a turkey breast or something, but i’ll get over that.” (i really was 100% joking, but they really did have some turkey, too, and i didn’t waste a second before getting a slice on my plate, haha.) another example is being with aforementioned sister & brother-in-law for christmas, preferably at home. we’re super lucky they have always been able to get home, but if that wasn’t possible, you could bet your bottom dollar that you’d see the four of us high-tailing it to the mitten state.

a die-hard tradition we had growing up was decorating our christmas tree the weekend after thanksgiving. even in college & in the years that i’ve lived on my own, it’s a tradition i carried on. for the last three years, i’ve been blessed beyond measure to be able to decorate the christmas tree with my handsome fella. each year we’ve gotten a wonky tree from the discounted section of the lot, and although each tree has had it’s own idiosyncrasies, this year’s tree may take the cake. we both laughed when we got it home & in the stand. it is undoubtedly a dr. seuss tree!

we’ve added a few things to make our decorating tradition our own, and it’s become a bit of an evening-long event as we watch elf AND christmas vacation while decorating and sipping on hot toddies :o) last year was indescribably special as we got to decorate the tree for the first time as husband & wife, and i’m happy to say that the excitement didn’t wear off at all for us in the past year. tonight was full of movie watching, echoing our favorite lines from both movies, blackjack snuggling, light checking, decorating, vacuuming (those needles can really fly across the room!), & laughing.

welcome, christmas 2014…we are so thankful to settle in & soak in the goodness of this season.

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23. :: gratitude, day 24. :: gratitude, day 25.
gratitude, day 26. :: gratitude, day 27. :: gratitude, day 28.

gratitude, day 26.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for our home.

townhouse spring

as we have been looking at houses over the past year, dreaming & thinking of what we would want in a next home, i have been overcome on many occasions with how great our current home is. the open floor plan, the island in the kitchen, the windows streaming light in to brighten everything up…all make looking for a new house harder than we imagined. what a great problem to have!

this is the home that i became a homeowner in, it welcomed me home from the world race & was a safe, familiar space when everything was crazy. this is the first minnesota home that dustin had & was his homebase as he got acclimated. this is where we came home to after our wedding and where we started our life together. we have hosted family meals, small groups, book groups, showers, birthdays – this space has been so good to us.

i know that we have outgrown this house & am excited for what house is out there waiting for us. as we wait & dream & trust what’s next, we also pray that our home will pay blessings forward on the person or family that fills these walls & loves this home next.

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23. :: gratitude, day 24. :: gratitude, day 25.

gratitude, day 25.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for my husband.

dustin move to mnthank goodness this day is finally here! i’ve been waiting all month to post this one.

just shy of two & a half years ago, my path crossed that of a handsome fella from oklahoma, and oh my stars did things get interesting :o) it was all a whirlwind, and if you had told me at any time before it actually started happening that the story of us meeting, getting engaged, and getting married would be our story, i would have laughed. hard. but lo & behold, our story is a wild & fun one, and i wouldn’t trade it for anything. except of course for meeting him sooner so i could spend more of my life with him.

a few months after we met & after trading trips to & from minnesota & oklahoma, we agreed that long distance relationships are for the birds. today marks the second anniversary of getting to do real life in person every day together. i laugh even as i type that since the first eight months were crazy & chaotic, full of driving across town to see each other & buying groceries for two houses, trying to figure out a rhythm for the transition season & planning a wedding, too. so it wasn’t our current real life – but it was as real as it gets. wonderful, hard, stressful, joyful – lots of memories are held in those eight months.

through all of it, my husband remained patient, steady, compassionate – the same as always. those are three characteristics that anyone that meets him would be able to sense within minutes. he is kind, tender, silly, wise, intentional, dependable, and loving. he makes me laugh until i have tears rolling down my face & my cheeks ache, encourages me, dreams with me, and calms my crazy. for this, he deserves an award. i would be lost without him & now that i know life with him, i can’t fathom how i ever did life without him.

4th of july 2014

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23. :: gratitude, day 24.

gratitude, day 24.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for our hometown cities.

twin cities lovei love that we live in twin cities (minneapolis & st. paul) that are so much fun. i love the downtown minneapolis skyline & think it is one of the most unique in all of the cities i’ve visited. i love that we have a wealth of great restaurants, bars, breweries, & coffee roasters right here doing some pretty rad things. i love that there are farmer’s markets all over the cities & surrounding area and that the list of local growers & farmers seems to grow every year. i love the lakes in every direction & urban farms (rooftop ones, too!) that pop up everywhere.  i love our seasons (yes, it would be delightful if winter was a wee bit shorter) & how active people are here throughout all of them.

and i really, really i love that on this day two years ago, i got to start sharing these twin cities with the incredible man that is now my husband. i love that we have had celebrations of marking moments all over the cities and that our list of moments to mark & places we still want to try are both always growing.

lake calhoun

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23.

community, failure, & chocolate chip cookies.

IMG_5670

when dustin and i got engaged, i remember that one of the first things i felt in some of those initial conversations as i shared our exciting news was feeling like i had just gotten invited to a special club. not because of the ring or anything like that, but because as one of the last people to get married in my group of friends, among lots of fun new connections, being engaged allowed me to (finally) be part of the marriage-y conversations. the good, the challenging, the utterly hilarious.

marriage, like all relationships, requires us to be intentional, present, and honest, and having a community to share with and be accountable to has added a richness to our growth as a couple. we are blessed beyond measure to have a community that stretches near and far including friends and groups we meet and share with individually as well as family and friends that we hang out with together. we are also incredibly grateful to have been welcomed together as a couple into a couples small group. we get together monthly at one of our houses for dinner, a considerable amount of laughter, and conversation about marriage, challenges, joys, faith, encouragement.

this month’s dinner was this past weekend, and we had volunteered to bring dessert. i woke up saturday morning super excited to find a new recipe to try, and it didn’t take me long to do so. my search ended when my heart got set on bon appétit’s caramel budinos with salted caramel sauce (“budino” is Italian for “pudding”). they had me at caramel. topped with salted caramel.

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the story of us: our first anniversary.

our first anniversary_us

our first anniversarythe covenant of marriage is, first & foremost, sacred ground. i have experienced unconditional love throughout my life, however the love my husband – and God through my husband – has introduced me to this year is overwhelming.

when i first learned about covenants seven years ago or so, the term instantly, deeply resonated. a covenant is sort of like a promise, but so, so much more. like agape is sort of like love, but so, so much more. although the Greek word “agape” is often translated as similar to “unconditional love,” it is infinitely more than that. so much so that there aren’t adequate words in the English language to accurately describe all that “agape” truly means & encompasses. the same is true, for me, with “covenant” and “promise.” when you make a promise with someone, it is deeply important and meaningful. a covenant, though, takes everything to another level. entering into a covenant with someone is intrinsically more rich, transformative, and powerful than a promise. covenants require us to give more of ourselves; to truly be honored, we have to commit everything to them.

and then – then, there is the covenant of marriage. what. in. the. world! it is true that the covenant of marriage is sacred, above all. however, the first word that actually comes to mind when i think about the covenant of marriage is audacious. the two words play rather perfectly off of each other. after months of loving the word connection, i finally looked up the definition of “audacious,” and what i found matched strong, encouraging words to what i’d been feeling as the words rolled around in my thoughts. the definition of ‘audacious’ is, “showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks.” synonyms for “audacious” (ack! so incredible!) are: bold, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic, plucky.

this man that i am still baffled & giddy that i get to call my husband & i are such rookies. in every way we are just beginning to figure out marriage & each other & how to love each other well. however, what i think we’ve gotten right so far are these: we laugh a lot. we hold hands. we enjoy time with family & friends and encourage time with the guys/girls…but prefer each other & being together. with very few exceptions, we go to bed at the same time. we share our passions. some we enjoy together, and some we like to learn about & talk to each other about. we pray together. we realize how easy it is to mis-communicate & try hard to learn how to communicate better for & with each other. and, most importantly, we choose audacious love.

i actually think that if we do this marriage thing well, we will be old, gray-haired, & wrinkled, still figuring out marriage & each other & how to love each other well. we’ll just have more years & experience & stories of taking surprisingly bold risks in loving each other well to build from & grown on.

our first anniversary group 1

10 things: 12.2013.

10things_witness

  1. i would love to have a “year of the sock” à la amanda.
  2. dear youtube, thank you for helping me determine that our washing machine was, in fact, broken and for showing me how to fix it so easily!
  3. and then there is this (unfortunately they re-did the video & added annoying extra commentary – skip that part. the little boy is incredible!): 
  4. it took everything in me to not put up our advent calendar the day we got it. this is the first time either one of us has done an advent calendar, and we for sure picked a stellar one – this beauty from naptime diaries. it was my favorite decoration, and it was my very favorite way to end each day.IMG_3747
  5. this month was full of great highs & hard lows…
  6. but through both, we learned deeper value in God’s vision of marriage. and we are so, so thankful.
  7. our little JulieAnne is still rockin’ through the winter, still giving us beautiful lemons. it’s, like, “infinity x ten” times better than a unity candle. and the flowers that are still blooming in december…in minnesota?! our house smells heavenly with the sweetest smelling perfume.
  8. our contribution to christmas eve dinner was, per usual, dessert. we ended up tweaking this gingerbread latte cake with this eggnog buttercream. YUM!
  9. my absolute favorite memory of our first married christmas was christmas morning with just us. it was more special than i imagined it could be.
  10. we got to have a fun new year’s eve night with just the girls while we sent michael & joy to the thunder game. it was our second annual celebration, kicked off with pan-a-cakes for dinner :o)

10 things: 11.2013.

10things_witness

  1. eli learned our names: “header,” “doshtin,” and even “BACKGACK!” (always yelled), too.
  2. we’re pretty much addicted to this kettle corn.
  3. i displayed the depth of my ridiculousness when dustin was at drill this month. thanks to pinterest & my sister-in-law, i took our oven door apart & cleaned every surface possible. it was a pain (although not as bad as i had imagined it could be), but it was finally truly clean. and that made it worth it.
  4. ohmygoodness – this boy & his pup. so sweet! you have to see the sweet pictures in this blog; i can’t even handle the cuteness overload!
  5. if this isn’t a marking moment, i don’t know what is: dustin has truly been initiated as a minnesotan after having tater tot hot dish!
  6. we have been introduced to the deliciousness of hot toddies, and we are smitten. they’re extra delicious with lemons from our lemon tree & local honey.
  7. we got to have a weekend with eli, and “backgack” came, too. it was something i’ll remember for a long, long time.
  8. i am so glad our first real holiday together since we got married was thanksgiving. it was a simple, special day, and we really did spend it focused on how much we have to be thankful for.
  9. we got our first crawford family christmas tree!
  10. i’m loving what i think i can now call, since we’ve done it two years in a row, our first true family tradition: decorating our christmas tree while watching christmas movies (national lampoon’s christmas vacation, elf, the santa clause). we watched  SO FUN! more so this year, since at the end of the night, we got to go up to bed together versus in separate houses :o)