After the Storm

after the storm.4

after the storm.3

After the storm.1

after the storm.2

We've been having almost daily late afternoon thunderstorms.  (It reminds me so much of our beloved Colorado!).  Friday afternoon, I decided to grab my camera to catch some of the post-storm loveliness.  I think, in both life and nature, some of the best moments come right after the storm.

I hope you all are enjoying a nice, long weekend to kick off summer.  As we enjoy the pool, BBQ and birthday celebrations (at least at our house) may we not forget what today is really all about. 

The Season of Letting Go

https://www.flickr.com/photos/j_bstuart/11602693285/player/b01bed4616 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/j_bstuart/11602806895/player/d9463dfcaf

https://www.flickr.com/photos/j_bstuart/11603660626/player/e4d82e76e2

https://www.flickr.com/photos/j_bstuart/11603154923/player/7ed2f49359

https://www.flickr.com/photos/j_bstuart/11603769936/player/2197a734af

https://www.flickr.com/photos/j_bstuart/11603067245/player/71434fd9cb

 

Also known as Advent and Christmas 2013.

This has been the best Christmas for our family in several years. Maybe ever.

Our Advent was full of most of our usual traditions and activities. Some were let go of due to the ever-changing shift in what is age appropriate. I just didn't think I could squeeze hand and foot reindeer out of the kids another year. Our schedule was a bit busier with Jack’s soccer schedule continuing right up to Christmas and that meant fewer nights at home as a family. We added a few new things and embraced old favorites.

For the past eight months, Jeff's schedule has been much more regular than it has been in nearly two years. This is a huge help in planning and just plain old life living. It also means that he has been able to attend the kids' events, parties and other activities with us. 

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were nearly perfect. One of the biggest reasons was that I let go. I worked really hard this year to not worry if I didn't get all of the cookies made (no candy cane cookies this year) or that Christmas cards didn't happen or that the kids didn't get to shop for gifts for each other until Christmas Eve.

For me it was bigger than that. I'm a huge tradition girl. It's important to me to maintain traditions for our family so that regardless of where we are any given year it still feels like our Christmas. I've always clung to the things we do; new PJs, opening one gift, lasagna dinner at home and reading Luke 2 before bed on Christmas Eve.

The thing I realized this year is that clinging so tightly to traditions that I love has left me sad and lonely the past few years.

Some dear friends hosted an Open House on Christmas Eve and we went. It was slated to run from 1-6 which was perfect in my mind as that would still give us time to come home for our dinner and evening events.

These people have become like family as we’ve lived life and explored Europe together. It was a loud, joyful evening topped off laughter, gifts and food. Just like Christmas Eve should be.

Listen, I left our house that afternoon determined to stick with doing it all (including feeding my family lasagna because that’s what we do every year. Yes, I’m a slow learner.) As the hours passed, we realized we needed to head home to wrap up our day. We were all full in the best possible ways.

We came home and enjoyed the rest of our Christmas Eve traditions, deciding to save lasagna for Christmas lunch. Christmas day was full of gifts, movies, FaceTiming loved ones and a quick stop next door for prossecco and panettone.

It has struck me over and over the past few days that sometimes I cling so tightly to the things that connect me to the past and our extended family that I miss all the goodness that is right in front of me. While all of those things of old are great and have huge value, there’s just as much value in embracing the ebb and flow of the new, especially with the life that we are living.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

IMG_0134

Leave it to Christmas to bring me out of my silence.  I sat down today and realized it was November 29 and that we start our Advent calendar on Saturday.  I had nothing planned.  As most of you know, this is one of my favorite traditions.  I’ve written about it before here, here, here, and for a really honest account here.

Our hope as a family is to keep this season calm, special and focused on Jesus, family and friends.  It seems that the desire scale back and focus on those in need and what really matters grows each year.  This year, Jeff and I were really impacted by the election spending numbers.  Right on the tail of that, comes the projected holiday spending figures and they make me sad.  So, so much good for those who really need help could be done with that money and instead the figurative “we” find ourselves leaving the Thanksgiving table early to add to the abundance we already have.

Some of the post I’ve seen recently that have a variety of ideas are at Rage Against the Minivan and Tara Whitney’s Blog.  There are, of course, tons others.

There are so many people and organizations ready to help make this a truly impactful and meaningful Christmas.  Since the posts have already been written, I’ll simply link to them.  I’ve already signed up for Pure Charity and can’t believe how easy it is.  We’re also doing some different things gift wise around here.  Yes, our kids and the other littles in our family are still getting gifts (though they’ve always been limited) but we’re doing something new for everyone else (and we’ve asked them to do the same for us).

IMG_0186

Anyway, I really came here to share this year’s advent plan.  My hope is that it will give you ideas of ways you can make this season more about people and love and less about stuff.

  • Christmas Market and Tree Lighting in Spilimbergo
  • Read “The Legend of the Candy Cane” and make candy cane cookies
  • Make cards for family and friends
  • Make paper snowflake garland
  • Choose two toys to donate
  • Make gratitude garland
  • Watch “Polar Express” and eat Christmas cookies
  • Make gingerbread house
  • Gingerbread pancakes for breakfast
  • Bake sugar cookies
  • Decorate cookies
  • Leave anonymous encouraging notes
  • Make hand and foot reindeer
  • Write a letter to our Compassion kids
  • Go see the Nativities in Pofobro
  • Make teacher gifts
  • Watch “Rudolph”
  • Have a picnic dinner under the tree
  • Take goodies to school for friends (Rollo pretzels)
  • Make treats for the birds
  • Take an evening walk and have cocoa afterward
  • Go to the Christmas Market in Villach
  • FaceTime family and sing carols
  • Read the Christmas Story from Luke

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

IMG_0134

Leave it to Christmas to bring me out of my silence.  I sat down today and realized it was November 29 and that we start our Advent calendar on Saturday.  I had nothing planned. 

As most of you know, this is one of my favorite traditions.  I’ve written about it before here, here, here, and for a really honest account here.
Our hope as a family is to keep this season calm, special and focused on Jesus, family and friends.  It seems that the desire to scale back and focus on those in need and what really matters grows each year. 

This year, Jeff and I were really impacted by the election spending numbers.  Right on the tail of that, comes the projected holiday spending figures and they make me sad.  So, so much good for those who really need help could be done with that money and instead the figurative “we” find ourselves leaving the Thanksgiving table early to add to the abundance we already have.
Some of the post I've seen recently that have a variety of ideas are at Rage Against the Minivan and Tara Whitney's Blog.  There are, of course, tons others.
There are so many people and organizations ready to help make this a truly impactful and meaningful Christmas.  Since the posts have already been written, I’ll simply link to them.  I’ve already signed up for Pure Charity and can’t believe how easy it is.  We’re also doing some different things gift wise around here.  Yes, our kids and the other littles in our family are still getting gifts (though they’ve always been limited) but we’re doing something new for everyone else (and we’ve asked them to do the same for us).

IMG_0186


Anyway, I really came here to share this year’s advent plan.  My hope is that it will give you ideas of ways you can make this season more about people and love and less about stuff.

  • Christmas Market and Tree Lighting in Spilimbergo
  • Read “The Legend of the Candy Cane” and make candy cane cookies
  • Make cards for family and friends
  • Make paper snowflake garland
  • Choose two toys to donate
  • Make gratitude garland
  • Watch “Polar Express” and eat Christmas cookies
  • Make gingerbread house
  • Gingerbread pancakes for breakfast
  • Bake sugar cookies
  • Decorate cookies
  • Leave anonymous encouraging notes
  • Make hand and foot reindeer
  • Write a letter to our Compassion kids
  • Go see the Nativities in Pofobro
  • Make teacher gifts
  • Watch “Rudolph”
  • Have a picnic dinner under the tree
  • Take goodies to school for friends (Rollo pretzels)
  • Make treats for the birds
  • Take an evening walk and have cocoa afterward
  • Go to the Christmas Market in Villach
  • FaceTime family and sing carols
  • Read the Christmas Story from Luke

2011 in Images

I did a photo recap at the end of 2010 and really liked it.  So, I thought I’d make it a tradition.

At this point, looking back on 2011, I have few words.  It was just such a crazy year.

One that definitely shook me.

There was so much good, thank God for photos to remind me, but wow, it was hard.

January
32:365

Almost there.  Light.  Dark.

February
57:365

Home.  Relief.

March
Contradictions

Adjustments.  Contradictions.  Comfort.

April
Easter dessert and conversation

Friendship.  Light.  Peace.

May
Evening light

Hope.  {If only I knew what was to come.  Still hope.}

June
A night in the backyard with a child photographer

Summer.  Shock.  Family.  Shock.

July
Morning coffee

Denial.  Growth.

August
223:365

Duality.  Embracing.  Acceptance(ish).

September
The last one of him.

Goodbyes.  Fun.  Lasts.

October
Italian prettiness

Future.  Adventure.  Missing.

November
November 25

Light.  Home.  New.

December
Poffabro, Italy

Peace. Paths. Hope.

May you notice your blessings in 2012 even if they are not what you expected.  Sometimes, those are the best.

2011 in Images

I did a photo recap at the end of 2010 and really liked it.  So, I thought I'd make it a tradition.
At this point, looking back on 2011, I have few words.  It was just such a crazy year.
One that definitely shook me.
There was so much good, thank God for photos to remind me, but wow, it was hard.

January
32:365

Almost there.  Light.  Dark.

February
57:365

Home.  Relief.

March
Contradictions

Adjustments.  Contradictions.  Comfort.

April
Easter dessert and conversation

Friendship.  Light.  Peace.

May
Evening light

Hope.  {If only I knew what was to come.  Still hope.}

June
A night in the backyard with a child photographer

Summer.  Shock.  Family.  Shock.

July
Morning coffee

Denial.  Growth.

August
223:365

Duality.  Embracing.  Acceptance(ish).

September
The last one of him.

Goodbyes.  Fun.  Lasts.

October
Italian prettiness

Future.  Adventure.  Missing.

November
November 25

Light.  Home.  New.

December
Poffabro, Italy

Peace. Paths. Hope.

May you notice your blessings in 2012 even if they are not what you expected.  Sometimes, those are the best.

A Breath of Fresh Air

Thankfully, my mood lifted significantly after my last post.  We have had a really great week.  Jeff has been off and we’ve enjoyed hanging out just the five of us.  Somedays, were spent just hanging out at home and others we were out and about.  Of course there have been moments, every family has those, but overall it’s really been delightful.  I guess that’s the good thing about having such a hard Christmas is that the next one can almost always be better.  So, after last year with Jeff in Iraq and the rest of us enduring “Puke Fest 2010” I should have known it would be good.

Trieste

On Friday, we loaded up the car and drove to Trieste for the day.  As soon as we stepped out into the ocean air I felt at peace.  Once again I was reminded that the water is my happy place.  I mentioned that to Jeff but of course he already knew.  That’s why we were there.  Our main destination was Miramare Castle.  It was beautiful.  We did go in and all enjoyed that but the best part was walking around the grounds and surrounding park.  More than one of us commented that it was like being at the zoo (without the animals, of course!).    We enjoyed a delicious lunch (fettuccine frutti di mare for me, yum!), walked along the water a bit and then headed home.

new jammies

We spent Christmas Eve mainly at home.  I used the morning to prep dinner and breakfast for the following day.  We watched movies and hung out.  There is a town near us, Poffabro, that has several hundred nativities set up.  Hoping to miss the crowds and parking nightmare, we went in the late afternoon and enjoyed walking through the town.  After that it was our traditional lasagna for dinner, new pjs, FaceTime with Grammy and Grandpa then reading the Christmas Story from Luke.

The Christmas Story

Sharing the duties

Jeff read most of it but Jack read the last few verses.  I loved that they shared the duties.

Checking out their stockings

 

Spy Connor

I woke at 4:55 to sweet Connor saying “I can’t believe it is Christmas, I’ve waited the whole calendar for today.”  How can you argue with that?  He cuddled with us until 5:30 when Jack and Morgan came in and we headed downstairs.  The day was full of gifts, more FaceTime, guitar hero, playing with new toys and just hanging out.  Jeff and I each even took naps.  It was like a breath of fresh air.  Just what we needed.

Dolomites

On Monday we got back in the car and headed up into the mountains to sled.  My word are the Dolomites gorgeous!  We found more snow than we expected (and thus weren’t fully prepared) but we enjoyed a few runs, a picnic lunch and coffee at the rifugio. The kids fell asleep on the way back so Jeff and I were able to enjoy the view and some actual conversation.

On a walk/ride

Yesterday was another chill at home day as is today.  We went down to the bike/walk trail this morning and it felt good to get some exercise and fresh air.  Jeff’s back to work tomorrow so I’ll need to be on my game for the long days ahead with all three home until next week.

It feels good to have caught our collective breaths heading into the new year.  I hope each of you feel the same way.

Here we go.