happy new year, dear readers!
this christmas, i found myself thinking about two things the most -- the first, i wrote a bit about on instagram, was the line: "the weary world rejoices." how grateful i am that what christmas means most is that a weary world has reason to rejoice, no matter how weary we might be. when i focused on that, some of the hecticness, frenzy of the season faded away, allowing me to cling to what really mattered.
the second was about traditions -- how they begin, how they continue, why they matter. this christmas, we saw our families over the course of the month, but on christmas eve and christmas day, it was just our family of four, with two little girls watching us for what this time of year means. the season began, in so many ways with anna's birth, a few days before thanksgiving. it slowed life down in the beautiful way a newborn can -- she created space for us to sit, and hold her, and get to know her. more reasons to get out the blankets on the couch, read books, watch movies.
a few days after we brought her home, we decorated our christmas tree, getting out the decorations that now feel so familiar (it's amazing what five years of marriage, and six christmases will do). ellie was a christmas baby and i loved that, but i'm telling you, thanksgiving babies are incredible. i loved that the first month of anna's life, each time i needed to nurse her or hold her or was given some time to take a nap (thank you ryan, my parents & sweet friends who took ellie!) -- i found my way to that couch by tree, those simply white lights on a fraser fir that are just magical to me. i know she won't remember it, but my hope is i planted some seeds for her heart to love this time of year, when the weary world can rejoice.
christmas with a little girl on the brink of being three years old has its own kind of magic -- ellie was so, so present and enthusiastic about each part of the season -- from decorating the tree (one branch on our tree had to hold 7 ornaments i think!); to setting out the nativity (she was so worried we didn't have wise men we ended up adding them to our set this year to put her mind at ease); to reading some of our favorite books; singing (very off key, she gets it honestly) the twelve days of christmas; and then christmas morning (where she spent the first five minutes talking about how the reindeer ate the carrots, not that there were presents from santa under the tree, which was hilarious).
our girls are really little, which gives us grace to figure out our traditions, how our family will mark this season. at the heart of it, i go back to the idea of stillness, beautifully written about here. i want our girls to remember the time and space we created so the season doesn't fly by or end up a stressful march of things we "have to do," and in some ways, i know that's easiest when they are this little. i love the images above because they capture some quiet mornings we spent by the tree. these sisters were getting to know each other (including watching this lennon & maisy video hoping to do their own rendition one day...).
there were some other beginnings of traditions: a special date ellie & ryan went on (anna will get her own date with daddy when she's a bit older); croissants from our favorite bakery on christmas morning that ellie & i picked up together on christmas eve; watching white christmas many times (ellie squealed during the final scene saying, "all the daddies are home from deployment!!!!" which was enough to melt every parental heart in this house). and for ellie's birthday (the 26th) we began a tradition of decorating the birthday girl's bedroom door with streamers while she slept. all these traditions are meant to be simple and easy to do anywhere. as a military family, we know we will likely spend christmases lots of places, under lots of circumstances, and our hope is to have some traditions that can be constants, no matter where we are.
then there were some traditions from our families we continued with our girls: ryan's mom has given him a nutcracker each christmas, he and ellie set them up together. my family has eaten chinese food on christmas eve for over 65 years, an incredible story from a friendship my grandfather had. after our church's beautiful christmas eve service, we drove to pick up chinese carry out. after putting the girls to bed, ryan & i continued the tradition.
when i was uploading these photos, i was giving myself a hard time -- i meant to take more photographs, i left my camera out to do just that. then, i started thinking about this season of life and that part of the reason we didn't reach for the camera more often, was that our hands were literally full. taking care of a newborn and three year old means holding them, reading to them, doing puzzles with them, painting with them, changing diapers, feeding them. it means when they're sleeping we're often folding laundry, cleaning dishes, sweeping the floor or collapsed on the couch completely exhausted (when anyone asked how i was during december i would say, "tired, but so happy"). it reminded me that the photographs above are enough, and that these traditions will carry us back to this time soon enough.