When does a House Feel like Home?

As I’ve mentioned before, we have moved within the last year. I even wrote about songs for house hunting back over summer. We found our now house last winter, but didn’t close and move until almost summertime. Since then, we have did our share of “breaking it in” and making it our own through painting, a lot of cleaning, hosting cook outs, a backyard camp-out, dinners, lunches, and birthday parties. With each event, we’ve had to look for that one thing that we only use occasionally (which box is that in, now?), and we’ve been able to figure out what works best in our new space.

Now with the  holidays quickly approaching, we have decorated our house and it truly feels like home. No other holiday holds so many memories of loved ones and special traditions than Christmas.

I’ve had the chance to re-arrange and play around with our existing holiday decor and find some new pieces for our new home. In our last home we didn’t have a fireplace or mantle, so I hung our stockings on a bookshelf or on the side of an entertainment center. In our new home, I am so happy to have our stockings hung up on the mantle. I took a recent selfie with my kids in front of the fireplace.


Yay – all dressed in red and posing so cute in front of the fireplace.

It was really special putting up our tree and decorating it as a family. The kids helped put on the ornaments so quickly and only minor adjustments were needed. So many ornaments tell our families collective story, from baby 1st Christmas ornaments, to ornaments of our grandparents who live on in our hearts. The ornaments on the tree are so very personal – and so at home in our house. Our cat even approves and has assumed her usual place hanging out under the tree.


Good kitty!

As I mentioned in my post, A Time of Patience, we have enjoyed lighting the advent wreath during family dinners. With the first real snowfall, we even managed to light a fire. Once it was going, we hung out together, playing games and reading. It was peaceful and cozy – very homey.


Top – Our advent wreath centerpiece, enjoying Christmas lights on our tree, and our first fire in our fireplace. 

All of these decorations and moments that we have shared as a family as we prepare for Christmas and the coming of the New Year have solidified the feeling of being home. As the song says, “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” and I couldn’t agree more.

It’s good to be home.


A Time of Patience

I was reminded of my New Year’s Resolution over the weekend, when patience was the topic of Sunday’s homily at church. Back in January, I wrote about my mantra of “Less Hurry. Less Worry” and this passage (from a presentation I attended last year) is especially relevant for this time of year:

Life is a series of sprints and there’s a lot of rushing around. Downtime is a necessary time to re-charge to be able to bring energy to each “sprint” or challenge you may face.

We are all rushing and hurrying like crazy in preparation for the holidays. There is a lot of sprinting and stress that takes much of the joy away from this season. Similarly, I feel like there has been a lot of sprinting going on this week, re-grouping after being out of town for Thanksgiving and even just hitting the save button on this post SEVERAL times before having a bigger chunk of time to come back to it. It’s a whole lot of hurry, hurry, hurry. And all that hurrying can make me feel impatient!

Am I More Patient this Year?

Overall throughout the last year, I feel less hurried and at times more patient. However, I probably should ask my family if they would agree with that statement. I still can feel a tendency to over-multi-task instead of focusing on what’s most important at this one point in time. Being conscious of un-productive multi-tasking is the first step, right?

Some patience has been learned through schedule changes as of late. My husband has changed jobs and increased his commute, leaving me to fly solo with the kids in the morning. Instead of thinking he’s around to help (or not), I know it’s all me, so I have become more patient with my kids in the morning. Truthfully, we’ve also had several months of the school year under our belt, so they are also more adjusted to the weekly school routine too. Together we can help each other in the mornings.

The Waiting REALLY is the Hardest Part

As was mentioned in church on Sunday, patience is desperately needed this time of year. Our deacon showed pictures of holiday travel with LONG lines. Shopping on Black Friday or any holiday shopping can bring a LONG line. There’s a lot of waiting, and we all hate that, right?!

Today while waiting in line at a craft store, I was amused by a mom with two kids in front of me for a few reasons. First, I remember those days of shopping with a toddler and an infant all too well (see The BEST Line(s) to get out of a toy store). Now I am just the “older” mom whose kids are now in school (well, some of the time, anyway)! I sometimes share, “I know what you’re going through” lines of encouragement because I too remember those kind people who did the same to me a few years back. This conversation was just last year! Second, the older toddler was saying “bye, bye.”  When I observed her more closely, she was pointing at things and saying, “buy, buy!”  I laughed out loud and commented on this to her mom. Too funny, right? In this moment of waiting and being patient, I was able to engage with the party in front of me instead of being grumpy and sitting on my smartphone.

Ways to be more Patient to Make Waiting Easier

One phrase that comes up in this season of Advent is “waiting in joyful anticipation,” and I am reminded of the symbols and traditions that we use to help us wait – things like Advent calendars, Christmas Countdowns, or lighting candles on the Advent Wreath. This year we are lighting candles on a salt dough wreath that my daughter made in her religious education class. She feels so proud of it, and there is something very special about lighting a candle and enjoying a family dinner together. It makes us slow down a bit, and we look forward to lighting the next candle. Each day in December, we’ll change the Christmas countdown. Each week we’ll light another candle, helping us track the passage of time, which makes the waiting for Christmas a bit easier.

Is the season trying your patience? How do you handle waiting this time of year? Best wishes for some time to slow down, relax, and reflect this December!

Random Thoughts while Gift Wrapping

Instead of waiting until the kids were in bed, I did some gift wrapping this afternoon while we watched football. I do love me some arts and crafts, and I felt some kind of Zen as I wrapped.

My thoughts wandered a bit, including the following:

1. This is so much more productive than just watching an entire football game. Hooray multi-tasking!
2. Crap. Who did I buy this for? Early shopper problems.
3. Organizing gifts by family celebration in the same wrapping paper is awesome and efficient.  Love to plan!
4. Hmm…how many boxes do we really need to keep for gift wrapping? How long have these sat in storage?
5. What gift bags can I re-use again? Gotta love recycling!
6. It’s much easier to wrap presents on a table instead of on carpeting! My setup this year is much better.
7. Getting excited to celebrate soon!
8. Will the kids find my hiding places?
9. I am so going to be a crafter even when I’m old! Maybe oragami at some point?
10. I think I need to go make a card now.

Taking Good Pictures of your Kids – An Impossible Feat?

As I mentioned in my post on Monday, I am searching for a good picture of my kids and family to use for our annual holiday photo card.  It was a beautiful fall day with such colorful leaves all around our neighborhood, so I tried snapping a few pictures on a walk with my kids. Here’s how I did with my camera phone:

my photo shoot yesterday

Trying to get two kids smiling at the same time, while looking at the camera is NO small feat.

My daughter is generally more cooperative for taking pictures, but we’ve done so many “funny face” shots that EVERY time I take a picture now, there has to be at least one funny one.

My son was making nearly EVERY picture a funny face one.  And yes, dear 3 year old boy, they are funny.  Maybe, just maybe, a funny face shot will make it into our Christmas card.

Here are some other picture options. Which ones are your favorites?

Someday I would like to have professional pictures taken, but my husband is still a bit put-off by the idea after one bad experience. The photographer took pictures of us in a lovely setting – along the lakefront and in front of some trees. My daughter was almost 3 and my son just turned 1. Here was my own snapshot before the photo shoot started later than our scheduled time thanks to the photographer’s tardiness.

my snapshots before our professional photo shoot

2 years ago – my own snapshots before our professional photography shoot

Brilliant blue sky, aqua blue shimmering lake, sand, we could check every box in the “Ideal Setting” category.  And take pictures our photographer did! We had THOUSANDS of options to review. It was overwhelming and time consuming at his home (aka not the most convenient for us, being parent of two kids under age 3). The family pictures of all four of us were just weird-looking too.  We looked so posed and stiff – not at all our style. None of them were that great.

There were SO many good ones of our daughter.  She was running, holding flowers, smiling….just being her cute, almost three year old self.

Our son was another story. He was just little, and it was dinnertime (though we had snacks before), and we barely got a smile out of him.  We found one picture that we liked of him.

We had “won” the gift certificate for the photographer’s services as part of our church’s silent auction.  Somehow, according to his crazy pricing, we did not receive much in way of print-credit.  He had this complex pricing matrix and wanted us to join his family plan, so there would be numerous photo sessions through the years. Given that we hated the family pictures, it was NOT for us.  We finally ended up buying two 8×10 portraits, one of each child, and paid a hundred+ for them. They are now hanging in our living room, where they shall be forever & ever. Amen.

Whenever I mention the idea of getting professional pictures taken to Daddy O., he bristles in reply, thinking of our bad experience. I guess I have to resort to my photo archives or quick snap my own pictures for this year’s card anyway.  Hopefully these photo card options can make my pictures look good!

Have you ever been disappointed by professional photographers? How do you take  pictures for holiday cards?