it was perfect.

…the house has fallen quiet with christmas naps as the second fire of the day snaps and cracks behind me and a hefty spread of food sits welcomingly on our counter, and i am just now taking it all in.

we began festivities this week with our bi-annual trip to the mall where we not only watched as a man coughed and spit phlegm in the parking lot but also got raked over coals for a picture with the only santa in town.

i paid $17 for the (not even good) photo on the left…two small little photos they gave me…and almost got in a fight with the elf who told me i was strictly forbidden from taking any photos of my own.

thankfully, i simmered down later for our own celebrations of home which, this year, seemed so much more purposeful. she is completely aware and comprehensive of every bit of magic and tradition and meaningfulness which makes everyone in our home take extra measures to expose her to as much happiness as possible…the little things making the most impact.

she was thrilled to add glitter to some old red river cereal we found lurking in the pantry to make an alluring and tasty concoction for rudolph and his friends…

…intently sprinkling it in heaps along the driveway late last night…

…and pleasantly amused this morning to find it eaten and gone, replaced with snowy reindeer hoof tracks. reindeer eat mine num-num, she announced, wide-eyed and slightly perplexed.

latte even conveniently cooperated with her morning poo placed pefectly between two hooves to which we incorporated into our girl’s christmas imagination, and now, her most memorable event of the day (over family and presents and everything we worked to create) is… reindeer poop on mine driveway. spared you a picture of that…merry christmas.

we visited a church up the road for the third year in a row for their christmas eve candlelight service. silent night, sung in a circle with my family, a bit of darkness and a hundred or so candles always, always makes me cry.

we don’t know anyone at this church and we come, sit, smile, sing and go, but that’s what adds to the whole greatness of this tradition; it’s more about our family and this small special moment we share every year. even if i did write ball of fire on a bulletin and pass it down to my dad after the monotone pastor stood up and robotically presented a boring little message that, sadly, had the potential of igniting some christmas fire.

then it was home where we enjoyed the company of my dad & gary, a crackling fire, a late spaghetti dinner and cozy spots on the couches where we watched movies and finished getting ready for our special day.

and my ho-ho jammies still, barely and tightly, fit. hurrah.

and today…well, today was just real and good and homey and simple. we smiled through every bit of it beginning with her tiny voice announcing between our warm bodies in a dark room this morning: good morning, mama. and then, slowly, her realization that today was the day…the day we climb out of bed to run and look for half-eaten cookies and sparce glittery grain piles.

i can’t figure what’s better…to actually be two and see this all through magic, childhood eyes and be blessed to be loved like she is…or to be thirty and her mama and the lover of this girl. i’ll take the latter.

and so our morning continued with giving and receiving and baking and breakfast…and family.

…and papa made the most beautiful crib mobile for our baby’s bed…

feeling happy and blessed.

let it begin.

i’ve learned, in the six years i’ve spent the christmas season down here, that, if i am to satiate any of the craving of the northern holiday magic i have known all my life…i have to create it.

and so we began.

it’s chilly this weekend.
and the house smells like balsam & cedar.
and the christmas music has played.
the lights have been lit.

and, following healthy heaps of thanksgiving leftovers friday evening, we ignited our first fire of the season…and opened the magic of stored boxes from the attic…with papa’s help.

we watched our girl as she, bundled in her christmas jammies, unraveled strands of twinkly lights, unwrapped the tiny cradle ornament from the year she was born, and smiled at the memory of her nutcracker from last year. or, as she says…mine buttcracker.

oh, it was heavenly. and i know i’m hormonal and emotional and my sentimental heart beats wildly at these kind of things, but really. this season is so special and having this little one to carve out traditions and memories and childhood magic with…what an honor.

embracing the honor like the author of a timeless masterpiece of literature. i am writing her book. and so i fill it with every bit of magic i can think of. and, far greater than gifts and santa and all the hub-bub…are the little things.

our advent pails have been filled with little treats that will begin on tuesday morning…

(target dollar bin pails, two paint pens, a yard and a half of 2.99 fabric and a pair of pinking shears…inspired by this one for twice the price…and our pails are big enough to fit two or three treats for multiple littles)

and last year, anna ruth had the fabulous idea after christmas to take advantage of the bookstore’s 75% christmas books…so we stocked up, and she will unwrap one every night before bed in december…and we will cuddle and read and make memories.

i am working hard to finish the holiday work so i can take a break and drink in our family and last weeks of our ‘only daughter.’ and yet, the anticipation for this season and family and all the beauty that this month holds still can’t hold a flame to the anticipation i am feeling for this tiny one to join our family in january. i love her so much already…and just cannot wait to meet her.

while we wait, we are enjoying crisp hot cocoa mornings.

and cozy hats that seem to don her sweet head just about every moment of the day. she loves her hats.

merry magical season.

a thankful place.

while tempted to start plunking away a rote list of what i’m thankful for tonight, it seems a bit prosaic for this place i’m at tonight. and it’s exactly that–not just a state of mind or an emotion that bears this unworthy cliche’ title like ‘gratitude’ or ‘thankful.’ no, it seems an actual place. its own little latitude where i have settled and claimed residence and walked its paths and met its people. and it is a good place. a real place with, yes, some dark corners and fixer-upper fields. but, overall there is just so much beauty here…and the more i stay, the more i see.

the place of gratitude…of knowing where we’ve been and where we’re going and in between all that, recognizing that where we are is important.

breathing it all in tonight.
where i am.

in our friends’ home this morning for our fifth annual pajama breakfast .

where we sat and talked and sipped coffee out of perfect cups from a perfect hostess…
and later reclined to couches where littles felt the littlest move…

…and where lainey found herself so sleepy, she finally climbed in her bud, alec’s, bed all by herself and just camped out.

…re-energized later to help me in the kitchen for the making of the pies followed by hours of good kitchen love.

we were joined by brett’s mom and little sister for what turned out to be this perfect, peaceful day…with really good food.

and while thankful lists are just perfectly good and all, i’m tired enough that attempted words would surely cheapen the beauty of this place tonight. and while i am loving the beauty of my own place tonight, i know so many others are in places equally beautiful…and for that i am thankful. for happy family & friends…

…and for the richness of our life right now and every little moment that adds beauty and character to ‘our place’.

hope all have found their happy place, seen its beauty and continue to walk new paths to find new joys…there are many.

happy thanksgiving.