Mindful holidays

Well, another holiday season has come and gone.  I’ve seen some people use the term “holi-daze” to describe this time of year, and it can be all too easy for stress to trump peace and joy.  Thanks in part to conscious decisions to keep things simple, and to my mindfulness practice, I was able to minimize the stress this year, making room to enjoy the meaningful parts of the season.


On Christmas Eve, Gabriel fell in love with Rudolph, the Mylar balloon that was accompanying the family Santa on his rounds.  Santa let Gabriel adopt Rudolph for a week, after which time the little reindeer was looking a bit droopy around the antlers.  Hopefully he’ll be back again next year.


After Gabriel was snug in his bed, Matthew and I stuffed stockings and set up the doll house (another advantage of buying used: no assembly required; I just had to arrange the furniture).


Doll house verdict: Gabriel seems to like it, though I’m having a bit of buyer’s remorse (or is it gifter’s remorse?).  My initial excitement has given way to the reality that it’s just a thing, and a rather large thing that now needs space in our apartment, at that.  Also, as I’m reminded again and again, all of the things in the world are not nearly as important of having someone to play with.

Receiving blanket gift wrap for the win.

We spent Christmas day in St. Louis, and then headed to Iowa on the day after (a slight change in our original travel plans that made things a little bit crazy, but it allowed us to spend a few hours with my grandpa before he went back home).

In Iowa, the “lack of playmate” issue was resolved, at least for a few days.


Going home (i.e., to my parents’ house) has been a bit stressful ever since Gabriel entered into the equation.  This trip was by far the nicest, least stressful visit we’ve had in over three years.  While some other variables have changed (e.g., the boys are a bit older), I attribute a lot of this to my improved mental and emotional state.

In addition to the family time, we also enjoyed some nice gatherings with friends.

As expected, maintaining my mindfulness practice during the holidays, when our regular routine was AWOL, was challenging, but more important than ever.  I had to make myself carve out the time and recruit Matthew to Gabriel duty to make it happen.  The second week (December 29 – January 4) was the trickiest, but I still managed to meet my formal practice goal (25 minutes/day, five days per week).

I’d be lying if I said things were perfect.  Two weeks of no preschool was trying, especially since Gabriel is at a stage where the littlest, most ridiculous things lead to meltdowns (e.g., I didn’t use his favorite knife for the peanut butter; I gave him a spoon when there was already a spoon on the table).  Even with my mindfulness practice, there is only so much of this I can take in a day before I am on the verge of a meltdown.

But that’s life, right?  All-in-all, we enjoyed our time together and did a pretty good job focusing on the important things, i.e., people and relationships, rather than stuff or some unattainable “ideal” Christmas.  (We haven’t quite reached the minimal gifting level of one family we know, but we’ll just call that inspiration for the future.)

With three weeks of our aerial silks class left, our experiential gift keeps on giving (fun, exercise, and couples’ bonding time).  My in-laws also gifted me with money to use for a mindfulness retreat (I’m looking at a local, weekend-long retreat in March).  With it’s impact on so many areas of my life (and on others’ lives, through my relationships), my mindfulness practice is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving!

Biking in an autumn-y Christmas wonderland

Today brings a return to seasonal weather, but I made the most of the unseasonably warm weekend with three nights of Christmas light biking.

We kicked off the weekend with a family trip down Candy Cane Lane.  We arrived just as it was getting dark on Friday night, and we had the street almost to ourselves.  It was a challenge to bike slowly enough to take it all in, especially with a wiggly passenger on board.

Said passenger informed me that Nativity scenes are more correctly referred to as “Away in a Manger.”  Of course, the appropriate response to biking by an Away in a Manger is to begin singing the eponymous song.  (“Jingle Bells” is also a popular song to sing while biking, along with “Walking Biking in a Winter Wonderland.”)

On Saturday night I ventured out with bikey friends Mónica and Mike.  We scoped out even more lights, starting with Snowflake Street, before moving on to Candy Cane Lane.  On this trip, the place was packed, with a block-long line of cars in each direction, waiting to access Candy Cane lane.  We didn’t butt in line, but we did take advantage of the flexibility of bicycles by hopping off and becoming pedestrians.

After walking down Candy Cane Lane, we hopped back on the bikes and continued down Murdoch Avenue, which led to the discovery of “Angel Avenue” (Prague Ave. between Nottingham and Murdoch).  I loved the house on the SW corner of Prague and Murdoch — the entire front face is covered with teeny, tiny lights.  And then there was the house with the crazy lights synched to Christmas music.

We ended our bicycle tour with cookies and hot chocolate.

Gabriel and I went out again on Sunday afternoon.  It wasn’t dark yet, so there wasn’t much of a light show, but we found some fun decorations.

Christmas dino on Snowflake Street

I was really tempted to detour by Ted Drewes for some frozen custard, but it was close to dinner time; practicality and my desire for G to eat a good dinner won.

We walked down Candy Cane Lane, checking out the sand sculpture in daylight.

Sandy Santa

On the way home, we swung by Angel Avenue, but it still wasn’t dark enough to see any lights.  While Candy Cane Lane is the big draw, I preferred some of the other streets:

Angel Avenue > Snowflake Street > Candy Cane Lane

Now I just need to get Matthew and Gabriel to Angel Avenue when it’s dark!

Peter Pan, a tiger, and a jack o’ lantern walked into a bar

Last Halloween, I bought a Peter Pan costume for G at a consignment shop.  I realized that it was much too large, so I set it aside for this year.  Coincidentally, my mother-in-law gave G a Peter Pan book about a month ago, and someone’s been all about Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Tinkerbell since then — perfect timing.

The green tights that came with the costume were still far too large, so we completed the look with some green socks and a pair of borrowed, green-striped pajama pants.  I made a sword using cardboard and tape (duct and electrical).

And then, two weeks ago, it occurred to me that our Halloween’s where G wants to be something cute and cuddly were numbered (he’d been enjoying pretending to be a baby cat), and I asked if he would like to be a cat (thinking we could use black clothing we already owned and make a pretty simple cat tail and cat-ear headband).

Gabriel decided he wanted to be BOTH a cat and Peter Pan.  Somehow, word of the cat idea got to my MIL, which led to a trip to the fabric store and ended with homemade tiger costumes (for both Gabriel and Matthew).

For the last week, Gabriel has thoroughly enjoyed dressing up as one or the other.  He likes snuggling up with Daddy Tiger and a book, and he rarely goes anywhere without his Peter Pan hat and sword.  Here’s a Peter Pan-tiger fusion costume.


I’m not sure which one he’ll decide on for Trick or Treat.  Fortunately, either costume option can be made warmer by wearing either black (tiger) or green (Peter Pan) layers under the tunic-style tops.

Pumpkin carving
We carved one pumpkin on Sunday morning and another on Wednesday night.


We used a rather traditional jack o’ lantern design for the first pumpkin.  While Matthew was mostly correct in his comment about not getting to eat the pumpkin, I did cook up the chunks that we cut out while carving this guy.  Not the best winter squash ever, but not bad: mildly sweet and not bitter.  We’ll be having pumpkin soup with our dinner tonight.

Sadly, the seeds, which I was looking forward to, were a bust.  I did my normal roasting technique, but the roasted pumpkin seeds tasted like crunchy cardboard.  Matthew suspects that the farmers may have cut the pumpkins off the vines early, before the seeds were totally mature — bummer!

For our second pumpkin, I suggested a cat face.  We looked at some images online for inspiration, and then Matthew drew and carved this beauty.


Happy Halloween!



Moving right along

The three weeks since December 12, when I wrote my “Life Goes On” post literally flew by, am I right?

I was feeling rather bah-humbug-y going into the holidays, what with trying to coordinate holiday gatherings around a toddler’s nap and early bedtime and general ennui about gift-giving.  Mid-month, I read “The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents.” The post really resonated with me, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

As Christmas drew near, I felt tremendous pressure to both give great gifts and even more so to come up my own list of what I wanted.  This is difficult because the answer is either a) nothing or b) a really specific item that I’m researching and figuring out exactly what I want, at which point, if I decide that this is indeed an item I want to spend money on, I will buy it for myself.

Needless to say, we enjoyed some nice family gatherings, and I enjoyed seeing Gabriel’s general excitement, but I’m rather glad the festivities are behind us.  I clearly would benefit from finding some way to address my feelings about gifts before next December.

Holidays aside, the past three weeks were far from dull in their own right, with action in the employment, speech therapy for Gabriel, and longtail realms.

Matthew and I both interviewed for the same position.  What’s odd to me is not that this happened, but rather that it hasn’t happened before, given that we’re both in the same field, with very similar educational backgrounds and career interests and fairly similar work histories.  Our general attitude for positions that we’ve both applied for in the past has been that, collectively, we double our chances if we both apply for a job opening, though I’m curious how employers view this.  For example, would employers see both of our applications and just avoid them altogether, in the interest of preventing [in their minds] marital strife or perceived awkwardness?  I certainly hope that would not be an issue, that our applications would be judged independently on our qualifications, but one never knows.

Speech Therapy
We’re still waiting to hear from the therapist, but, after a third evaluation, Sir finally qualified for speech and language therapy services with First Steps, a state-funded program for kids birth through three in Missouri with very affordable sliding-scale fees.  Since he’s not all that far from three, we’ll also be starting the process to see if he will qualify to transition to the age three-and-up services, which are offered through the school district.

Longtail cargo bike
We’ve more or less decided on the Edgerunner.  We’re still playing with specs and final details (gearing, accessories, etc.), but we’ve moved to the “contacting a local bike shop to get things moving” phase.  We’ve done a lot of research, but making this large of a purchase without ever seeing, much less riding, the bicycle in question is more than a little nerve wracking.  Finalizing the purchase, really making it happen, will be a bit of a leap of faith, but such is life, I suppose.

All I want for Christmas

Would that be the two bottom teeth?  Or the two top teeth?  Either way, The Dude has it covered now (photo evidence of the bottom teeth in yesterday’s photo).  I’m glad that’s all he wants for Christmas, because that’s all he’s getting, at least from Mommy and Daddy.

I’m definitely a Christmas slacker this year.  We don’t have a Christmas tree (no room in the inn!) or any decorations.  We do have a few strings of colored LED lights in our front room, but we pretty much leave those up all winter, to combat the dark dreariness, so they don’t count as holiday decorations.

I planned to take a cute picture of The Dude in a Santa hat, and send it out as a Christmas greeting, but we don’t own a Santa hat, and I haven’t gotten around to buying, or, ideally, borrowing, one.

It all feels like just one more thing this year — something for which I have neither the time nor energy.  I feel a little guilty, a bit like Scrooge or The Grinch — after all, this is “Baby’s First Christmas,” which only happens once.

The thing is, he will remember absolutely nothing about the holidays this year. And, to be fair, we’ll be spending Christmas at my parents’ house, where we can enjoy their tree and decorations. Plus, the various sets of grandparents will make sure that there are presents under the tree with The Dude’s name on them.

Also, while I can do without the commercialism and consumerism of the holidays, I am excited to experience them through the eyes of a child in the years ahead, so I am NOT a total Grinch.  I anticipate celebrations filled with the love, warmth, and family traditions that really make this season special.  Until then, I hope The Dude enjoys his two four front teeth 😉

Update: I may not be the first to claim the title, but I dubbed myself the Green Grinch — it has a nice ring to it!