The Last Post of the Year

We’re currently en route back home after a quick trip down to Wilmington, North Carolina to spend time with Clay’s family. It had been a couple of years since we were last there during the holiday season and now that we’re calling northern Virginia home, we decided to jet down there when Clay’s scheduled opened up for a few days.

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The last time we were there, our family was patient zero for the stomach flu that eventually made it’s way through the extended family so I am happy to report that we were illness-free this time around. Well – except for me. But thankfully, the massive sinus-infection that overwhelmed my face during December is finally making it’s curtain call thanks to a cocktail of prescribed medication that limited my alcohol consumption during the holidays.

IMG_2395Clay was in and out of town throughout November and December so we did our best to squeeze in holiday traditions when he was home. One we introduced On December 23rd, we saw the Manassas Ballet Theater perform The Nutcracker. It was our first time attending such a performance as a family and we can’t wait to do it again. We will likely move around a lot during the next five years so it will be fun to see the performance in different places around the world.

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Last year, we made the decision to not travel for Christmas – instead choosing to wake up in our own home on Christmas morning and push any travel to the day after Christmas. When it was just the two of us and when the children were younger, traveling with gifts wasn’t an issue but now it just makes more sense to stay home. When the kids are teenagers, I can see us traveling again over the holidays and perhaps even taking an epic trip as our big gift to each other. Our church had a wonderful Christmas Eve service, complete with fiber-optic wands for the kids. Afterwards, we put on matching pajamas and ate appetizers while watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and tracked Santa via NORAD. Speaking of which – when calling NORAD on speakerphone with the kids, I misdialed and somehow ended up phoning a sex line. Obviously, I’m winning a parenting award for my achievements this year.

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Christmas morning featured excited squeals, some surprises, and enough cardboard and wrapping paper to fill the recycling can for the next few weeks. As always seems to be the case, the kids played the most with the $8 worth of Play-Doh that day. My sister and her family came down from Pennsylvania the following day for a couple of days. The kids acted like spider monkeys and us adults maintained our sanity by eating, drinking, and watching Curb Your Enthusiasm.

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After a trip to Urgent Care for me, we made our down to North Carolina, where we celebrated Christmas and took advantage of Clay’s sister’s beach house on Ocean Isle Beach. There was plenty of Clemson gear on display and the six cousins enjoyed playing together. We weren’t there long – less than 48 hours – but I’m glad that Clay’s schedule allowed for us to squeeze in the trip.

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The six grandchildren (ages 4 – 12).

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Hopefully the traffic on I-95 N will be kind to us as we make our way up to the national capital region and we will be home before the sun sets. Our New Years Eve will be a quiet one this year as we say hello 2018 – just the four of us. But if 2018 is anything like 2017, then it will be one hell of a ride. And as the sun sets on this year, I look forward to tomorrow’s sunrise.

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Lucky Number Thirteen

We met and fell in love as teenagers and were married the same year that I could legally consume alcohol. Science says that frontal lobe isn’t fully developed until we’re 25, so for making such a major life decision before we were 100% rational beings, things have been turning out okay. Better than okay. In fact, things are pretty freakin’ amazing.

Today marks 13 years of marriage for us. In many ways, 13 years doesn’t seem like nearly enough time to encapsulate the infinite moments that comprise our story. It feels like chump change. I’ve been in love with this goofy, hardworking, kind, courageous, and beautiful man for almost half my life. We’ve gone through a lot together and we approach life with the idea that we are stronger together than as individuals. Together we are unstoppable. We are a team. And a pretty damn good one at that.

Like many other couples, our story is a collection of excitement, joy, and heartbreak. The highlight reel would show the exciting moments surrounding the birth of our children, the moments of anticipation before a reunion, the tender moments spent wiping away tears before a deployment or after a miscarriage, the thrilling moments of a new adventure, and the quiet and comfortable moments that let us know that everything is going to be okay.

I suppose that is one of my favorite things about being married to Clay – that no matter what is thrown our way, it will be okay. For no other reason than because we have each other. As we slide into the downhill portion of our thirties, we find our eyes have more crinkles in the corners. We’re finding gray hairs at an alarming rate and truth be told, it is becoming quite difficult to maintain the flat stomachs of our twenties. But he has never looked better to me. I couldn’t ask for a better partner, a better cheerleader, a better father for our children, or a better man. Not too shabby for a couple in love who decided to get married before their frontal lobes were even fully developed.

Where We Love is Home

My favorite types of homes are those that tell a story. Perhaps that is why I prefer older homes to newer and my favorite way to decorate can pretty much be summed up by put everything on the walls! Home is somewhat of a unique concept for our family. Our eight-year-old son has lived in eight different houses over the years and our four-year-old daughter has lived in four. I may not remember the full addresses of all the houses that Clay and I have shared but all of them have been called home at some point or another. Home is where the heart is…all those needlepoints can’t be wrong, can they?

Recently, I came across an Instagram account that highlighted her neutral-toned Christmas decor – complete with a white Christmas tree and beige ribbon. Another account featured a tree with all new ornaments purchased this year in order to fit with the rustic cabin theme in their suburban home. More power to them. Many find such decor aspirational. But looking at such images just bums me out, which is probably why I’m not an interior designer.

Give me color. Give me kitschy. Give me handmade. Give me history. Give me a story. And most of all, give me love. Our Christmas decor features items collected over our thirteen years of marriage from a variety of locales. We don’t have matching family stockings because I don’t dare replace the stockings I bought for Clay and me in our first year of marriage. Artwork done by the kids is taped on the closet door. And is it really Christmas without at least one paper chain countdown?

Our tree is filled with ornaments from the various places we’ve called home and traveled to over the years. This year, we let the kids put the ornaments on the tree so there are bare spots and it is pretty far from magazine-worthy but it is our tree. And for that reason alone, it is the most beautiful tree in the world in our eyes.

Christmas cards we received are promptly taped on the door. I love how the cards serve as a visual reminder that we’re not alone every time we leave the house.

When my grandmother passed away earlier this year, my dad and aunts ensured that her ceramic Christmas tree ended up in my home. Her mother (my great-grandmother) made them for all the women in the family in the early 1980’s and I’m thankful I am able to now display one in our home. I found the plaid runner in a North Carolina thrift store years ago and no vintage corner is complete without tacky lights around the banister.

On our kitchen table is an advent yule log we made together at church. The bay window holds some of our less-kitschy items but let’s be honest – there is nothing of value on display. If you’re looking for super classy Christmas decoration inspiration, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Our home is full of mismatched furniture, items collected from around the world, and things from Target – lots and lots from Target.

Only time will tell if this will be our only Christmas in this house we are currently calling our home. Our children may not have a childhood spent in one particular house but they will always have a home. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. stated that “Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” We have loved in many places over the years and we have learned that a house is simply that – a house. Flashy appliances, expensive countertops, large bathrooms, two-car garages do not a home make. Home is us. Home is anywhere. Right now, home is a house in northern Virginia built in 1966 with basement laundry, a car port, and mirrored closet doors. And during this 2017 Christmas season, we couldn’t ask for a better place to love.