My dear, sweet friend recently had her first child. Just like any new mother, she is overwhelmed; overwhelmed with love, with exhaustion, with joy, and with change.
I ache with happiness and empathy for her because I have been there. Life with a new baby is somehow the most hectic and boring time of your life, but I don’t know a single mother who would trade it for all of the Lululemon in Canada.
My Itty Bitty just turned two. It has taken one of those two years for me to catch up on sleep, but the nostalgia for those very early times with my babies has finally overtaken me. I find myself consciously breathing in the smell of my baby’s head as I read to her at night. She’s twice as big as she was just a year ago and talks like a 17-year-old.
Facebook corners me into a glass house of emotion almost daily when photos of my full-cheeked Big Girl smile back at me from her ever present spot in the hiking backpack she called home throughout our time in Europe. These days, her slim, freckled cheeks are constantly obscured by a book she is reading on her own.
I am sad to say, I have lost so many memories of the first few years of my girls’ lives because I was so overwhelmed with the task of simply getting to the end of a day with two young children.
As they say, “The days are long, but the years are short.”
I regret not marveling in every second of my babies crawling toward the Christmas tree for the first time because I was worried they would drink the tree water, eat a glass ornament or pull the tree onto themselves. It stinks that I prioritized a perfect meal or a clean house over making reindeer handprint paintings that showed how tiny their paws once were. I hate that I bided my time until an easier phase suddenly made life simple.
I have come to realize life never gets easier as a parent, you are just slightly less physically exhausted as your children get older. I would take that in a heartbeat compared to the emotional toll that accompanies KD (Kindergarten Drama.) I cannot even begin to fathom the fortitude it takes to deal with real drama past the age of five. I know, that in a couple of years, I will look back on this time longingly as well.
All of this reflection has been amplified with the onset of the holiday season, and my desire to capture these small, but invaluable vignettes going forward is ever present in my mind. I love Christmas because it means that I will get to be with my extended family no matter where we are stationed. There are so many people to see and fun things to do when we finally get to go “home.” It is so difficult for me not to get lost in the beautiful chaos that is the holidays. I start the season with so many special plans. As each day passes and my calendar gets busier and busier, the activities become obligations rather than experiences. This year, I am prioritizing time above all else. Warm memories of days spent with those I love are all I want from Santa. That, and a nap, another dog and a Tesla. I’ve been pretty good this year, so I will wake up Christmas morning with pretty high expectations.
Just in case my perfectly reasonable list of items is not fulfilled, I wanted to ensure that the irreplaceable memories of this year and those past stay with me beyond December 25th. I asked the the contributing team at Military Moms Blog to help me put together a list of questions to ask loved ones this holiday season. I plan to email these questions to my family members and compile the answers in a book to give to everyone on Christmas Eve. If you just want to discuss them around the dinner table or over Skype or FaceTime one night, that’s just as lovely, too. Another fun way to enjoy this list would be to have the guests at your holiday gathering answer each question on a small piece of paper and add it to a pot in the middle. When everyone is finished filling out their response, the group has to guess who provided the answer.
Holiday Questions for the People You Love
- What is your favorite holiday memory as a parent? As a child?
- What was your favorite gift to give? To receive?
- What is your favorite holiday recipe?
- What is your favorite holiday tradition?
- What does Christmas/Hanukkah/ Kwanzaa/ Festivus truly mean to you?
- What was the most notable holiday disaster you can remember?
- Seriously, Mom. I know you love your White Diamonds by Elizabeth Taylor Perfume. It’s your staple and has been for 20+ years. But what else can I get you for Christmas this year? What do you really want, rather than need?
- What are you most thankful for this year?
- If money were no object, what gift would you wish for this year?
- Who do you miss the most this holiday and why?
- What is your favorite holiday movie? Book?
- What is the one thing you are most proud of accomplishing this year?
We have created a printable list of questions to record your holiday memories this year. We would love for you to share your most remarkable responses with our community. I have included my Great Grandmother’s Pumpkin Pie, as it truly invokes the holidays for me. The Warmest and Happiest Holiday Season from Ours to Yours.
A huge thank you to the talented Stephanie Vandewalker of Studio Dinky Bird for the gorgeous art for this post. Stephanie is a former Air Force spouse who creates the most special and personalized art each and every time she puts her pencil to paper. I encourage you to check out her indescribably cute Etsy shop here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/StudioDinkyBird
- 1 Prepared Pie Crust
- Pumpkin Mix
- 1 Envelope Knox's Gelatin
- 1/4 C Cold Water
- 1/2 C Finely Packed Brown Sugar*
- 1/2-1 tsp. Fine Salt
- 3-4 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
- 1 1/3 C Pumpkin Puree
- 3 Egg Yolks
- 1/2 C Milk
- 3 Egg Whites
- 1/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar
- 1/4 C Granulated Sugar*
- Blind Bake pie crust according to directions to golden brown
- For Pumpkin Mix
- Soak gelatin in cold water
- Mix brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Combine with pureed pumpkin.
- Beat three eggs in mixer until pale yellow in color and blend in milk.
- Add egg mixture to pumpkin mixture and cook in large pot over medium/ medium high heat until it thickens. This should take around 10 minutes. Stir often.
- Add softened gelatin mixture to pumpkin mixture and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
- Beat egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form.
- Mix Cream of Tartar and sugar and gradually blend in to egg whites.
- Fold meringue mixture into pumpkin mixture, and pour into pie crust. Refrigerate and serve with homemade whipped cream.
- *My family uses WAY more sugar in this recipe than I do. If you like your desserts sweeter, increase brown sugar to 3/4C- 1C and add 2 TBSP granulated sugar to the meringue mixture.
- My favorite part of Thanksgiving morning was always eating cinnamon sugar pie scraps for breakfast.