Everything is Fine . . . Until It Isn't

Jan 28, 2021

"One problem is when there's no floor. 

Like you're walking around and you don't even care about where you're going to step because you've never had to worry about it before. 

And then out of the blue, on a Monday, or a Tuesday, or maybe a Wednesday, the most boring days of the week, when the sky is gray and everything is happening how it always happens, on one of those days, suddenly you take a step and the ground is gone . . ."

--from You May Already Be a Winner by Ann Dee Ellis

Aaron and Ian, two weeks ago

*I should preface this post by reassuring you that we are okay. Aaron is okay. But we have been thrown a bit of a curveball, which I'll explain below. 

Last month, Aaron had an appointment at Primary Children's Hospital. It was his final appointment with the bone marrow transplant team before they transferred him back over to the hematology department. They said they'd check up on him annually, but all of his labs looked good, and as far as they were concerned, he was free to go out and live his life.

When we sent out our Christmas cards, our little caption on the back said that one of the blessings of 2020 was "restored health" for Aaron. 

Just two weeks ago, we were on vacation visiting some dear friends. They asked about Aaron's health. We said, "He's never been better! He's back to his old self." "So there aren't any other worries or concerns?" they asked. "Not really. I mean, he'll still have appointments once or twice a year to make sure he hasn't developed any negative effects from the chemo or the transplant, but they don't anticipate anything. This whole process has been nothing short of miraculous."

But then on Wednesday evening last week, Aaron came into my bedroom and pointed out a patch of petechiae on his arm, and that old familiar pit in my stomach returned instantly. 

Petechiae are the tiny pin-prick bruises that form under the skin. They were one of the first symptoms we noticed eighteen months ago right before Aaron was diagnosed. I have done a lot of reading about petechiae, and there doesn't really seem to be a "normal" reason to have them show up. Because of that, they are synonymous with "insidious" and "foreboding" in my mind. As soon as I saw that patch on his arm, my thoughts went to a dark place, conjuring up the absolute worst scenario. 

Mike called the hospital. They didn't downplay our concern but rather said they'd like to see Aaron the next day. Mike also called our neighbor who happens to be a bone marrow doctor. He was reassuring to Mike on the phone, but then he came over and noticed some more petechiae on Aaron's ankles besides what was on his arm. He got very quiet, and Mike and I exchanged a desperate, panicked glance. He and Mike gave Aaron a blessing, but I couldn't let go of my extreme anxiety; it seemed to be holding every cell in my body in a tight vice.

The next morning, Mike took Aaron to the hospital where a CBC quickly confirmed that something was wrong. His platelets were at 21. You might remember from all of the platelets facts I've shared here before that a normal platelet range is anywhere from 150-450. Aaron's platelets were the first cells to come back up after his transplant, and they have stayed in the 215-275 range ever since. 

It was a shock to see his platelets so low again, although we couldn't exactly be surprised since the petechiae had been a pretty big clue. Thankfully, his other blood cells looked good--exactly as we had left them six weeks before. This was a huge relief to me because it ruled out some of the worst possibilities.

But the doctors were pretty puzzled about the drop in the platelets. They bounced around many ideas: a virus? an inner battle between Aaron and Maxwell's cells? an autoimmune disease? a weird reaction to a wart removal from two weeks before? They ordered a battery of tests and told us to hang tight and keep Aaron away from sharp objects and dangerous activities.

The weekend felt pretty normal. We told a few people about Aaron's health, but we mostly kept it on the back burner and focused on other things. But sometimes I would catch a glimpse of Aaron's legs, and each time they were covered in more petechiae, and that brought reality back hard and quick.

His respiratory and covid tests all came back negative, which was somewhat of a relief, but also not because it meant the problem was something else. Finally on Tuesday, two days ago, the nurse practitioner called and told us they suspected Aaron had developed antibodies against his platelets. It looked like he was killing off platelets as fast as he could make them. She scheduled another appointment for him on the following afternoon. 

We knew his platelets would probably still be low, but even we were surprised when they came back at 2. That number is as low as it sounds. In all of our time with low platelets before, they never got down to 2. It is at that level that they begin to worry about spontaneously bleeding internally. It is a scary place to be.

When his doctors saw that number, they pretty much admitted him to the hospital on the spot. He's back in  the same wing as before in a room across the hall from his old one. It's a little deja vu.

Normally if your platelets are at 2, they'll give you a platelet transfusion (or two) to get you back up to a safe level. But this is where it gets complicated. If Aaron's problem really is that his body is making antibodies against his platelets, then giving him more platelets will only add fuel to the fire. 

But they don't know for sure that this is what it happening. Basically, they've narrowed his problem down to one of two things.

It's either a) an autoimmune attack on his platelets, known as thrombocytopenia or ITP or b) graft failure, where his cells have decided not to play nicely with Maxwell's cells anymore. 

Because they don't have all of the information they need yet to diagnose graft failure, they are assuming it's ITP and treating him with IVIG (immunoglobulin): antibodies which help to block his immune system from attacking himself; and steroids: to suppress his cell production. They are going to keep him at the hospital until at least Saturday, at which point we should hopefully see his platelets shoot back up into normal range.

We have so many unanswered questions, such as:

  • What is actually going on in Aaron's body?
  • What will be the long-term treatment for this?
  • What will he have to do to make a full recovery?
  • What caused this to happen?
  • Is this related to aplastic anemia and his bone marrow transplant, or is he just lucky and got a second autoimmune disease?
As of right now, I don't have the answers to any of these questions, but I can tell you that we are praying very hard that this is ITP and not graft failure (which might require a second bone marrow transplant). We have a chimerism that we are still waiting for, and this will hopefully provide some more answers and help the team hone in on the right treatment plan. 

If I don't sound like I know what I'm talking about, that's about right. Mike has been going to Aaron's appointments with him, and he also spent the first twenty-four hours here in the hospital with him. He's been doing a great job of keeping me informed and up to date, but it's still second-hand information, and now you're getting it third-hand.

Things have been pretty chill though so far. Aaron settled right back into hospital life and is as easy-going as ever (we're all, including him, holding our breath a little because we've heard the steroids can make you quite irritable and mean, but we haven't seen any of that yet). There was apparently a little bit of excitement in the middle of the night when Aaron woke up because his side was all wet, and he realized it was blood. His IV had come out of his hand, and he has so few platelets that it took forever for it to clot. I think it was a bit heart-stopping for Mike and the nurse (and Aaron, too). 

So that's our current saga. The ground has fallen out from under us, so to speak. and it's going to take some time to regain our footing, but I have faith that we'll get there. Please keep Aaron in your prayers. Each one lifts us up and strengthens us so much. 

Guilty Basil

Jan 22, 2021

May 2006 (I basically don't have any photos by myself during this time period)

This morning I woke up before the rest of my family. Even though I had things I needed to get done, I stayed in bed for a few minutes and let my thoughts wander. They landed on a memory that comes up occasionally and never fails to leave me feeling guilty.

When I was a junior in college, I had to take a technical writing class. In spite of its dry-sounding name, I actually enjoyed it a lot. Among other things, we learned how to put together a resume, wrote a long research paper about something in our field (mine was on the composer, Clara Schumann, and I saved my teacher's comment that said mine was "the best of the bunch"), and composed a personal essay. 

We also had to write an article for children that taught a new skill. To help us grasp the format and reading level, our teacher showed us a few articles from Highlights. At the time, I was attempting to grow some herbs in one of the windows of my tiny apartment.  I thought, Why don't I write an article about growing basil from seeds? I called the article, "Pizza's Secret Ingredient," and I thought it came together nicely. 

After the articles had been graded, our teacher asked us to give him a clean copy. He wanted to mail them to the submissions office of Highlights. I protested. I told my teacher that I had some actual basil growing at home, and I wanted to take step-by-step photos to submit with my article.

He said, "Okay, but promise me you'll mail it yourself." I believe he even gave me the Highlights address  so I would have it.

I said, "I promise." 

You know where this is going, right?

That was fourteen and a half years ago. I never mailed "Pizza's Secret Ingredient." And basil has been haunting me ever since.

I can tell you that I honestly had every intention of submitting it. I have the photos to prove it. They were taken over a series of several weeks during May and June in 2006. But they didn't look very professional, and the further I got into growing my own herbs, the more I felt like a total novice who had no business giving growing tips (and nearly fifteen years and many dead plants later, I can confirm this fact). Also, getting the photos printed was a huge hassle (or at least felt like one). I often thought about just mailing in the article without the photos, but I couldn't do that either because the whole reason I had held onto it instead of mailing with all of my classmates was for the photos. 

I'm sure my teacher never gave this another thought after he let me keep my article. He most certainly doesn't wake up early in the morning and think, I wonder if that student kept her promise and sent in her article to Highlights?

But I think about it. Not incessantly. But every once in awhile. And it gnaws at me. I'm a person who keeps my promises. If I say I will do something, then by golly, I'll do it. 

Now that you've heard my confession, what do you think I should do? Try to dig up my old article and submit it (I have a vague memory of maybe attempting to do this several years ago but finding the submission process to be different than it was in 2006)? Try to remember my teacher's name and track him down so that I can apologize for my dishonesty? Let it go because, in the long run, it's really not that big of a deal? Keep attempting to grow basil and gift it to friends and neighbors as penance? What do you think? 

(And hopefully, this post hasn't made you lose all faith in me and my ability to follow through!

One of the infamous photos, demonstrating how to prune basil (you can see why I couldn't possibly submit this)

Plow in Hope: A Look Back at my 2020 Goals

Jan 9, 2021

One year ago I wrote these words: "Hope requires energy . . . If you're plowing in hope, then you're actually up and doing: you're not waiting for your life to be better; you're making it better."

Those words turned out to be prophetic.

When I shared my focus for 2020, plow in hope, I had no idea how much hope the year was going to require of me.  

I think we can all agree that there were many things about 2020 that felt like a cruel joke, and this focus was one of them for me. It was almost as if someone was saying, "Oh, so you want to work on plowing in hope, do you? Here's a seemingly endless pandemic for you. Let's see how well you plow through that."

It felt like real work to face each day and not succumb to the uncertainty of the future, and there was definitely more than one occasion where I wailed to Mike (or a patient friend), "What is to become of us? Will we ever get to see people again? Hug them? Smile at them? Sit next to them?" 

I wish I could say that my mantra to "plow in hope" fortified me to press forward, but the truth is that I am not naturally prone to optimism, and there were some heavy moments in 2020 that felt distinctly hopeless.

However, while I may not have been a shining example of faith-filled hope, it was a word that was on my mind a lot. I paid attention to every scripture, conversation, song, poem, or story where it was mentioned.

Mike and I went to a play at the end of February, two weeks before the world shut down. One of the characters said something that struck me, and so I wrote it down when I got home: "Is it better to know or to hope?" While "knowledge" might seem like the obvious answer, it doesn't have the ability to change things the way that hope does. 

There were a lot of things about the future I didn't know in 2020 and still don't know in 2021. But "hope is the thing with feathers." It can lift us out of even the darkest of times and give us the strength to remedy the future.

One of the things that brought me light and hope in 2020 were my goals. I thrive on routine and structure always, but especially when things feel out of control, as they did in 2020. So it was nice to have these goals to fall back on--something that gave me a little bit of purpose and direction and also that feeling of accomplishment I'm always craving.

However, it wasn't a knockout year for me. I fully completed only a few of my goals, while some of them were left partially complete or weren't even touched at all. I don't like to blame everything on 2020, but in this case, maybe I will.

Here's a complete rundown, broken into the categories I used (spiritual, physical, intellectual, spiritual):


  • Make a master list of hope. I kept a running list of references to hope throughout the year. These mentions of hope filled me up and taught me more about this topic.  One of my favorite scriptures was, "Who against hope believed in hope" (Romans 4:18). Sometimes we have to hope in hope. 
  • Begin a practice of meditation. I took Brooke Snow's 40-day Christian Meditation course with my  friend, Sarah, last January. Then we actually did the whole thing a second time in the middle of the year. During both times through the course, I was very diligent about meditating every day and implementing the different techniques and types taught by Brooke (I highly recommend this course if you're wanting to start meditating). Then after the forty days were done, I tended to gradually slack off. So I wouldn't say that I picked up the habit of meditation as quickly or naturally as some of my other habits. However, even when I am not officially meditating, I have gained a deep appreciation for taking time to be still and quiet every day, and that is something I am planning to continue with in 2021 (perhaps on an even more purposeful scale--hint hint).
  • Visit the Joseph Smith exhibit on Temple Square with Mike and the boys. This was the second time in a row this goal was on my list and also the second time in a row when life made it impossible to complete. Maybe it will eventually happen, but I'm not planning on it for 2021.
  • Find and take at least three names to the temple. If I had known what 2020 would bring, I could have rushed to finish this goal in January and February. However, I thought I had all the time in the world, so I didn't prioritize it the way that I should have. The temples were closed for most of the year or opened only on a very restricted basis. I took the one opportunity I had in September (when my nephew went to the temple for the first time), and I did the work for a family name then, but that was the only one. In the absence of regular time in the temple though, I found myself drawn to stories and information about my ancestors. Going forward, I want to know more about them for my own interest and not because I feel obligated to. 

  • Make a meal plan every week. This goal was a covid casualty. I attacked this goal with a vengeance in January. I planned out meals for the week and made a grocery list every Saturday or Monday morning. I picked up my groceries. I no longer had the 4:30 panic attack of "what's for dinner?" I made dinner at least four times a week, letting Mike handle Wednesdays and the weekend. I felt like I was rockin' at life and being a true adult. And then, the world fell apart, and since cooking is something that brings, rather than relieves, stress for me, I dropped it like a rock. And thankfully, it's the opposite for Mike, so he was happy to once again pick up my slack. But one thing I added in 2020 that wasn't planned but is somewhat related was my weekly baking sessions with Ian. So maybe I can get a few points for that?
  • Try out grocery pickup. I used (and loved) this service for the first ten weeks of the year and then stopped the third week in March and never resumed it after that. However, we started getting our dairy delivered and also participated in a weekly produce co-op, and both of those things have continued into the new year. 
  • Learn how to parallel park. Mike and I had one date night in May where he set up boxes in the church parking lot to create a little parallel parking learning station. I didn't have a chance to put my skills into practice in the real world since I hardly drove anywhere during the entire year, and now I'd probably be too chicken to try if I got the opportunity. So although I made an attempt at this goal, it was maybe a little half-hearted.
  • Learn how to fold a fitted sheet. Done! My friend showed me how, and it was like the lightbulb went on, and I finally understood the puzzle of the fitted sheet. Easiest goal to check off. And now folding fitted sheets brings me all sorts of pleasure.
  • Go on four new hikes. I actually forgot that this was a goal. Now I'm trying to think back. We went on quite a few hikes, but I'm trying to remember how many of them were ones we hadn't done before: We did two new ones by the cabin, one by the salt flats, the suspension bridge hike (still one of my favorites!), and a bunch of new ones in Bryce and Goblin Valley during fall break. So yes, I think I can give this goal a firm check mark. 

  • Continue habit of exercising four times a week. I think it's safe to say that this has become a lifestyle for me. I hardly even think about it anymore. I just do it. When the weather is nice (and the mornings aren't dark), I run outside. Otherwise, I run on the treadmill or do a Maggie Binkley video. It's only for about twenty minutes each time, but I'm very consistent.
  • Write one poem every week. I went through spurts with this goal, writing for several weeks in a row before taking unplanned breaks. It taught me one thing: I am better at reading (and appreciating) poetry than writing it. However, as I looked back over the poems I wrote, I was actually surprised with how they captured certain feelings and details that I think would have been lost otherwise. Here is one I wrote on February 10th:
Hopeful Green

Today I spied a spot of bright green
Poking through a crack in the driveway.

It was vibrant and vivid and oh so very fresh.
There was nothing old about it.

And I had to wonder . . . 

How does it know that spring
Is just around the corner?

Snow is still on the ground.
The temperature is well below freezing.
Icicles adorn the gutters.

But it wasn't there last week.
And now it is.

Is it the changing light?
The lengthening days?
The call of birdsong?

Somehow, without a calendar,
It senses that winter can't last
Much longer.

And even though I do have a calendar
And am watching the days inch by, 
Those tiny green shoots bring me 
More hope
Than any arbitrary date ever could.

  • Write one book review each month. This was a much more realistic goal for me than trying to review every single book I read. Even with it being more manageable though, I still didn't write a review in October or December.
  • Read a book about writing and/or participate in some sort of writing challenge. I must confess to a big, fat no on this one. I never found anything that excited or motivated me, and so I just let it go. My relationship with writing has been rather rocky these past few years, and I'm still trying to figure out how to get back the joy it once brought me.
  • Knit something out of linen. I had an idea for this goal. I wanted to make this shawl out of this yarn. I'm pretty sure I even had it in my online cart one day before I decided it wasn't in the budget right then. I ended up making this sweater from a linen blend, so I felt like I could count it for my goal. However, it wasn't at all what I had in mind when I made the goal, so I kind of feel like I settled for something that wasn't the real thing. 

  • Sew something with serger. I checked off this goal in January and then checked it off again and again in the months that followed. I'm dubbing 2020 "the year I fell back in love with sewing." My serger (and sewing machine) have been putting in many hours of work and, for the most part, they have been treating me well (but I am always wary of machines--they are unpredictable creatures).
  • Spend more time in books and less time on phone. I think it would have helped if I had been a little more specific with this goal. I read a total of 38 books in 2020, which was more than I read in 2019 (26) but not like 2016 when I read 70. Basically, there is always room to improve when it comes to cutting down time on my phone.
  • Edit family videos. I took an online class about making family videos (this one). I just wanted a quick and easy way to capture important moments or events in a way that my kids would actually be able to revisit and enjoy. I made a practice video in March. Then I helped Aaron learn how to do it over the summer. And finally, I made videos of our fall break trip and Christmas. I like that it's fast and uncomplicated but still turns out something really meaningful. (P.S. I really wish I had been making videos before I lost all of my footage between August and November 2019. I'm still so sad anytime I think about that.)
  • Teach someone to knit and/or start a knitting group. The knitting group obviously didn't happen, thanks to covid, but amazingly, I actually taught three different people how to knit, as well as consulted quite a bit. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am happy to pass on this skill to anyone who wants to learn. (Also, I'm still really hoping for that knitting group--fingers crossed it can happen later this year!)
  • Weekly communication with siblings. Did I communicate with my siblings in 2020? Yes. Did I talk or text with all seven of them every week? No. If I'm being honest, two of my brothers did a better job with this than I did, and I don't think it was even a goal for either of them.
  • Give hugs to Mike and boys every day. I think physical touch is so important and probably more so in 2020 than ever before because we've all been forced to keep our hugs to ourselves. Luckily, I can hug my boys, and I did (and will continue to do so).
  • Take Aaron on a trip to celebrate his 12th birthday. It will come as no surprise that we didn't get to do this one. But maybe in 2021? 
  • Find a way to store journals safely. I write in my journal every day, which means that I've accumulated quite the collection. I really love being able to look back through them for certain information or just to reminisce, so I felt like I should find a way to keep them safe in case of a fire. But then I realized that they wouldn't really be easily accessible, and I decided I would rather use them than protect them. So they're just on a shelf in my closet, and that's probably where they will stay.
Even though some of my efforts were less than stellar on these goals, I feel like 2020 was still a year of good progress where I tackled some things I'd wanted to do for a long time. I'm not quite ready to share my plans for 2021. I like to take the first month to brainstorm and try out some ideas before I commit to anything. But they're coming, I promise.

In the meantime, please tell me about some of the things you did in 2020, as well as what your dreams are for 2021. If we put in our plow and hope, I have confidence we can do great things.

A Little of This and That in December

Jan 3, 2021

Oh, Christmas. I love it so much, and I am always so sad when it is over. This year was cozy and simple, and I embraced the pure hygge-ness of it all. We were able to spend little bits of time with small groups of extended family, and I'm grateful we could find safe ways to do so. But most of the time, it was just us, and I treasured it. This month found us . . . 

Realizing . . . that I can't be trusted around any sort of gummy candies. Mike and I went to Trader Joe's (our first time since the pandemic started!), and they had out their seasonal gummies, so of course I had to buy some. Unfortunately, almost no one else in my family likes them, so I ended up eating the entire bag over the course of just two days. Good thing I only bought one.

Celebrating . . . our engagement anniversary. Mike and I got engaged sixteen years ago on December 4th. We always mark the passing of another year by going to Panda Express because that is what we ate on that evening so many years ago before Mike popped the question. This year, we stopped by the Utah Art Market first, which features art from local artists, including two of my friends. It was all so beautiful, and I definitely would have bought many pieces if I'd had unlimited funds. Then we got takeout at Panda Express, brought it home, and reminisced about the last sixteen years, which have gone by so fast.

Giving . . . my mom an early Christmas present. In my family, we draw names for Christmas presents, and my parents are included in the exchange. This means that there are some years when I don't give to them and some years when they don't give to me. I drew the names of both of my sisters this year, but then I thought about my mom's aprons that were so well-used they were basically falling apart. So I decided to make her an apron as a surprise. I knew she wouldn't be expecting it since I didn't have her for Christmas, and nothing makes me happier than thinking up the perfect gift. I gave it to her early since it wasn't a "real" Christmas present, and I wanted her to have it for all of her holiday baking. It wasn't quite as good as my brother's surprise gift of grandchild #11, but she was still very happy to get it.

Writing . . . haiku. Maxwell is really into writing poems, especially haiku. He puts together little booklets of them on various themes. As someone who has always struggled with how to fit the essence of what I want to say in such a limited meter, I am so impressed with what he creates. 

Making . . . Christmas ornaments. One of our traditions is to make a new set of ornaments every year. Sometimes they are quite time intensive, but this year's was quick and easy. I bought a set of glass balls. We took the tops off of them, and the boys put in a few bits of crayon. Then we used a hair dryer to heat up the glass and melt the crayons. The melted crayons were then swirled around the inside of the ball to create a marbled effect. They're really very pretty, and we only had two casualties of broken glass while we did it. 

Baking . . . with Ian. Ever since school started, Ian and I have had a little ritual of baking a treat or snack on Wednesdays. This started because Wednesdays are my big piano teaching days (I have seven lessons in the afternoon), and so I thought it would be nice if the boys had something yummy to come home to since I am always so preoccupied and busy. It has become a fun little activity that both Ian and I look forward to. Baking is not one of my big loves, but when it is planned into my schedule, it is much more enjoyable. Plus, I've had fun choosing things that are very seasonal and help get us in the mood for the various holidays. (For example, in October we made these delicious pumpkin snickerdoodle bars. In November, we made cranberry bread from the picture book Cranberry Thanksgiving. And this month, we made my favorite Gingerbread Cookie Bars.) We crank up some tunes while measuring out ingredients, and it is a delightful time. We usually can't wait for the boys to get home before having a sneak taste ourselves. When we made these Christmas Crackers, we both found them so addicting that Ian even said, "I know I should stop eating these. But I just can't."

Devouring . . . chocolates from an advent calendar. And not just his own. On the 19th, Ian hid under a couch and ate up every last chocolate from his own calendar as well as his four brothers (and both Bradley and Aaron had not been eating theirs regularly, so I know they had more than six chocolates left). I'm rather impressed with his clandestine plan executed so perfectly, his thoroughness in methodically cleaning out each calendar, and his ability to consume so much chocolate in one sitting.


Going . . . to Aaron's Christmas band concert. Mike and I enjoyed Aaron's second concert just as much as the first. My only regret was that, because of continued Covid restrictions, his brothers and grandparents couldn't come, too. He loved performing and was flying higher than a kite when it was done. 

Playing . . . the trombone with Grandpa Paul. Mike's parents decided to invite families over one at a time to limit the risk of spreading Covid. When it was our turn, they made waffle cones filled with raspberry cream for dessert (a Norwegian tradition), and Aaron inhaled four of them in under five minutes (I'm seeing hints of a teenage appetite). After dinner, Aaron got out his trombone and played Christmas hymns with Mike's dad. They really sounded pretty good together, and it was a lot of fun for both of them. Mike's dad also showed me a beautiful stranded colorwork cardigan that was knitted for him while he was on his mission in Norway in the 1970's. That was a highlight of the night for me. 

Watching . . . so many Christmas movies. Having most of our traditional festivities cancelled, we filled the evenings with Christmas movies. The kids had never seen such classics as Home Alone and The Santa Claus, and we also watched many of our old favorites. One new one that we really liked was Jingle Jangle. It was filled with good music and wasn't as blatantly Christmas as some of the others ones. On the night that we watched Home Alone, we immediately followed it with family scripture study. Completely by coincidence, our reading was from Luke 2:42-46, which tells about when Mary and Joseph accidentally left 12-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem. Having just finished a movie all about a child being left behind, the words took on new meaning: "But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance." We all busted up; we couldn't help ourselves. The application was just too perfect.

Participating . . . in my family's Christmas piano party. This is a highlight of the season for my kids. Each year my parents host a family party where everyone performs a Christmas song, usually on the piano, although other instruments are definitely allowed. We didn't know if it would happen this year because of Covid, but we decided we could make it safely work by wearing masks, sitting apart from each other, and sanitizing after performing. My dad and Aaron played a duet on the baritone and trombone, and it was the first time they'd ever played together.

Wrapping . . . Christmas presents. Mike and I were so on top of things this year and wrapped all of the presents several days before Christmas. Usually, we are totally a wrap-everything-at-10:00pm-on-Christmas-Eve kind of couple, but not this year. We enjoyed the evening and were in bed by 11:30 (which is pretty typical for us on a normal day). 

Going . . . to the movie theater. On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, we went to see a movie. This has been a tradition of ours for several years, and it is such a nice way to pass the time on Christmas Eve. There have been very few new releases because of the pandemic, but some of the theaters were showing old classics. We decided to see Muppet Christmas Carol. I thought it was great fun to see one of our favorite Christmas movies on the big screen. In my opinion, going to see a movie is one of the safest activities you can do during the pandemic. We sat at the back of the theater and had an entire row to ourselves. You don't have any other contact with other people and you just sit quietly in a darkened theater for a couple of hours (unless you have a three-year-old, in which case there's a little more squirming). I was remembering last year when we went to the movie theater with Aaron and his compromised immune system. We wiped down all of the seats with Clorox wipes and Aaron was wearing an N95 masks. We thought we probably looked like paranoid, germ-freak parents. Oh, how things change in a year. Now Clorox wipes and masks are not only totally normal but required. 

Acting . . . out the nativity. We spent Christmas Eve with Mike's sister and her family. After dinner, which included prime roast, au gratin sweet potatoes, rolls, salad, and corn, the kids divided up the parts and acted out the nativity with Sonja and Rob playing Mary and Joseph. They were inventive with cobbling together costumes for the various parts, and I loved it.

Waiting . . . to wake up until 7:00am on Christmas morning. I could hear the boys out in the hallway at 6:58--"Okay, guys, only two more minutes."

Meeting . . . Bodie. Clark desperately wanted a pet for Christmas. His top choice was a rabbit (a friend in his class has one, and she brought it to school one day). When I told him even if Santa brought him one, he wouldn't get to keep it, he then moved onto a kitten (I think he somehow thought he had a better chance with this since we already have a cat). I promptly shut down that idea as well since even one cat is one too many for me. In frustration he said, "What pet can I have then?!" I said, "Clark, basically the only pet you could ask for is a fish." He latched onto that idea immediately: "Really? You would let me keep a fish? If Santa gave me a fish, you wouldn't make me give it away?" I pretty much had to sign a verbal contract, giving him my word of honor that a fish would be welcome in this house. He thought about it all month long, and on Christmas morning, he was thrilled to meet his little blue beta fish. He promptly named it "Bodie." (Apparently, he had two names picked out: "Goldie," if it was a goldfish and "Bodie" if it was a beta fish.) I have no doubt that the appeal will wear off after a little while as a fish only has so much to give, but for right now, Clark is quite content.

Working . . . on a Paint-by-Sticker book. Early in the month, I pulled out a Christmas-themed Paint-by-Sticker book and divided up the pages among the boys. Ian had never done one before, and he surprised me by being able to do it by himself. I thought it was going to be too complicated with the geometric shapes and the high numbers. But he loved it. He ended up adding a sticker book to his letter to Santa, and he was thrilled to receive one on Christmas morning. He paid only minimal attention to his other presents because he was so consumed with his sticker book. He was determined to do the whole thing all on Christmas, and he worked diligently on it throughout the day. He almost reached his goal. He did nine pictures and had just one left that he did the following day. I feel like I need to keep a stock of these as each picture takes him about 25-30 minutes to complete, which can be like gold depending on what I'm trying to get done.

Knitting . . . a Christmas ornament. I continued my tradition of knitting a new Christmas ornament on Christmas Day. This year, I decided to make a star. It was a slow start for me as I had some difficulty understanding the instructions, but I eventually figured it out and enjoyed the process. I watched White Christmas in the afternoon while working on it. Ian was doing his sticker book (see above) at the same time and happened to glance at the movie just as Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye were doing their "Sisters" number. He was quite impressed with their "dressing up." I finished the star that evening and hung it on the tree. My collection of hand-knitted ornaments is growing, and I love them.

Playing . . . a not very Covid-friendly game. Don't worry, it only involved our family. Our family got a ping-pong table for Christmas, and Mike introduced the boys to the game where you have to keep the ping pong ball on the table by blowing on it. I'm not sure if it has a real name or not, but my kids call it "Hurricane." We all played it on Christmas, and it made us fall on the floor from laughing so much (or maybe we were just completely winded from so much blowing). My parents gave us a couple of new games that were in frequent circulation during the break as well: Tiki Topple and Gonuts for Donuts.

Drinking . . . lots of wassail. 'Tis the season. It's my favorite warm drink, and my kids were so nice to give me a smart mug for Christmas. I had no idea these things existed, but basically, I can set my phone to whatever temperature I want (I prefer 140 degrees F), and then the mug will keep my drink at that temperature. It's pretty awesome (I happen to be sipping on some right now as I write this post). 

Bingeing . . . The Office. Mike and I are usually about ten years late to any party. Such was the case with The Office. While the rest of you have loved it since 2005, we didn't start watching it until May of this year. Once we started, we couldn't stop, and it was a rare evening when we didn't watch at least one episode. It felt so good to end each day by laughing, and I was surprised with how deeply invested I became in the characters--so much so that sometimes I would bring one of them up to Mike in just a normal conversation, and he would say something like, "It's kind of funny that you're so worried [irritated] [excited] about that." When we found out The Office would be leaving Netflix at the end of the month, we tried our best to watch as many episodes as possible. We only made it to the end of Season 7, but that's when Michael leaves, so it felt like a fitting place to stop. I'm already missing it so much though. Nothing else feels the same. (P.S. There were times when the dialogue was a little crass and/or uncomfortable for me (which I know is kind of the point), so we actually watched it through VidAngel, and this helped to temper it a bit.)

Seeing . . . a lot of Mike. Mike was lucky to be able to take off most of the two-week break along with the boys, and we were all so glad to have him home. He baked sour dough bread and perfected his attempts at kouign-amann pastries. He played many rounds of snooker, pool, and ping pong. He also helped the boys work on their STEM projects that were due when they returned to school. I think he enjoyed the time off as much as the kids did. 

Spending . . . lots of time in the kitchen. Max is his father's son and couldn't seem to stay out of the kitchen during the break. He just wanted to be baking or cooking something all of the time. He loved making breakfast in the mornings, and his brothers were the happy recipients. There was one morning when he wanted to make French toast, but Mike was at work and I was still reading a manuscript. I told him he could do it but I wouldn't be available to help him. I was quite surprised when I came downstairs thirty minutes later and found that not only had he made French toast, but the kids had set the table and were all eating together. When I returned to the kitchen a little later, he had cleaned up his entire mess, including wiping down the table and counters. He's the real deal, that Maxwell. One day we told him he couldn't make anything. We didn't really have a good reason, except that he'd been doing so much of it. We found this letter on our bed later in the day: 

Dear Mom + Dad,

This is my petition for why I should be allowed to bake/make breakfast on non-school days:

  • These days have extra jobs/chore lists so you can easily have us "sweep and wipe table," "mop," or "clear kitchen." Besides I am usually willing to clean up by myself.
  • Letting me make breakfast saves you trouble because you can stay in your bed while I "slave away at the stove" (Aaron reference), made all the easier because I can print off a recipe from the office.


P.S. Present other points and problems to me and I will resolve your worries. 

Sending . . . off 2020. This year was unlike anything I could have dreamed of. If you told me last January that we'd spend most of the year quarantined from the rest of the world and that a face mask would be the most popular accessory, I would have laughed in disbelief. I sometimes look back fondly at my naive pre-Covid self in early March when I optimistically told my friend that "Of course you'll still be able to go to Paris in April!" I never guessed at the worldwide impact of this virus. It makes me a little scared of the future, but I also learned that life keeps going, and there is still so much joy to be found. We spent the last day of the year watching the 2019 Little Women with my sister (that movie is pure perfection), eating Muddy Buddies, playing games, massaging a headache (me), creating a calendar for 2021, and making as much noise as possible at midnight. Even Ian and Clark made it to midnight--the first time for both of them. 

And with that, let's do this, 2021! We're ready for you! I'd love to hear about all of the ways that you celebrated during this unusual holiday season. I'm grateful for each one of you that still sits down and reads my occasional posts on this blog. Take care, and happy new year!

Proudly designed by Mlekoshi playground