...is the process by which we create, discover, learn and grow with those we cherish most.


the gift


I have such mixed emotions about gift-giving. Especially at this age. We feel compelled to give them something to open Christmas morning - because we remember the joy that went into our own floating hearts as kids. I was probably 5 years old when I received my first gift. We slept near the radiator and Christmas morning was like any other morning in NYC. Except, Mom woke us up and said "someone" brought us a special gift. As if they had fallen from the sky, I got a plastic pool table and Wagma received a Donkey Kong Jr. game by our pillows. How did this happen? That feeling - of not knowing. Not expecting... only happens once.

It is a natural unfortune that we begin to expect. Anticipate. And then even desire certain things for the sake of "Christmas." It wasn't until my younger sister turned 18 that we decided - as a family - that it was better to save or donate than to wrap and unwrap a gift we already had a notion for.

My Dad - God bless him - enjoyed Christmas the most. Because he was never "in" on the shopping sprees or conversations, "what do you want this year?" He simply drank his hot tea and watched. And we couldn't help but shower the person with absolute no expectations with the most gift boxes. It was so much easier... And the best part - he loved them all. Whether it was a bottle of cologne or undershirts - he appreciated the gestures and they were all put to good use. It's been the toughest for my kid sister to accept this new tradition - and I empathize. I miss it too. But it's not the gifts I miss - it's that childhood feeling I use to have this time of year...

I struggle with finding the right balance on how to fully embrace and celebrate this time honored tradition while Ava and Noah are still young. I imagine that as they get older, the holidays will mean different things. And that's what worries me.

I thought 3 gifts for Ava and Noah each wouldn't be overwhelming. And although it wasn't in hindsight since they are toys that will grow with them, the question still lingered - did we do too much?

Christmas morning received the brunt of months of stressful days - and it didn't bring out the best in all of us. Driven with anxiety and deflated by exhaustion, Aaron and I were tremendously busy with our jobs on top of trying to maintain some sort of sanity from our families.

Huh? Where did it go?

But what I did love and enjoy so much was seeing Ava and Noah enjoy every moment on their own schedule today. From the lollipops they found prior to seeing the wrapped gifts under the tree and enjoying it more than opening presents... to baking sugar cookies with Grandma [who was graciously patient and let Ava take the lead]. It is their natural tendencies to capture what's great and let go of what's not. New toys? Who needs them? When you can share a cookie under a blanket with a loved one?

Sugar cookies

To be ourselves and be around those who respectfully love us and bring out the best in us - is the greatest gift we can exchange. Ava and Noah taught me that. And it is with my greatest hope, that they will uphold this as the new family tradition - for the sake of Christmas.

christmas eve

The Christmas Pageant

The holidays finally arrive and a month long of lights, tree decorating, hand-made ornaments and snow flakes, hot cocoa, and warm fires come together on Christmas Eve...

Playing Trains

Noah dressed for the occasion - wearing Aaron's Christmas cow-tie he's owned for too long. Playing choo-choo with his loving cousin, they cross paths, and crash. Oh what fun!


Our nutcrackers stand on corner tables all throughout the house... begining a new tradition of it's own... and I've had so much fun picking new ones this year...


Mom prepared a delicious Afghan dinner so that we could all focus on the spectacle of the holiday... the kids...

Santa Ornament

"Santa" smiles at us from the tree, and we decided to wait a few years before we explain to Ava and Noah about St. Nick.


We pose for a family photo - which continues to be a painful effort. The kids - all four of them! can't stand still, and we can't help but laugh at the chaos in between each flash. We all survived... thank goodness for lollipops.


This ornament is old and cherished. And use to hang at our tree when I lived with my parents. I smile when I see it and the many others that were passed down to me since childhood.


Before getting to bed, Ava plays a solo on the piano. The family of rabbits cheer her on... then whisper, "get to bed little one. Christmas is almost here."

Have a happy holiday!

Ava & Noah - Happy Holidays

Ava & Noah - Happy Holidays

With much love,
Ava & Noah

dress up is fun... but being yourself is better

When we told Ava she was going to a birthday tea-party today, she couldn't stop giggling. Not so much because it was a birthday or a tea-party, but because she hadn't seen her friend in a long time. She patiently waited while I wrapped the present and then asked if she could carry it. We held hands across the street and she told me to look both ways. Walking on the curb, she handed me the present and then knocked on the door. Unfortunately, the birthday girl glanced over at Ava and then trotted off without a welcome- which was not surprising since she hadn't seen Ava in over 6 months.

Uncertain of what to do next, I could sense how this was a good learning opportunity - for the both of us. I personally am considerably shy in new settings, and never gave it much thought until I watched Ava and felt how she was feeling standing in the doorway.

Like most parents, we want our children to make and take the best out of experiences - and have fun. What consistently amazes me about parenting is how it has this surprising ability to empower us in any situation where our children are concerned. I wanted her to enjoy herself- so I braced myself and pulled myself out my comfortable shell to show her that we can make this hour be what we want it to be.

Even though she liked her own dress better [I did too], I encouraged her to change into the dress the hostess picked for her from the rack of rentals. We colored and tried on a few different hats... sipped punch out of tiny glass teacups, ate purple m&m's and sprayed more perfume than our noses could handle...

Tea Party

Tea Party

Tea Party

Our hostess stayed calm while trying to instruct the girls on how to be in a fashion show. Not an easy task when considering these 10 little girls, only few who know each other, were dressed-up to look like contestants, and then expected to partake in an activity that overlapped their nap hour. I couldn't believe it when Ava, with a smile on her face, skipped along the runway all by herself, and then returned to sip more of her tea punch.

Awarded with ice-cream, cup cakes and strawberry milk, the toddler guests indulged quietly, until two had meltdowns. Finally it was over, and it wasn't until they got re-dressed into their own clothes, were they able to be themselves.

The birthday girl, holding hands with her best friend, started playing ring around the rosey - alone together. Ava stood close and threw her hand in their circle, hoping to catch one of their hands. She did. Then looked at me as if relaying her thoughts directly into my heart, I felt a "thank you for this Mom. This is soo much fun."

Tea Party

holiday minature moments

Trains at NorthPark

Holiday minature moments perfectly replicate our images of the holidays.... Lovers snuggling during a carriage ride through central park... mom taking a break from holiday shopping on the bench, while her child looks on with curiosity...

Trains at NorthPark

Trains at NorthPark

Trains at NorthPark

Trains at NorthPark

And curiosity is exactly what you need before your arrive at the Trains at NorthPark benefiting the Ronald McDonald House - especially if you have a train fanatic in your family. We couldn't help but lean in... and then back when a train dashed through. Noah was exceptionally happy this day - "choo-choo" is his favorite thing to say and do. Whether it's with a sippy cup, or VHS tape, he'll take an object and choo-choo it on tables, sofa arms, and walls - every where except the floor?

We were just so thrilled to be able to experience something so great with the kids, and at the same time support a great cause...

Trains at NorthPark

Many cities offer something similar - and we highly recommend the visit with loud choo-choos!

Do you have a childhood memory of playing with trains? I'd love to read about it...

the gift of wonder

We tried something new this year - like the Neiman Marcus Adolphus Children's Parade, benefiting the Children's Medical Center. When we found a corner to watch the spectacle from, we realized we had actually missed all the floats.

In between Dallas skyscrapers, we chased Santa's shadow until we finally met face to face -from the best view...

Christmas Parade

Christmas Parade

While watching the kids take in the sights, I asked myself if this experience was worth it [running around the house to get ready, driving to downtown and avoiding a car accident before parking... spilling my coffee all over the stroller and my jeans while running to catch glimpses of giant balloon characters in the sky?]

If my Dad could see me now, he'd shake his head and say I'm crazy for even stepping outside of my house on this cold winter day. He'd say that the kids should be at home, and that I'm taking risks with their safety... what if they catch a cold? Or worse, get lost? Hearing his voice in my head makes me smile, because I know he loves us all too much.

I came to the conclusion that when we do things unexpected of us - and immerse ourselves inside a bigger picture - we are inevitably creating opportunities for our children to experience great things.

And it is in their wonder, that we, as parents, get to see the world, and grow as a family.

Bring their wonder to life, and create a family tradition that is unexpected. Now more than ever, is the time to teach our little ones about the holidays and how they can be a part of something bigger than the picture we have painted for them.

Noah at parade

Ask family members to make a donation to a local charity in your family's name.
Pick a charity that focuses on issues you care about as a family. What you are passionate about - chances are loved ones will be too. Offer family and friends the opportunity to experience the joy of giving by letting them know in advance or sending them info in your annual greeting sentiment. Enlist the help of Charity Navigator to learn about individual programs in the US.

Exchange the gift-exchange mentality. Instead of buying presents for each other, gather resources and adopt a family less fortunate. There are several local programs that start pairing families together for the holiday season right after Thanksgiving.

Buy two. While shopping for your little ones, consider buying two sets. When you know how much your daughter would love a new tutu - the probability that another two-year old would love one - is certain. Before you get home from the store, drop off your item at a local participating business, school or church.

Give handmade. I get mushy when I receive something handmade. Whether a card or a piece of jewelry, the time a friend spends crafting with me in mind, is priceless. Give a piece of yourself and creativity by tackling that project you've left behind months/years ago and make some thing special for someone on your list. Recycle a wool sweater into a purse. Reupholster a container with beautiful fabric as a table top piece or jewelery box. Knit booties for a baby...or a pet animal for a toddler using fleece [Aaron can help you with these]- the ideas are endless.

Buy handmade. If you don't have the time or the desire to sit still to create something unique, consider buying from local artists who do. Many online stores support the time honored tradition of handmade and have made it easy for you to shop and support the movement. Try Etsy.com or the fair trade market, where you are literally helping to alleviate poverty and working conditions in global countries. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving...
Suggestions: Original Good, Global Exchange Store, Handmade Expressions

If you have young children, this is the perfect time to discuss family celebrations and traditions for the future years. Consider integrating one or more of these ideas - or better yet, come up with your own on how your family can embrace the holiday season together.

baby... it's cold outside

My eyes barely open this morning, and I still couldn't believe what I saw. Snow. White. Soft. Snow. Falling.

First Snow

First Snow

I yelled "Ava! Noah!" and had them rush to the back door to see it for themselves. Noah kept saying, "wow...wow" over and over. It took us 20 minutes to locate and dress the kids in somewhat of a snow suit before opening the front door. And when we did, they both stumbled outside as if walking in a floating bubble.

First Snow

Ava couldn't decide what to do. Frozen in her boots, she was frustrated with her layers. Meanwhile, Noah took this opportunity to play outside and enjoy himself...

First Snow

First Snow

Ava finally got around to picking berries, but then realized she couldn't actually pick them with her mittens on. Then the twig fell from her hands.

With a grunt, she bit the end of her left mitten and took it off [even though we told her not to]...

First Snow

First Snow

After picking up her twig, she looked up and said, "Mom, it's cold," and then slipped her wet fingers back inside her mitten.

Oh baby yes... it's finally cold outside...

Our adventure outside was cut short [much to Noah's disapproval] and we read books from our home library. Some of the books took a new meaning to Ava - as she finally got to witness, touch and feel - snow. Real... cold...white...snow. Yes!

Books we recommend:
The Mitten by Jan Brett
The Snowy Day by Ezra Keats
Snow is My Favorite and My Best by Lauren Child

p.s. later in the evening, we headed back out to see Christmas lights and Ava got her mittens and hat all by herself... Yes!


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