This week has been a busy one. Last Saturday, we ended the week with a beautiful light parade in a neighboring town, and the next day, I started the week with travel to Orlando for a work trip. The work trip started with play and a secretive trip to Disney World. I say secretive because I have no intentions of sharing that aspect of my travels with the girls. It wouldn’t end well for anyone. Besides, I did spend the next three days working, and that’s all they really need to know. Thursday was spent catching up from the work trip, and I added more play to my week on Friday by adding a long-anticipated trip to IKEA. Saturday was an all-day marathon of cookie making, which brings us to today, Sunday.
Today, I have a laundry list of to-dos, which starts with laundry. Then sweeping the floors, baths for everyone including the dog, a mountain of dishes that will only grow with the meal prep I need to do for the week. Oh yeah, and preparing for a very elaborate work Christmas celebration that includes making cookies (or toffee for me) and bringing a present — on top of the regular Christmas preparations I need to do.
So, I am taking my best friend’s advice and putting play before my to-dos. To accomplish that, I am taking away a to-do: my annual Christmas letter to my family. I have always enjoyed reading the Christmas letter my mom put together each year and the ones she received. What a great way to catch up with family and friends at the holidays! As an adult though, I realize how much time it takes. So, I am cutting out the extra work this year and delivering the Christmas letter to you via NHN!
Ali, Maddie, and Riley’s Christmas Letter 2017
As a family, we had a year of a variety of firsts. The year started off a bit bleak as I continued to try to comprehend and cope with the impact of the 2016 elections. To sort through my own feelings and show support for women, the girls, Lesley and I headed up to Indianapolis to participate in a sister Women’s March to the historic march in Washington, DC. This was our first ever rally, and it was huge! We had an unbelievably warm 60 degree January day (not caused by global warming, of course) for the march and had a truly powerful experience.
In keeping with our family values, we made sure to incorporate lots of time for vacations this year. The girls and I spent the last week in May in beautiful Lake Cumberland, Kentucky, where we explored the lake and a waterfall and had a wonderful lunch at a floating restaurant at the end of a marina. The weather was great, and we spent a lot of time doing what the girls love most – swimming.
Luckily for the girls and me, the completion of my parents’ lake house meant that all of our weekends this summer were spent there: swimming, boating, kayaking, tubing, and having our fill of fun in the sun. Our first summer at the lake but, happily, not our last. We are looking forward to many family memories there.
In keeping with the theme of water, we traveled with our family friends-that-are-more-like-family, Lesley and her daughter, Story, to Tampa, Florida, where all three girls saw the ocean for the first time. They also learned all about the taste of salt water, the ever-presence of sand, and the hungry nature of seagulls. We did several activities including a fascinating boat ride focused on learning about marine biology put on by the local marine rescue that included dragging a net along the bottom of the ocean and learning about the sea life we found.
To round things out, we did take one family trip this year that did not include water. In early October, we rented an RV in a campground about an hour away for a long weekend of relaxation and outdoor play. The girls enjoyed making friends with the neighboring campers’ children, and I enjoyed a solitary glass of wine by the fire. Now that is true bliss!
Our last “first” of the year was a sad one with the loss of our first family pet, Douglas. Doug was my first pet after leaving home and was a truly loved cat. He was quirky, passive aggressive, and demanding but a valued member of the family. He is missed.
This year, I set a goal for myself of running my first 10K. I’ve done 5Ks and half marathons but have always skipped over the intermediate distance. As any good daughter would do, I roped my mom into it, and we competed in a 10K in May. Not just any 10K but one that wound us up and down the forests of Gnaw Bone, Indiana. The race was called Dances with Dirt and it certainly was.
I experienced a first of my own this year by opting for Lasik and saw the world for the first time without contacts since I was twelve years old. The surgery itself was incredible and actually very cool to watch. It turns out, it is surprisingly natural to see without glasses.
Riley had a major first of her own this year – starting Kindergarten. She has developed a love of learning and is progressing through her learning targets quickly. It won’t be too much longer before she is reading on her own. She has also honed her organization skills and has developed a deep love of checklists, calendars, and logs. She is ready to take on the world and has the details all planned out.
Riley has continued her love of running and swimming this year, participating in the annual YMCA mile run, the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, and several rounds of swimming lessons with Grammy. She has also enjoyed her participation in Girls, Inc., an after-school program focused on empowering young women to be strong, smart, and bold. She had the opportunity to participate in her first parade this year with Girls, Inc. riding the big red bus in the IU Homecoming parade with pride!
Maddie moved to the preschool building of her daycare a year and a half early in September and has been enjoying being a big kid. And a big kid she truly is — moving quickly from 3T clothing to 4T and now ending the year in 5T and sometimes 6T clothing. Luckily for me, she isn’t too big to (and will still let me) cuddle!
She participated in her first gymnastics class and was thrilled to join Riley and Grammy for summer swimming classes at our local outdoor pool. Her favorite activities continue to be singing, dancing, and causing mischief. She has developed a strong affinity for the anti-heroes in movies, including Maleficent and Jack from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and created her own anti-hero, the Pumpkin Witch, for Halloween.