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Storybooks and Real Life

Well this is nice. Rain pattering on our rooftop, twinkly lights glowing through the dark, candles burning and a fresh cup of coffee. Last week, I attempted a major purge of our house. Crumpled paper napkins shoved in the back of kitchen drawers, old kettles I hadn’t gotten around to throwing away, dried up play-dough chucked absentmindedly on the ‘craft shelf’. Sheets were washed and clothes drawers were sorted out — too small baby clothes given away, with some favourite pieces kept just in case. It felt good. The perfect way to make our home cozy for the start of December.

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I am so aware of the good this time of year, my gush-o-meter rocketing off the scale it belongs on. My family, my friends, my home, they matter even more to me in December and I don’t take lightly the thankfulness I ought to feel for it all.

I feel it.

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I take photos of Christmas decorations and send them to a friend I know will go crazy over them. I make greater efforts to be nicer and more patient with Joel. I read that extra book at bedtime to my babies, even though I’m dog tired and want nothing more than a minute’s rest. I text out of the blue messages to friends I’m thinking of. I make plans to look at Christmas lights with extended family. Although my euphoria is embedded largely in the magic and make-believe of Christmas and my love of it, with each passing year, I notice less of a manic, excitable hysteria towards the OUTSIDE stuff and more of a calm settling in, towards the INSIDE stuff. Simply, being with my family and finding room to love a little more.

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We had our Christmas street party over the weekend, sending Ella and me into the kitchen to bake some Christmas cupcakes, a treat afforded to Ella on very rare occasions. I was high, you guys. Completely immersed in this simply joy, watching her face determined as anything, breaking eggs and mixing ingredients and dishing out cupcake liners like it was the most important job in the world.

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It was a happy day in our house and Joel and I kept looking at each other, all look at her face, how fun is this, and other overly sentimental tributes to send that gush-o-meter into overdrive.

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And afterwards, we bundled everyone down the street and spent the afternoon enjoying the neighbourhood we live in and the little community we belong to. Needless to say, I was happy.

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Current Favourite Christmas Playlist:

Brenda Lee – Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree

Jack Johnson – Someday At Christmas

Ella Fitzgerald – Sleigh Ride

Sufjan Stevens – Joy To The World

Idina & Michael Buble – Baby It’s Cold Outside

Stevie Wonder – What Christmas Means To Me

Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby

Bing Crosby – It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Frank Sinatra – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

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The Red Tent 12 Days of Christmas Photo Challenge is underway! Thank you to those playing along — I can’t tell you how much I am loving it. And it’s not too late to join in! Post a picture a day on Instagram for 12 days and hashtag #redtent12daysofchristmas so we can all share your traditions and tree and magic and lights and loved ones.

Some of my favourites so far:

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Like most things in life, there is a Storybook Version and a Real Life Version. We make plans from the storybook versions in our heads, children happy and smiling, dressed in their best Christmas outfits, adorning the Christmas tree while Nat King Cole serenades us with his serenading Christmassy ways. It’s snowing outside and magical unicorn dust settles upon our home, bringing to life spritely elves and miniature Christmas villages.

Of course, Real Life has different plans, and I am reaching a comfortable place in myself to recognize those plans are equally beautiful. On the 1st, I woke up and flittered about the house lighting candles and putting coffee on, anticipating all the magic about to start with that first Advent box being pulled open. Once Ella woke though, she crawled into my arms and stayed there vomiting for most of the day. Although we’re not sure why, we think it may have had something to do with the cupcakes and chips and lollies and nutella pizza (!) we gave her permission to guzzle at the Christmas party the day before.

I was proud of myself, the way I quickly gave up on my ideas of how I thought the day would go, and surrendered to what was in front of me: a child to love, and cozy home to be inside and a day where we had nothing on — where we all could keep the blinds drawn, shut outside the world and go slow.

So we did. We watched Pocahontas a zillion times and made chili sauce and took turns rubbing Ella’s back and stroking her hair. We put up the tree in dribs and drabs and Billy went unclothed most of the day, no sweet Christmas outfit in sight, and you know what? It was exactly what Christmas should feel like. Real Life, it turns out, is always better than the life you plan in your head.

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While Ella napped, we decorated the tree, but we waited for her to wake to do the very last bit – the star on top – the great Christmas moment, like the cutting of a ribbon at an opening ceremony.

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And by the evening, she was feeling much better, just in time for the official Outside Lights Pyjama Party Unveiling. Ella and I waited eagearly out the front of the house, feeling very Griswold-ish while Joel flicked that first switch to “on”. It was a grand little moment, and while we all oohed and aahed and watched Ella run around like crazy, I realized that there was so much — more than enough — to be happy for.

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Happy December. Find your good. And celebrate it for the gold it’s worth.

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