I can’t quite part with Christmas this year. Usually by the time we celebrate my birthday, see the Rose Parade, and gather with family for the New Year, I am more than ready to return my house to its clean lines and less-cluttered (never fully free of clutter with kiddos, but that’s part of the joy) state. In fact, I usually take it down on the 27th (we always play in jammies on the day after Christmas). I am usually ready to embrace our January traditions, which include house upkeep, organization projects, Chinese New Year, and my personal favorite: January Musical Movie Festival. We watch all of our favorite musicals in January. These traditions help us to wean off the holidays that have kept us abuzz since October 1st without feeling cast into the void of a holiday-less winter.

The tree is gone, and believe me, it needed to be. It was brittle before Christmas this year despite constant watering and a dose of Christmas tree preservative. There’s something about a dull and fire-hazard tree that starts to be depressing, so I had to let it go. In fact, all of the downstairs decorations are put away. But the kiddos’ artificial room trees… I can’t bring myself to put them away this year. Every night of December, we would read our nightly stories and then sing around each room tree. We spent hours looking at the ornaments, cuddling, holding hands, and hearing Eric categorize ornaments as “break-bull” and “un-break-bull.” They would fall asleep with their trees glowing, and I would sneak in and unplug them later. I’m just not ready to let the magic go…

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Letting go of Christmas requires a leap of faith. The season is not without its ills and spills, but Christmas is a sort of sacred time where everything feels so magical and right, when my children and I can be childlike together, when so much family is near. The putting away of Christmas always makes me realize that—the next time I get out these special decorations and crafts and traditions—my children will be one year older and one year closer to leaving this magical time of their childhood. I start thinking about how much can happen in a year, both good and bad. We realize that people—family—can be lost in between now and then. As I put our special things in boxes, I think: Will all the people I love still be here next year? Have I pressed this year closely enough to my heart yet? What will my children be like next year—will they still believe in Santa and our elf Trata? I think about how life may not be better, or worse, but it will be different...and I like how it is just right now. When I see these relics again, how will life be different? And then I become profoundly grateful for just the way it is right now. Putting away Christmas… What else are we putting away with it? Time, memories, precious moments with our children and family that we will keep with us forever but that we will never have back. I have to have faith that no matter what comes, we will feel the same magic next year.

This might sound silly, I know. But then there are moments like this:

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This is my Uncle Eric’s Christmas tidbit tray, something my mom, aunt, and Nana passed on to me when he died. Every year I use it on “Christmas Tree Day” (the day we get our tree!) to serve our boiled cookies after our lasagna meal. I typically cry when I get it out, and I typically cry when I put it away. This year, while putting it away, part of the box was weakening to the point where the tidbit tray was in danger of falling out the other side. Oh, I will get some tape to reinforce it, I thought. And then I realized what that remnant of a yellowed piece of old masking tape was already doing on part of the box. Uncle Eric must have had this problem, too! I pondered. I thought about him putting the tape there—so even, so precisely in the center of the box. Just some little link to some time gone way by…Except it isn’t so little. His tape represents a course of thought, a decision, a solution, a moment when he was alive during a Christmas we had shared. Was he putting away Christmas when he noticed the box needed repair?  What was he thinking about? I couldn’t bring myself to put my piece of tape over his piece…so my new piece is just side by side with his.

So much can happen in a year…

If I leave the kiddos’ room trees up, will I preserve something in them right at this moment in time? Or are the memories already passing into new moments?

When I haven’t been awake pondering this weighty matter (I say, definitely tongue in cheek), we’ve been playing with some of our new goodies:

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The juicer! Oh my goodness, we love our juicer and have been juicing nearly every day. So far of all the juices we’ve made, the carrot-apple-celery juice is the favorite around here, followed by parsnip-pear-celery. So fun! And healthy!

And here we are on a walk to the local market for veggies:

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We’ve made it through the holidays and all the food temptations fairly unscathed (I actually lost weight during Thanksgiving week), but it is time to return to our clean eating. I’ve had some solid 3.5 mile runs this week with Bill off of work, and we ate almost entirely plant-based (okay, with a bit of real cheese and butter I do confess—but totally meatless) for the week leading up to New Year’s. I have enjoyed bits and bites of our traditional family food and even sugar—but I am so ready to get most of that processed sugar back out of my system again. I have zero moral qualms about what people eat and don’t view meat eating as a moral issue (in fact, many of my family’s traditional foods and meals involve meat, and family tradition is a big deal for me); I only know how much better I personally feel when I am mostly eating plant-based and whole foods with low sugar and fat intake. Over the past six months, I lost 24 pounds and my plan is to continue my methods and see where I am at next year. I am now a bit smaller than when we got married… And for those who haven’t seen my husband in person lately, he’s a LOT smaller than when we got married, LOL!

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Here is a recipe (chana saag) that we tried out of our Forks Over Knives cookbook (highly recommend both the documentary and the cookbook). We’ve also been cooking out of The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook—love it! The kiddos and I had gingerbread smoothies for New Year’s breakfast (almond milk, Medjool dates, fresh ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg and ice…) So good. My goal is to make as many different recipes as possible out of both cookbooks in the month of Jan.

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Of course, we’re not without our occasional treats: in this case, cups of frothy Williams-Sonoma salted caramel hot chocolate and matching mother-daughter jammies.

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Eric helped to put together our rack for our TV trays. He is really using the tool to tighten the screw in this picture! We love the retro feel of TV trays for our family movie nights. (Hello, January Musical Movie Fest)! Also, they are going to come in soooooo handy when school starts back up again. Katie is already eager to do her work at them. Something new and cozy I guess! Like individual desks you can use while sitting on the soft couch…

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Building a log cabin with our Lincoln logs.

I suppose I will have to take their trees down this week. It goes past a certain point, and I might want to leave them up forever… The only choice we have is to keep moving forward and to trust that, though we might have our sad days, the overall judgment at the end of our lives will be that the happiness and magic outweighed whatever sorrows we had to face.

This has been a beautiful season for us… And I am so thankful for it.

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