Starting Fresh

Loveys, how is 2017 going for you? I've been wanting to write a New Year's blog post, but it's taken longer than expected to get back into the swing of things post-holiday season. We came home (after that LONG drive), and Jeff dove into working in our basement. He's been trying to get things ready for our inspection (which we passed, hallelujah! So on to the drywall and everything else). But he disappeared down into the basement and I stayed above ground with the crazy kiddos and all the luggage and laundry and...did I mention crazy? I did manage to get all the Christmas decorations put away, but since the basement is underway, I'm lacking storage, so I still feel like there are boxes around. This will only be for a few more weeks, but I sort of feel like I've been living in chaos. Temporary chaos, but it's there.

Amid all that, for days we had freezing temps and really strong wind happening. I know we're not the only ones who've been dealing with the cold. It seems like every time I try to go somewhere, I have to bundle myself and all my kids (this is a long process), then we get in the car, and, no matter how cold it is, Lily pulls off her shoes and socks. So when we get to where we're going, I have to stand in the freezing cold and put her shoes and socks back on.

It's easier to just stay home. If I can. And, you know, drink some coffee.

We've hit the trying twos over here. (I would say terrible, but I'm trying to be positive.) Miss Lily is still a tiny thing, with not many teeth, and YET. This girl knows who she is and what she wants (which is to watch Harry Potter 20 hours a day). She's climbing everywhere. She's starting to understand how effective tantrums are. She's not going to be pushed around, even though she's the smallest at our house. She can do things.

SO. (Deep sigh.) I've been down this road before and I know it will all be okay. But I'm remembering that I worked outside the home when both my other kids were at this stage--so I had more breaks. It wasn't me and my two-year-old, all day every day.

I'm thinking I will need more breaks.

Friends, for real, let's go out for cocktails soon. Mama needs a break.

Which probably won't happen till the basement is finished. That's okay. I can do this. (Yes, I'm talking to myself. Just be ready for me to slip into personal pep talks, lovey. It's okay.)

So we're more than halfway through January and I'm finally getting to think about goal-setting. (As I look around at the chaos and mess of the upstairs part of my house, I think that I need help more than goals, but it is what it is.)

One of my girlfriends came for coffee recently and we talked about what we want for this year, and I felt so encouraged. Because setting goals isn't about drawing a line in the sand and having to run to reach it. It's just about figuring out who we want to be and taking small steps (or big ones) in order to get there.

So who do you want to be, lovey? What do you want to shake off from last year, and take on in the new year?

I like fresh starts and new beginnings. (I think this is why I like to move.) I love the feeling I get after spring cleaning. (Not kidding, I just started to twitch as I again looked at the mess I'm currently in.)

I have small goals and big goals for the year. Really, for my life, not just this year. And while I don't have a timetable on making changes, somewhere along the way, I have to take the first step. My friend and I were talking about practical goals we have--less TV, more sleep, more time away from our phones, choosing joy, and so on. For some people, it's working on their health, or their marriage, or maybe tackling house projects. For others, it's just trying to keep your head above water in a season of stress. (We have all been there.)

The New Year is a great time for goal-setting because it feels like a fresh start.

I love my life so much, lovey. Even so, change and growth and new directions can be good for us. I had a quick cup of coffee at a friend's house this morning and she said something that I keep thinking about--she said that you need to spend time with life-giving people. Don't neglect what you need.


I think moms especially tend to neglect what they need because there is almost zero time to even think about what you need amid work and being a waitress to small humans and trying to keep the house chaos level right at manageable. But here at the first of the year, we can at least put it on our radar.

I need time with friends. I need time to write. I've got this super fun new idea for a novel that I WISH WAS ALREADY WRITTEN. But it's not. So I need to find a teeny bit of time to write every week. Also, I need to be better at laundry.

Goals. Right there.

There are a million other ones to add to that. But let's start there.

I know that these are the days I'll hold in my heart forever. The days with the sounds of children all around me. Good days. Long days. (We can do this.)

I love to read, lovey. But, to be honest, it's hard for me to find time. That whole waitress-to-small-humans thing. But this month I've been reading Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst and it's been so good for me. I can't read as much as I'd like to, but I can squeeze in a few books here and there.

What few things could fill you up this year?

There are practical things we have to do--it's only January and I've had to start scheduling dentist appointments and eye appointments and doctor visits. (By the way, those things exhaust me.) We've already had invitations to two birthdays this month. (I'm telling you, calendars fill fast.) I want to be organized, but remember, I'm living in chaos this month.

But the year is just beginning.

Here's one thing I know: I want this to be a year where I love my husband well. Next month Jeff and I will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. That's a long time, filled with good days and hard days. I'm so thankful for him.  And I'm very, very thankful for where we are right now as a couple. We work hard at this. And I want to enter this year, and my 14th year as a wife, loving Jeff well.

I want to yell at my kids less.

For real. I don't yell all the time, and we're a pretty laid-back household, but I've started feeling as though there are things I need to be better at letting go of, and other things that I need to concentrate on, when it comes to my kids. I love our little family so much.

For myself, I want to breathe easier. I turn 38 later this year, lovey. (Insert eyes widening and twitching over here.) The end of my thirties is scary close. I want to truly focus and embrace this time of my life. I remember reading something Robin Gunn wrote once. (It might have been in a Sisterchick novel). It was something to the effect of reflecting back on your twenties and thirties and realizing that you looked fine--and yet, how much time did you waste constantly thinking about things like weight and calories and how you looked? When I read that, it really spoke to me. It's a trap for almost every woman. Don't get me wrong, I want to be healthy, and that really does takes effort and some thought.

That is different from obsessing about how we look.

What if, at the end of our lives, God told us how many hours we spent thinking about our weight and our hair and on and on and on? (I cringe at the thought.) What if he told me how many hours I spent looking at my phone? (More cringing on my part.)

Those are parts of life. But this year, I hope for more self-acceptance and less insecurity. That's on my radar, and it's the direction I want to go in as I get older.

All kinds of goals, loveys. Some to work on who we are, some just to add spice to life. I really want to buy a nicer camera this year. Taking pictures of my kids is one of my favorite things to do. I'd love to invest in a better camera. I hope that happens sometime this year.

Life happens in the somewhat mundane moments of watching Peppa Pig every day, as well as in the more exciting moments like traveling and vacations. So if I can add more to life in the everyday moments with loving my husband, snuggling with my kids, going out for margaritas with girlfriends, quiet moments of just me and the treadmill . . . .

It's the life I want, loveys.

It's 2017. We get a fresh start.

Who knows what this year will hold? It might hold painful moments. It might be the best year ever. We might change. We might get to know ourselves more than we ever have. Dreams might come true. Goals might be met, others might be released.

What do you want for this year, lovey? What are your goals/resolutions for 2017? Let's go after them together.

Merry All the Way

Loveys, how was your Christmas? I hope it was all kinds of merry and bright and wonderful. We've had a very Virginia kind of Christmas. With family and Honey Baked Ham and dressing and presents and last-minute shopping and Christmas cookies and movies and all that goodness. There was a rough start to our holiday, to be honest. It involved standing in line for hours and then our Frontier flight being canceled after at least 9 hours at the airport. (At which point, the kids and I cried and then a reporter came over to interview my distraught Ashtyn.) Then our awesome friend Mark came back to get us (after having dropped us off EARLY that morning) and Jeff decided to stay at the airport in the sea of maybe 600 bags (nearly all of Frontier's flights had been canceled, not a good thing, so many people didn't make it home for the holidays, and people had to wait days for their luggage, which never left the airport!). Then we loaded the kids back up in Mark's car (in freezing weather!) and we get down the road and Jeff calls to say that at least our luggage came down--not the car seats--so Mark turns us around and we go pick up Jeff. (Mark, we love you.) So, that night we went to bed at our house in Colorado, and everyone was sad because we'd woken up that morning, excited to go to Grammy's. Since our flight was canceled (and the next possible flight was a week from that day, good grief), we got in the car (then picked up the car seats at the airport) and drove. For one million hours and days.

And finally, we got to Grammy's house.

Getting there was rough, definitely, but worth it. And so our holiday began a couple of days later than expected, but we arrived in Virginia to warmth and love and plenty of teriyaki from Osaka. And it was wonderful.

I love my family. I really do. I love shopping with my mom, and cooking for my parents, and watching Tarzan with Mom and Dad and Jeff, and seeing the kids open Hogwarts cloaks and wands from Santa, and baking cookies at Laura's, and going to the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I love all those things that make up Christmas with my family. This year was no different. The lights on my mom's tree, the delicious food, kids running around in total excitement, gingerbread houses, fun gifts to surprise each other with. Togetherness and laughter and conversation.

Really. I'm so thankful. New traditions and old.

We baked cookies at my sister Laura's house, all of us girls along with Laura's sweet sisters-in-law. Ashtyn looked so cute in her apron, such a big girl wanting to help. We got to see the greenhouse that my brother-in-law put together for Laura, with Christmas lights and trees and even presents inside.

I didn't grow up in Virginia. But I went to college out here, and then Jeff and I lived here when we were first married, so it's very much another home to us. And I remember once, my mother telling me that whenever she goes home to her mother, she is home because home is where her mother is. And that is true for me too. I feel at home any place where my parents live because that's just the way our family is.
So we were together for Christmas and made so many memories. Ash and Link trekking through the woods with Grandpa, down to the creek. Grammy making oatmeal for Miss Lily. Movie nights and wrapping nights, and playing Go Fish and Old Maid, and munching on popcorn, and the house smelling like wassail (which just reminds me so much of my own childhood). Date night and finally getting to see Fantastic Beasts. Reconnecting with old friends.
All good things and my heart is full.
I have good memories of Christmases past, when I was growing up. And I want so much to give my kids the same. Good memories and feelings of excitement and happiness at the holiday season.
It's magic, loveys. For children and grown ups. It's a baby in a manger and a star in the East and shepherds and belief and faith.

And the gift of family. Lily running around with happy feet. Ash and Linc playing and eating in the breakfast room. Moments that are going quick and that are here for us to cherish.
The New Year is almost here, and another holiday season is wrapped up and behind us. But maybe we can carry the magic with us for a while longer. Maybe we can carry the love with us as we move into the new year.
Start fresh with perspective and faith and gratitude.
Family, faith, love, grace. These are gifts, lovey. I'll take them and keep them and be glad for the special moments that stay with us forever in our hearts.  

The Beauty of Capturing Family Moments...A Bruce Family Christmas

So last spring I went to breakfast with Marianne, one of my favorite editor friends. I was telling her about my friend Danielle's videography business and this idea that Danielle had been talking about. Danielle's an incredibly gifted photographer and videographer, she specializes in birth videos. But she'd been talking about, rather than just doing family photo sessions, what if she started doing family video sessions? The notion of capturing a glimpse of real, moving life. Marianne loved the idea. She told me when her kids were little (specifically her twin boys!), that time of life is a blur. We all know that phase (lots of us are living it out now), chaos and monotony and exhaustion. I feel that way, even about the timeframe when Ash was very small. The sleep-deprivation alone! It's a blur. But a beautiful blur. Marianne said she would have loved something like a video glimpse of life with her little ones.

When Danielle mentioned doing a video promo capturing family holiday traditions--well, I'm a holiday girl, so I loved that idea. Some of my best growing-up memories are of the "getting ready for Christmas" experience. My mom wrestling with the lights on the tree, the Sarah, Plain and Tall village set on top of the piano, taking out the Nativity, all our family ornaments, hanging a wreath outside, watching a Christmas special on TV, candles glowing, hot chocolate and marshmallows. My mom made those moments special, and I will forever treasure those memories. I wish I had a video glimpse of those traditions!

Which makes Danielle's idea so brilliant! At our house, we have a "mom" tree and a "kid" tree. Ha! I LOVE decorating our Christmas tree. But we also have a small tree that's strictly for the kids to decorate. I knew I wanted that to be part of our video. My kids love making cookies more than anything and they love hot cocoa. Knowing Danielle was coming over to video a special night for our family, I made chicken and dumplings, because that's Jeff's absolute favorite. (I also bought us special matching shirts just because. No, we don't usually match at our house!) We watched A Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol, this is special for my family, and for me because we watched that every year when I was small. We ate popcorn because that's our family tradition for movie night. We read If You Take a Mouse to the Movies, because it's one of my kids' favorite Christmas stories and the book belonged to my Mimi.

In other words, every moment you see in this video is special for our family. I. Love. It.

I admit, at first it can be a little awkward with someone videoing your family. Then you remember that she can edit out awkwardness (Yay!) so you just do what you normally do and it's fun.

I so recommend doing something like this. And for our local friends here in Colorado, check out Danielle's website and see what she does because it's amazing. This video is tailor-made for holiday memories, but she does regular, day-in-the-life videos that are gorgeous. Here are all the ways to connect with her:

Like Marianne said, life with kids can be a blur. We hold on to what we can and this is a great way to do that. I'm all about more video in my life. (I'm already sort of obsessed with taking pictures of my kiddos. If you haven't heard of the One Second Everyday app, you totally need to check it out.) So many of our memories are helped along by photos. When I look through old picture albums of my childhood, suddenly memories are sparked. I remember the year Sara and I got Promise Keypers for Christmas (we loved those things!). I remember getting new jackets one Christmas at my Aunt Stacey's. I remember the Christmas Jeff and I told our family we were expecting. (I still want to cry when I remember how excited my mom was.) We can't freeze time, loveys, but we can remember.

Making memories is a fantastic part of the holiday season, from carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating to baking cookies and watching Miracle on 34th St. I hope you enjoy a glimpse into my family's holiday traditions.

Merry Christmas, loveys. Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her king.