Saturday Smiles: The Going Home Edition

What a crazy week!

I could tell you that it was crazy because my husband finished two papers for finals week, our van went in to the shop to fix a disturbing whining noise, and the kids and I spent most of our time washing clothes and dishes, packing and cleaning.

Or I could show you this.

Our son, doing a babushka impression.

Or this.

 Our daughter’s fashion sense. Headband. Cross necklace. Nightgown. It works for her. She’s either 3 or a fan of ’80s Madonna. I’ll let you decide.

I could tell you that the kids opened presents from the woman I call my English grandma because she’s a lady I befriended the semester I lived in England with whom I’ve kept in touch for more than a decade. She’s always sending us the neatest gifts for Christmas and birthdays.

Like this.

Mmm. Chocolate. Or in the words of our kids who have composed a new jingle for the company, “Cad-bury, Cad-bury. WE WANT SOME! WE WANT SOME!”

So to recap, busy parents plus inventive and creative children plus chocolate equals crazy.

The light at the end of the craziness was our planned trip home for the holidays. So craziness is worth it to be with family for two weeks.

Especially when we get to enjoy days that include this.

A walk through a forest to pick out a Christmas tree. In the snow. In practically the middle of nowhere. Bonus: the tree only cost $10. That’s some cheap entertainment and memory making right there.

Walking through a forest, even if it was “just” an overgrown Christmas tree farm sparked every ounce of creativity in me. I imagined stories as we tromped through the snow. And I wished for a magical sort of setting for my kids to play in as they grow. (Lord, hear my prayer.)

There was too much to smile about this week. Our van was fixed in time for us to take an 800-mile road trip. We only forgot a few things in the midst of our packing frenzy, and the one thing that makes the trip the most bearable — chewing gum for a car sick child — I remembered less than a block after we pulled away from our house. Thank you, Jesus.

Best of all, we made it to Illinois without any traffic or weather delays, with tired but smiling kiddos and tired but relieved parents.

My kids’ reaction to the snow, even if their first glimpse of it was 5 a.m. local time, was priceless. They thought the snow came to Illinois just for them.

My husband is snoring on the couch. The house is quiet. And my heart is full. We celebrated birthdays today as a family. My grandma’s — which is today — and our son’s from a few weeks ago. We cooked for our family tonight — our go-to beef stew recipe. We shopped all over town for ingredients and tracked down an appropriate pot to cook it in. We felt a little bit like participants in some sort of Food Network challenge as we rushed to beat the clock to have dinner ready in time. Then we watched with satisfied smiles as young and old devoured the stew.

The smiles escape for big reasons, like our daughter helping her Nana and Papa’s snowmobile club hand out food baskets to shut-ins. She was thrilled to say “Merry Christmas” to them and be involved in serving others. My heart smiles at her heart of compassion. And for small reasons, like the invention of family restrooms and their inclusion in interstate rest areas.

Familiar sights. Roads well-traveled. Family all around. The soft glow of Christmas lights on our newly picked tree. How our children thrive with their relatives.

If I go on, I won’t stop.

The smiles are stacking up, with more to come this week.

Thanks for indulging me in another week of smiles.

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