More Stories from the Mud (And Apiary)

People seemed to enjoy my first set of anecdotes from the mudflats, so here are a few more.

After I finished my undergrad, I stayed on as a research technician for the summer between graduation and the start of my post-graduate degree. It was a lot of fun – I had multiple years of experience, but zero responsibility with project design. In other words, a better paycheck…and a whole lot less work!

Our research lab did a lot of cage work – we’d build them out of bamboo sticks and aquatic netting and then track impacts on diatom and amphipod densities (the primary food sources for sandpipers), and snail movements in control vs treated areas (the netted cage areas prevented plovers and sandpipers from foraging). Setting up semi-permanent cages in the mud required a major team effort. We had to get everything set up during low tide, so it was a race against the clock. Or, more specifically, the gravitational pull of the moon!

One day, we were installing cages about 500 meters offshore. We had huge metal mallets, rebar (also metal), and one very tall lab tech named Colin. It was a warm, overcast and muggy day. At one point another tech looked at me and said, Elisabeth, what’s wrong with your hair?

Apparently, my hair was standing completely on end – like I had my hand on one of those statically charged balls at a science exhibit.

Static electricity can be blamed on winter weather |
Like this…

Problem was, I wasn’t touching a ball!!! Within seconds, we heard the first boom of thunder.

Here we were in the middle of a mudflat that had only recently been uncovered by the ocean. It was flat. Covered in a thin film of salt water (highly conductive). We were the tallest objects for miles around. We were working with metal tools and supplies. And we were 500 meters away from shore. Our supervisor happened to be with us and gave us the all-clear to drop our equipment and run (knowing that if the storm didn’t pass in time, all those tools and supplies would be swept out with the tide).

We managed to find some humour in the situation; as we raced back to shore we were quick to identify that Colin – at least half a foot taller than anyone else – would be the first target in any lightning strike. (Spoiler alert: He survived and went on to become a doctor…but apparently mudflats are pretty dangerous places!)

We had come to the site in two vehicles and one lab tech had taken the second vehicle to another site. So when we arrived back on shore there were 8 of us and one pickup truck. A few people – including me – drew the short straw and had to hunker down in the truck bed.

The storm passed after 30 minutes and we rescued the equipment but it was a real hair-raising experience (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Working on the mudflats was incredible exercise. It was exhausting but in a good way. The natural resistance of mud, along with walking kilometer after kilometer along transects, all while carrying giant backpacks full of samples (heavy mud and/or water) was an excellent cardiovascular workout. Not surprisingly, mud would splatter everywhere and we came back to the lab absolutely filthy.

It was the early 2000s and I was young and didn’t always remember to use sunscreen, especially on my legs. One day we were out for hours and hours and hours and mud had splashed on my legs and dried. When I washed it off that night it looked like I had leprosy. There were giant white spots (in random patterning) ALL over the back of my calves. For the rest of the summer, my legs looked absolutely ridiculous. I wish I still had pictures because I would 100% share them but, alas, I lost most of my photos from this pre-OneDrive era.

That same summer, one of my friends and fellow labmates wanted to research nocturnal feeding habits of sandpipers – low tides happen at night, too! Our team received funding to purchase night-vision goggles. But, for obvious reasons, military-grade night vision equipment is not available at the local hardware store. For some reason, I was the one tasked with calling the supplier (who normally dealt with military contracts) to ask: Um…we’d like to purchase some night vision equipment. Why you ask? Just to look at birds. I promise!

Fun fact, John and I had only been dating a few months when he volunteered to come with us on one of those night shifts. For safety reasons (see above and my mud “quicksand” story from last week) we had to have a set number of crew out at any given time, so he trudged to the mud at 2:30 am (unpaid, I might add) with me. True love!

Speaking of John and mud, I might have told this story before, but it’s one of my favourites from our love story. When we had only just met and were arranging for our first “date”, I asked him to meet me at the lab mid-afternoon. There was a mix-up and I was convinced he had stood me up (he hadn’t). In the end, we rescheduled for that evening. I got there very early and selected a microscope right in front of the window so I would look all sciencey. And so it was by design that I was bent over a microscope looking very intense and studious when he walked by the window. He tells me seeing me like that took his breath away and he said to himself: Don’t screw this up. We’ve now been married almost 14 years but I was looking at…NOTHING. It was all a ruse!

There’s an “Abby” inside me, we just hadn’t met her yet.

I planned to continue avian work for my Masters and, for the first few months, actually put together a project in this area of study. But I ended up switching gears to bees. (Yes, I have heard plenty of “birds and bees” jokes over the years.) Because I didn’t need a large number of hives for my research – and because the beekeeper providing us with hives lived quite a distance from the university – my supervisor offered to store them on his property. Every day John would drive me in my giant beesuit to collect a fresh set of bees. This all happened while I was pregnant with Abby and battling morning sickness. There is a sickly sweet smell around beehives and it made me very nauseous. One warm summer morning it was more than I could handle…and that’s how I came to upchuck my breakfast smoothie all over my supervisor’s rhododendrons.* (*I don’t actually know if they were rhododendrons; I was too busy barfing to worry about my horticultural proficiencies.)

Fun fact: I only got stung a single time in two years of working with honeybees! I was studying operant conditioning and had to secure individual bees into modified pipette tips. Once, I didn’t quite get enough wax in place and the bee managed to wiggle free and straight down into my latex glove where she proceeded to sting me.

Fair enough.

Your turn. Any weird workplace stories? Are you a fan of thunder and lightning storms? Any bizarre tan line stories to report?

Little Bites: Progress, Not Completion

I’ve already professed my love for lists. Sometimes, I even relish the assignment of new tasks simply because it allows me the satisfaction that comes from recording new items on my to-do list. Another one added…another one to cross off.

In fact, I’ve been known to add items to a list that are already completed. (Friends have confessed to the same behaviour, so I know I’m not alone).

Sometimes, though, I can get so wrapped up in focussing on the end goal, I lose sight of – or neglect entirely – the process to get there.

That’s why I’m trying to embrace the concept of progress, not completion.

Let’s take laundry. You know how I feel about laundry. The never-ending source of work for any parent. Sometimes I look at our jumble of blended cotton and want to cry. Getting it all put away before another load joins the teetering pile feels impossible. But here’s what I’ve found: making progress can be satisfying.

In one particularly tough season of a precarious work/life “balance”, I told myself I only needed to put away three items of laundry each day. My kids create three pieces of laundry before they’re out of bed in the morning, so the math didn’t really add up. Some days, I’d manage to match a single pair of socks (I counted that as a single item), a dishtowel, and a T-shirt. But, most days, I felt up to more. I’d stick to three at a time, but 3 + 3+ 3 + 3 adds up to a full load of laundry…eventually.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Sometimes the first bite is the most discouraging and daunting. The elephant – be it laundry, an adoption process, a move to a new city, saving for a college education, or quitting a smoking habit – can seem too big to tackle, even in bite-sized pieces. But, in reality, that is exactly how we have to handle each problem. One dollar at a time, we fund that education. Skipping a single cigarette (then another and another) is the only way to quit smoking.

Step by step we make more and more progress. . .which, ultimately, leads to completion.

Your turn. What project or goal are you making progress on right now? How do you stay motivated to keep taking those bite-sized steps forward?

Header photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

A Sunday Christmas: Time Perspective

Last Christmas happened to fall on a Sunday. This is always memorable because, in addition to a Christmas Eve service, we wind up attending church on Christmas morning.

For obvious reasons, this impacts the flow of our day. I happen to love when Christmas falls on a Sunday; attending church Christmas Day feels like an intuitive event given the spiritual foundation of the holiday. This year we found a great rhythm and the mid-morning break from presents served to extend our gift-opening and food-feasting!

Christmas won’t fall on a Sunday again for 11 years – 2033. (In 2027, Christmas is on a Saturday, but is followed by a leap year, so we jump right to Monday in 2028.)

My immediate thought? Abby will be almost 23 years old.

What will life look like? Christmas 2022 she was in middle school. By Christmas 2033, she will have completed high school and, potentially, a full university degree.

I got married the year I turned 22 and had my first child when I was 23.


Looking at time from different perspectives can be fascinating…and shocking. The days can feel long, but my goodness the years are short.

Especially when measured at the speed of Christmases.

Your turn. Have you ever considered time from a different perspective and been surprised at the conclusion? I did a long-range view of the kids’ ages/grades/our ages based on Kelsey’s “The years are short” spreadsheet; a fun glimpse into the future.

PS. If you’re curious, Christmas will also fall on a Sunday in 2039, 2044, and 2050!

Header photo by Jan Romero on Unsplash

Top Five/Bottom Five: Household Chores Edition

I had a lot of fun writing my Christmas-themed Top Five/Bottom Five posts. And, based on the comments section, some of you have very strong feelings about Christmas music, food, and movies.

Once again, I’m borrowing the idea from Mix and Match Mama; this round is all about household chores.

I had to think long and hard to come up with five household chores I like. Coming up with five I dislike was a piece of cake…

MY Top FIVE chores

  • Organizing/decluttering. I know this is a broad description, but I’m going to label it as a single “chore”. I like putting things back into order; fluffing pillows, smoothing down blankets, putting unused items into a donation bag for the thrift store. I enjoy straightening shoes in the entryway, stacking books on my bedside table, and just generally tidying our living spaces. In the right context, decluttering doesn’t feel like a chore to me at all and I view it as a form of enjoyable self-care!
  • Wiping down counters/the kitchen table. While I typically just use hot, soapy water, I’m a big fan of Method sprays (they smell so good!); if I need a quick mood boost, I spray the counters with my favourite scent – pink grapefruit – and scrub away happily.
  • Mopping. No one is more shocked than me to see MOPPING on my favourites list. I used to hate mopping. Like, Hate with a capital “H”. We temporarily hired someone to help with cleaning a few years ago and the main chore I wanted to outsource was our floors. Now, Eufy does the vacuuming for us, and our Vildea spin mop (comparable to the O-Cedar EasyWring in the US, I think?) does an incredible job in the mopping department.
  • Washing dishes. I enjoy hand-washing dishes, especially if I’m playing music on the kitchen speaker or listening to a podcast.
  • Paperwork/schedule management. I love writing cheques. I don’t mind filling out forms for school events (permission slips, activity registrations). And I enjoy sitting down with the calendar and fitting things in like a Tetris game.

MY Bottom FIVE chores

  • Laundry. I don’t mind gathering dirty clothes, adding some detergent to the washer, and starting a cycle. But everything after that point I hate. Moving items to the dryer (and separating out things like wool socks that need to be air-dried)? Hate it. Pulling clothes out of the dryer? Cleaning out the lint tray? Lugging a full basket of clean clothes upstairs. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Sorting, folding, and hanging clothes? Detest it all. And don’t get me started on matching socks. I’ve tried to convert it into a fun game. The only problem – it’s not a game and it’s not fun. I’ve tried a dozen different options for getting laundry completed more efficiently or more enjoyably but, at the end of the day, this is a job I just really, really dislike. I do think the best solution for me is to do laundry frequently so it doesn’t accumulate. I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on ironing, which fits under this general category, but tops my least-favourite list. If someone said: You can either unclog a toilet or iron this dress shirt? Hand me the plunger. I’ve gotten to the point where I only touch an iron once or twice a year and even that stretches me to my max. It is incomprehensible to me that some people enjoy ironing!
  • Cleaning mirrors. Half the time they look worse than before I started and there are always streaks or little flecks of dust or paper towel/rag lint.
  • Putting away dry dishes. While I enjoy washing dishes (we air dry), I loathe unloading the dish drainer. Abby is responsible for emptying the dishwasher, but I often help her out. In that context, putting away cutlery is my least favourite, but cups and mugs are also a big nuisance since little divots at the top often retain puddles of water (that end up on the floor as we’re unloading items).
  • Cleaning the bathtub. I should start by saying “bathrooms” in general don’t rank very high on my chore list. But the bathtub is my least favourite. It takes so much effort to scrub and I have short arms and, apparently, not enough muscle power.
  • Putting away groceries. I don’t mind making a list or shopping, but I hate unloading things when we get home. To be fair, John often spearheads this; he likes an organized fridge and does a great job of maximizing space (which is important because we only have an apartment-sized fridge). Unpacking items and shuttling them around to different places in the house feels like such a hassle – fresh fruit goes on a bowl on the counter, lots of things need to go in the fridge, and various items go in our two “pantry” spaces; then there is the small standalone freezer downstairs and longer-term storage on shelves in our basement (extra toilet paper, paper towel, canned goods). I love to eat, but sheesh there is a lot of work that goes on behind-the-scenes to get food on the table.

And there you have it – my top/bottom five selections in the category of household chores.

Your turn. What would your top five/bottom five chores be? What’s your favourite cleaning tool or hack? Tell me – how can I dread laundry (slightly) less?

Header photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Drumroll: My Word of the…Week?

Around the blogosphere posts have been filled with recaps from 2022, goals for 2023…and exciting reveals with “word-of-the-year” intentions.

I love these posts and tend to jump in with two feet. You want goals? I’ll give you 23. Highlights and favourites? Done. It’s the one-word theme that has a tendency to trip me up.

About 8 years ago, I jumped on the bandwagon and picked the word Simplify. At that point, we were living in a small, two-bedroom apartment that served as our home office, living space, and a storage facility for large work equipment (think eight drones; yes…EIGHT of them). Also, we had an infant and a preschooler. For obvious reasons, I was craving space and order and…simplicity.

And I think setting that word as a year-long intention did help. I wrote it out on a little sticker that I pasted to the front cover of my planner. Sure enough, I’d periodically take time to pause and say “no” to a commitment or “yes” to downsizing a storage tote in light of my goal to Simplify.

Last year I proposed the motto of Be Kind. I wanted to be kinder to:

  • my kids
  • my spouse
  • my friends
  • strangers
  • myself

Honestly? While I tried to exemplify kindness (hopefully at least quasi-successfully), I didn’t spend time reflecting on this being a year-long intention. It was a nice idea, but the impact may be debatable.

As I’ve been reading background stories and plans for “word-of-the-year” ideas (e.g: Jenny = Nourish; Gretchen Rubin = Wave; Elizabeth Craft = Scale; Sarah = Deliberate), I’ve smiled and silently cheered for each person and their decision, before realizing I wasn’t interested in coming up with my own word.


I was walking home from school drop-off on the first day back post-Christmas break. When I got to within eyeshot of our house, I could sense my body physically drooping (I even felt a bit light-headed) and I thought: Wow. I’m really tired.

It’s an abrupt transition to go from holiday scheduling, company, and home life back into school and work routines. I had a long list of tasks that needed doing, including the final dismantling of Christmas decor and organizing an important work meeting (for which scheduling has been a nightmare).

And in that moment I told myself: Elisabeth, be gentle with yourself this week.

Lighting bolt! I had a word for the week: Gentle.

I think one of my big hangups with a one-year theme is the fact that I may be craving polar opposite intentions during different seasons. Maybe I want to Think Big in January…and need to Think Small by April; I might want to go Fast and then Slow (I guess Pace could cover all the bases?). I might want to Expand in the New Year, but be craving Simplicity by the following Christmas season. Words like Adventure, Vibrant and Celebrate can be broadly applicable, but many choices seem a bit constrictive if life events throw a major curveball.

I wrote the word Gentle in giant cursive letters at the top of my weekly planner spread last week. This week, I chose two words. Rest and Restore. I’m still feeling a bit more tired than usual. Things are still slightly off-kilter from the holidays. I want to prioritize rest – and restore those things that need to be put back to rights (from routines to leftover holiday clutter – though, for now, the downstairs tree is staying).

Next week I may (or may not) choose a word but, where applicable, I really like the idea of setting short-term intentions.

Your turn. If you select a one-word annual theme, what word did you pick this year? Would you ever consider approaching this on a week-to-week basis?

Header photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Casual Friday + Happy Little Moments

And here we are, friends. The end of the first work/school week of 2023. Time to get you up to speed with the happenings in my little world.

Levi seems to – slowly and steadily – be getting better. January 2nd was his first truly “normal” day in a month and it was such a relief. He’s back to sleeping through the night, eating normally, and feeling more like himself! It’s hard to know exactly what intervention is bringing about this positive change (we’re trying multiple things on the recommendation of doctors + it might simply be a case of time healing things naturally), but we’re thankful he’s on the mend. He’s still tired and I don’t feel confident we’re “out of the woods” just yet, but we’re grateful for any and all improvements!

post-christmas guests

My sister, her husband, and their son came to visit from Friday – Tuesday. It was a nice visit. They used to live locally, so have lots of connections in the area and actually spent New Year’s Eve with friends. Sadly, my brother-in-law’s father passed away right before Christmas, so their trip also (scheduled before his passing) coincided with a funeral.

I’ve mentioned before that one of my sisters – the one visiting – recently had a biking accident. She received the all-clear to resume exercise and was determined to get back to training ASAP (she’s running Boston in April). The day they arrived was BEAUTIFUL – warm and sunny with no wind. So we went for a run!

Can I just say nothing makes you feel out of shape quite like going on a run with your sister (13 years older) who is wearing a neck brace, has one arm in a sling, several fractured vertebrate and two metal plates attached to her collarbone…and still struggling to keep up. She and John ran ahead (albeit slower than they would have without me), and the whole experience was delightful. It’s fun to exercise with other people, even if they are a lot faster! It was so beautiful outside and moving my body felt amazing. And while I don’t love running, sometimes there is no feeling like finishing a good run.

I can move my body for 44 minutes straight!

I’m so happy to be alive!

My body is so powerful – let’s hop on a plane and go hike Mount Everest this very minute because I feel so amazing!

And then I woke up the next morning and could hardly move because I had only run 2 km all December and definitely did not cool down properly after the 7 km. But it was great.

We ate a lot of great food; I made family favourites like homemade donair pizzas and re-created a second Christmas Dinner (using rotisserie chickens this time; a delicious substitute for turkey). My Mom made some old staple meals from our childhood (Brown Stew and baked potatoes; Cinnamon Coffee Cake; Raspberry Sweet Bread), and John made the most delicious Peanut Butter/Hazelnut Cheesecake…ever.

We went on walks as a family group and played games (Abby’s new-to-her Scattergories was a big hit). Everyone oohed and ahhed over Meatball to a satisfactory degree.

Levi was obsessed with his cousin (19; an avid soccer player). They were inseparable and it warmed my heart since they rarely get to interact since we live so far apart.

And now, prepare yourselves: we decorated gingerbread houses. This from the woman who has publically declared TWICE, that we don’t decorate gingerbread houses. In my defence, my sister arrived with a Buzz Lightyear kit and Levi had received a kit for his birthday. It was actually a lot of fun (Levi and I worked on his together; Abby and my nephew worked on their Buzz Lightyear creations independently). I think doing it AFTER Christmas was perfect timing. Everyone nibbled on these masterpieces for a few days, and then we were able to compost the rest. I’m not saying I’ll do it again next year, but as a post-Christmas activity, it wasn’t half bad.

Since our guests were gone on New Year’s Eve, John and I put the kids to bed early and he prepped a smorgasbord of incredible (but not necessarily photogenic) foods, we popped some champagne, watched Glass Onion (it was fine, but I found the plot dragged and wasn’t overly engaging; I enjoyed the original Knives Out a lot more), and were in bed asleep by 9:30 pm. Because we’re cool like that. And then Levi came into our bed sick at 10:30 pm. Sigh. Because we’re parents and this is what NYE celebrations look like when you’re sleep-deprived and have a sick child in the house.

So good! A spring roll. Smoked salmon and egg. Brie and sausage skewers. Coleslaw. Lobster and shrimp ravioli. Yum, yum, yum. (And yes, you can spot my PJs in this shot; I put them on at 4:30 pm on NYE…)

They left on Tuesday morning (about half an hour before the kids left for school) and their departure ended up being memorable. When someone (I shan’t name names) picked up a piece of luggage they knocked over a travel mug FULL of coffee. All over our entryway rug. So that was a fun start to the day…

For anyone who lives locally and visits my house, you’ll now know why our entryway smells like coffee!

little moments lately that made me smile

  • I am a ruminator. If something gets under my skin or bothers me (i.e. when we got our basement painted a grey I had agonized over for months, it looked PURPLE; now I think it looks great – without any hint of purple – but I ruminated over that purple hue for weeks). Anyhoo…shortly after Christmas, I was ruminating about a new issue. After several days of spiraling mentally, I sent a text to my (other) sister who I thought might have dealt with a similar situation. She had, and sent back such thorough, helpful responses; her texts made me feel so much calmer and almost immediately snapped me out of my rumination loop.
And yes, it was a generous portion – life is too short for a small piece of cheesecake.
  • Eating cheesecake in front of the tree. I got the last slice of Cherry Cheesecake and savoured every bite. This picture sums up what I love about the Christmas holiday – familiar delicious flavours enjoyed in the warm glow of twinkle lights. Not pictured, but another happy moment? Eating the last of my Christmas Twizzlers.
Some recent favourites…
  • We finished the last of our Christmas picture books for the year. Levi snuggled up beside me on the couch and we read and it was lovely. But it feels like work now; no one is begging me to read and after a book or two he’s ready to move on. I think I’m finally coming to terms with this age-imposed break from picture books. I could wallow in the sadness of the situation, or embrace the freedom of it all. I haven’t ordered any new picture books from the library and, for now at least, I’m not going to force it back into our lives. Kids grow up and things change. That’s hard, but also natural and okay. I strongly suspect I won’t be ordering Christmas picture books from our library next year… *quiet sobs but, also, one less thing on my to-do list!*
  • During the pandemic, a local writer posted weekly “Pandemic Poems”. We loved stopping on our regular family walks to read her newest offering; she stopped writing consistently last spring, but occasionally posts new poems out by the edge of her driveway. Walking home from school this week, I spotted her newest addition – about a nearby walking trail/water reservoir – and it made me so happy!
You can’t see his face, but he was sound asleep at this point!
  • Waiting for the doctor on Wednesday, Levi snuggled in and we started chatting about this day. Eventually, he reached for my hand and interlaced our fingers. This, for obvious reasons, melted my heart. And then he fell asleep. The doctor was behind schedule, so he napped – holding my hand – for 45 minutes. This is parenting at its very best, folks.
Perhaps the cutest card we received all season – a huge thanks to Jenny for celebrating sweet Meatball!
  • The last of the holiday cards have been arriving this week and it has made me so happy to still have festive greetings showing up in our mailbox (Hi Katie! San! Jenny!).
  • The last few days of fresh Christmas tree smell. I love the decorations, and taking down the tree always bothers me the most. This year, when my sister was still visiting and the living room was full of people, I took off the ornaments. It always feels so sad to do this solo. It was almost fun to do it with a group around me and really softened the blow.
  • Stopping by my parent’s rental place on the way home from school dropoff. I sat at the kitchen island with them while they finished their breakfast and we talked for 45 minutes. It was lovely. This too shall pass, and I’m determined to be able to look back and say: I made the most of this opportunity.

And that’s a wrap on my week. Your turn. How was the first week of 2023 for you and those you love? Are there any big changes coming up in your life over the coming months? Did you decorate gingerbread houses this year? What are you most looking forward to in January?

Header photo by Planet Volumes on Unsplash

Sometimes It’s Easier to Do Something Instead of Making It a To-Do

I can’t even recall the specifics of the task now, but a few weeks ago I instinctively reached for my planner to write down an item on my to-do list. I stopped – pen poised over paper – and thought: Elisabeth, it would be a lot less work to just DO the task – now.

So I did it, patted myself on the back, and moved on with my day.

Your turn. Do you love lists? (I do!) Have you ever discovered that – sometimes – it takes less work/mental energy to just do a task versus adding it to a future to-do list?

Header photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Christmas 2022 <> A Recap

Years ago, when our kids were in preschool, we used to sing a song at their end-of-term parties while holding the sides of a giant parachute and dancing around in circles (yes, I always felt ridiculous). It was a catchy little ditty and even now it’s not unusual for someone in our family to randomly start singing – at the top of their lungs – It’s parachute time, it’s parachute time, play along with me.

Tonight, sitting in front of our Christmas tree cheerfully ablaze with (white) lights, I feel like breaking into song: It’s recap time, it’s recap time, read along with me

This post is dedicated to Jenny, whose enthusiasm for a Christmas recap has buoyed my spirits all week!

I would classify Christmas 2022 as Very Nice. Was it my favourite Christmas in recent memory? No. But this makes sense. We were coming off a very hectic fall full of travel for John and a lot of kiddo illnesses. I tried to keep my expectations at a realistic level and mostly succeeded. On the whole, we had a wonderful time and made great memories, but there were some tough moments too. Because, well, that’s life!

CHRISTMAS EVE Eve (AN amazing day)

Spoiler alert: THIS WAS MY FAVOURITE DAY OF 2022.

I intend for this to be the final year of awkwardly referring to this day as Christmas Eve Eve or the Eve of Christmas Eve. All credit goes to Colleen who mentioned her family calls this day Christmas Adam (since the next day is Christmas Eve, it winds up being “Adam” and “Eve”)! I broached this idea with the family and everyone was in agreement the terminology is genius.

We spent the day before (the Eve of Christmas Adam, I suppose?) at a local children’s hospital trying to track down the source of Levi’s odd symptoms. Waking up on Friday with no school, no doctors, and no pressure to be anywhere felt amazing.

John made me a coffee first thing (I limit myself to two cups a week because any more seems to upset my stomach and those cups are gloriously delicious) and sipped it while flipping through a Christmas book.

Then we cleaned.

This probably sounds like the lamest festive activity possible but, for me, it was the perfect antidote to all the chaos of recent weeks. We ran robovacuums upstairs and down, I scrubbed toilets (yup, still my favourite day of 2022!), I mopped floors, I emptied garbage cans and straightened books on shelves. As part of our preparations to update Abby’s room, we dismantled her bedframe and put her boxspring and mattress directly on the floor. She inherited a very nice – but giant – frame from us when we upgraded to a king-sized bed and it was always oversized for her space. Her room immediately felt significantly bigger and lighter.

I washed sheets. I repeat, I washed sheets (and pillowcases and duvets) on TWO beds.

I went for an 8 km walk with my best friend. En route we hand-delivered my final Christmas cards and stopped by a store to source my beloved Stash Holiday Chai tea (none available, but they’re ordering me two boxes). For part of our route, we opted to take a woods trail and came across a decorated evergreen in the wild. Everything about the experience felt magical.

John and I had an unexpected meeting when I got home, and the kids were ravenous by the time we were finished; he took them to Subway for lunch, while I stayed home and prepped supper – Curried Rice with Shrimp and a decadent seafood casserole (lobster, shrimp, scallops).

My parents arrived an hour earlier than expected; I was in exercise gear and looked like a disaster (I was cutting John’s hair when they walked in the door). But I flopped into a comfy chair despite the disarray and we chatted and it was lovely.

At supper, we lit candles and dimmed the lights. The kids were happy. The food was amazing; for dessert we enjoyed slices of pecan pie a friend had gifted us. Then we (minus John) watched a slapstick Christmas movie together (Christmas on Mistletoe Farm on Netflix; overacted with lots of potty humour, it has a very low rating on IMBD, but the kids loved it…and so did I).

From the outside, my day looks like it has a lot of rough edges, what with all the mopping and toilet scrubbing capped off by a low-production value movie. But it was, without a doubt, my favourite day of the year.

christmas eve (good, with a few bumps in the road)

This is typically my favourite day of the year; even though Christmas Eve Eve Adam took those honours in 2022, it was still fun.

Another coffee in the morning. So good. The kids watched a movie while I did some food prep. Mid-morning, Levi took a Christmas card to some neighbourhood friends and they ended up coming back to our place – the three of them played hallway soccer and discussed nuances of the World Cup for hours.

My parents came over for lunch – leftovers of the seafood casserole and rice from Christmas Adam. Unfortunately, at this point, the wheels fell off the bus. The kids started fighting and pushing each other’s buttons. We were planning to watch the animated 1966 Grinch and Charlie Brown’s Christmas. I won’t go into particulars – and I still don’t fully understand how things spiraled – but one child got sent to their room and another dissolved into epic tears about how The Grinch reminded them of vomit (sigh; don’t ask, another long story). So my parents left early, and the kids each “rested” in their rooms. I fumed for a bit, and then managed to embrace the change of plans. I took a long, relaxing shower and prepped for church at a leisurely pace. The breathing room was quite nice. Sadly, this is the first year since I was a kid I didn’t end up watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, but I have survived.

The church service was great (we went to the early service at 4:30 pm) and it was over in less than an hour.

Per tradition, we had pizza on Christmas Eve. This year it was make-your-own on mini-Naan breads and they were delicious. While we ate dessert, Abby put on a piano performance. She made homemade programs for everyone, complete with jokes and hand-drawn pictures. Levi was perfectly supportive and didn’t seem jealous of all the applause – literally – his sibling was receiving (phew).

Then the kids opened up their new Christmas PJ’s (confession: I gave Levi the exact same pair of PJs he received last year. Literally. The same pair. He isn’t a big fan of onesie pajamas, but I couldn’t find anything to match Abby’s, so I pulled these from his closet months ago, wrapped them up for this Christmas and he was none-the-wiser). They both looked very cozy and festive!

Then we all took turns opening up our new ornaments.

I typically buy ornaments right after Christmas at a reduced price, but this year I ended up ignoring my stash and choosing items that were more relevant to current interests.

Abby received a Hermoine ornament; she went as this character for Halloween and is obsessed with all things Harry Potter.

Levi received a Pokemon (Pikachu) ornament. His expression was priceless. While he was unwrapping the ornament, he told me he expected to get something related to soccer or a baseball (last year, his blown-glass baseball ornament fell to the floor and broke within seconds of him opening it). Hilariously enough, I had a soccer-themed ornament all wrapped up, but as his obsession with Pokemon skyrocketed, a Pikachu character seemed like a more appropriate choice. He was very excited.

Christmas 2021 – literally milliseconds before that ornament broke into a million pieces. Notice the Christmas jammies. You’ll see them again in 2022 pictures.

John got me an adorable Snoopy ornament (I love the Grinch and Charlie Brown’s Christmas; years ago he got me a Grinch ornament, so I’m thrilled to have Charlie Brown’s Christmas memorialized on our tree as well).

Abby spotted this Eiffel Tower ornament for John. We didn’t source an ornament while we were in Paris and though this representation is a bit on the gaudy side (it’s covered in glitter), I like having a reminder of our special memories from that city and think it also more broadly represents our life adventures together.

We (minus John, he’s not a huge fan of cookie-cutter holiday romance films) watched another Christmas movie – one of my all-time favourite Hallmark ones, Window Wonderland.

The movie was a lot of fun, but I was absolutely exhausted by the time it was over. I still had to get the kids settled for bed, see my parents off for the night, and get stocking gifts organized. Note to self: organize the evening better next year. I was pretty grumpy and overtired by the time everything was squared away for Christmas morning (Abby and John helped).

christmas day (Good, BUT EXHAUSTING and Always a bit sad)

Christmas morning was wonderful. For the first time since December 2nd, we didn’t see Levi in the middle of the night. I told John it was a Christmas miracle! Turns out, he woke up Abby instead (sucks for her, but was great for me); she helped him warm up a magic bag, and then they had a sleepover. Thankfully they were both in good moods when they came to see us around 6:30ish. They had no complaints about waiting for my parents to arrive. I made a delicious cup of Chai tea which I sipped contentedly while watching Charlie Brown’s Christmas (without any of the drama from Christmas Eve). I started baking the Cinnamon Coffee Cake.

My parents arrived around 7:30 am. The kids took turns reading the Christmas story from Luke 2. Meatball (safely contained in a little travel tote) listened attentively.

And then we opened stockings. This was so much fun and the highlight of Christmas Day for me. We took turns unwrapping our stocking gifts one at a time (I had three or four stocking gifts total, which made me think of the SNL Christmas Morning skit; and I DID give my Mom a robe).

I’m going to do a separate post about gifts because I want to have it to reference next year, but I was really pleased with what I purchased this year for stocking stuffers. Stay tuned!

While we finished unwrapping the final stocking gifts, John scrambled eggs and finished prepping bacon. I pulled fresh Cinnamon Coffee Cake (monkey bread) out of the oven. But my favourite item? The orange juice. We so rarely buy orange juice and I had two glasses of it and it tasted absolutely wonderful.

My parents were going to a different church service, so they had to leave early. I cleaned up all the wrapping paper, put gift bags back into my wrapping stash, and generally tidied up the space. John and Levi played soccer outside with a new multi-use ball he had received. Then the kids worked on some craft kits and Abby peppered us with Would You Rather questions from her new book.

Then it was off to church at 11 am, home for lunch by 12:15 pm.

Every year we do a treasure hunt of clues for the kids to follow. I love this tradition. Each year I wrap the first clue up in about a dozen layers of boxes and bags and wrapping paper (the first layer is huge, so it’s ironic that they end up with a tiny slip of paper by the end). The kids are always giggling once they get to the 4th or 5th layer. And when they finally reach the first clue they are off like a bolt of lightning. This year our clues had them going all over the house, down to the mailbox, into the backyard, before eventually ending up across the street at our neighbours house. They have a Christmas tree on their back deck and we put the wrapped “treasure” under their tree (I had cleared this with our neighbours first and they were delighted to have their house be the final stop of the Frost Christmas Morning Treasure Hunt).

The gift? An itinerary for our 2023 trip to South Carolina inside a new family passport holder (I hated juggling boarding passes and passports the last time we traveled and found a great holder that zips closed, can hold up to 6 passports and has a zippered inside pouch). The kids were excited to learn about the trip, and the whole hunting process left them exhilarated.

While they were following clues, John was prepping lunch. A charcuterie board spread: cheese, meats, crackers, olives, and a shrimp ring.

And then it was back to unwrapping the main gifts. This went well, though I could feel my spirits flagging as the day went on. I was tired and there is just something so sad about Christmas afternoon to me. The tree looks bare without festive packages. And I think pent-up exhaustion from all the preparations really starts to sink in. All that work (SO MUCH WORK, much of it “unseen”), and now the experience is over? Plus, John and I were really, really sleep deprived from Levi’s restless nights.

My parents packed up their gifts and went home for a few hours. All I wanted to do was cry. But there were boxes and bags and gifts to be put away. I carried on because I knew an hour of work would have everything squared away (it did). And then we went on a woods walk as a family, stopping by that decorated evergreen tree, and life felt manageable again. When we got home, the kids played with their gifts and generally enjoyed lounging.

Abby enjoying two of her favourite gifts: a giant reading pillow and a Reverse Colouring book
Levi enjoying – no surprises here – LEGO.

My Mom brought homemade meatballs for supper, I made rice and peas and, for dessert, we had Cherry Cheesecake. It was all delicious!

We watched another Hallmark movie (In Merry Measure), and when my parents went home for the night around 9 pm, I felt satisfied and relaxed.

boxing day (fever alert! but still a GREAT DAY)

Again, we woke up with no child in our bed! But, deja vu, turns out Levi had gone into Abby instead. At 4:30 am. And he had an elevated temp. Sigh.

We were scheduled to host our turkey dinner at lunch time. My parents and a dear friend – widowed, with none of her grown children able to make it home over Christmas – were to join us.

I called to let my parents know about Levi’s fever. I offered to keep Levi sequestered away. Since they had been with him so much over the last few days it felt like that ship had sailed, but our friend helps care for her elderly mother and could no longer come over. We offered to take food to my parents so they could host her at their rental, but she wanted us to spend time together with family.

I felt so, so bad. I know she was excited to spend Christmas with us again (we did this one other year and it was lovely).

But, can I be perfectly honest? I was elated about what this did to our day. In the end, I suggested to my parents that we postpone things to an early supper instead. I stayed in my PJs until LATE into the afternoon. I did a bit of planning in my 2023 planner. John and Levi worked on LEGO. The kids watched a lot of screens. We all just randomly went to the fridge when we were hungry and sourced leftovers as needed. I tried on my new heated vest. John and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. I helped Abby put away her Christmas presents.

It was exactly what I wanted and needed after the rush of December activities.

Supper was simple but delicious. Levi rested in his room; he’s not too fussed by Christmas dinner anyway. My Mom prepared squash and carrots. We bought StoveTop stuffing and cranberry sauce. I opened a can of corn. We had a jar of boughten pickles. I prepped a turkey and baked potatoes. We had leftover Cherry Cheesecake for dessert. It was delicious.

Yet again we watched a movie! This time it was about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. His work hits close to home because the poem Evangeline was written about the deportation of Acadians from Nova Scotia. His fictionalized story about this event has been thoroughly integrated into local culture.

That statue in the background at a local UNESCO World Heritage Site is of “Evangeline”, from Longfellow’s famous poem.

The focus of the movie was on the death of his wife which inspired him to write the carol I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day. While it was a Christmas movie, it was very sad. I’m glad I watched it…but definitely not a Hallmark-style ending.

All-in-all, this was a nice Christmas holiday. There were some ups and downs but I really appreciate how I can look back on the experience in its totality; for example, from the outset, I was dreading having to jump into prepping turkey and all the fixings first thing Boxing Day morning. But I ended up in my PJs until after 4 pm! While I wish Levi hadn’t spiked a fever, at least there were some silver linings. On December 27th, we were supposed to host three kids for a friend; while I knew it was going to be a big help to her, because of Levi’s fever – you guessed it – we had to cancel those plans…and I stayed in my PJs most of the day!

things that worked great

Overall, I feel like following along with my template from previous years (now memorialized in a spreadsheet) was a success. Highlights:

  • Our seafood casserole meal on Christmas Adam. So delicious and a perfect kick-off to the main Christmas events.
  • Watching a holiday movie each night. Such a relaxing way to spend the evenings. It feels cozy and festive.
  • Lighting candles at dinner each night.
  • Using paper plates when appropriate.
  • John took the kids out for lunch on Christmas Adam while I prepped supper. It was positively luxurious to have the house to myself for an hour to cook and clean. Getting the kids out of the house on Christmas Adam/Christmas Eve so I can work solo would be a great annual tradition.

Things to adjust for next year

  • We’ll skip the charcuterie on Christmas Day. Abby and John love it, but the rest of us are meh, and it makes for a lot of leftovers that need to be consumed quickly (shrimp ring, cured meats). I have no idea what to do for lunch on Christmas Day next year, though. Sandwiches on the panini press?
  • I need to add more butter to the base of my cherry cheesecake recipe. It didn’t taste salty enough (weird, I know); thankfully it tasted much better after sitting in the fridge an extra day.
  • I want to take more items out of their packaging before they get wrapped.
  • Start watching movies earlier. By the time the movies were done, I was ready for bed but still needed to help the kids get settled. I ended up feeling overtired a lot of evenings (though, admittedly, middle-of-the-night wakings don’t help with this).
  • I’d love to find some way to spread gift-opening over multiple days. I suspect the kids will revolt against this?! But I LOVED opening stockings on Christmas morning and honestly would have been content to stop there for the day and open the main gifts on Boxing Day. I feel like that would be a tough sell with the kids, but it would extend the fun of it all…
  • I’d like to have more people stop by for finger foods over the holidays. We used to do this pre-COVID. This year we were exhausted from…life…but if the health and energy level stars align, next year I’d love to spontaneously invite people over for an hour to hang out, play games, nibble on cookies. Having my parents was wonderful, but it did make me a bit sad we weren’t able to welcome people for short, impromptu get-togethers.

Your turn. How was your Christmas? Any notable highs or lows? What do you call the Eve of Christmas Eve? Do you start feeling a bit melancholy on Christmas Day?