November has always felt like a very transitional month: it comes on the heels of Halloween, and by its end we have moved beyond fall and are fully immersed in the Christmas season. It is a month for gratitude and reflection, the calm between two holidays known for excess.
This month has been an especially transitional month for our family this year, as we moved out of the newborn survival mode and dipped our toes into “regular” life as a family of five. It was a month of growing pains to be sure, but also some incredibly sweet and memorable moments.
// READING LATELY //
This month’s reading was a mixed bag. I loved this book on creativity from one of my favorite authors, and learned A LOT from this parenting book. Two mysteries—this one and this one—are strong contenders for favorite fiction of the year. However, I was deeply disappointed by this mystery that lacked style and substance. I had similar complaints about this romance. And this book was the first Enneagram tutorial I haven’t loved, although I have to give it full points for the creative title.
// WATCHING LATELY //
Holiday in the Wild ~ I found myself with a free afternoon and nothing to do but nurse babies, so I treated myself to some Netflix time. The Hallmark-style film follows Kate, a New York socialite whose husband leaves her the day their son leaves for college. When Kate travels to Africa to heal, she befriends an elephant conservationist and falls in love with the elephants in his care.
This movie was incredibly cheesy, with a predictable storyline and subpar acting, but it definitely delivers on the feel-good front, and I found the Africa setting stunning and the elephant cameos very endearing. I appreciated the innocent love story and lack of vulgar language. This was a light, cozy way to spend the afternoon and get myself in the holiday spirit.
My Rating: 3.5 Stars.
The Good Place, Season 3 ~ We loved the first two seasons of The Good Place and were eager to see where the show would go in season three. Like the previous seasons, this one was indeed surprising and filled with twists and turns. While I continued to enjoy the cast and found the dialogue smart and funny, I had a hard time getting on board with the overarching story line. It felt as though the writers were trying too hard to stretch the show an extra season, without a clear direction as to where they wanted the plot to go. That said, I loved the final episode and am eager see where things go in Season 4.
My Rating: 3.5 Stars.
Disney Plus ~ Along with every family I know, ours was thrilled to welcome Disney Plus to our television this month. Luke and I almost never watch television, so we decided to let go of Netflix in place of Disney Plus, which we hoped would offer more (quality/appropriate) options for Charleston. I am impressed with the easy-to-navigate interface and have been thrilled by the content available through the service. I’ve been trying to steer Charleston towards all of the classic Disney films and shows I grew up with. Unfortunately, he’s been more interested in the few shows I wish he’d ignore (Puppy Dog Pals, I’m looking at you), but I love that we at least have the option to watch some awesome programming.
This past weekend we began watching Christmas movies! I love that Charleston is old enough to appreciate some of the more grown-up movies. So far we’ve watched The Grinch (the new one is my favorite of the three versions, it’s so good!), Elf, and The Santa Clause. In the coming weeks I’m hoping to watch my personal favorites (White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life) as well as Miracle on 34th Street, The Star, and the Disney Plus original, Noelle. What is your favorite Christmas movie? I always enjoy hearing which ones people can’t miss each year!
// LISTENING LATELY //
Christmas music is my favorite! It’s hard for me to resist playing it until after Thanksgiving, but I’m always glad that I do as I appreciate it so much more when I limit my listening window to the official Christmas season. I haven’t discovered any new favorites this year, but I’ve been enjoying all of my old favorites including albums from Barlow Girl, Josh Groban, Christy Nockels, Amy Grant, Celtic Woman, Sarah McLachlan, and the cast of Glee. Last year I put together a playlist with my favorite version of all the Christmas classics, and it’s pretty much been on repeat in our home all weekend long!
// LOVING LATELY //
In a recent sermon series about the Bible, our pastor introduced us to the Passion translation and I’ve been reading this version for my daily Bible study. The translation is described as “a new, heart-level translation, using Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts, that expresses God’s fiery heart of love to this generation, merging the emotion and life-changing truth of God’s Word.” While I wouldn’t want this to be my primary Bible translation, it’s been helpful to read familiar passages through this updated lens. It is very easy to read, and I like that it goes beyond a literal, word-for-word translation to highlight the heart of Scripture’s message. I’ve found myself discovering so many new insights and meanings behind stories and verses I’ve been reading my whole life.
// NOVEMBER VERSE OF THE MONTH //
I’ve been reflecting on this verse a lot lately through the lens of motherhood. While I’m loving parenting twins, it can be incredibly challenging; I’m constantly reminding myself that these daily challenges are making me stronger and refining my character in way that no amount of easy days could.
In the past couple of months I’ve also become gentler and more empathetic in my attitude towards other moms. More than ever before, I am able to view their choices with compassion rather than judgment or personal smugness, because I see just how hard parenting more than one child can be. Before the twins were born, I hadn’t even realized that parental arrogance was an issue for me, and God is using the twins to humble me like never before.
// MONTHLY CHARLIE-ISMS //
As Charleston gets older, the funny things that come out of his mouth are becoming so much more complex, but possibly cuter than ever. I’m constantly pulling out my phone to jot down the things that he says, but even then I’m only able to record a fraction of his observations and quips. Here’s a sampling of what came out of my babe’s mouth this month.
+ “Your heart pumps your blood?! But that’s where you hold all of your love.”
+ In an attempt to define the internet: “The Internet is like electricity, but powerfuller.”
+ Whenever he hears the twins cry: “Does that mean they don’t like me?” (This breaks my heart.)
+ About his brother and sister: “I love them more than anyone but God.”
+ While playing with play-doh: “Mmm, play-doh tastes so good!” Me: “You’re not supposed to eat it!” Charleston: “Oh, don’t worry, I just eat the play-doh at the gym. And I don’t really eat it, I just lick it.” As if that were any better. . . .
+ When I saw him picking his nose and asked if he needed a tissue: “There was, you know, just some boogers in there.” Me: “I know, but maybe you should use a tissue to get it out.” Charleston: “I just like putting my finger in my nose and getting it out. And then I put it on my clothes and stuff.” Me: “Buddy, that’s gross! Let’s not do that anymore.” Charleston: “Kids never stop doing what they want to do. You have to stop treating kids like adults!”
+ “I like to help when I’m not mad or sad. That’s a way to say I’m sorry or thank you.”
+ When he asked why I said that the rain made our car dirty and I explained water spots: “Yeah, but that’s okay. I LOVE polka dots. Everyone loves polka dots!”
+ Pointing to a book on our shelves about George W. Bush: “Why is there a picture of grandpa on that book?” (He’s right, Luke’s dad looks an awful lot like the former president!)
+ “You have to listen to this song. I mean, is it crazy? Yes it is.”
+ “I just wish that somebody else could pay for all our stuff so that Daddy didn’t have to work, because I want to play with him all day long.”
// HAPPENINGS AND HIGHLIGHTS //
Throughout November, Charleston and I added to his Gratitude Pumpkin, writing out things he was thankful for each day. I love this tradition and the way it reminds us to focus on gratitude all month long, and it was hilarious to see the things Charleston wanted to add. Despite my prompting, he never said he was thankful for the types of things we adults would give thanks for, such as family and health. On day one, he said we had to say we were thankful for the most important thing, that God is here to save us. Other items to make the list were construction guys, superheroes, super tall towers, straws, clocks, and blankets.
One decidedly unwelcome highlight of the month was our family getting hit by illness mid-November. Luke got a cold first, which meant he wasn’t able to be near the babies at all for a full week, leaving twin duty up to me. Then Charleston and I got the same cold, which kept us at home for the week. Thank goodness for the release of Disney Plus that week to provided a much-needed source of entertainment. Charleston also got double pink eye that same week, and that Friday night he broke out in welts all over his body. Luke took him to the ER at midnight, and it turned out to be hives, cause unknown, and cleared up by the next day. We are all much better now, but that week was a doozy! I’d been holding it all together since the twins were born, but those six days nearly did me in and I’m still recovering.
We got a jumpstart on Christmas this year: I’m usually staunchly opposed to any Christmas activities before Thanksgiving, but last Wednesday—Thanksgiving Eve—we headed to my in-laws’ house to help them decorate their tree. Charleston and his cousin Collin, who is sixteen months, were adorable helping pick out ornaments and hang them on the tree. It was definitely nice to have some help holding babies so I could enjoy the evening as well.
Thanksgiving felt particularly special this year, with so much to be thankful for: two new babies, a new house, health and good community, and so much more than I could list here! We usually travel to California for Thanksgiving, but that wasn’t in the cards this year with the twins still being so young. We missed seeing our family there and attending family camp with my parents and brother, but it was nice to not be traveling for the holiday. We spent the day at my sister-in-law’s house: Amanda was an excellent hostess who set a beautiful table, and the turkey she and her husband Steven made was one of the best I’ve had! The twins had a great first Thanksgiving, and even though they didn’t get any turkey, they spent the holiday meal at the table with us at the “adults table” and were a perfect lady and gentleman.
On Black Friday, we loaded up the whole family and headed to a Christmas tree lot to pick out our tree. We’ve had so few outings as a family of five that even though this wasn’t a big event, it felt special. Luke and I each wore a baby, and despite the rain, it was a successful outing and we came home with a beautiful tree.
On Saturday we got to decorate that tree! Every year, Luke sets up a camera so that we can make a timelapse video of our decorating. We also get photos of us hanging significant ornaments, including Luke’s and the kids’ first ornaments, Luke’s and my first ornament as a couple, and the new ornaments we added this year. Charleston had a blast with the decorating, being reintroduced to all of his favorites and hearing the stories behind each one. He was a good helper this year, able to identify which branches could hold the heavier ornaments and spreading them out around the tree.
Each year we add a family ornament to our collection that signifies a memorable event from the year. This is one of my favorite Christmas traditions, and I cherish the memories these ornaments represent: our first Christmas together, growing our family, trips we’ve taken, moving to Texas. This year we added an unprecedented two ornaments: one symbolizing the purchase of our first house, and one commemorating the twins’ addition to our family!
In addition to decorating our tree, I spent the weekend getting our house ready for Christmas. The first Christmas in a new home is always a challenge as I have to decide where everything will go. I kept things minimal this year, but enjoyed setting out the Precious Moments figurine Luke gave me as a wedding present and our display of Christmas cards and Santa pictures. It was so fun to hang SIX stockings this year. How cute are the stockings my mother-in-law made for the kids?!
Last night we celebrated the first night of Advent. I love that this year, the official first night of Advent coordinated with the secular first night of “Advent” (Christmas countdown) as we like to participate in a mixture of sacred and secular traditions. We light candles on our Advent wreath, read from two separate family-friendly Advent books, and Charleston adds an ornament to his wooden tree and eats a chocolate from his calendar. I love seeing him get a little more excited about these traditions every year, it makes them even more fun and meaningful for our whole family!
I am so excited to have arrived in the month of December and am looking forward to all this Christmas season holds!