a perfect autumn day

3:57 PM

It seems that we've just skipped on over to winter the last few days. It's been consistently cold the last few days with the occasional cold rain. Our closets are brimming with warm wooly sweaters, cozy hats and scarves and tiny little mittens. The leaves have almost all descended to the ground and every lawn is a patchwork of ambers, reds, browns and copper. Oh how I've missed hearing that familiar "crunch, crunch" under my feet and those magical leaf showers! My heart is so happy right now!
This morning we woke up to the hissing of the heaters and gray skies. I made a big pot of oatmeal on the stove while the kids puttered around setting up blanket forts and annoying the pets. While they ate their oatmeal, sprinkled with chocolate chips (a favorite treat of theirs), I drank my coffee and watched the last few leaves fall. I offered to take them on a walk and they raced to clean their bowls. About an hour later, laden with layers of thermals, sweaters, scarves and coats we made our way out the door. There's something delightful in the revenge that comes decades after one was wronged. Oh how I hated being forced to hobble around like human coat rack as a child! And now I get to force my kids to endure the same fate! What can I say, you can take the girl out of Russia but you can't take Russia out of the girl!! In my defense it was 40 degrees with a light drizzle, I had to make sure they would be warm!

We drove to the park just down the road from us that has a wonderful children's learning center, playground and dozens of easy trails. The kids enjoyed the sandbox until the rain came pelting down heavier and we moved indoors. Once inside they dumped all of their coats and hats and mittens on me (payback) and ran around excitedly exploring the many stuffed animals, bee display and tanks full of turtles, lizards and spiders. They played "pretend camping" and read books and it was the perfect opportunity for some bird watching and identifying as we had just finished our lesson on backyard birds. Before we left we headed out one last time for our walk. We wound our way through the field behind the learning center and eventually made it to the trails. The ground was wet and muddy and covered in layers of leaves. The sky was slate colored and the quiet was only occasionally pierced with a bird call here and there.

Our cheeks were ruddy from the cold and our fingers felt icy to the touch but spirits were high and we kept going well past what I expected the kids could do. We somehow got on the subject of Christmas and Christmas music and after a few solo rounds of "merry christmas" we were all singing it together. Once they felt confident with that they asked to try "the bell one," also known as "jingle bells" and there we were - three cold people singing Christmas carols the first week of November. And it felt pretty perfect.
Once home it was time for Teddy's nap. I tucked him in, nose still red from the cold, and bid him sweet dreams. While he napped Birdie and I dug into some new books that had just arrived, practiced her numbers and lowercase letters and did some rhyming exercises, her favorite thing these days. I can't get enough of watching her love of learning blossom. Every day she's excited to learn something new, there's nothing that daunts her and the way her eyes light up when she grasps something that was challenging to her is heart melting! After her "work" I set her up with some colored pencils and pictures of owls. She was excited to try her hand at those, having had painted a very quality bird the other day. The hours ticked slowly by, the sky darkening ever so slightly with the passing of each one, nothing but the sound of pencil upon paper and my fingers upon these keys.
Our life is far from perfect these days and I often find myself on the verge of tears missing our old home and the feelings of comfort and security that come with that. But I've also seen myself grow so much from this experience. It has pushed me to look for those feelings elsewhere and I've discovered that mother nature is always ready and willing to welcome us home into her leafy arms. They say home is where the heart is and I've never felt it more than these last few months. For those few minutes we were hiking the trails together, our voices echoing against the cold gray sky, I felt home. And I realized right there that Christmas isn't the perfect fireplace mantle, or the tree decorated just so, or the cookies baking in your "dream" kitchen. No, Christmas is that tingly feeling you get when your little one's hand is in yours and they're looking up to you, rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes as they proudly sing "oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleight! hey!"
I'm determined this holiday season to not search for what's missing or wrong but to relish those special moments when the spirit is strong. Whether it be in the middle of the woods, in the car or the grocery store. Here's to always keeping our eyes, ears and hearts open.

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