Christmas 2016

Christmas celebrations began on Saturday night with Jeremy and Jackson exchanging their brother gifts – a tradition my sister and I had and one we’ve passed on to both sets of boys. They use their own money and we take them out separately to shop.

Christmas morning was slow-moving. Because the Packers game in early December was the big family gift, the boys knew that wrapped gifts would be minimal. Per the Four Gift Rule, they both still received a book, clothing (Packers socks), and something they needed (an iPod charger for Jeremy, pajamas for Jackson).

There were fun things in their stockings – a particular favorite were these goofy glasses. Thank you, Corey!

Jackson was so pleased to receive some South Dakota State University gear from my parents. Random team, you say? Nah. Jackson loves the SDSU Jackrabbits!

We had one other surprise for the boys and that was an upgraded game system for the whole family. We all enjoy playing video games, and the last time we bought a new system was in 2009. They didn’t see that one coming for sure.

Christmas was mostly good, but it was also challenging. It’s hard to celebrate a holiday when there are two people missing from the family. There’s a tender balance between forcing Christmas cheer and making sure your kids’ holiday isn’t overshadowed by immense grief.

Still, we are thankful for those who are still here and happy to share a warm meal with as much gratitude as we can muster.

We tried very hard for a family photo of all six of us – the pets included – but Major is wholly uncomfortable sitting in close proximity to Salem. Hence, the ever watchful side-eye.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! Many blessings for a fruitful, healthy New Year. 


Pre-Christmas Fun

Desperate to find Christmas spirit (whatever that actually means), we fled to Pigeon Forge last night to enjoy the holiday lights. That was my original goal. Since neighborhoods don’t collectively provide outdoor illumination displays the way they used to (we are guilty of this), driving longer distances to see Christmas lights is necessary, and Pigeon Forge knows how to do it.

We drove up and down the strip, then parked at The Island so we could walk around a bit and find dinner.

The lights and fountain were lovely, exactly what I wanted to see.

Though we had no intention of shopping, Jackson discovered the Build-a-Bear shop almost immediately and began his lengthy speech about how he’s always wanted a Build-a-Bear (true), how Jeremy has one and he doesn’t (true), and how happy he’d be to help pay for it with his own money (sure!).

Meet Joshua:

We also picked up a new shirt for Two, Jeremy’s monkey, who used to have a more prominent role in Jeremy’s life. Here they are on a plane together in 2010:

Anyway, we’re happy to welcome Joshua into the family, and Jackson is very excited to introduce Joshua to Jelly, Owen’s faithful bear who is well-traveled.

Dinner happened at Dick’s Last Resort, a highly inappropriate restaurant if you don’t have a sense of humor. I won’t share all the photos from dinner but rather confess that what I needed more than Christmas lights was a lot of laughter. Mission accomplished.

My heart feels lighter after last night’s excursion, so it was the right call to go (thanks, babe!).

After uploading photos I realized I still had some images that I didn’t share from our brief trip through Chicago earlier in the month, particularly from the morning we spent at the Naperville Christmas Market. (Jacob was at a swim meet and unable to go with us! Boo!)

While there, Jeremy learned that freshly made marshmallows (dipped in chocolate) are WAY BETTER than store-bought.

I miss these people all the time. So thankful we had an extra few days with them… 

The Miller family goes to Lambeau

This weekend I crossed something off my Bucket List: A Green Bay Packers game at Lambeau Field.

It all started with keeping the game a secret from the boys for more than two months. When we finally had the big reveal, I was shaking with excitement. Their reaction was nothing short of pure joy.

They had neither a clue nor an inclination that we’d ever take them to a Packers game, much less a Packers game at Lambeau, but when the tickets were given to us so generously by the author whom I worked with, it was the gift of a lifetime.

We drove to Chicago on Friday to spend two nights with my sister and her family, then we woke up painfully early on Sunday morning and drove to Green Bay.


Just as we entered Brown County, it started snowing. All we needed to make the experience perfect was a win over the Texans.


The Tundra Line was a crowd pleaser:


The stadium was everything I hoped it would be.



Our seats were fantastic and I spent every minute carefully memorizing each detail around me.



As the announcer said, “It’s a beautiful day for football!” — 30 degrees and snowing!




Shortly before halftime we slipped upstairs to the rooftop to get the best view of Lambeau:



After a quick bite we returned to our seats to watch the second half. We were cold, but none of us cared. The final play was perfection:


I stayed in the stands as long as I could.


We walked the grounds a bit to visit Vince and Curly before going back to the car. I didn’t want the afternoon to end.


Finally, we hit up the Barnes &  Noble so I could see the book on a real retail shelf. I owe all of this to the author, Jim. It was the experience of working with him and learning about the team that made me a fan.


I guess the only thing missing is a meet-and-greet with our local Packer, Randall Cobb.  A girl can dream though.