Home for the Holidays

A few weeks before we traveled back to the States to spend the holidays with our family and friends, I had a moment of panic about how busy our schedule was for the two weeks we’d be there. We had a literal spreadsheet of packing lists, to-do lists, and a complicated calendar of events. But even when we aren’t living abroad, our holidays are often like this. We are so fortunate to have close-knit families and tight groups of friends who like to celebrate this special time of year together. It is wonderful, and it is also exhausting. There was a time a few years ago, before we had kids, when I tried to talk Matt into taking a trip over Christmas, knowing we’d never do it but enjoying the fantasy of a leisurely vacation together instead of the excitement and bustle of our traditional holiday season.

Buuuut after I finished freaking out, we pared down our to-do lists and set a few schedule boundaries for ourselves. I was able to once again feel excited about our trip to Minnesota and Wisconsin, and for all of my anxiety about running ourselves ragged, we had an absolutely A+ trip. Our detailed planning paid off, and we were able to catch up with so many of our loved ones. Basically a Christmas miracle.

I also loved being back in the States. When we landed in Detroit after our overnight flight, it was a strange delight to realize I could effortlessly eavesdrop on the ambient conversations around me. I was struck by how cold and dark it felt in the Midwest compared to the summer we’d just left in Brazil, but I also loved the coziness of twinkle lights, outdoor fires, and light snowfalls. I really didn’t feel any Christmas spirit until we were back in winter.



Friend Time

Some of our very best and oldest friends.
I have so keenly missed my close women friends. It started snowing at the end of this night, making it all the more festive!
Nearly 0 degrees F here. I wanted to snap a pic of our visible breath but totally failed!
Best friends NYE, part I.
Best friends NYE, part II.
Hug from Ollie, Best Hug Giver.

One of the highlights of this trip was seeing how happy Oscar was. He isn’t unhappy in Brazil by any means, but living here has been hardest on him. I have written about this before: he forms relationships using words, stories, conversations, jokes. It’s really hard for him to do that in Dourados, where we know only a handful of adults and zero kids who speak English. He is rising to the challenge of being in a language minority, and I know we are all already better for this experience, even when (especially when) it’s hard. Seeing Oscar in Minnesota with his best friend, Connor, brought me to grateful tears.


Family Time

My sister, at our Hogan Family Christmas, which my aunt generously hosts at her adorable and cozy coffee shop, Claddagh, in St. Paul.
Building with Auntie Lo.
Reading with Aunt Leah and Uncle Kristian.
Playing with Grandpa Steve and cousin Amorina.
Not much snow in MN (when we were there at least- by February, they had a ton!), but Oscar got out on the pond for a little boot hockey.
Playing with Uncle Kristian.
My cousin Mary and her sweet baby Theo!
Oscar got some adventure gear from Santa.
Reading with Great-Uncle Milt.
Reading with Great-Aunt Marcy.
Playing with cousin Remy.
Ringing in 2019 with Grandma Deb.


Breakfast with Grandma Katy.
A night out at the new distillery in Wausau!
Playing with Grandpa Dale and Max.
August fell asleep watching a movie with Grandma and cousin Arianna.
VILAS!! Our sweet girl! We miss her so much. She maybe misses us a little.
My sister, her husband, and my dad are all really into an online game that clearly my boys are into as well.
Visiting with Great-Grandma Sally!
Reading with Uncle Andrew.
August with Auntie Alisa.
My mom’s signature dance move.
My seeeester.
Cousin movie time.
Playing mancala with my niece, Gabby.
Oscar and Brooklynn!
My mom.
All three of our dependents.
The whole Nelson family!

Back Again

On the second-to-last night of our vacation, I met up with three good friends who are also moms to young kids, and at the end of the night, I felt so filled up. I hadn’t realized how starved I was for conversations in English with people who know me well. I talked so much during the trip, feeling unrestrained in expressing ideas and searching only rarely for perfect vocabulary. It was so freeing, and when we boarded the first plane back to Dourados, I was buoyed, fortified, and ready to return to our adopted home.

It was a screen-time bonanza! 30+ hours of consecutive travel will do that to you.
Airport naptime + last Starbucks for awhile.

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