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Simple Joys

It’s at this point in the year when my mind is flooded with ideas, expectations, traditions to continue, and traditions I want to start. I anticipate my grown children experiencing the holidays with their families and I listen in on the conversations they have with their own children. My hope is that their memories will be filled with joy and excitement, generosity and love.

In order to fulfill this idea of giving them joyous holidays, I can tend to become overwhelmed with all the possibilities. We’ll schedule an outing to go experience fake snow falling from the sky. I’ll seek out a tree farm where we can hear the saw moving back and forth as our tree is slowly released from its roots. I’ll make plans to bake dozens of cookies to share in their perfectly decorated packages. And yet, if some of these ideas do not happen because of the reality of a chaotic life with three young children, I feel defeated and as if I have failed them.

Then I am reminded of their simple exuberance.

The other day, my husband, sensing my exhaustion from a long day with the children, decided to take the very energetic boys for an evening walk. I relished in the quiet while they left the house bundled up and excited for a little adventure. It wasn’t five minutes later that I heard the roar of the garage door opening and expected the quiet to be over, except that they didn’t come upstairs. Nearly twenty minutes later the door flings open and their little voices call for me with such eagerness I couldn’t help but smile. They came to fetch me from the couch and insisted I close my eyes as they had a surprise for me. So down the stairs I went, guided by a five and three year old with my eyes closed.

I stepped outside into the cold and was guided further. Through closed eyes I sensed glowing colors of red and green. When I was finally allowed to open my eyes I saw a single strand of Christmas lights lining one side of our fence and casually lying among the plants. My boys jumped up and down and shrieked with excitement, and I mustered up as much enthusiasm as I could in trying to match theirs.

Stepping back inside from the cold and warming ourselves with some hot chocolate, I realized that in the simple event that had just transpired my children experienced the joy of the holiday that I so methodically try to create. We spent time together, enjoyed one another, and relished in the season of joy and giving. That moment wasn’t dulled with the stress and chaos that can so often overwhelm the season. It was simple, joyful, and one that I will cherish.

by Ashley Rodriguez

Chef, food blogger, and full-time mom. Read more of her writings at