Walking in a Winter Wonderland

A lot of songs have wormed their way into my head over the years - especially during the holiday season. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Last Christmas...if there's one thing I can remember, its song lyrics. I blame years in choir. This year, though, "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" dominated my neurons. And it went something like this.

Hit the music!
"In the lane/snow is glistening/A beautiful sight/we're happy tonight/walking in a winter wonderland!"

Christmas season really kicked off a week ago in the middle of finals. With Linguistics hanging over my head and four days left until I could escape home, I threw on some leg warmers and trucked out to Garrison Street with my fellow gluten free foodie, Rachel.

Garrison Street is like a mythical creature to us Point Loma Nazarene University Students. It's only ten minutes away from our school, but a world away in terms of Christmas spirit. For an entire street, the houses are decked out in a way that would make Walt Disney proud. There's blow-up Santa's in helicopters on the roofs, trees wearing more lights than leaves, and too many Christmas scene display cases to count.

All the pretty lights!
As Rachel and I walked down the road, gasping and gawking at the lights that surely blasted the owners' electricity bills up to the North Pole, I felt so blessed. For that moment, I was a Christmas present - hope, joy, and freedom were my wrapping. Finals week was hard - that's no doubt. But that little 15 minute walk filled me with enough holiday spirit to power me through.

"In the meadow, we can build a snowman/and pretend that he is Parson Brown."

As I mentioned on my Instagram and some of my previous blog posts, my dorm was stinking of Christmas baking for weeks before I left. Cinnamon rolls, Oreo truffles, cookies, muffins, pancakes...anything gluten and glutenous, we had it. So, when I finally rolled into my driveway, Mission One was baking cookies...lots of cookies.

So many cookies!
In the end, Mom and I whipped up three batches: pumpkin chocolate chip bites, banana bread sugar cookies (loosely based on linked recipes) and Glutino's mix for traditional chocolate chip. The first two were gluten free, vegan and low/no sugar while the last more closely mimicked a "regular" Christmas treat. You can guess which my family fell absolutely in love with, but all three are slowly disappearing from the kitchen counter. We used the same cookie molds as my pre-diagnosis years - snowmen, Christmas trees, gingerbread men, and a handmade heart. The perfect blend of new and old, one might say.

Although this was my second Christmas diagnosed, this was the first time we made Christmas cookies and a 99.9% gluten free Christmas dinner. Last year, we were too confused to know where to even start. As I stared at our cookie armies - which Dad lovingly later rearranged dancing on the platter - I couldn't be more proud of our progress.

All the noms this year!

And when we dug into our Christmas dinner - ham, turkey, mashed potatoes with skin, gravy, two kinds of stuffing, two green bean casseroles (one gluten free and one with gluten onion rings), cranberry sauce and, later, a gluten free apple pie - Mom and I agreed that we outdone ourselves. Or, as Mom put it, "We're finally not so bad!"

"Later on/we'll conspire/as we sit/by the fire/to face unafraid/the plans that we made/walking in a winter wonderland."

Christmas morning started early, all of us rolling out of bed, to the kitchen, to the Christmas tree. This year, despite our plans of simplicity, the presents were overflowing. The only unwelcome gift this year was the removal of my sister Hannah's wisdom teeth a few days before Santa arrived. As we started unwrapping, we played the Chipmunks singing Christmas carols in honor of her Chipmunk cheeks.

Gift time!
Wrapping paper soon covered the floor - and the dog, to her delight. Hannah stunned us with her artistic talent and gorgeous drawings; we surprised Dad with a hanger for all of his racing medals and Mom is ready to rock out to her new music player. Perhaps the most touching gift for me was a pen of my grandfather's who passed away last year.

And, as I wrote on Instagram, you know you're a foodie when you're parents give you a bouquet of spoons for Christmas - and you love 'em for it! And yes, the middle one does have, "Wanna Spoon?" engraved on top. If you hadn't already noticed, this writing major has a thing for puns.

These'll last longer than flowers!
Things will be different next Christmas. I don't know where my family will be living - as a Marine, my dad is due for new orders within the next couple of months. I don't know what I'll be doing - by that time, I'll only have two semesters of college left (gasp!) and a whole new adventure to begin planning. As for my body and blog - with all the changes and progress that have hit me in a few months, I can't wait to see what a whole extra year will bring?

"When it snows/ain't it thrilling/though your nose is a chilling/we'll frolic and play, the Eskimo way/walking in a winter wonderland."

Less than an hour after the wrapping paper massacre, the sky darkened until a torrential downpour hit our home. For five minutes, the sky mourned the end of Christmas morning. The rest of the day, it was blue skies and sun.

Nothin' but angels and sunshine!
In our usual Christmas ritual, my dad and I went for a crisp morning jaunt as soon as the roads dried. As we climbed the hills and navigated the mud, for a second, I just breathed it all in. Breathed in all the snow that hit me this time last year - only a few months out of the hospital, struggling through my freshman year of college, fighting low weight and the pressure to be perfect.

What a 180 this Christmas has been. For the first time, I can truly relate to the line: "gone away is the blue bird, here to stay is a new bird." Life certainly isn't perfect. I'm still dealing with my end of stomach tantrums, college stress, and the struggles that accompany growing up. But, right now, I'm frolicking in the leftover Christmas spirit (and the actual leftovers - yum!). I'm loving the Eskimo life - staying inside, enjoying family, and embracing winter break.

All the love!
This Christmas, I bopped around to a new tune. And that was the best present of all.


*Wonderland Lyrics from here*

Merry late Christmas everybody! How was your Christmas? What's your favorite Christmas tune? Comment below!





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