Dad called tonight to ask about my Christmas plans. I've been bummed about not being able to find any workable itineraries to return to Iowa in terms of time and money, so this pressed the issue. He also had news: my cousin has decided to move to Des Moines from Mississippi, as her options there have largely dried up and in-hospital care for her premature baby Evan will likely end soon. That means that both she and Mom will probably be in Iowa by Christmastime.
So with that nudge, I started searching again, tried some new options, and was able to find a better fare during the week before Christmas. It's a lot of juggling, but a relief to have it decided and to know I'll get to see family for a couple of days without needing to reshuffle things too much at work. I also won't miss any of the holiday gatherings already on my calendar and will be back home in Seattle for Christmas day.