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Celebrations

    Celebrations, Holidays

    Making the Most of the Holiday Season

    I made it a goal a few months ago to be more prepared for the holiday season this year. I feel like for the last several years I have literally been sprinting to the finish when it comes to preparations. Slipping out to go to Target on December 23rd, putting off certain traditions I really wanted to do because I just didn’t plan for them, and generally feeling stressed and overwhelmed instead of full of Christmas cheer. In our defense, every holiday season since we have been married (almost eight years now) has also been the end of another busy semester of school, or the birth of a baby (this happened two different times) and so everything was pushed off until the two weeks before Christmas.

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    Not this year I said. I started thinking about Christmas around the beginning of October. Not in a crazy way, but I did start thinking and planning so that  I could avoid all the rushed, overwhelmed feelings of years past. And now that  we are approaching December 1st and I have generally stuck to my plans, I feel so good. Tonight, Brian and I talked about some activities and traditions we want to make sure and do this month and we didn’t discuss gifts at all. We have purchased most of our kids’ gifts already, and clearly aren’t talking about our gifts to each other. So we could focus on the activities, events, food and any other holiday happenings. It was so nice. For my future planning (to remind myself next year that it was a good idea to plan in so much advance) and any others who are interested, here’s what I did this year:

    Start thinking about gifts early. I started a new note on my phone at the beginning of October, listed my kids’ names (and my husband’s!), and every time I would think of something they might like for Christmas, I would write it in my note. Big or small, wrapped gift or stocking stuffer, it went in the note. Then, when Brian and I sat down to talk about what to get our kids, we already had several ideas. Because tell me I am not the only one who went into a store unprepared to buy gifts and stood there and thought, “What in the world am I going to get? Maybe my child will like this…t-shirt?” A plan makes it so much easier.

    Shop online. At first, this made me a little sad, because isn’t that part of the fun, going to the store and picking out the perfect gift? But then with one click and two days later, the packages were sitting on my front porch and I thought, “Well, this is nice too”. This also meant that if I got the bigger gifts ordered online, I could still go to the store and pick out smaller stocking stuffers (with my handy note on my phone) at a slower pace. But also, check the front porch before you open your door to check the mail with your kids. Just a tip.

    Choose your traditions. I think most would agree that traditions make up many of the memories we have of holidays and events in the past. That being said, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Filling every last minute with tradition leaves everyone exhausted and little time for spontaneous memories. I wrote a post on Collin County Moms Blog about simple ways to create lasting family traditions. In a nutshell it is: make choices, make a plan, prepare and also, relax! Traditions are meant to be fun, not stress-inducing, but they require a little work on the front end, usually from the parents. It’s part of the job, really.

    Make a “schedule” of holiday activities. This is not meant to be an ironclad, maxed out schedule. It’s more of a list of things that you want to do throughout the season. Some might need to go on a calendar (I’ve missed activities in the past because I figured I would “remember” when they were. Ha.), but in general just a running list of activities will suffice so you feel satisfied at the end of the season. I have found that Facebook is a great resource for local events. I can click “interested” if I see an event we might want to go to and it sends me reminders about the event so I don’t forget! We went to a tree lighting last weekend that ended up being such a fun little activity, so easy and simple but my kids (and Brian and I) had such an enjoyable time!

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    Some of our list includes: seeing Christmas lights, visiting some of the town squares in the area, Christmas Eve dinner, decorating Christmas cookies, “gingerbread” houses (really, graham cracker houses), and I’m sure we’ll squeeze in a few more things.

    I love this time of year. Even without all the “extras” the spirit of this season is different than any other. People are more loving, more giving and it’s a time I hope everyone can find a little more peace and happiness.

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    Celebrations

    A First Birthday

    My baby turned one last week. This first year flew by, possibly because she is a dream baby. (Knock on wood). I love celebrating birthdays. One thing I have learned over the years is that everyone has expectations, whether consciously or unconsciously, about everything. I have found out that I have expectations when it comes to birthdays. I love celebrating them. I love figuring out ways to make those special days that much more special.

    I wanted to have a little get together with some friends to celebrate our baby girl. I don’t know why, but I get a little self conscious when I want to have a party. Sometimes I even want to just cancel whatever it is I have planned. In some ways I feel like I’m back in junior high. Will people like it? Will people come? Will it make me look ridiculous? But I am getting better at pushing that talk out of my head and just doing what I want. Because it makes me happy! So if there is something you want do but you are worried about what others might think, just go for it if it makes you happy! I digress.

    So we had a little party to celebrate. I had an idea in my mind of how I wanted it to look in my mind and it came out pretty close. Baby girl has been sweet and gentle since the day she was born so that’s the vibe I was going for.

    The only things I bought for the party were the balloon and the food. Everything else I had on hand, which is a bonus. Pull things from around your house to find the look you want. This might mean your gallery wall looks a little odd with a couple of frames missing for a few hours or your artificial plants are missing their pots, but it will be okay!

    Here is the table setup, pre-food:

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    We did a “Smoothies & Sweets” food theme. Big bags of frozen fruit with a little water and yogurt made perfect smoothies. Just ask my son, he had at least four.

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    I didn’t make any of the food for the party and it was seriously so nice. There’s a time and a place for the homemade treats, but for this one, I just wanted to make sure I had the party! I have always secretly wanted to buy that giant box of cream puffs from Costco and now I had a reason to.

     

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    Good food and good company are key to a good party and we had both. Such a fun little gathering to celebrate our new one-year old. Now if year two wouldn’t go by quiet as fast, that’d be great.

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    Celebrations

    Family Pumpkin Painting Party

    All month long,  I have wanted to do a pumpkin painting party. In my mind, it would be a pumpkin painting playdate and we would invite some little friends over and they would each have a little pumpkin to paint, we would have treats and maybe play some games. That would have been so fun, no doubt, but we never got around to it.

    Yesterday, I decided we were going to have a pumpkin painting party. And it was going to be a family painting party. Because who better to have a party with than your family. Sometimes I think we forget the best party guests are own family members!

    We already had the pumpkins. Somehow, each of the three times we have been to Sprouts in the last couple of weeks, one or two little pumpkins ended up in our cart. At only a dollar, and so cute to look at, I could never say no. They ended up being perfect for our pumpkin painting party.

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    After school today, I picked up some festive plates and paintbrushes. Somehow, paintbrushes are one of those things that always go missing around our house. I also threw some googly eyes into my cart and they ended up being the star of the party. As the kids watched a show after school, I set up the table. I was amazed that they did not once try to move the pumpkins or play with the paintbrushes.

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    To start our party, we ate takeout (time is money, people) and watched The Great Pumpkin. We then moved to our painting. We are at the stage where activities such as this take about 5.5 minutes, so we were done in about ten minutes. But no one cried, no one spilled their paint, and everyone had fun. Win, win, win. I daresay that this pumpkin painting party might have to be a family tradition come Halloween.

    Sometimes these celebrations take just a little preparation, not too much time, but provide the memories our kids will remember for a long time!

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    Celebrations

    Simple Celebrations: Preschool Graduation

    I love making little moments special. I am trying to be better about making it happen. In the past, what has gotten me is expectations. Someone once told me, a lot of misunderstandings come because of unmet (or misunderstood) expectations. For me, I usually set the bar too high. I start with grand plans and then get overwhelmed and so I just don’t do anything. It’s super effective. I am trying to start with lower expectations. A few planned things and if I have time, energy, money, to expand then great! If not, I am not disappointed. Celebrations, parties and similar events often get me this way. Then I end up feeling sad and guilty because I really didn’t end up doing anything because I overwhelmed myself. So we are starting with baby steps here!

    My oldest just finished preschool last week. She went to a class that was a bit unconventional and goes year round. Therefore, there was no preschool graduation. My daughter probably wouldn’t have noticed if I didn’t do anything. But I wanted to. And she was so thrilled. And it was so worth it.

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    It was beyond simple and that is the point of this post! Little celebrations do not have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming! I bought the tassel garland at Target for $2-$3 and made the graduation hat out of poster board and a tassel I cut off the garland and hot glued on top. So easy and yet, my little graduate declared it, “the best day ever!”

    Need to make a graduation hat for your own little one? Follow these simple steps:

    -Choose the size of your hat, it’ll be a square. Mine ended up being about 12.5″ on each side.

    -Measure your little one’s head. Cut a strip of paper to match the circumference of their head (or measure their two-year-old brother’s head, because it’s about the same size!) The strip should be about 2-3 inches tall. Tape or glue the strip into a circle.

    -Hot glue the band onto the square.

    -Hot glue a tassel of your choice to the center of your hat so that it will drape to one size.

    Celebrate your little one’s accomplishment! It will make their day to have their very own hat! To complete the celebration we had macaroni and cheese and raspberry lemonade (with special straws) for dinner. That was it! With my daughter’s excitement, you would have thought it was the grandest party they had ever attended.

    Success!

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