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    Holidays

    Christmas Memories We Hope To Make This Year

    I mentioned in my post on Monday about how this Christmas is truly our first Christmas in our marriage where we don’t have major life events or the end of school semesters. This whole year has been the same, no school, no pregnancy or newborn. It’s allowed a little more time to think about family traditions and memories that we want to be intentional about creating.

    Here are a few traditions and activities we are looking forward to doing as a family this Christmas season:

    Reading Christmas Books. This is one of our favorites and it is one of the easiest. We have a pretty substantial collection of Christmas books thanks to some generous gift givers a few years ago. Every year we add one or two. Finding a spot for them is always tricky! The first year, twenty-four books were wrapped and we opened one each year to read, which was so fun! Now we leave them all unwrapped so we can read them multiple times. There are some great Christmas books out there of every kind- classic, spiritual, funny, nostalgic.

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    The Elf. Last year, my kids started asking about an elf visiting our house. They were pretty insistent and finally I obliged. Now, before you get all excited there won’t be any funny antics posted about our Elf. Our Elf is very uneventful. He moves from place to place but doesn’t do anything funny or report back to Santa. My kids don’t know that is an option, they just love looking for him! I forgot to move him last night (yep, Day 1) and this morning they thought that maybe he fell asleep. To be honest, this was not a tradition I was interested in or wanted to pick up. However, my kids get so excited just looking for him each day, that it is worth it to me. I’ve learned that sometimes I just have to suck it up as a mom and do it, even if it is not at the top of my list of priorities.

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    Traditional Christmas Meals. Both Brian and I have traditional Christmas Eve meals from our childhoods that we love. His is a formal delicious feast (formal clothes, beautiful table, delicious food). Mine is an informal delicious feast (non-formal clothes, a blanket on the floor, also delicious food). This year, we decided to do the formal meal on Christmas Eve and the informal meal on Christmas night. I am so excited for both of these delicious meals.

    Christmas Lights. Last year, on our “official” drive around town to look at Christmas lights, I fell asleep. Yep, I sure did. In my defense, I had just finished the last semester of graduate school, my graduation had been that night, and I had a 4 week old baby. This year, I am hoping to take my kids out multiple times to look at the many great displays around our area and not fall asleep while doing so.

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    Christmas Cookies. This is one thing I always say we are going to do and then for some reason it doesn’t always happen. But I have a box full of Christmas cookie cutters and a delicious cookie recipe and can’t wait to decorate with the kiddos and share a few. Or maybe not, because cookies.

    Community Activities. A couple of weekends ago, we went to a tree lighting in our area. I had the best time. We ran into friends while there, the kids ran around playing and Christmas music was playing loud over the speakers. Santa arrived and lit the tree and then there was a Christmas light show set to music. Thought I did not know 99% of the people, I felt this unifying feeling with my community as we sat there in the chilly night watching the tree be lit. I am hoping to take in a few more activities before Christmas is over.

    Serve. I hope to do a good amount of service, individually and as a family this year. Serving others brings a special spirit to my life that is hard to replicate with other activities. I hope to instill that spirit in my children too. A great way to do this is by following along with the #LightTheWorld initiative. Learn more about it here

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    Image from The Small Seed

    Tomorrow the forecast is in the 40s and rainy all day. I’m looking forward to jammies all day, blankets, books, movies, popcorn and hot chocolate!

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    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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    Holidays

    November Traditions: The Grateful Tree

    This year has been one of the more “uneventful” years in our family, if there is such a thing. My husband and I are done with all our degrees, we didn’t have a baby or have a newborn, it’s been mostly living life, with ups and downs of course, but no major life changes.

    So one thing I have been trying to be more intentional about is implementing traditions. I love traditions and I think they are so important for family unity and memories. One activity we have done in the past in November is a grateful tree. There are versions of this throughout the Internet. Here’s how we have done our tree.

    One year, when it was just three of us, I went on a walk with my only baby and we picked up sticks to use as the branches of our tree. Then I dutifully traced and cut out realistically shaped leaves, we wrote the things we were grateful for on them and tied them to the branches. It turned out so cute and it worked great for that year. And now, I can’t find any photos of that tree. It looked good, I promise!

    Then I decided I wanted something I could pull out each year and not put much thought into the prep work. So a couple of years ago, I cut out the outline of a tree and branches using brown construction paper and then laminated it. I added magnets to the back so we can put it somewhere easily. In our previous apartment, the front door was magnetic, which was basically the coolest thing. This year, we are hanging it on our refrigerator. I cut out very basic leaves on a few different colors of construction paper while watching the latest This is Us episode and called it good.

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    The plan is take a few leaves each night or so and write things we are grateful for and add them to our grateful tree. I’ve saved the leaves from the last couple of years and it is fun to look back to see what was on our minds each year around this time.

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    Traditions don’t have to be complicated to be meaningful!dscn3098

    P.S. I’m sorry about the color in these photos. It was a weird overcast/sunny day when I took them and it threw off the color on all the photos!

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