Around Our House

I was at Home Group last night and two of my friends mentioned that they were waiting for my next post. This is probably the last free chance I will have for a couple of weeks so I thought I’d post a few random thoughts concerning Christmas time around our house.

Let me first begin with a tip. (This tip also goes along well with many of the comments from my previous post.) I was with my friend Ana as our three children oohed and aahed over all the pretty ornaments on her tree. She told her sweet Jude, “touch with one finger.” He put his little pointer finger out and gently (and then not so gently) touched the ornaments.

It was one of those moments for me that I was in awe of such a brilliant concept. I mean, how have I raised four kids without knowing this rule? It is just the thing we all need right now as our little ones are desperate to poke and prod every Christmasy thing around. Touching with one finger allows them the ability to touch but not break or pull off or whatever. Emerson and Brooklyn have this down pat now. May your world be revolutionized too! THANK YOU ANA!!!

My Kid-Tree has benefited most greatly from this tip!

Second, as this Christmas rolls around, I have yet another reason to be thankful that I am finished with the birthing/nursing phase of my life.  The last couple of Christmases were pretty intense being super pregnant and then having my 4th baby around. I am really looking forward to actually visiting with family this year, not just parenting my children in someone else’s home. For those of you who are fully immersed in the birthing/nursing/repeat stage, take heart – it won’t be like this forever. My youngest is 22 months and man it just keeps getting easier!

Another noticeable difference, since we are no longer adding to the family, is that this is the first year I am not sewing on a stocking. When Jocelin was born, a sweet lady from my hometown made Jocelin a most fantastic stocking.

It is intricate, cute, and so impressive. Well, along comes Mason and the sweet lady was no longer making stockings for my children, clearly a store-bought just couldn’t compete, so the gigantic task was passed to me.

Now, let me elaborate here because I want you to be impressed, very impressed. I am writing this just to show-off; consider yourself warned!

To make a stocking like this, you have to purchase a kit – for at least $25. Now that $25 does not get you a stocking put together. Instead, it gets you a bag with felt pieces, that you must cut out individually, embroider thread, sequins and beads, and a series of super detailed instructions. Really, with each stocking, I would have to study the directions (because each one was laid out differently) for a good 30 minutes before I could even begin step one.  Each stocking had 60-70 steps and took who knows how many hours – somewhere around 30-50 per stocking – r e a l l y.

But in the end, it is so worth it.

They turn out so sparkly

And detailed

And elaborately fantastic

Yep, I sewed every sequin, pieced together each mitten, ear, hat, buckle, and a jillion other teeny pieces. Countless hours of TV watching and many a hand-cramp and I am proud of these babies. I hope my kids like them, they will use them as long as I am around, even if they are 60! Some day I’ll make one for Bradley and me and then eventually for many grandbabies.

The next random Christmas nugget I have to share with you concern the things I have been pondering over the past few days. My goal over the next 2 weeks: have fun. It’s plain and simple, yet hard for me to accomplish on most days. I used to be a lot of fun and somehow life and its craziness took over. So with the exception of the required laundry and occasional meal, I plan to play whatever my kids want me to, even if I don’t want to play it or I’m not good at it, watch movies, be silly, veg out, enjoy time with extended family and keep my woe-is-me attitude in check!

Since I will be enveloped in all the great times, I will not have time to blog for the next 2 weeks. My heart’s desire is to report back in a few weeks and actually be able to say that I kept my stress level under control and did all the fun things I have set before me.

Lastly, a random Christmas blog would not be complete without me sharing one of my most favorite traditions. I love Christmas music and one of my all-time favorites is Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s Once Upon a Christmas. Now many old roommates (shout out to Jana, Tamra, Brea, Emily, and Misty) and my husband would say that the continual listening of this CD is most embarrassing (and annoying) tradition I have. What can I say, I just love it. It has every bit of my childhood memories wrapped up in every song. I grew up country and I’m proud of it.

So in the Christmas spirit, I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on you.  Let’s hear it, what’s your favorite (and slightly embarrassing) thing you really enjoy at Christmas-time?

I can’t wait to hear about your silly traditions, have a great Christmas!

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Kids and Christmas Decorations

Each year of my life, before I had children, I eagerly anticipated busting out the Christmas decorations. I was raised on it!

My Mom would seemingly (and maybe actually!) take every decoration in our home and replace it with something red and green and merry.  As a teenager, I just loved the onslaught. We would bring in like umpteen boxes, open them all up, crank on the Christmas music, and we would dance, be silly, and Christmas would explode all over our house. It was awesome and I loved it.

Now, as a mother, Christmas is still so sweet and full of my own family’s traditions and fun memories, but the decorating has slid into the category, along with activities that were so much fun as a child, like going to the swimming pool and taking vacations. The category of, as a grown-up, activities that are a lot of work.

What I have discovered about things like vacationing, swimming, and Christmas decorating is that these are the things where memories are made. I can’t remember all the day in/day out happenings of my childhood, but I can recall so many great memories of Christmases, vacations, and trips to the pool.

As a mom, I have to remind myself over and over that all the hard work is worth it. So over the past 8 years of Christmases with children, I have found some things that have helped in getting the decorations done while maintaining some level of sanity! I thought I would share them in hopes that they might bring you some relief to your decorating – or maybe just some smiles at my anal tendencies.

1. I learned this tip from the dear Suzy Lea, the woman who, with the exception of my mother, influenced me most as a mother and wife. She has 5 boys and a less than tidy husband and yet Suzy loves things beautifully decorated. So at Christmas time, she would have one tree for her – pretty and all coordinating. Cliff, her husband, and the boys would have another tree that was theirs to decorate as they saw fit. I saw it one year where all the beads and ornaments were sloppily placed all on one side of the tree. I thought it was so cute.

I quickly discovered I would need to do a kid tree also. I would get a bit stressed about not having all the ornaments evenly spread out, or having all the kids’ super cute (and non-coordinating) handmade ornaments dispersed with my sparkly red, green, and white ornaments.  So, we got a little tree for my kids ornaments.  As I hovered over them this year, while they may or may not have evenly spaced their ornaments, I kept reminding myself, “This is their tree. Let them do it how they want.”

2. Over the years I have also learned that I like to be in my own decorating zone when I am putting up the tree. I get overwhelmed when the kids want to help me decorate the pretty tree.

[side note here: I feel a bit embarrassed that I am admitting all these things to so many people, but I am certain that there are others out there who find all this “fun stuff” a bit stress-inducing. I realize it seems like I just need to take a chill-pill. But fight it as I may, this is how I’m built. My household is much happier if I work with me instead of against myself. I’m just keepin’ it real!]

So I make sure to put up the kid’s tree first so they can get all their ornaments out and do their decorating and memory making without me getting all frustrated.

3. I also recommend starting with the kids’ toys. They can be playing with all the “new” bounty while you escape to your decorating zone.

4. Another helpful hint: if you have Christmas toys for your kids, remember the whole purpose of the toys is to be played with.

We have a super-cute assortment of kid-friendly nativity scenes.

Fisher Price

Nesting Nativity

Playmobil

Precious Moments

I get caught up in placing them all so sweetly, with Precious Moment’s Mary holding baby Jesus and each Wise Man set-up by his matching camel, etc.

Then when one of my children tries to come play with it and I find myself blurting out, “Don’t touch that.” Oh wait – they are made to be played with. Good-job Shawn.

So each time I’m cleaning up the living room, I don’t spend 15 minutes arranging the nativity scenes just as they should be because they are just going to get messed-up, I mean played-with. I just place them all on the shelf they go on and leave it at that. That way, when the kids are playing with them and little pieces are going all over the place, I don’t struggle internally (as much)!

Another side note: it always helps me gain perspective to listen to Junior Asparagus’s song “Was He A Boy Like Me?” from Veggie Tales The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree. It’s about a boy playing with his nativity scene which makes him wonder if Jesus was a boy like him. Seriously I’m almost crying just typing it here!

Take a listen and grab a kleenex:

5. Something I have done over the last few years is to write myself notes for the year to follow. So on my calendar or in the Christmas boxes, I’ll have a note that says – “Start with the kids tree and toys first.” “Decorate the cookies before Christmas Eve, it was too much for you to do last year.” etc. I mean, if you’ve learned something that benefits you and your family, don’t make yourself relearn it again the next year.

6. Also, cut yourself some slack. I did not do much decorating in the years I either had a newborn, was sick at the beginning of a pregnancy, or just in maxed-out-status from caring for so many little people!

You do not have to have decorations to celebrate Christmas. If putting up a tree brings too much stress into your household, then it’s not worth it. Save the tree for next year – they are young, they won’t remember not having a tree on their first (or 2nd or 3rd) Christmases. By the time they are old enough to remember, you will have enough energy to do it – and many wonderful memories will be made.

I say often, I don’t want my kids Christmas memories to be of me getting stressed and raising my voice! Since that seems to be my tendency, I have to access some tools to make it a more pleasant experience for us all!

So I hope this helps some of you! We’d all benefit from any other tips you have discovered for kids and Christmas decorations, so please share! Happy Decorating.

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