Christmas Discoveries

In reference to my last post, I’m glad to report back that my Christmas time was more stress-free and more intentional than many years before. Of course, since I said that my goal was  not to get overwhelmed and overloaded, that was my temptation. I felt the stress building several times, but since I had set my mind to it, I would pause, reset, and not give into the situation. Wow, novel concept: I have control of my emotions. Huh. I seem to not want to ponder too long on the reality that I have control of them all the time, not just during the Christmas break. So, I’ll move on…

Now I realize Christmas has come and gone and it may be too late to write a post about things I discovered over the break, but I’m gonna anyway in hopes that you might find some useful bits, even if they are just note for next year.

Put your kids’ ornaments in their own, personalized tub. I got this idea from my friend, Amy Wright. She blogged/showed pictures of her kids sitting with each of their ornament boxes, waiting to begin the decorating. Until then, I had never thought of this idea. Brilliant!

The main benefit I can see is this will eliminate all the disappointed looks that children #2, 3, and 4 have as they unwrap another ornament and realize it is just another one for child #1. It’s a bummer, but the first child always has more – it’s simple math: they have been alive more years so they will have more ornaments; my 3-year-old and 6-year-old just could not get this reasoning this year!

Now they will have their own box for next year and know that once it is empty, they have no more ornaments to put on the tree.

Freeze icing for Santa’s cookies. Our tradition is to make sugar cookies and decorate them for Santa (and us!!). We usually do these on the 23rd or 24th as a family but between making the cookies, cutting them out, baking, making the icing, and decorating, I am in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning for the majority of the day, trying not to let the stress build. But this year I happened upon this new discovery: I made several different colors of icing for Jocelin’s birthday cake in November and had so much left over that I decided to just throw them in the freezer – in the icing bags with the tips still on. I pulled them out on our decorating day and voila: time saved, stress lessened, more fun had. So I added that note to my calendar for next year to make the icing ahead and freeze it. I will consider doing the cookies early and freezing them too.

Do a total house cleaning a few days before Christmas. This year, I did a thorough house cleaning, you know – all the dusting, moping, every little trinket, toy and piece of trash in its place type of cleaning – because our dear friends, the Kelley family, were able to come over (There are zero pictures from our sweet time together because I can’t remember to use a camera). After such a great time with our friends, I was further rewarded with a super clean house. Then, for the next several days, we were able to do minimal straightening and keep a sparkly house for the holidays.

Now, after Christmas day, the explosion hit and I’m still working on finding homes for all the new things. But for like 4 full days, my house was really clean and it went a long way to make my time with my kids even more enjoyable. There is a note on my calendar to do this again next year!

Let traditions be created over the years. As a first-time mom, I can remember the pressure I felt to have wonderful Christmas traditions in place. I felt like I was supposed to begin the things that we would do, for the next 30 years, on Jocelin’s first Christmas. Well, time has taught me that this idea is not feasible and not what a tradition is about. A tradition should be born from something fun that happens that you want to do again and again. So I’m learning to not stress over creating fun family times – a funny statement in and of itself!

Also, I’ve learned that it’s ok to tinker with the things that will become traditions. I kind of felt like if we did something a certain way one year, then we had to do it just like that forever. Again,  not the purpose of traditions – to force things to be a certain way in the name of fun and memories.

The thing I keep reminding myself is that the memories I have of growing up, the things I remember with such fondness that compel me to create great memories with my own family, are actually from my later years at home. I have a few memories of traditions we had when I was grade-school age and younger, but most of the things I can recall started when I was middle-school aged and older. Well that just brings me such relief: I have a few years here to find the things that my kids will remember with fondness.

This year, we did a new thing that we loved: we watched The Nativity Story movie on Christmas Eve after our church service. It was so sweet to watch Mary and Joseph’s story play out on-screen. I loved talking, in depth, about all the details of Jesus’s birth with my kids. As we watched it, I thought, this would be a fun tradition to have. We’ll see if it becomes a recurring event.

I also made a note on my calendar, in November 2011, to start preparing for the Jesse Tree: a simple advent to do with children. I had several friend do it this year and hope to make it a tradition in my family too.

I hope my discoveries can bring some help to you too. I have so many topics to post about; I hope to crank out a few new posts in the next several days. I’m trying to extend the day to 25 hours to find some extra time!!

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