Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Creating Traditions, Making Memories

Wow, it's been awhile since I've been able to post!  Finding the time these days is a little challenging, but I'll pop in and out with some new recipes for the holidays and fun kid activities as well!  I have been working hard on getting my shopping done so that I can spend time making some fun memories with the kiddos during this most very busy and special time of year!  What can I say, it's my favorite time of year!

This really is the theme of today's post:  tradition and memories.  I find it hard to believe at times that my oldest son is approaching 7.  It seems like yesterday we were anxiously awaiting his arrival and now we're about to celebrate our seventh Christmas as a family.  Throughout that period of time we've added three more kids and will be celebrating what is likely to be our last "baby's first Christmas" this year.  (Ugh, that makes me teary just thinking about it!).  This will, however, only be the second year that we will wake up in our own home on that magical Christmas morning and the first time we've ever had "baby's first Christmas" in our own home as well.  When we lived in the suburbs of Chicago, we had our own little family Christmas before we took off on our rounds, but it was always before the big day and while it was very special, nothing can compare to what we experienced last year.    

Let's back up a bit.  I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a mother someday.  I grew up in a family of four and while it was fun, I always wanted at least one little brother or sister.  When that didn't happen, I began to dream of having a big family one day.  Well, fast-forward to that day:  here we are!  I always said I wanted to have five kids, but I think that four may just be the magic number for us.  I love my not-so-little family and one of the greatest gifts that I feel we, as parents, can give them is creating traditions that will lead to lasting memories.  I have many fond memories of my childhood traditions, and while a few still remain, most of them have gone to the wayside now that I am an adult.  Now it is our turn to create traditions for our family, some we may carry over from our childhood and others we may initiate ourselves.  For someone who is incredibly sentimental, these are the gifts I treasure and I put a lot of thought into them.  Let's be honest, my life pretty much revolves around my kids so this is really a big deal to me.    

Since we made the big move last year and are much closer to both of our families, we have been given the gift of being able to create our own Christmas Day traditions.  While my husband and I are regular church-goers and value our faith, I am ashamed to admit that for years we did not go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day because we couldn't fit it into our schedule of Christmas celebrations we had to attend.  Last year we made it a priority to go and we went Christmas morning.  It was wonderful.  I want my children to realize that Christmas isn't all about Santa, but more importantly Jesus' birth and I feel like while we talked about it with them and read stories, we were missing the most important piece:  celebrating at church.  This year we may try to attend a Christmas Eve mass, but if not, we'll go Christmas morning.  

Each year we spend Christmas Eve and my grandmother's house.  Last year after the celebration, we put the kiddos in their Christmas pajamas for the ride home and tucked them into their own beds.  After days of counting down, they were so excited for Santa to come!  In years past, we had sent the kids a note from Santa letting them know that he was going to be making an early appearance because he knew we wouldn't be home.  The countdown was always a little bit off.  It was our tradition to celebrate our own family Christmas the Sunday before the 25th.  Some years it was nearly a week in advance and it just never felt like the real deal.  I began to feel like our kids thought that Christmas wasn't just a day, but a week-long event of receiving gifts.  This was something that didn't sit well with me.  While we still don't fit it all into one day, it is nice to be able to condense it a bit and have Santa appear when he's supposed to instead of expecting him multiple times.

All right.  Back to the topic at hand:  let's talk traditions!  Last week I asked parents what they do on Christmas Day.  Many of those that responded said that they spend the day at home with their kids and enjoy a relaxing day.  Some start off the day with fudge or pancakes with vanilla ice cream for breakfast (I want to be in those houses!) or incorporate traditions from other countries to celebrate the diversity of their families.  Some put stockings outside the kids' doors to slow them down and others give one gift on Christmas Eve (usually Christmas pajamas) to ease into it.  Everyone mentioned food, either breakfast or a special dinner that they eat, so clearly that is an important part of people's traditions.  Some families invite grandparents or relatives over, while others reserve the day just for their family.  I loved reading through these comments!  It was so interesting to learn how people spend the day and about different cultural traditions.

What will our day look like?  We'll be woken up early by the kids (I'm sure!), turn on some Christmas music and the fireplace, and start the day off by checking to see if Santa ate his cookies and drank his milk.  We're usually very generous, so if Santa didn't eat all of his cookies, the kids each get one to eat.  We also check outside to see if the reindeer ate their carrots.  We set out plenty of food because we want to make sure Santa finds our house!  When the kids go to bed their stockings are hung neatly on the fireplace mantle, but that sneaky Santa hides them throughout the main floor of our house for the kids to find.  Usually the kiddos try to find them right away, as they are so curious about their whereabouts!  Candy is not the only thing they will find inside.  We also include snacks we don't usually have, socks, or special treasures (cars, baseball cards, hair accessories, etc.)  Once we're through with that, we have the kids sit in front of the tree with the gifts and take some pictures.  Once that is complete it's time to open presents.  We take our time with this and only one person opens a gift at a time.  In years past, the kids have had no desire to tear through their gifts.  Instead they usually take the time to test it out, especially if it's a toy or book.  I love that we don't rush through it all.  We get to see everyone's reactions and they all get the "spotlight" for a bit.  We've even taken breaks from opening gifts (and no, they don't get a ton of presents!), because they wanted to stop and play.  It warms my heart that they appreciate what they get and the "one at a time rule" is a tradition that I love.  We'll have a nice breakfast of waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage and fruit and then pack our van to head south to gather with my husband's family. 

I truly can't describe how much it means to me, as a mother, to share these special moments with my children.  They are only young once and in a blink of an eye they'll be too big for Santa and we'll have to drag them out of bed instead of rising early with excitement.  I spend a lot of time preparing for the holidays and coming up with activities for our family to do throughout Advent to get into the holiday spirit and have fun because it is important to me.  I know that I cherish the memories of Christmas morning with my family growing up and I hope my kiddos will cherish the time we spent as a family on Christmas Day as well when they are grown and with their own families.  

Oh how I can't wait to cozy up around the fire and see my kids' faces light up with excitement.  These memories are priceless! 

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

The kids leave their wish list and cookies by the fireplace and Santa leaves a thank you!

Mandatory photo

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