Our Christmas Traditions

There is something about a tradition that makes even the mundane items feel special.  Traditions make a family stronger and make children feel more secure about their place within it. This is a list of our Christmas traditions and you might be surprised to find that most of the items are free or very cheap.

  1. Decorate the Christmas Tree and Reminisce – Decorating the tree is a whole evening of fun. Our Christmas ornaments are a hodgepodge of things we have picked up while traveling, gifts from loved ones, representative ornaments, and things we have made over the years.  (A representative ornament is something that represents an important person or phase of your life.  My husband choose a special one to add to our tree during the first Christmas season after his father passed away.)  We spend hours discussing the memories behind every one.  It is our first Christmas night of the season and is one of the things I look forward to most.  Bonding over shared memories of snowy Chicago trips, meeting Mickey Mouse at Disney World, or stories about family members.  It always puts me in the Christmas spirit.
  2. Christmas Eve Pajamas – This started with our oldest daughter’s second Christmas. She was a year old.  We were young parents on a serious budget.  I wanted to take Christmas morning photographs of her in festive pajamas.  Fourteen years later and we still buy our children festive pajamas every year.  They get to open that one gift on Christmas eve and they really look forward to it.
  3. Christmas Movie Night – We spend a night (or two…or three) watching family Christmas movies. We trade out the normal popcorn and M&Ms for hot chocolate and candy canes or cookies.
  4. Baking Christmas Cookies – Christmas and cookies just go together. We turn on some Christmas music and hit the kitchen every year to spend an afternoon making basic sugar cookies or chocolate chip cookies. It’s loads of fun and is a great option for a super cold evening. It’s also a super cheap family day.
  5. Building a Gingerbread House – We let the kids pick out a kit and we spend an evening gathered around the kitchen table building a gingerbread house. This becomes the centerpiece of the table for the rest of the season.
  6. Looking at Lights in the Neighborhood – Depending on the weather, we either walk or drive around our neighborhood to look at lights. We all enjoy seeing what our neighbors have come up with. If your neighborhood is not an option, consider looking up community lighting competitions near you.
  7. A Christmas Trip or Outing – We go somewhere holiday related every year. If we have the time, we go to more than one place.  We really love Christmas lights so we often choose places with great lighting displays.  Zoos, churches, farms, museums, drive-through light shows, concerts, nativity scenes, and petting zoos have all made the list over the years.  There are posts about some of our favorites.
  8. A Visit to Santa – We visit Santa every year.  Sometimes he is at one of our bigger outings and we see him while we are there. Other years we take the girls to see the mall Santa. We have also been to a few library Christmas parties where Santa was in attendance.
  9. Thoughtful Gifts – I take the girls out one day for shopping.  We typically leave early in the day, have breakfast, and spend the day crossing off everyone on their lists. I tell them in advance so they can get their lists together. Over breakfast, I review their list and set a budget for each person on it.  They decide where to go to shop and pick out items.  This makes their gifts more special and a better reflection of their relationship with the important people in their lives. Michael takes the girls out on a separate day to get my present.
  10. Wrapping Presents – My girls love to help wrap. They work together to wrap gifts for the extended family and friends. They help me wrap each others presents. They love putting bows on the gifts. The wrapping has to get done so why not make it a fun family time. Bonus: The kids get to practice their scissor and tape skills. Our family/friends love getting a present from the girls that they know was wrapped by them too.
  11. Giving Back – I think this is important all the time but we have made it a part of our Christmas tradition.  It helps us to remember what Christmas is really about.  Volunteering and donating get us in the spirit of the season.  We have given parents in need Christmas presents for their children to open on Christmas morning.  We have donated food, toys, coats, clothing, and money.  When it comes to donating or volunteering, go with what is near to your heart.
  12. Crafts – My girls love arts and crafts. We always have something going on around here.  I’ll have to start sharing some of our projects on the site.  Making pictures of Santa, decorating/making ornaments, candle making, jewelry, and wrapping paper/bows have all made it on the list over the years.  It’s so relaxing and fun to spend the evening crafting with my girls (glass of wine in hand, of course).
  13. Decorating the Window – Every season my girls redecorate the window by our front door.  We use gel clings most of the time.  I buy them cheap at crafts stores or at Target.  I let my girls pick them out.  During Christmas time they will often decorate the other windows in the house.  The sibling bonding is nice to see.
  14. Christmas Cards –We make or buy Christmas cards to hand out to friends and family.  It helps kids to practice handwriting and makes a personal connection in a world that is becoming increasingly digital.  There is something really special about those shakey letters on a Christmas card made by a first grader that warms the heart. It is important to remember that these times go by fast and those little hands will not always be so little.
  15. Friends and Family –We spend as much time with those close to us as possible. We take a trip to Grandma’s house. We see the family that we only get to see a few times a year. We attend or throw Christmas parties.  I just love being around everybody as much as possible.
  16. Christmas Music – I love listening to Christmas music and I really love singing it! Isabella, our middle daughter, is enjoying learning all the carols this year.
  17. Advent Calendar – This is fun for the preschool and elementry age group because it helps them to count down to the fun.  They also love getting a little treat everyday.  We do ours after dinner each night instead of in the morning because they often contain sweet treats like chocolate.
  18. Reading – Last but not least, we read Christmas stories.  There are so many good ones out there.  “The Grinch”, “The night before Christmas”, and “The night before the night before Christmas” (a family favorite) are pulled back out year after year.

What does your family do to celebrate?  Do we have anything in common?

What is a Traveler?

Train Tracks in Tennessee
Train Tracks in Tennessee

Being a traveler is more than traveling. It is a lifestyle. An uncontrollable desire to explore, to leave no stone unturned, and to step outside yourself to see the world in a new way. Experience it completely. Never let fear stop you from doing something you want. Take in whatever you can, Try new things, Connect the dots, and above all else do so with an open mind. Accept that life is a mystery. We only get a peek. Search for the deeper meaning. Try to understand. Children benefit greatly from travel and the cultural diversity that it exposes them to. Your passion can quickly fuel theirs. Their education will benefit greatly from the experiences that family travel can give them.

There is no shame in being a backyard explorer. There are times in life when one simply cannot get too far. No matter where you are there are interesting things to learn and new things to try. Be adventurous in life. Do not accept the typical. Be always moving forward. See the beauty in the everyday. Remember what it was like to make a new discovery as a child. Be always searching for that feeling.

Happy Travels

That Restless Feeling

Does anybody else ever feel like they are actually two people deep down? Like there are two ends to your personality that do not always quite meet up. On the one hand I love being a mom and all that comes with it. I love my husband. I love the life we have created. I desperately want a new baby. But, and here’s the kicker folks, I also want to pack up and move away. My husband has told me he is with me. Whatever I need, wherever I want to go, he is with me. It is nice to know that I have that support if I decide to do something crazy and stupid. And that’s what I tell myself, It would be stupid to even consider moving away now. Our life is so nice. We have a beautiful home and life here. It would be silly to give that up. But then a little voice deep down, almost buried says “But what if it’s not?” Then I start all over again because at the end of the day I’m afraid of that little voice. It could wreck havoc on the perfect life we have built.

I really want to move some place warm. I dream of being near the beach and having a pool in the back yard we can use on a regular basis. We have moved a lot but we have spent most of our time within hours of my parents. Moving far away would mean it would just be us. No family or friends within a decent driving distance. That is a little scary. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t. I know my family pretty well and I know that I would only see my mother and youngest sister if I came home to visit. The likelihood that they would visit is so slim that it would shock me if they came. My dad and other sister would visit and may even move near us. We do not rely on family or friends for anything tangible. I would just miss having people to have dinner with or grab coffee.

What if I give up what I have here and things don’t work out? Even worse, What if I ask my family to give up everything they have here and it doesn’t? My oldest daughter doesn’t want to move. She is afraid to leave her friends. I fear she would hate me for moving her away. But what if it’s just what she needs? What if she loves it there? What if she loves it and we hate it so much we move back?

It could be a financial disaster. We would have to give up our jobs. I can find a job elsewhere as a nurse and my husband assures me that he could find something anywhere we go. We would have to sell our home which really means something special to me. We could rent it out if we only left for a year or so. That may be the perfect amount of time to live somewhere as a trial. What if renters destroy our house?

A few months ago, I met a lady, a fellow nurse, that made a huge impact on me. She has no idea that she affected me so deeply. She told me a little of her story which basically was that she had spent years married and raising kids wanting to move away. She was planning to move to Florida when the kids were grown but never did. She is now raising a grandchild and said to me “I’ll move somewhere warm when the time is right.” All I came away with was “What if the right time never comes?” This could be me. I have a huge list of things I want to do with my life, of places I want to see so bad that I feel homesick for them. Can you be homesick for a place you have never visited? These are the constant stream of thoughts going through my head lately. I want to find a way to fully embrace every part of me. Every time I stop to consider all the things I want to do and start to really consider it, the fear and guilt creeps in. It’s like being in an endless cycle.

I have done everything I am supposed to for my age. I have all the things I am supposed to have. There is still a feeling that everything is not complete. I have worried my entire life about what everybody else thinks about me. I always worried about my weight and how I looked. I worried if I would appear dumb if I said the wrong thing or asked the wrong question. My big desires were so not mainstream that I kept those to myself. I worried about what people might say or think if they knew who I really was. Mainly I just worried. I worried about everything.

Recently something happened. I lost a patient. Not just any patient. My favorite patient. Yes, this is a no-no in nursing but it happens when you spend everyday taking care of somebody. I see a lot of death. I also hear a lot of regrets. It is the nature of the job. But after this very special old man passed away something happened. I stopped to think about the gift that is life. I cried. I prayed, really prayed, for the first time in years. I suddenly realized that I was sick of the worries. I don’t have to impress anybody. I don’t have to make everybody happy. I only had to make myself happy. I do not have to feel guilty for having dreams. Suddenly I found myself thinking about what I wanted. Who was I? This is dangerous territory. This was the point that the little voice started to grow. Then for the first time in my entire life I listened instead of suppressing it. This is when the scary voice started to make it’s demands. I started to dream again and not quietly to myself when things were rough but openly. What would happen if I completely gave in to the little voice and did all the crazy things I want to do. What if I moved away, learned to scuba even though my swimming is questionable, had a baby even though a third might be a bit impractical, traveled to far away places, said what was on my mind, truly connected with the world, or got the tattoo I’ve always wanted? What if I embraced the cliché of YOLO? What if instead of talking about what I want to do with my life I go do it? What if I actually sat down and created the big scary bucket list? What if I spent my time, money, and energy doing the things I really want to do?

What if I really lived?

Love The New House!

We did indeed close on Friday! We spent Friday night cleaning. We picked up some Chinese take-out and had a “picnic” on our new living room floor. We were super excited to start making memories right away.

Saturday we moved our things in. We have spent the rest of the week slowly unpacking and getting organized. We still have a very long way to go but we have no complaints. We love the place. We are so happy to finally be here! Everything we went through when buying this place has made us even more thankful to be here!

We have lived in a third floor walk-up without so much as a deck since Isabella was 2 months old. She is adjusting to having a backyard quickly and very happily, I might add! It is fenced in with a nice little wooden play set for her to play on. Ivy’s biggest concern is making new friends in the neighborhood. I hope she meets some good friends her age soon.

I was a really good mom before I had kids

I just finished “I was a really good mom before I had kids – reinventing modern motherhood” By: Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile. This was my seventh book of the year. It is funny but there are some things in here that while good advice does not apply to us. I will not say I have no mommy guilt but I’m not in the league that some of these women are in. Some of the dirty little secrets had me dying laughing! I do not have the mentality that I have to do everything myself so that concept is foreign to me. I could not imagine not expecting my husband or kids to do anything for themselves. I will say that it feels like as a mom if anyone does not do their chores that it gets dropped on me. It was nice to know that others feel the same way. If you are a mom struggling with all that is expected of moms (you know just to be perfect super moms) then you may enjoy this book.