Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Merry Little Christmas.

Christmas is winding down.  We've gone to all the holiday parties, we've opened all the gifts, we've drank all the eggnog.  (Actually I don't drink eggnog but it seems like a Christmasy thing to do so I added it for effect.)  It was a lovely holiday season, full of family, friends and traditions.  I know some feel a let down after Christmas, when all the excitement is over.  I find comfort in it.  In the calm after everything.  Even with keeping the holidays simple, there is a lot going on...late nights, full days.  

Through it all my very favorite moment is Christmas morning.  It always has been.  When I was young it was waking up way too early with my sisters, sneaking peaks at the fat stockings under the tree, trying to wait patiently for my parents to say we could dig in.  Now, still waking early in anticipation of the girls excitement.  Teasing them by dragging out the process of heading to the living room to see what Santa left.  Seeing their smiles as they read the note left by him, overjoyed that he mentioned they were on the extra-nice list...
Finally letting them start on stockings and gifts.  Feeling so proud that they are just as excited to give their handmade gifts to us and each other as they are to open their own.  Taking our time moving through each present until the tree is empty and the living room is  a mess of paper, ribbons and new toys.


Leading up to this moment are so many traditions that make me happy.  A few of my favorites...

Annual Cookie Party

This started many years ago, long before I had the girls.  I would get together with my sisters and mom and we would bake cookies and everyone would take home an assortment.  Baking during the holidays is the coziest thing and doing it with the ladies in my family adds to this.  Now it has grown and the kiddos all get in on the fun.  By the end it's a mess of red and green sprinkles, faces covered in frosting and some very bright sugar cookies.  The last couple of years, I've added a reindeer food buffet to the cookie party.  I found this idea on another blog I read and love it.  We set up reindeer food...oats, cocoa, peppermint sprinkles, magic flying powder...and the kids fill bags with an assortment of this to be scattered in the driveway on Christmas Eve.  
We used to include glitter to add some sparkle but found that glitter never leaves the driveway.  I don't think the reindeer miss it.

Holiday Programs
Oh, how I love the girls holiday program at their school.  There's something so very parenty about it (yep, I totally made that word up.  It means doing something that suddenly makes you realize you are a grown up with real children.  That you made.) Sitting in the audience with all the other parents proudly watching your child sing.  My eyes tearing up every year.  Feeling so happy to be one of the parents in the crowd.  It's weird, but I get such a feeling of contentment at these things.  Like life worked out just exactly as I wanted it to.
 
New and Old Traditions with all the Family.  
Our main Christmas celebration is the morning one with our girls.  But, I love extending the celebration with each of our families.  Things have evolved into great celebrations with each.  Christmas Eve with Matt's parents...choosing to eat out instead of cooking so we can get around to the business of gifts faster.  Going downtown and feeling festive as we leave the restaurant and see giant snowflakes swirling above the decorations...

Continuing with old traditions with my family...my mom giving us all PJ's to wear on Christmas and staying in them all day long.  The chaos of 9 adults and 10 children filling their living room for dinner and presents.  So happy for this one time of the year all the cousins are together...

Driving home afterwards feeling wonderfully exhausted from the past 24 hours.  Waking up the next day and trying to sort through everything while the girls jump from one activity to the next, trying to play with all their new things.  

Winter Break
I love getting the girls for two full weeks.  I try to work a little less and fill our days with Christmas movies, sledding and hot cocoa.  Each year during their break we try to squeeze in a day trip to Chico Hot Springs.  This year when we ventured over it was a perfectly quiet day and we swam for hours. 

Ice skating is always on our winter break list as well.  It's generally the first opportunity to hit the rinks and like riding a bike, the girls pick it right back up each year. 

Now we settle into the quieter week of the break.  There are less obligations.  Things will slow down.  We will squeeze in more cousin time before everyone gets busy once back into the school year.  We will soak up carefree days without schedules or homework.  The tree will come down along with the Christmas cards and decorations.  I never feel sad about this.  The month it is up is just the right amount of time to enjoy it without getting sick of it.  We will wrap up 2014 with gratitude of what the year brought us and get ready to welcome a new one.  It will be good.

Enjoy the last few days of this year.  I hope your Christmas was Merry.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire....

I actually have never had a roasted chestnut, nor could we roast them on our gas fireplace.  But, it is my all time favorite Christmas carol so earned a place as the title.  

So...It is suddenly December and Christmas is right around the corner.  It is cliche, but I really don't know how that happened.  One minute we were giving thanks with family and the next thing you know Christmas exploded all over our house...

There is much goodness in the holiday season and this is what we soak up this time of year around here.  I know it can get crazy and one can easily get caught up in the chaos of it.  Over the past years, I have clung with all my might to keeping with the spirit of the season.  In our house this means spreading Christmas cheer.  You can feel it all around.  From the decorations...all carefully put in place by the girls (and maybe one or two rearranged by me)...to the music (Christmas playlists hit Pandora the day after Thanksgiving)...to the energy.  Little girls excited and trying hard to be patient, but wondering why it is taking so long.  Each day cutting off a portion of the countdowns they made.  Eagerly making homemade presents for everyone they know.  We try hard to instill in them that Christmas is not about the gifts.  Of course gifts are a part of it, but not the part.  I think we are doing a good job as they struggle coming up with ideas to put on their lists rather than filling it with all the millions of things they want.  I read something the other day...teach your kids gratitude by giving them less.  This makes so much sense.  When we fill their lives with things all the time, they will constantly want more.  I find myself having this same problem.  Getting caught up in the wanting stuff...buying new clothes to keep up with a new trend, wanting to update something in our home.  Feeling good when I buy something new, or we remodel a room, but then realizing how quickly that feeling is gone.  As humans, we will always have desire for more stuff...I am no exception.  However, I have been trying to really make conscious decisions when it comes to buying things for myself or gifts for the kids and family.  Making thoughtful purchases that are meaningful and responsible.  Christmas is the perfect time to work on this skill.  It also goes hand in hand with keeping the holidays simple.  Making them about the memories we create and not how many presents are under the tree.  I like to believe in ten years the girls will remember hiking through the snow to chop down our tree and then spilling hot cocoa all over themselves on the ride home, not what was in their stockings that year.  That the cookies they decorate with cousins every year will always have a place in their heart, while the current electronic fad will be long outdated.  And, if it is a gift they remember it because it was so special and well thought out that they still have it.   Yes, the spirit for our family will always be the time together.  

The traditions.

Each year since the girls were little we've gone to the Christmas Stroll in Bozeman.  When they were younger it was a bit of a pain...toting babies bundled up in the cold, pushing strollers through the snowy streets...all to see the lights of downtown go on.  Now I am grateful for this tradition and the ease we have taking them.  

Traditions like going to the Nutcracker, baking with aunts, grandmas and cousins and watching Christmas movies the entire month of December (Polar Express is the all around fav!)  Things like staying in Christmas pj's all day long.  Driving around to see all the holiday lights on peoples homes.  Wrapping presents while watching my own favorite Christmas movies...Sleepless in Seattle being on the top of my list.  These are the things I love.  The things I will continue to treasure and pass on.  It is such a magical time of year.  We will continue to fa la la la la la la la la all the way throughout the month.
Tis' the season after all.