Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Keeping Christmas Joyful

I was brushing my teeth after I wrote this post when I had an epiphany of sorts. I thought more about this slowing down business and pinpointed the reason that Disney ain't my thing, as I talked about here.

There are moments in our kids' lives when we are so hellbent on filling their days with magic that they're begging us to slow down and we ignore them.

It happens on family vacations and while waiting in line for Santa Claus and at the third Thanksgiving celebration in one day and at family movie night that starts way past their bedtime. It happens when we try to make every moment into a Magical Memory with a capital M instead of just living life together, enjoying life together, grabbing hold of those impromptu, organic, fun times that will be etched into their memories.

I'm guilty of it, too. But I'm trying to take it down a notch. Having four kids helps, especially when one is a baby, because when I try to overschedule he lets me know that's a really bad idea and I pay dearly for it. So, problem solved. I don't, or at least very rarely, overschedule. Some may call it lazy. I call it knowing our limit.

Here are some ideas to help all of us enjoy Christmas. Not just the day, but the season.
Proverbs 31
6 Steps to Keep Christmas Joyful:
Alternate Title: Six Steps to staying sane over the holidays

1: Set the bar low. Then lower it just a teeny bit more. 
Most likely the kids will like the gifts, but the toys won't be as big as they looked in the catalog and the sweater won't be as soft as he imagined. The picture of the kids in their pajamas in front of the Christmas tree might turn out perfectly, but only if you're willing to endure 352 attempts. Yes. Endure. The kids might do fine at the candlelight service or the 4 year old might lose her mind halfway through Silent Night.

So, what I'm saying is, don't put Christmas up on such a high pedestal. It is a day. A fun day, to be sure, but not the end all be all of all days. So have fun and laugh and play, but also treat it like a wedding. Something has to go wrong. It's some kind of law. That doesn't mean the day is ruined. It means it's life.
Picture perfect. . . or not.
they all wanted to string the lights. except Asher, who only wanted to crawl on the box

and give hugs
2: Follow your child's cues.
If your child is hungry, don't make her wait 35 more minutes for the roast to be done. I mean, my 10- and 8-year-olds can handle that, but my 6-year-old's been known to get a bad case of the hangrys (hungry + angry) and my 1-year-old would stage a coup of some sort involving loud screaming and thrashing about. Same thing goes for tired. Let's say present opening is scheduled for 3 pm at grammy's house, but that is naptime. You know if you kid can handle a skipped nap or if his gifts will have to wait until he's woken up.
let your baby nap and she'll wake up this happy-well, here's hoping anyway!
3: Don't spend more than you have. 
More time, more money, more family time. Know your limit. Or really, all of your limits.

First, know what you can fit in to your day without going totally nutso and making your life and the lives of those around you miserable. . . or maybe I'm the only one who does that?!

Second, know your bank account. Money is a huge cause of stress and most people are throwing cash at the mall and amazon like nothing these days. Plan what you will spend on each person and then spend that and only that.
as a point of reference, this might be too much, unless you have 21 children and a bank vault the size of the White House
Third, most people love spending time with family over the holidays, but there can be too much of a good thing. When we started having kids, we made the decision to always be home on Christmas Day. We wouldn't travel and run from here to there and back again. Instead we would celebrate just the three (or, you know, six) of us on the actual day and make sure that we celebrated with the rest of the local family in the days or weeks surrounding Christmas. We have made and continue to make some beautiful traditions as a family and also had lots of fun with extended family on other days. Decide what works for you and your family and do that. Even if you feel some backlash. They'll get over it and you'll stay sane. Win!

4: Say no to the extras. At least some of them.
Holy buckets, I could write a novel on the extras. Advent calendars and Elf on the Shelf and cookie exchanges and Christmas caroling and food delivery and extra church services and coat drives and lots and lots more. All of it is good and fun and meaningful, important stuff. But not all of it can happen.

Our town has a wonderful tree lighting ceremony at the lake and then they close down Main Street for a holiday walk. The local business have s'more making and hot cocoa, live music and Santa along the sidewalks. I'd been looking forward to it for weeks. But then it fell on the day we were visiting two co-ops and going to my mom and Keith's house the next day for a busy weekend of celebrating Christmas. So, we skipped it. Even though I really wanted to go and the kids thought it sounded cool. Instead I put Asher down for bed at 7 and we watched a Christmas movie, popped popcorn, and snuggled on the couch together. It was an extra we had to say no to and I'm so glad we did. Everyone went to bed at a nice, early time after a great evening together. Now I'm really looking forward to going to the tree lighting ceremony next year when Asher's a little older and our schedule is a bit more flexible.
This is the lake in my town that they clear for skating in the winter. 

5: Keep the real meaning of Christmas at the forefront. 
For us, that's Jesus' birth. For others it is time spent with family and friends. For others it is volunteering. Put your mind and heart there and the rest will fall into place.

6: Remember that the magic is being there through the thick and thin of it.
Christmas is one day. The gifts will be forgotten in the days, weeks, and months to come.  The best gift we can give is the gift of our love, our time, our support, our presence. All day. Every day. All year long.
now that's a gift I want to give and receive!
That's what makes a family. That's what makes a friend. Not what we wrap up in a lovely, festive bow and put under the tree. What we give freely with our hearts.

How do you make sure the holidays are enjoyed instead of just tolerated? 


  1. A friend linked me to your blog... Loving #3. I've been struggling with that in the last few years, where people seem to expect it's the holidays and you MUST be present... but what about forming some holiday traditions in my own home? Glad to see your input.

    1. Yes. There are so many places to be and all of them are fun, but it can be way too much. Before we moved out of state, we always celebrated Christmas on December 26 with my dad and his wife and their kids. It was a tradition that worked for all of us and allowed us special time together, but didn't add more to Christmas or Christmas Eve. Thanks for reading! You can follow along on FB, too. Big Love Epic Fail. Merry Christmas!