And we’re back! I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last posted. Don’t worry – the chicken in the last post didn’t kill us. December was kind of a germy month here, and we were all sharing one cough-y germ or another, and then we traveled over the Christmas break. We took a road trip to see all of the grandparents and a lot of the aunts/uncles/cousins, and overall, it was a pretty good trip. I don’t ever want to spend Christmas Day taking down the tree and packing for a trip again. Ever. But the kids were awesome in the car, and we saw a lot of people in a short amount of time. In my grand tradition of having One Really Good Idea Per Year, we had Birdie (the puppy) spayed while we were away, and she got to recover under the watchful eye (and careful restraints) of the veterinary staff. This was so much better than being handed a one-day-post-surgery dog and being told, “Try to keep her still.” The surgery has not slowed her down one bit. She even helped Santa with the stockings.
I’m afraid I missed out on some of my pre-Christmas gift-giving posts. I promise to come back to those – I missed writing about edible gifts and medium-sized gifts. That will leave something fun for next year! I’d love to share some of our family’s holiday gift-giving traditions, though. Traditions are a funny thing with young children. During the first baby’s first year, you (or at least I) feel like you have to get All of The Traditions Settled and Correct, Or Else It Doesn’t Count. After a year or two, you realize that those traditions during the first year are more for the parents and grandparents than for the baby. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But it does take some of the pressure off of getting everything right the first time, because babies: a) have a terrible memory, and b) just want to chew on the box anyway. Now that we’re seven (!!!) years into holiday traditions with kids, we’ve figured out a few things that we love to do.
In Advent, we decorate the tree together, light a simple advent wreath, and this year, we started reading the Old Testament stories from the Jesus Storybook Bible that look forward to the birth of Jesus. The reading didn’t take long, and it was a really nice way to lead up to the Christmas season. We started a new tradition this year: Brother Christmas on Christmas Eve. I let the kids open the gifts they had picked out for each other on the morning of Christmas Eve. For practical purposes, this gave me some breathing space on a kid’s longest day of the year, while still letting Neil watch them open the gift before he left for church. It also gave them some extra time to play with those gifts (and in our case, assemble them, because we are all LEGO, all the time) before loading up in the car on the 26th. What I really loved, though, was the focused day on each other. Without that separate time, I feel like the brother gifts get drowned out by the other awesome things on Christmas morning. (Notice the kicky tablecloth, a gift from my friend Sarah this year. I LOVE IT.)
On the night of Christmas Eve, in holding with my family’s tradition of opening one gift after church on the night before Christmas, they open one gift that will encourage them to get into bed. One year, it was a special light-up turtle that made constellations of stars on their bedroom walls and ceiling. Another year, it was a small LEGO-shaped night light that they could take to bed with them. This year, they got LEGO alarm clocks, new pajamas, and a new book to look at in bed. Whatever it is, it has to be small enough that we won’t feel sad that their dad isn’t home to share in it, but a big enough deal to feel like a real gift. And the bedtime element is key – no new LEGO sets at 9:00 pm!
On Christmas morning, we open our stockings, which are filled by Santa. This year, Santa even left some ashen footprints on the floor, and a note written on a scrap of wrapping paper (naturally).
Beyond the stockings, the kids each get Something they Want, Something they Need, Something to Wear, and Something to Read. We are still reveling in the years when our kids take virtually all day to open their gifts, because they take the time to enjoy each one before opening the next. I love this little tradition, and it’s been a nice way to remind me not to go too far overboard. I made Alton Brown’s Overnight Cinnamon Rolls, which made me fall in love with Alton all over again. The kids love him, too, now that some of the episodes of Good Eats are on Netflix.
And that was Christmas! What are your favorite holiday traditions? Have you ever made a well-intentioned but ill-conceived post-holiday road trip and lived to tell the tale?