Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve: A Peek Under Our Family Tree

It's hard to believe it's Christmas already, isn't it? But it is Christmas, and holiday cheer will not be denied; so this year I wanted to invite all of you to share some of what has made Christmas magical for my family, despite the hardships that have plagued us this year.

This year, just like every other year, my daughters and I have made a point to recognize our blessings. 2016 may have touched us with a sense of loss and a certain fear of the unknown as we move into 2017 ... but my girls and I are still blessed to have each other. The three of us definitely do our fair share of arguing and infighting, but beneath the layers of sibling rivalry and mother-daughter power struggles, we share a bond that is strong and secure. My daughters and I are an eclectic mix of feminine softness and cynical badassery, and despite our troubles, our Christmas season has come together and managed to perfectly reflect how very much we love each other.

There aren't many things quite as cheerful as a Christmas tree, and looking at ours has perked us all up so much! Sparkling lights, festive ornaments, and years of tradition simply cannot help but be merry. This was the first tree my kids ever decorated without their dad, but they handled the job with an underlying strength and determination to find joy that made me incredibly proud.

We didn't find as much time this Christmas to read our usual nightly Christmas stories (Merry Christmas: Treasury of Stories and Songs), but we did enjoy our annual visit from Caesar, (our Elf on the Shelf). He took it easy on us this year and didn't create as much mischief as usual (One time, he decorated our tree without us. He's also finished our eggnog without permission, had parties with the Barbie dolls, contracted the Elf Flu after an accidental touching incident, and created lots of other trouble. But we love him anyway.) - mostly, he just moved around the house from place to place and the girls had a great time searching for him each morning. Eden tells him she loves him, and has told me multiple times that she thinks of him as a little brother. He wasn't entirely innocent though - one morning, we found him hiding in the fridge, wrapped in a dishtowel to stay warm. Another morning, we woke up to find him stuck to one of the kitchen cabinet doors. Somehow, he'd managed to "duct tape" himself up there using bandaids, and we spent the morning trying to figure out how he managed to tape both of his own hands. Sometimes he even brings early gifts, and this year he brought the girls each a set of Christmas bell ornaments to hang on the Christmas tree.

We also took the time to enjoy our favorite Christmas songs - and although this has been the first year in a long time that we didn't drink more than our share of the best eggnog in town, we still enjoyed what we bought with exactly the same sense of joy as always.

Thursday night, we met up with my cousin and her son for a little mini-road trip - we picked up some dinner, drove into Sevierville to experience the wonder of Shadrack's Christmas Wonderland, and had lots of great conversation time together. It was a great show, our kids got to exchange their gifts together, and we had some good laughs. When we got back to my neighborhood, we drove around to check out the lights near our house, and even caught Santa sneaking through someone's living room! (I suspect they used something like this.)

I'm toning Christmas down a bit this year, both in keeping with our much less festive mood and the changes in our financial situation, but, like every year, the most exciting and anticipated part of Christmas - especially for the kids - is the gifts. This year, I talked to my girls about how neat it would be to do "1 thing you want, 1 thing you need, 1 thing you wear, and 1 thing you read," and while they were accepting, I did hear some quiet talk between them as they expressed hopeful relief that "at least Santa doesn't come up with stuff like that."

So here's a little peek at what's under the tree this year for my family:

One Thing You Want:
  • One of the things my kids have really loved this year is the Our Generation dolls they got from their grandparents last year for Christmas. These are beautifully similar to the seriously overpriced American Girl dolls that girls all over the country are still going crazy over, but they come without the second mortgage and work just as well at meeting a little girl's need to nurture something of her own. (Two of ours are named Willow and Jenny.) Each doll originally came in a little armoire case big enough to hold the doll, the book she came with, and her clothes and accessories ... but Eden's case didn't take long to break, as it went through an initial period of pretty heavy use. So all this year, she's been squeezing both of her dolls together in one case, and I've heard no small amount about how crowded it must be in there. So when she opens her gifts this year, I really hope she's thrilled to find this doll case, which will have room for both of her dolls, as well as pockets for their wardrobe and accessories, AND a cool set of bunk beds she can tuck the dolls into when she's playing with them.
  • For Joey - an Asus Zenpad tablet. Her tablet broke earlier this year, and I told her if she could hold out until Christmas, she'd get one under the tree for sure. While this one isn't exactly the one I had planned to get, it'll work just fine for what she needs, and I also found her a super cute case to keep it safe and protected (hopefully.)
One Thing You Need:
  • My oldest daughter can out-eat anyone she knows, including me, her dad, her teenaged uncle, any of her grandparents, and every one of her friends.We often joke that eats like a growing boy, but the truth is she eats way more than any growing boy we know. Between that, her changing sense of personal fashion taste, and the simple fact that she's entering the teen years, she needed clothes. So she'll open a box full of unmentionables, which I hope won't embarrass her too greatly. Tucked into that box, just for fun, is a set of socks in fun patterns that are meant to be worn mismatched. I doubt she'll wear them out of the house, but I know she'll have fun wearing them at home and pairing the different patterns together.
  • My youngest isn't nearly such a good eater, so getting her to grow has been a hassle over the years. But she did finally have a strong growth spurt this fall, and was therefore in desperate need of some unmentionables of her own. She'll open a box very much like her sister's, but without the mismatched socks. She's just a little bit obsessive about things being matchy and "just right," so her socks are just plain white with pink toes and heels. No matching (or mismatching) needed, which helps keep things simple when it comes to getting her ready to face each new school day.
One Thing You Wear:
  • I could easily have made this a cheater gift and given Josephine the jeans she needed, but I couldn't bring myself to do it, and she's been begging all year for a pedometer, so her "something to wear" will be the CUBOT Wireless Activity Wristband in black. I didn't want to spring for a real Fitbit because I'm not sure she'll really use it all that much, but I thought this would be a great way to let her try it out without spending a fortune. The version linked here is the blue one - much prettier, but I chose black because it would match all of her clothes and I know that's something she would care about. It seems I wasn't alone in that idea, because the black version is now currently unavailable. (Edited to add: Don't buy this. Find out why, and what you should get instead, here.)
  • For Eden, I chose these foldable headphones by Onanoff, which are extra cool because not only do they fold for easy storage, but they also have a limited volume range. This is something I love especially, because a string of ear infections as a baby have left her with lingering issues that keep me very conscious of her hearing and the health of her ears. I like knowing that I can give her these without worrying that she'll damage her hearing any more than it already is - and I love that these have a piggyback function that will allow Joey to plug her earbuds into Eden's earphones. Now, they can listen to music or watch movies together easily, without everyone else having to hear whatever the girls are watching.
One Thing You Read:
  • For this gift, I did take the easy road, and instead of carefully hunting for a book and excitedly buying and wrapping it, I'm going with an Amazon $10 Gift Card for each girl. My favorite thing about this is that they can choose what they'd like to read based on their interests right now - sometimes a kid just really needs to feel in control of something, and I know they'll love the rush of independence they'll get from being able to choose something for themselves.

One last thing before I head off to enjoy the rest of the holiday with my family: someone asked me recently if I was going to give myself anything for Christmas - and I did. For more about this, make sure you're signed up for my monthly email newsletter! The December letter goes out tomorrow, and that's where you'll find my Christmas gift to myself, so sign up while you still have time. Or, you could follow my blog with Bloglovin.

*Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click that link and purchase the product, I will receive a (probably very small) compensation. I am, however, committed to only sharing products I genuinely love and trust to be of great quality and value. Any opinions expressed are my own, are 100% honest, and are not affected by my participation in the affiliate program.*

36 comments:

  1. We did the same this year for Christmas. It's not easy when you have little ones, but you have to remind yourself (and sometimes those around you) the value of Christmas.

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    1. I agree! I have told my children quite a lot that I want them to remember the experience of Christmas (and other times of the year as well) over the stuff. I tell them I want them to have memories, not just things.

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    1. It worked for us even with a pretty rough season, so I think these tactics are pretty well guaranteed to ensure a nice Christmas. And as nervous as the kids were about the four gifts thing, it really worked out so well as far as how much they liked those gifts, that they didn't care about having a somewhat more modest pile of loot.

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  3. Love the elf on a shelf, Cesaser sounds like a funny little elf, glad he didn't cause to much havoc this year! Will have to get one next year :)

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    1. I definitely recommend one! Caesar came late this year but usually he comes the day after Thanksgiving, and we enjoy his antics all through the holiday season. If you get one, I also recommend searching Pinterest for some elf-mischief inspiration.

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  4. we were so laid back for Christmas day. But Christmas eve we went to a big Christmas party.

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  5. How awesome! These sound like great gifts.

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    1. They worked out pretty well for the most part, too, so I'm thrilled!

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  6. It's great to see what other families do during Christmas as my family doesn't celebrate Christmas (We're Muslims).

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    1. What does the Christmas season look like for Muslim families? Do you have celebrations at all, and how do they differ?

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  7. Very cool. I want to do Elf of the Shelf next year!

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  8. Sounds like a lot of great products, what a fun Christmas!

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    1. It really was, and I was glad the kids liked all their stuff.

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  9. I love this idea! Very minimalist and my style for sure. Thanks!

    xoxo
    Tyler

    http://www.feeltheesunlight.com/

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  10. What a lovely idea! I can't believe that Christmas has come and gone, and New Year is nearly upon us! Isn't it crazy?!

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    1. It is crazy. I'm ready though - 2016 was hard for us so we're ready for a new year. It feels like trying again, you know? New year, new hope.

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  11. Going with the Amazon gift card was smart. So much easier and then they can pick what they want.

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    1. That's my favorite thing about it - knowing that they will read what they get, because they have some power over what they choose. I still retain veto rights, but I want them to be excited about reading, and the best way to foster that is definitely to give them choice.

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  12. Sounds like you guys had a great Christmas! I am loving the gift ideas, they're very thoughtful. I think it's nice to give people you love something that they'll find really useful.

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    1. I think that was my favorite part of doing the four gifts thing. I wasn't trying to make a pile, I was just creating meaning. And my kids were happy with about the same number of Santa gifts, besides the things they got from family. They actually made out well despite my efforts to tone it down lol.

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  13. I love the "one thing to read"... i loved getting books

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    1. Me too. We haven't used the gift cards yet actually ... They're both still going back and forth on what books they want bad enough to spend money on.

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  14. Great post idea! I'd probably love getting a tablet the most!

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    1. Yeah my oldest is 12, and she's been waiting a while - she had a Nabi tablet but it broke in the spring and I told her if she could hold out, she could expect a new one for Christmas. She ended up surprised anyway though; she had forgotten about it but said she loved that gift the most.

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  15. That's a great idea for celebrating Christmas. We are pretty minimalist and we don't really do presents. Usually we donate to charity for our family, and our family will give us funds for our travels.

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    1. My kids would revolt if I attempted a gift-free Christmas, lol. They're pretty far from spoiled, but they're normal enough to want to get something. But since the four gifts thing worked out so well this year, I think we'll be doing it annually now.

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  16. These are all such great ideas. We have tried to do more gifts like this especially with our oldest child.

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    1. You kinda have to, don't you, especially as they get older. What they want grows more and more costly!

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  17. Your elf on the shelf seems like he is a fun fellow! :P
    I like how you separate out your presents for Christmas; want, need, wear, read- that's genius. My son is going to be old enough to really celebrate next year, so I'm going to do that. I wound up getting him a bunch of books and clothes this year because I felt like he owns too many toys already.
    I hope your Christmas was great!

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    1. Yeah this was the first year that we've done that, and I think we'll be doing it every year from here on out. I love how it simplified everything and still made sure my kids got the things they wanted most. I also think my kids have too much emphasis on "stuff" and not quite enough on "quality" and "time," so that was an added benefit, too, in that I could focus what I got for them toward things that would draw them together.

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  18. that's great idea of celebrating chritsmas,but till now i have only taken gifts and never gave any on chritsmas lol . i give gifts on all the other days xcept for chritsmas

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    1. I like to think we have a healthy mix of both - but we generally do the greater part of our gift-giving at Christmas and birthdays.

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