Holiday Traditions

Everyone who celebrates the Holidays have traditions and sometimes those traditions change.

One of our traditions is to open our gifts on Christmas morning and that tradition will continue this year.  However, now that we are living in our new home, we decided to incorporate a new tradition.  The idea behind it was to better limit the number of gifts and the amount of money spent.  So this year each of us will be getting something to sleep in, something to wear, something to play with, something to read, something entertaining and something fun with the family.

I realize that for some people, this seems like an extreme amount of gifts, but hubby and I have had the tendency to go buy willy nilly and lose track of how many gifts have been purchased and the amount of money spent.  It’s not been uncommon at all for our kids to receive double this amount of gifts and that is totally not necessary.

Another thing I started this year was having the girls go thru their belongings to get rid of things that are broken and to donate other things they no longer play with.  In the past, I’ve taken on this project by myself, but this year I wanted their involvement as I think it’s important for them to willingly decide what they would like to give away.  In addition to two garbage bags full of stuff, we have a box full of toys that we will be donating to our foster care agency.  I LOVE it!!  It makes me happy.  It brightens my day.  It causes the girls and I to break out in spontaneous dancing in the kitchen.  There is absolutely nothing I don’t like about Christmas music (other than a handful of songs I’m not fond of).

This is one of my favorites.  It makes me smile, sing along and move.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

Farewell to Lights

An annual holiday tradition in our family has been taking a trip to see the East Peoria Festival of Lights.  However, Naomi was very conflicted about going this year.  She enjoys seeing the lights, but not having daddy with us was very difficult for her.  Still we made plans to go see the lights and I put her in charge of taking pictures.  She was very happy about taking the pictures and since looking at them, I’m convinced she has created a new art form 🙂

She took about 60 photos, but I’m only posting a handful 🙂

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Traditions Are a Changin

As Christmas approaches, my girls have been talking about our family traditions.  Like going to see the Festival of Lights each year and reading the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.

Traditions are very important to my girls and this evening I realized that our traditions are a changin.  For the most part, we’ll be able to do what we’ve done in the past.  For example, each year we load into the car and drive around town to see the Christmas lights.  We return home to discover that while we were gone, Santa’s elves stopped by and left us our Christmas pj’s.  We change into our new jammies and then read “Night Before Christmas”.  These traditions won’t change, except instead of driving around our little town, we’ll be in search of a neighborhood with lots of twinkling lights in our new neck of the woods.

Our Festival of Lights visit this year will not include hubby.  This is a little difficult for Naomi right now.  She misses her daddy and isn’t keen on the idea of seeing the lights without him.  I think it will be important to find a new Festival of Lights display when we are together again in Dallas.  It will become our new Dallas tradition and I think it will be very important to establish new family traditions this year, while still holding onto those we have celebrated for the last few years.

Our traditions are a changin, but change can certainly be a good thing.



Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014

Today we said good-bye to 2013 and hello to 2014 and I enter 2014 with some big hopes and dreams for the year ahead.

A few days ago I shared four things I’m going to tackle in 2014.  You can read that post here.  Number 4 on that list was sure to be the toughest for me, but I did quite well having spent maybe 15 minutes on the computer today, until starting this blog post of course.  And as expected, by not spending so much time on the computer, I got other things done which meant instead of sitting at the computer, I was up doing things which helped me tackle Numbers 1 and 2 on the list.

My monthly challenge, which is number 3 on the list, also went well and today’s soup meal became a learning experience as well.  I made Ham and 15 Bean soup for lunch today, but what I wasn’t aware of, is that ham and beans is a traditional New Year’s meal.  Although my research tells me a meal of black-eyed peas and ham hocks was traditionally prepared because it would feed a large family nicely and plenty to eat was believed to mean you would have good luck and prosperity.  My Ham and 15 Bean soup had black-eyed peas, so hopefully that means good luck and prosperity for our family.  Maybe a move to our homestead this year?!!!! 🙂

2013 is now in the past.  It was a year of making big decisions and learning many new things.

Now we enter 2014!  I’m very excited about what this year has in store for me and my family and am ready to make 2014 a year to remember!!

Visiting Santa

A couple of years ago we were at Bass Pro Shop to do some shopping.  The Bass Pro Shop in our area hadn’t been open long and we were not aware they had Santa’s Wonderland during the Christmas holiday.  Since we were there and the line to see Santa was so short, we decided to let the girls have a visit with Santa and get their picture taken.  Naomi was happy to sit on Santa’s lap, but Lili was unsure about the visit.  Reluctantly, she agreed to stand next to Santa for a picture and told him what she wanted for Christmas.  We got our free photo and headed off to finish our shopping.

Last year we headed back to Bass Pro Shop to see Santa again.  After all, when we think of Bass Pro Shop, we think Santa!   The girls were excited about the trip, but this time the line was unbelievably long.  We had to take a number and wait.  When our turn finally arrived Lili didn’t hesitate and marched up to sit on Santa’s lap.  This time, Naomi was more than reluctant.  She refused to go near the jolly old elf and instead stayed back with daddy, watching as Lili told Santa what she wanted for Christmas and also telling him what Naomi wanted for Christmas.  She got her picture taken, was given her candy cane and off we went with our free photo in hand.

This year the girls wanted to go back to Bass Pro Shop to see Santa.  After all, it’s now become a family tradition.  In an attempt to avoid the long lines of the previous year, hubby took the afternoon off from work so we could get their early.   Going on a weekday afternoon had to be better than going on a weekend and we were right.  We watched a little baby get her first picture with Santa, followed by a little boy who was not very excited about seeing Santa.  Then it was our turn.  Both girls marched up to Santa, Naomi climbing on one knee and Lili on the other.  They got their picture taken, both telling Santa they had been good girls this year and then telling him what they wanted for Christmas.  He gave each of them their candy cane and as they climbed off his lap told him good-bye and Merry Christmas.

We waited to see the picture intending to get our free photo and leave, but this time I had to make a photo purchase.  Not only was it the first time both girls happily sat on Santa’s lap, but this photo needed to be shared.

Lili and Naomi w/Santa - December, 2013
Lili and Naomi w/Santa – December, 2013

A New Holiday Tradition

Unlike me, hubby was an avid reader when we got married.  It was one good example of how much our upbringing effected us.  Books were a big thing in his house, not so much in mine.  Yet, his love of books rubbed off on me.  Eventually, I began to read more and developed an appreciation and love of the written word in ways I never had before.  As a result, books became a big thing in our home.  Not at first, but over time.

My girls have an extensive library of books available to them and we began reading to them soon after bringing them home.  Our traditional bedtime routine has always included at least one book at bedtime.  Even when getting to bed later than usual, they still want/need/expect to have a book read to them.  It’s part of the routine, the tradition of bedtime.

We have many established Holiday traditions, but I’m always happy to try out something new that I think might make a good tradition in our home.  A few years ago, I was introduced to a tradition over at The Cloud Chronicles.  It seemed quite fitting for our book loving family, so last year I decided to give it a try.  Each evening, as the girls were getting ready for bed, I would pull out two new Christmas/Holiday books for them to read.  For a couple weeks, leading up to Christmas, we would read these books, with “The Night Before Christmas” being read on Christmas Eve.   The excitement and joy on their faces as we read their new books each evening was so much fun and I decided to make it even more fun and exciting this year.  I expanded the collection and wrapped each book, then placed them under the tree.  I went a little overboard in buying books for this year (assuming it’s really possible to buy too many books), as there were enough for each of the girls to open one from the end of November to New Years Day.  I was excited about our new tradition and when the girls discovered all the books under the tree, they were excited as well.  We could hardly wait to get started.

The first evening they got ready for bed, then cheerfully ran to the Christmas tree, plopped down on the floor and carefully selected their wrapped treasures.  One at a time they pulled off the wrapping paper to see what books we would be reading.  Daddy read one book and mommy read the other.  Then the joy melted away as one of the girls decided she wasn’t happy with opening only one book.  I began to watch our new Holiday tradition evaporate into thin air as we dealt with an unhappy child who was going to bed that night having opened only one book.  However, we would try again the next night and hope for a happier experience.

And the next night was happier.  Once again the girls bounded to the Christmas tree, plopped down on the floor and began sifting through the wrapped books in search of the perfect package.  Each of them opening their books, daddy reading one and mommy reading the other then reading the books opened the night before once again.  Four books read, in the quiet of our beautifully decorated living room, enjoying time together as a family and creating wonderful memories.  Unfortunately, night two didn’t go much better.  The same child was again unhappy that she couldn’t open another book.  The wonder, anticipation and excitement of all those books under the tree was just a bit too much for her to handle.  So another night we put an unhappy child to bed after reading four books and leaving all the others under the tree.  Our wonderful memory turning somewhat sour.

We tried again the following night and the following night and the following night.  Daddy and mommy getting more and more frustrated that our family reading time was ending with so much drama.

Then it happened.  The girls picked out their books and opened them.  We read their selections and they each chose an already opened book to read before going to bed for the night.  No tears, no complaining, just enjoyable family reading time.  And the child who had not been happy the previous nights asked, “Are you proud of me?  I’m not whining and crying about opening more books.”

Yes, very proud and so happy!!!

Maybe our new Christmas tradition will work out after all.  A mixture of books from last year, some new selections this year, all wrapped and under the tree.  Just the four of us spending time together, reading, and creating memories.

Our collection of wrapped and unwrapped Holiday books.
Our collection of wrapped and unwrapped Holiday books.

It’s true, Christmas can feel like a lot of work, particularly for mothers.  But when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you’ll find you’ve created family traditions and lasting memories.  Those memories, good and bad, are really what help to keep a family together over the long haul.  – Caroline Kennedy