Preparing Practically For the Holidays

Taking a cue from a blogging friend of mine Callie over at Through Clouded Glass I decided to be really intentional and think through my holiday preparations before December began.

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So I sat down, with sone things that help me feel festive and got to it. (Don’t you just love that new blanket scarf? I do!) I’ll share with you a few things I have done to get ready for the holiday season before Thanksgiving is even upon us.

1.   Prepared my Christmas cards.

2.  Created a calendar of community holiday events.

3.  Planned and prepared for Corban’s first birthday.

4.  Selected my annual Christmas ornament and gathered supplies.

5.  Made decisions regarding Christmas gifts  or the lack there of…

6. Went through Christmas decorations and said goodbye to those things that don’t “spark joy.”

7. Choose ways to focus on the “reason for the season.”

I am a big proponent of celebrating each holiday and enjoying the fall before Christmas is upon us. That being said in order to more thoroughly enjoy the holiday season I needed to be intentional, plan ahead, and  get prepared.

Each of those five things has multiple steps in and takes time, but in the end it makes for a much more enjoyable holiday season.  And preparing my Christmas card I had to make sure we had our family photo shoot ( I cannot wait to share!  Did I mention that we won a photo shoot? Stay tuned… ) I needed to write our newsletter, and select the layout I wanted so my husband can design and order our cards.  You can see last year’s here.

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These are the cards from the past seven years…

To create a calendar of events from our community I use several online resources and Facebook pages to create a master list. This means I don’t miss traditions, we get to try exciting new events, and that we don’t feel too overwhelmed. We use the master list as a tool and on a day we are want to do an event we can check out the list or we officially write in the events we for sure do not want to miss.  I have found that this extra bit of planning helps keep our expenses lower, us to feel less crazy, and we are able to maintain important traditions.  Also we use this list to fuel our advent activities or things we might do with our “elf on the shelf.”

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For example the advent calendar we use is just a series of pockets that hang on a clothesline and inside each pocket are slips of paper with an activity. The kids never have to know that these are not all preestablished and so potentially our elf “Scout” delivers hot cocoa fixings in the morning and the advent calendar says “drink hot cocoa and read Christmas stories” all on the same day.

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“Scout,” our elf on the shelf, is delivered by Santa when we visit him in our small hometown. He arrives with a note and makes appearances throughout December, not every day, or that might kill Momma and Papa. Like I said I’m a real fan of things that enhance the season and don’t over complicate it. He brings fun things; and gives us great reminders about Jesus, generosity, and loving others.

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All it takes is a wee glance at our calendar to select an activity for the day like “go on an adventure to see Christmas lights” or “watch Christmas fireworks.” It is important to me that even these kinds of fun traditions don’t drive us crazy, they really shouldn’t drive us at all. And instead that they fuel our spirits and remind us of Jesus the reason for the season.

Having a holiday birthday can be tough on everybody.  Corban is turning ONE in mid December  and it was important to me that we celebrate him! So I knew that planning ahead, saving the date, and still marking this special day with a celebration would be important.  We may choose to do his birthday before the holiday season or even at a different time of year in the years to come, but for now we’re just having a very small celebration on a Sunday afternoon.  Keeping it simple,  and I already have all of my supplies ordered and in hand!  I chose a fun and simple theme and we will be enjoying some good food –  been testing out the recipes on my family… They appreciate it.

Every year I have to make an annual Christmas ornament  which is a very special tradition that takes a lot of time and planning.  The tradition started with my mom who began it the first year she married my Dad. Every year since she gives family members an ornament that was handcrafted. I have almost a complete set! I started the same tradition the first year I was married so this will be my eighth ornament. As the years have progressed I’ve tried to add even more thought and meaning behind my design selection.

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The sparkly globe I created when I was a teacher and the words are bits of Scripture, the tag hanging from it said “for unto us a child is born…”  and the wire star was from last year. We had a third boy join us at Christmas time and I thought of our “trio of boys” like the three Wiseman so I chose a star to represent the star they followed to Jesus. You can also see the clothespin ornament in the background. I created it in 2012 and it is Mary, Joseph, and they are holding baby Jesus under a star – this was the ornament I created the year we brought our firstborn boy home. The stories behind each ornament are so special to me.

So this year I’m sticking to a sort of family theme we have going and I’m working towards finalizing my selection this week.  What I love about this tradition is that the ornament, plus a Christmas card, is all I give extended family members. It’s something super thoughtful, that I made with my own hands, and as a sucker for tradition has become very special to me.  I’ll try to share later this season about the design I selected this year.

Christmas gifts… oh boy!  Every year we have decisions to make.   Last year I wrote about some of those decisions and this year we’re looking at them again… For several years we have done “buy nothing” Christmases.  This has changed how we approach the holiday and giftgiving entirely.  I grew up with incredibly magical, Disneyland like, Christmas experiences.  My parents were so incredibly generous and gave us a totally beautiful experience on Christmas morning. That being said  our Christmas morning with our children looks quite a bit different.  We took all the heart and love behind my parents incredible execution of a special holiday and repackaged it for our family.  In years past my husband and I have not exchanged gifts and I don’t believe this year will be any exception. What we choose to do for each other is to write notes on slips of paper throughout the month of December. And then on Christmas Eve night or Christmas morning we link them together to make a paper chain. We found that this reminiscing experience is the greatest gift we can give each other.

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This year I bought very special stockings for the three boys –  we have never stuffed stockings at our house before. Their new stockings are only about 7 inches tall and they will just get a couple of small treats inside.  (And I mean small! Think Satsuma orange in the toe, a peppermint stick, and one small toy or activity –  like a punchcard or ticket to it and experience.) I’ve had several different approaches to gifts including the famous “want, read, wear, need… give” approach.  (Also in last year’s post.) But this year I’m just looking to simplify.  We are letting the kids mention to Santa one thing they would like to have, but otherwise are not planning to do any gifts. At this point we have predicted that a remote control car, and a fishing pole will be what the boys receive from Santa –  but we will have to wait until they visit our sweet, small town Santa here soon to know for sure. The kids will receive that Santa gift and some kind of fun experience from us, aling with the treats in their stockings.  As far as extended family goes we also changed that up completely. Some years we have given no additional gifts beyond my ornaments and our Christmas card, other years only homemade gifts,  we have drawn names or I have given an updated framed photo or small craft from the kids. This year is no exception to trying new things. I find that in the arena of gift giving thinking outside the box is my jam, it is about the only department where I like to stray from traditions. 🙂

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Most importantly,  I saved the best for last, we have established a few ways that we are going to focus on the reason for the season.  I have selected an advent book for myself. It is based on the Jesse tree and is called “The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas” by Ann Voskamp. I will be accompanying it with some Bible journaling in my new Journal the word Bible.   I also chose a special advent for the boys to do that is also based on the Jesse tree, and used the  most wonderful children’s book ever created the Jesus Storybook Bible.    I’m in the process of making a Christmas display tree and felt ornaments similar to these… And we have several special experiences that we had added to our calendar that focus on our faith and family.

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It feels good to be starting early. And I believe it’s going to help us keep things simple, focus on what really matters, and enjoy the season. I hope you’re inspired to take a look at your plan as well.

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