We careened through December like a Rusty Chevrolet (shout out to my roots) without breaks despite what we thought was kickass planning. But man, the pics are beautiful and the memories so great.
We want our kids to have happy and healthy childhoods - which means we have to deconstruct a lot of our own baggage and bring to fruition a different vision of childhood than what we know (obviously in all things parenting, this extends well beyond just Christmas). In so doing, we’re weaving together the pieces that make sense with the wishes we have for our own kids while carving out something we brand as our own.
There were a couple important things Therapist Mom wanted to carry forward from her childhood that were super special and a couple things I did not want to repeat from my own. This was our 3rd Christmas with Tiny, 2nd with Sweet and 1st with Big Sis. Each year we nail it down a little more and try to enjoy the process. This year, we were far more intentional throughout the whole month and what emerged was an overblown buffet-style Xmas Magic for 2016. The following were our big-ticket items, how we graded our success and some things we’d change for the rolling out of future seasons of magic. But first, a short video capturing the essence of it all:
Christmas Magic: B+
Raising readers over here. We do books every night before bedtime. We thought it would be fun if the magic of opening gifts collided with the magic of reading. Every. Night. We purchased a mix of used and new books throughout the latter part of the year so we’d have a solid variety of 25. TWENTY-FIVE. We wrapped every single one.
The setup: The wrapped books were accompanied by this adorable neon and pastel “candy tree,” which the kids would look for as soon as they were out of bed each morning. We would wait until bedtime to unwrap and read. Repeat the next day. We’ll likely do this again next year.
3 things we'd do different next year:
- Not use glitter wrapping paper. Ever, actually.
- Avoid the baby board books – Tiny could get in on the action once in a while but we didn’t need to include so many board books (feedback from Sweet). “UGgggggghHHHH, MOM. Another baby book?”
- Wrap them ages in advance. Like, Easter?
The Advent Calendar: B
Our planning brought this grade up from a C. Execution brought it down from an A. The kids’ excitement kept it slightly above average. We were not looking to start Mommy Wars, but man, if we were… Here were some of your lovely comments when we posted the Advent Calendar on the eve of December 1st.
Your posts always warm my heart.
I love this! Makes me want to do Christmas Magic when I have kiddos!
I stole this from you!
Can I be your child?
Best. Moms. Ever.
Wow! I feel like Scrooge McMommy! Gotta work on this!
We'd like to move in please. Be there in the morning.
I want to be like you when I grow up!
Y’all were s i g n i f i c a n t l y too kind and very cute. Thank you for your votes of confidence. We crushed about half of this; it was just too much. The kids got locked into the routine of it, which made it a real struggle when we needed to break stride – very much the opposite of how we’re working so damn hard to raise them: flexible and patient. Weekends got tricky with weather (COLD, just didn’t feel like moving) and sometimes life just doesn’t allow for so much time in the car with 3 littles.
3 things we would do different:
- 2 or 3 big tickets for the month (one of which will be the Polar Express) not 1 or 2 each weekend
- More notes or quotes from Santa vs things. Or Something.
- The kids became a bit more entitled than excited about this and 25 days is a loooooong time. I think next year we will work in Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and doing more or making more for others and less receiving…maybe tie in the Elf. Maybe.
The Elf: A-
We half-assed this most of the time but the kids talked most about #SparklesTheElfChristmasMagic. They ABSOLUTELY loved her. We used the story that #SparklesTheElfChristmasMagic helped keep our tree and Christmas Magic books company and she shared the kids "hopes and dreams" with Santa. As in, Sparkles job was to share with Santa the things that mattered to them, kind gestures they made and wishes she had for their Christmas season. They likely understood none of this, but her deal wasn't to narc to The Big Man. So that might be the most important take away.
The Bigs knew she would lose her Christmas Magic if anyone touched her, so the time Tiny ripped her off the Candy Tree did not go so well. There was a collective gasp in the room. Then I think we played the 3 second rule and made her disappear until the next day.
3 things we’d do different:
- Level up our game and leave a teeny tiny door on the wall the night of Christmas Day so the kids would know that she left.
- Have her interact with the kids and their toys more – like, draw on their hands in the night with a colored marker and let them find the marker with her in the morning when they go look for her. Hey, I’m the Artist. Of course I want this to get messy.
- Create a book of her shenanigans to give the kids as a gift.
The Polar Express: A+
This was arguably everyone’s fave event of the season. It was truly magical and a small break for us moms. Our favorite things were the seats we sat in, which allowed us all to snuggle together on the train ride up to the North Pole and the ride back. We were contained and entertained just enough with hot chocolate, Polar Express snacks, the lights, caroling and jingling our bells.
We also stayed the night prior at one of the Residence Inn’s bedroom suites, which offered some personal space, a kid’s area and an eat-in kitchen for our own food. There were few guests so more than once we had the pool and hot tub to ourselves. And when Tiny was up late into the night, we could run the halls to burn energy without being disruptive. Also, they served us a ridiculously elaborate continental breakfast. The beds were comfortable and PEOPLE CLEANED UP AFTER US!!!!
3 things we’d do different:
- Book the hotel for the same night as the ride vs. the night before. It was a 3-hour drive from where the Train departed and the drive home was a bit brutal. As is the case after one visits the North Pole. Obviously.
- Pack more snacks.
- Don’t show the movie.
Christmas PJs: A+
There is not one thing we would change here. These PJs seal the deal for the season and bind our kids (and cousins!) together in the best kind of group mentality way. Hanna Andersson we are waiting for you to ask us to be your ambassadors. *winkwink*
Christmas Gifts: B+
Downgraded for quantity, upgraded for quality and aesthetic. We did some early stalking on Craigslist for 1 big-ticket item each for Sweet and Big Sis. We scored in both departments; American Girl spa set, hairdressing station with accessories, and trundle bed sheet sets. And for Sweet we found him the entire Thomas the train set (something ridiculous like 70 t. We also did a fair amount of cyber Monday surfing and online sales like whoa. But, in concert with gifts from family and the Department of Children and Families (still in our lives) and a month long of Christmas Magic, we were far heavier on the material side than we anticipated and are now working out where to put it all. TBH, it feels a little like we need to purge, which kinda takes away from the intended magic of it all.
One major highlight here – Big Sis did some shopping at her school’s Christmas Bazaar and at a Winter Fest (with food trucks!) that we all enjoyed together. It was a real joy to witness her choosing, wrapping and eventually giving. She was so proud and really nailed each of our personalities. She is so thoughtful and captured the real essence of the season for us.
3 things we’d do different:
- Less is more next year.
- Do more baking and playing together.
- The only special thing I remember from my own childhood Christmas’s: A letter from Santa accompanied by a savings bank. Whatever the kids save, Santa will double so they can each shop/make for each other.
This Christmas was incredibly heartwarming for us. While there are some things we’d do different to make life a little easier for us and the season a little more meaningful for all of us, overall, this was a big hit.
We were talking the other day about what to do when the kids no longer believe in Santa and agreed that we would probably do something similar to this mom's amazing plan. Until then, we'll be schemin' away, capitalizing on one of the most magical pieces of childhood. Get at us over on Instagram to share the best and worst of your holidays.
Happy New Year! (Short slideshow below)