Making a Big Deal About the Little Things

The year Anika was born, we did not have a Christmas tree.

She was only two months old at Christmas, and I felt a little overwhelmed about facing the holidays with a new baby.

On top of that, my family was going through a rough time, and it was sucking all energy, motivation, and Christmas cheer right out of me.

So we skipped the Christmas tree.

And Christmas still happened.

It was possible to have a pretty good Christmas, anyway.

But I don’t want to go without a tree again. I know that Christmas isn’t about the tree, and the presents, and all that stuff, but as a kid, there was so much magic in all of those traditions. My mom was always great with the little details.

I have so very many memories of all those fun things we used to do at Christmas – pink popcorn, my Grandma’s fudge recipe, decorating our extremely color-coordinated Christmas tree, our wooden manger scene.

Now that I have children of my own, I have two goals each Christmas:

1) To teach them exactly why we celebrate Christmas.

2) To fill their lives with as many magical memories as I carry with me from my own childhood.

gingerbread house

My magical memories all have to do with the little things – the traditions that were special for our family, and all the little details that made it feel like home. A candlelight fried chicken Christmas dinner from Chicken Delight, accompanied by my mom’s favorite instrumental Christmas music…. Opening presents on a Sunday, and ONLY once it was dark outside!

Ben and I have our own traditions now, and our Christmas looks a bit different. I love that. Our way of celebrating is unique to our family. Everybody has their own way, and it doesn’t seem to matter much what the traditions are, just as long as they get done each year!

December 2012 020 edit #2


It isn’t the big pleasures that count the most; it is making a great deal out of the little ones. (Anonymous)

gingerbread house

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Gingerbread House: To Eat or Not to Eat? That is the Question…

Anika: “Mommy, can I pleeeeeeeeease have another jelly bean?

Kendra: “Anika, I don’t want you to keep begging for more candy the entire time we’re trying to do this.”

Anika: “Okay, I won’t. I might just sneak a few.

Quick tip: For those of you who read this post, you will know that Ben does not particularly look forward to our Christmas tradition of building a gingerbread house. He’s a good sport (most of the time!), but he would be fine if we would leave this tradition out.

However, this year we tried something new. We weren’t able to buy one of those little kits, so we made our own…And it worked out fantastic! The icing is super easy and quick, graham crackers are cheap, and we used up all the Christmas and Halloween candy the girls had received. Win, win, and win.

It was much easier to assemble than the bought kits, and it was more fun, because we could make whatever we wanted to. (Although I did really miss the pre-cut evergreen tree…Kaylia had her heart set on a tree. I tried my best….)

I think a new tradition was born last night!


Yesterday we tried to decorate a gingerbread house together as a family.

It was …an adventure.

The first mistake was made when I bought the kit. I could choose between an assembled house, all ready to go, with icing on the roof and everything, or for one dollar less, a kit that had all the pieces ready for us to assemble. I stood there in the store for a while, trying to figure out which one I should get. Finally, I bought the un-assembled house, because it seemed too easy to get one that only needed to be decorated. I mean, that would take, like, half the fun out of it.

I was very wrong. It would have made everything else twice as much fun if that dumb house had been assembled already.

The second mistake was making it a family activity. Anika and I have always made these houses together every Christmas, and it’s been fun. Adding a husband who is unhappy that I didn’t get the assembled house, and a very active one-year-old to the mix does not multiply the fun, it multiplies the chaos. Ben was (mostly) a good sport about it, but his passion definitely does not lie in decorating gingerbread.

We spent the entire time trying to keep Kaylia away from the candy, and trying to hide the fact that it was a gingerbread COOKIE house. If she would have found out it was a cookie, she would have been gnawing on a roof piece the whole time.

The third mistake is still a mystery to me. Every other house that I’ve made with Anika has stayed together, but this one did not. We kept jamming the roof back into place, but it would not stay there. After the girls went to bed, Ben and I watched a movie, and the entire time we were sitting on the couch, we kept hearing candies plopping off the roof.

It’s kind of in a sorry state now, but here’s a picture of it in one of it’s better moments:

It doesn’t look like that anymore.

Things I have learned for next time:

1) Always buy pre-assembled.

2) It’s a girls’ thing – do it while Ben is having fun doing something else.

3) Kaylia is not old enough to fully appreciate this tradition. We’ll see where she’s at next year…

A Fourth Lesson Learned the Next Day:

4) Do not take any of Ben’s comments seriously, because the next day he talked about how much “fun” we had, working on the gingerbread house together as a family.

Were we working on the same gingerbread house??

No, it was fun…for the first little while. We had fun for the length of time it would have taken us to decorate the assembled house!