Christmas Favorites

When I was dreaming up the perfect Christmas, I never thought of wishing for a massive snowstorm, but it was amazing. I love snow. Ben doesn’t quite share that same love, because snow means shoveling the driveway, but to me, it means beautiful flakes falling, and feeling cozy inside. It also meant staying home because we couldn’t drive anywhere, and it was very relaxing! I loved it.

Here’s a peak at our little family Christmas:


One of my favorite moments! Anika has been saving her money for a looooong time to buy an iPod, and we surprised her by gifting her with the small amount remaining. I know it’s been hard for her to wait and use self-control with her money, but we knew it would mean far more to her if she had to work for it herself, and it was super fun to see her enjoy that moment!:)

ChristmasWe make a big chicken/mashed potatoes/gravy/all the extras dinner later on in the day, but we’re still experimenting with what we want our lunch tradition to be. We tried this fun option, and imagined what it would be like to make a table-sized Christmas tree as our kids get older and we need more food!


ChristmasChristmasAnd now it’s time to move on! I love Christmas and all the traditions and decorations, but I’m quickly ready to pack it all up, and get ready for a fresh start in the new year!

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?

Fall is My Favorite

Fall is just beautiful.

When it’s fall, I think it’s my favorite season.

But then, I feel the same in spring and summer, too. (Not winter. There is no confusion for me about winter. It is beautiful, and I love some parts of it very much, but it’s not my favorite.)

So we’ll say for right now that fall is my favorite.

And my favorite place to be in fall is the Whiteshell. There is nothing like it.

That’s where we were this weekend.

We stayed at Ben’s parents’ cabin with friends, and on the drive home, Ben and I decided to make this particular weekend of September in the Whiteshell a fall tradition – kind of like people who spend Labor Day weekend at the lake. Always, each and every year.

The first weekend of fall will be our Whiteshell weekend.

We made this decision, and then sat back feeling brilliant – the way you do when you make a solid decision you’re totally proud of.

Another fall tradition for our family is a hike to Look-Out. We’ve done it every fall for the last five years, and it’s just one of those things that needs to be done.

It’s also mandatory to take a family picture with that view in the background. I love seeing how our family has changed from year to year, but that view stays the same – always amazing. (Last year’s family picture never worked out, though – click here to read about last year’s trip to Look-Out. And here’s the post from the year before, when everything went “right”!)

And even though we had enough coughing and runny noses to fill us up for the whole winter, we still had a wonderful time with our friends who joined us.

So, what about you? Where were you this weekend? And what are your mandatory requirements for fall activities? I hope you’re enjoying everything that’s bright and beautiful out there!



Longing For My Sweetie on His Birthday

Today is Ben’s birthday.

On an ordinary birthday, we would be having a wonderful day. The girls and I would make him a special breakfast, and he would pretend to be asleep while we were making it. Then, at just the perfect time, when we’d be all set to go, he would start loudly (fakely) grunting from bed, as a signal that he would be ready to wake up.

The girls would hear his grunting, and run into the bedroom, squealing with delight. There would be much snuggling and tickling, and then he would finally get up, and we would all eat together.

We would have much fun all day, probably going tube sliding, or skating, or sledding somewhere along the way. I would make him some kind of delicious birthday treat to eat, and we would put the girls to bed together at night, and then we would be outrageously happy spending a quiet evening at home, not really doing anything all that special, but it would be special anyway.

But that day will not be today, because Ben is flying home from Belize today. (Kaylia keeps pronouncing it “Police”.)

He’ll get home crazy late and be crazy tired, and then he’ll spend the next day with the Pursuit students, debriefing them from the mission trip and stuff like that.

And then on Wednesday we will all be happily and sleepily reunited late in the evening when he comes to pick us up at the airport.

So I’m not really sure what new day we will choose to temporarily move his birthday to, but whenever it happens, I’m sure it will be great. (Good news, Sweetie, you get a few extra days to stay 33!)

It feels kind of strange, because I have never been away from Ben on his birthday since we started dating. He doesn’t like birthdays all that much, and I think they are a HUGE deal, so I see it as my responsibility to help him pay more attention to this special day. (And will it ever be special…. I found the weirdest dessert recipe ever, and I’m quite sure that he’s going to love it.)

Normally, I would write all kinds of nice things about Ben on his birthday, and tell you all about what a wonderful person he is, and how much I love him, but if I get into that right now, I will sit here bawling, so I will save that for another time when I am not so lonely for him that I can’t stand to think about him in great detail.

So that is all for today. Have a happy day! I’ll tell you all about Ben’s new birthday some other time….

Advent Calendars!

So on the topic of Christmas traditions…

We got our Advent Calendar going yesterday! I love Advent Calendars.

I remember only having one as a kid. It wasn’t something that we traditionally did, but that one wonderful year of the Advent Calendar always stayed with me. I can still clearly remember the thrill of opening up all of those little doors… (And no, Mom, I am not writing that so you will feel bad for not doing it every Christmas! You baked Animal Cookies every year, and I do not. It all balances out!)

I decided an Advent Calendar was a tradition we needed to start in our little family.

We used to buy the chocolate-filled calendars at Superstore, but a few years ago, I found this beauty at Winner’s:

Actually, I don’t really like how it looks. I wanted to paint it, and make it fit our holiday decor a bit better, but the thought of painting all of those little doors was a bit daunting, so I’ve decided to just leave it alone.

Anyway. It’s what’s inside that counts, right? 🙂

Other years, I filled it with treats to eat, but this year, I decided to fill it with slips of paper. Each one has some kind of Christmas activity or tradition for us to do every day.

Curious what they say? Here’s my list:

1. Read our Advent storybook.

2. Make a wreath, and read about why we decorate with wreaths.

3. Set up the Christmas tree!

4. Get out our Nativity Scene.

5. Buy a new Christmas CD.

6. Make paper snowflakes.

7. Bake Christmas cookies.

8. Write Christmas cards.

9. Decorate a gingerbread house.

10. Choose an item to buy from the Compassion Christmas Catalogue.

11. Watch a Christmas movie.

12. Learn about the true story of Santa.

13. Decorate sugar cookies.

14. Go Christmas shopping for your sister!

15. Make a snowman craft.

16. Have a hot chocolate party.

17. Make pink popcorn.

18. Act out the Christmas story.

19. Wrap presents.

20. Read Christmas books.

21. Make roasted Christmas nuts.

22. Have our family Christmas.

23. Go tubesliding.

24. Go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Christmas.

25. Go to other Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Christmas!

Maybe I’ll stick some treats in for Christmas day.

There are so many fantastic ideas out there for Advent Calendars. If I were a little bit more motivated, here are some of the ideas I would love to try:

Snowflake Christmas Countdown (Simple As That)

Clothesline Advent Calendar (The Anderson Crew)

25 Little Boxes (Dear Lizzy)

In the meantime, my very simple version will work just fine!

And let me just add that although this may look like I have my Christmas act together, and it may seem as though we will bond over these activities in “perfect family” form, I have already been given a reality check: Kaylia screamed through half of the Advent storybook yesterday, because she was sick and grumpy, wanted to read Curious George instead. (Which we did, afterwards.) So there you go. You can plan all you want, but it doesn’t always turn out the way you pictured it…. But it’s good to keep trying, anyway!

Have any Advent traditions you’d care to share?

Trying to Make Some Christmas Memories

Oh, it’s that time of year again.

I love decorating for Christmas…in theory.

But in actuality, it always turns chaotic, and someone gets grumpy and/or frustrated, and then it becomes contagious, and before long, I’m wondering why in the world we’re decorating for Christmas at all.

Ben often voices this thought, usually while I’m still thinking that it’s fun and important, and I think I love doing it, but it takes me about 45 minutes of trying to decorate to agree with him. If our timing on that sentiment would match up, the girls would come dangerously close to going without a Christmas tree.

But what gets me every time are these two little things:

1) Memories – from when I was a kid, and Christmas decorations were magical.

2) Our girls’ reactions – They love it as much as I used to! Anika plays with our little Christmas village every day, from the day we set it up until the day we take it down. Kaylia is following strong in her big sister’s example.

And they get so excited about decorating a Christmas tree, just like every kid.

So let the decorating chaos continue…for many years to come.

This year, I have something new to think about to get me through the moments of grumpiness:

Then we dragged out our Christmas decorations and set to work for the rest of the afternoon together. The tinies were so excited and we’re drifting into the years when they have precedent, when they remember what we did last year, when they can’t wait to open up the box and see their ornaments from the year before. It reminded me again that this is their time, their childhood and these are the memories they’ll have, the standard and expectations for their grown-up Christmases. (Emerging Mummy)

I want them to remember the way we used to do things. The traditions we had when I was a kid have always been important. I love continuing them with my kids, and adding some of Ben’s traditions, and coming up with some brand new ones of our own!

And sometimes that’s hard work, and it takes a lot of effort, and sometimes the efforts really bomb, but sometimes they create magic.

So we’ll keep trying, and I’ll keep remembering that these are the years I want to remember forever, and I hope our girls will, too.

Fall Traditions

Loved this post I read about fall traditions. It’s got me thinking this morning…

The story my kids will tell someday depends on me. I am writing their book, and I want their childhood chapters full of traditions and stories and memories of the comforts of home.

What do I want our kids to remember about home and family? What warm memories am I filling them with these days?

In all honesty, the last few days have been days that I kinda wish they wouldn’t remember! Kaylia’s had a nasty cold, none of us have gotten enough sleep, I’ve been grumpy, and life has been hectic.

I was making a casserole yesterday to bring to a potluck, turned away for a second, and when I looked back, Kaylia was pouring a cup of water all over my half-finished casserole.

It was kind of funny. Kind of not. Some moments are just chaotic. I don’t like having to do five things at once. But some days leave other choice.

So today, with fall traditions on my mind, we went outside, where I can only do one thing: enjoy the moment. But I can enjoy many things all at the same time – my girls, the sunshine, the smell of fall, the colors, the wind, the day.

We’ll just forget the crazy moments. Or better yet, we’ll learn from them and move on to bigger and better things.

I’m making a list of fall traditions we’ve got around here:

-rake a huge piles of leaves and run wild

-eat turkey at Thanksgiving!

-carve a pumpkin

-go to Look-Out (which is THE most beautiful place to go in the fall – pictures coming soon!)

-take family pictures for our Christmas cards

Hmm, what else? I’m definitely open to suggestions!

Here’s my list of traditions I wish we could add:

-actually getting around to decorating our house for fall

-visiting a pumpkin patch

-going to a corn maze

-making some kind of fun treats that only get made once a year, for Halloween

So, help me out! I need some traditions…