There comes a time in everyone's life where Christmas ceases to be magical. To add to the sting, you have memories of this time being magical in the not so distant past. The joy of the past mocks the blase'-ness of the present. I have found that some of the magic can be rekindled however, in creating memorable experiences for my kids. Enter in my rather obsessive Christmas planning.
First, I tried to make sure that I was aware of the limited holiday events in our area and actually attend them. While this may have meant getting rained on while watching colonial re-enactors do their thing, it was still a fun outing for the family. We also saw some holiday livestock and rode a docile pony.
We repeated our Christmas advents from last year. This kids absolutely love these, and they are relatively simple and painless. For the book advent, we switched up some of the titles. If I have time, I might do a separate post for the sake of posterity and record.
One of my current Christmas-related goals, is to have a kid-friendly tree. Nothing kills the Christmas spirit like nagging/yelling/exhorting your children to "leave the tree alone already." So, for the past two years, no ornament that I mind breaking has made it out of the box and on to the tree. This has made for a rather sparse tree (and our tree is rather on the small side.) My goal this year (and the next few) is to make ornaments that a) look nice and are b) kid friendly. Meeting both of those requirements is surprisingly difficult. There are a lot of really ugly homemade/handmade ornaments out there. I started making ornaments in August so that I would have plenty of time to finish them before the holidays came and life got crazy. Honestly, I needed all of that time. Kids can really slow down the creative process. First I made some fabric birds using a pattern from Spool Sewing (a site that is no longer online.) I made them using scrap fabric from other projects.
Next, I ordered some wooden ornament cutouts and mod podged fancy card stock (which, again, we had leftover) on them. To finish them, I painted the edges with gold paint. A variation on this theme was to print a picture of each kid that I liked and mod podge that on to the cutout. I think the picture version would be fun to do every year. Of course the kids love seeing pictures of themselves hanging on the Christmas tree.
Despite aiming for a kid friendly tree, Finn still disliked Enna actually playing with the ornaments. That is why, if you look closely, all the ornaments are on the top half and out of her reach. Ah well. One of these years, we will have an aesthetic tree. This year is not one of them.
For gifts, we limited the number of gifts to 4 for each child, and one of those included a book. We also had three smaller "Santa"gifts that were part of the stockings. Unlike previous years where we try to be reasonable and only had a vague dollar amount to work with, this year, we had a set budget. I spent some time trying to find the perfect gifts that kept within our desired dollar amount. I found myself enjoying the challenge of working within a set of parameters. (It helped that the kids really enjoyed everything they received, validating my efforts.) Part of me wishes that we could have given more handmade gifts this year. But Mr. F. worked crazy hours right up to the week of, and I found myself overtaxed. The problem with handmade anything is that you have to plan well in advance, like with the ornaments. Also, I lacked any direct inspiration this year.
After presents, I spent a large amount of time worrying/planning stocking treats. I wanted the treats to be special, but I also didn't want them to be full of sugar, food dyes, etc. I wish I could be less anal about this but.....I can't. I just hate the thought of them consuming junk. This year they received: fruit pouches (which they love but hardly ever get), freeze dried fruit (again, something they never get), chocolate covered raisins, clementines, homemade nut-free chex mix, homemade fig newtons, and fruit leather. I had no problem with them gorging themselves on any of it, and they thought they hit jackpot. Win! Also in their stockings were some stickers and some small toys.
I really do love Christmas planning. Things on tap for next year: a tree skirt to match our stockings (which I already bought fabric for), Christmas cards (a number of books we read talked about giving and receiving cards, and I think the kids would enjoy being part of the process.), more handmade ornaments (I have ideas for at least 2 different ones.), and incorporating some traditions in to our family dinner (crackers and plum pudding to name a couple.)
Other Christmas pictures can be found here.