Oh Christmas Lights…

What is your favorite tradition of the holiday season?

As a family, my husband and I have worked to create new traditions with our family. Pacing ourselves based on our kids age and what we’ve thought they could handle. A visit to Santa when they were younger with mixed results — when they were very young they had no idea who he was and took pictures without issue, then they became scared of him (but not at the same age — there was a good three year period where one child was terrified of him and the other was completely okay with him), then finally they were okay with Santa, almost tolerant of him — they thought seeing Santa was an insurance policy — I need to visit with him just in case he’s real. As they grew, we added making gingerbread houses, advent calendars, and seeing some of the Christmas decorations around town. Our traditions now include some of the above, though there was no Santa visit this year (sigh…why do kids have to grow up so fast?), added in working a Christmas tree lot (a fundraiser for their school), and seeing the Pathway of Lights (house decorated with lights and the walking path adorned with candles around a local lake). We’ve attempted the Pathway of Lights in the past with mixed results — as babies in a stroller, non-stop crying forced us to abandon the walk early; as toddlers the cold or length of the walk wore them out–they clearly weren’t having fun; as 9 and 11 year olds, my husband and I thought this year they were ready for it.

We headed down to the lake with our plan — we’d walk around the lake for as long as we were all enjoying it (it’s about 3 miles around, and the weather this time of year can be a little dicey — cold, windy, sometimes rainy), and have dinner nearby with friends. We parked the car and headed toward the lake. It was a clear night (yes, I thought, we’re off to a good start). We walked a few blocks and my oldest proclaimed, “Mom, it’s freezing out here!” While bustling to get out of the house, I failed to realize he had grabbed his lightweight coat instead of his heavy one. We walked a few more blocks and my younger chimed in, “Mom, it’s windy out here!” I felt like I was an observation away from being the big bad wolf in the Three Little Pigs story…and then after a brief reprieve (there were a couple of oohs and ahs as we neared the lake and could see all the decorations and lights) it hit, my husband said, “Let’s walk the lake and then get dinner.” My husband knew our friends couldn’t meet us until later and didn’t want us to eat before they could even join us. My kids had other ideas. “Later? But I’m hungry now!,” one said. The other chimed in, “This is so stupid, I didn’t even want to do this.” I went into force-family-fun mode. “We don’t do many things as a family like this. We’re walking the lake and you’re going to enjoy it!” My kids stopped the outward complaining, but their non-verbal signals showed they didn’t plan to enjoy one minute of it. We walked for a few minutes. It was very windy and cold. Then we heard music. Oh, Christmas music, this will get everyone in the mood. Then I heard the lyrics. I can’t get no….no satisfaction. What? I thought, there is a Rolling Stones cover band playing at the lake? This makes no sense. Then my husband confirmed it wasn’t just me, “what in the world are they playing, and why is it so loud?” He was right, they were blasting the music across the lake. In years past I’ve heard carolers and musicians, never a cover band. It detracted from the festive mood. We started feeling like our grand plans of making this holiday tradition we would all look back on fondly were doomed. We proceeded to try to make it work anyways. We walked. The kids complained. It was crowded, there were people everywhere. My kids complaining got louder. I had had it. I stopped everyone, a laugh of defeat escaped from my body and I said in an all too loud voice, “this is no fun. This is something I look forward to every year and you’re making this so unenjoyable. Can’t we just enjoy this? It’s beautiful out here. Yes, it’s cold. Yes, it’s windy. Yes, you might be hungry. Yes, there is music that is confusing playing. But we’re together and we don’t get to do these kinds of things very often. Can you please, please, please, try to enjoy this for a few minutes?” My kids were silent, my husband was silent and a few people around us were silent. After a few moments my youngest took my hand and said, “Mom, can you keep my hand warm?” I noticed he hadn’t brought his gloves after I had given them to him before he left the house. “Of course,” I said. “Mom, can you hold my hand too,” my other piped in. They were trying. I was grateful. Holding hands with each of my kids, we proceeded to finally walk. No more complaining (even though I knew they were cold and would rather be inside a warm restaurant), no more talking for a while. “Oh, look” I pointed to a group of kayakers who had decorated their boats with lights and were on the water. “That’s so cool!” We all agreed. We walked further. The kids started pointing out neat decorations on house, pets and people. Anytime one of us saw something that we liked we pointed it out. It started to become enjoyable.

The wind and cold forced us to turn around after about 30 minutes. While it would have been nice to be outside longer, it felt like we might be pushing our luck, and we’d gotten to see many of the beautiful decorations around. When we got to the restaurant, we were grateful to sit, rest and warm up. Food did us all good and our friends joining us made for an even more special evening.

The tradition isn’t as I envisioned, but it was a special night, and my hope is that as my children age, this will become a more meaningful tradition (and we’ll laugh at times like this — I still think about the Rolling Stones cover band…really? The Rolling Stones?).

Have you ever had a tradition you were hoping your child would take to and didn’t? What new traditions are you and your child experiencing?

I will be off for the next few weeks enjoying time with friends and family, and will be back in January.

Happy Holidays!

The Magic of Santa

Do you remember when you learned Santa wasn’t real? How did you take the news?

Our oldest learned last year that Santa wasn’t real from his classmates. We knew he would find out sooner or later, but realizing that he understood this news was hard to take–for him and us.

He was not happy when he learned the news. He was clearly disappointed that Santa wasn’t real, and he was ticked that we had let him believe he was. After calming down, he and I talked. I needed him to understand why we let him believe in Santa. I told him, “When you are young, there is an opportunity for you to experience something magical–that someone knows and cares about you so much that they go to great lengths to get to your house to bring you something they think you’ll like. Experiencing that magic and understanding what it feels like is important. It’s one of the few times you get to feel that outside of your mom and dad, or your family, that someone really cares about you and wants you to be happy, without wanting anything in return. You don’t get to experience this often in life, and we felt you would miss out on something really special if we didn’t let you believe.”

I’m not sure our son really understood what I was saying, but our hope is that he will as he grows older.

Believing in Santa is magical. And oh, how I wish he were real. I’ve experienced Santa as I’ve grown in glimpses–through a thoughtful friend who called or brought flowers or soup unexpectedly in hopes it would lift my spirit, or an foot or shoulder rub from my husband after noticing I looked tired from my day. My kids making me a picture because they thought it would make me smile. Small moments, that’s don’t have the build-up of Santa arriving, more like an expected arrival that I’m grateful for.

What magic has Santa brought to you and your family?

Happy Holidays! I will be taking this much needed time off and will be back in January.

The Best (real) Christmas Pageant Ever

I agreed to take the lead in putting on our church’s annual Christmas Pageant. What was I thinking?

Now, you might be wondering, why didn’t she just say, “no” to leading the production? Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty good at saying “no” — I learned to get better at it once my kids were born, but this situation was different. There have been several women who have graciously led the play year in and year out and finally one of them asked for a reprieve. She deserved a break, and at the time, I thought I can handle this, no problem.

The holidays are a busy time of year, and this year it seems to have kicked-up a notch. I thought I was doing good getting through Thanksgiving, then visit family, then back home, getting the Christmas tree, not forgetting about that play we had tickets for, traveling for work, getting back home, getting Christmas cards out, volunteering at school, hosting a holiday tea, and then it was time to direct the Christmas Pageant. Phew! Making it to Pageant seemed like a miracle. I was going to need one to pull this off.

What I thought my job as Play Director would include was some simple coordination and making sure we had enough kids to fill the various roles. What I found out was that it was much more. It started to occur to me that I may have bitten off more than I can chew, when I was asked when the script was coming. I have to come up with the script? What? Nobody told me that!  Before completely freaking out a thought occurred to me…Amazon. I figured they’d have to have books with sample scripts, and they did…hallelujah! Then came the coordination, and then came the props. When I picked the play we’d be doing, I figured the props would be easy. And they weren’t that hard, except I had to go get all the materials and make the props. Now you might be wondering why I didn’t have someone help me.  I didn’t have anyone helping me, because I hadn’t had the time to really think about what help I would need and time was running out. I powered through making the props and then I had to tackle the logistics — making sure everyone knew where they were supposed to be, transitions between scenes, who would have the microphone, etc. Needless to say, it was a swirl of activity that culminated in the play, which I have to say came off pretty well.

The pageant wasn’t the greatest one ever to the rest of the world. but it was pretty darn great for me. The kids did a great job. Many, who are known to be shy, showed great courage and were really brave and went for it in the play (I actually heard one girl speak loud and clear for the first time. She normally is very quiet and shy). I was impressed with the kids, and impressed that I was able to pull it off.

Now it’s time to relax. The flurry of holiday activities are starting to wind down, and having some downtime and quiet time is much needed. I need to be with my family, alone, unplugged without a care in the world. I look forward to these last few quieter weeks of the year. Cause I know we’ll be starting all over again come the New Year.

How are you getting through this busy time of year? How are you resting and recharging during this busy time?

 

Need a little Christmas…

Is there anyone else out there that is already exhausted? Anyone who needs a little holiday cheer to help boost their spirit and energy level?

This year has been one of the most busy and stressful years of my professional career. I feel like I’ve done pretty good getting through this year, but have to admit I am nearing full burn-out. I’m in need of an energy boost. I need rest. I need….a vacation.

The holidays could easily create additional stress for me, but not this year. I’m really looking forward to them. I look forward to seeing my children’s anticipation grow as they anxiously await the arrival of Christmas Day, I look forward to spending time with friends at holiday gatherings, and having that much needed time off just to rest and relax. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

How are you preparing yourself for the holidays? What about the holidays puts a smile on your face?

Holiday Cards

Dear Friend,

I hope this card finds you well. Another year has flown by again…

Holiday cards are nice to receive, right? I love getting cards from friends. I really enjoy getting holiday cards from friends, particularly those I haven’t seen in a while or do not speak to on a regular basis, that include details about what they’ve been up to the last year. It seems like getting details lessens every year.

I can certainly appreciate how busy everyone is. There always seems to be something to do: get your child some place, get yourself some place, pick up something, drop off something, make something, do something. The list of ‘to-dos’ seems endless. Getting holiday cards done can seem like one more ‘to-do’ on a very long list.

I appreciate the effort and the thought of being included on friend’s mailing list, but oh, how I miss details of what is going on in our friends lives when they are not included. I know there are many reasons why people don’t do this:

  • They don’t want to be seen as bragging (most letters include highlights vs. low lights — you see more “we took a trip to Hawaii” vs. “Jimmy’s failing math and we’re super stressed about it.” right?),
  • They don’t think others are that interested in what’s going on with them (we are, we really are), or
  • They don’t have the energy to sit down to write the letter–there is just too much to get done, and this isn’t high on the list (we can all relate to this).

Writing a letter, for my husband and I, is a good way for us to pause and reflect on the past 12 months. We are often in awe of all that has occurred–good and bad, and what we look forward to in the New Year. It feels like by capturing our experiences on paper, we’re somehow permanently entering them into our family time capsule (which is made up solely of our memory, and what we capture in pictures, and on paper). The letter is a brief snapshot in time of our family history, that without writing down on paper, we’d too easily forget. When we finish our letter, I normally experience a range of emotions from grateful to sad: grateful we made it through another year and we are all healthy, and sad that precious time has passed.

A friend, this year, sent a simple fold out card with pictures of her kids and family. While it could have stopped there, she made the card even more special by adding text over each child’s picture with what everyone was grateful for. It gave me a quick sense of what the kids were into (grateful for certain toys, or their pets, friends, etc.), and that they were doing okay (when you share that you are grateful, it tells me that things must be pretty okay…it’s difficult to be grateful when you are in a low spot or something terrible has happened).

She shared those details I crave. I really appreciated it.

How do you stay connected with others? What types of cards do you like to send, and receive?

I want to wish everyone safe and happy holidays. I will be taking time off and will return in January.