First Annual Gingerbread House Competition

Christmas is in full swing here at my house.  We started our countdown to Christmas with the kids unwrapping a book each night for us to read before bedtime, as well as our 25 Days of Christ.  We all look forward to the time spent together each night sharing in the fun and excitement of the holiday, while also remembering the reason for the season.

I’ve always been a huge advocate for traditions.  In college, I did a semester project on traditions where I had to put together a class and then teach it, complete with feedback from the people who attended.  It hardly even felt like a project because it is something I love so much!  Creating traditions in connection with a holiday is a great way to help family bond together over shared experiences.  It gives meaning and enhances our enjoyment of the holiday.  I’ve teamed up with At Home (who has also gracious sponsored this post) to talk about Christmas traditions and #MyReason for incorporating them into our holiday.

This post contains affiliate links which if you click on and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

As I’ve considered what new traditions I want to incorporate into our family Christmas celebration, I decided that my kids were old enough to decorate their own gingerbread “person”.  Each kid got their own giant sized gingerbread person, 3 colors of frosting and some candy to decorate with.  My son, who is turning 3 in March, needed a little help from dad, but my almost 5 year old daughter totally took control over her decorating and needed no help from me.  The kids ate at least half the candy while the other half ended up on their gingerbread person.

My favorite thing my daughter said when I asked her about the yellow Nerds: “It’s corn.  They just got back from the pumpkin patch.  The gingerbread pumpkin patch where they played in the corn pit.” Haha!  I love how creative kids are.  Both kids were extremely proud of their creations and loved the whole activity.  We’ll definitely be doing this again next year!

My husband and I decided to take it to another level and decorate gingerbread houses.  We put the kids to bed, set up our gingerbread house decorating stations and pulled my laptop over to the table where we turned on Pitch Perfect and laughed ourselves silly!  We did cheat a little bit and put the frosting in these cool frosting decorators to make it easier to control (see fourth picture in series below).

It was so fun to relax and do something together.  Although, maybe relax isn’t the best word to use.  Our decorating turned into a competition, complete with smack talk.  We spent the full hour and 52 minutes and then some working on our houses and evaluating before adding more.

And this is where you come in!  We want to know which gingerbread house YOU like better.  The prize for the winner is yet to be determined, but it’s probably something along the lines of not having to do the dishes for a week and nightly shoulder rubs.  I told my husband I was totally going to win but he’s giving me a run for my money!

The top picture is Contestant A and the bottom picture is Contestant B.  You can vote for your favorite and I’ll announce who won between my husband and I next week on Facebook.  (Come on friends!  I’m counting on you to help me win this!  I really want to hand over dish duty for a week!  *me sending positive brain waves*)

Which gingerbread house do you like better?

A

B

pollcode.com free polls

In addition to voting for your favorite gingerbread house, you can also enter a giveaway below for $100 gift card to At Home!  Each entry is worth 1 point.  The giveaway ends Tuesday, December 13 at midnight CST.

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Lastly, I want to invite you to check out the amazing posts of these 8 other bloggers who are also sharing about their own Christmas traditions.  You are guaranteed to find tons of great inspiration and maybe even want to incorporate a new tradition or two this holiday season!

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Simplifying the Season

At the beginning of this month, we had a lesson at church about the trio of holidays–Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years–and talked at length about how they are each related to each other and why celebrating them together can actually enhance our enjoyment of the holiday season.  I hadn’t really thought about it in this way before but haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

Thanksgiving sets things up for us with our focus on gratitude and being thankful for what we’ve been blessed with in our lives.  I wrote a post about this at the beginning of the month just a couple of days before we had the lesson in church.  Someone made a comment during our lesson that when we show gratitude to God for our blessings, we receive a fullness of the blessing that we wouldn’t receive otherwise.  I think showing gratitude really grounds us.  As a family, we work together and rely on each other to grow and learn.  Last year, we started a couple of traditions that I really love and helps us get into an attitude of gratitude. 

After Thanksgiving comes Christmas.  I love that we have just been through a season of gratitude and that carries us into Christmas and a celebration of the birth of Christ.  We have a handful of traditions surrounding this holiday that I love and really help set the tone for the month of December.  Helping our children understand the reason for the season is one of our main focuses during the holiday.  We do our best to simplify our activities so we don’t become overwhelmed to the point that the magic and spirit of Christmas is lost.

Then comes the New Year when many of us make goals and promises to ourselves that we will try to improve in some way.  It is both a literal and symbolic chance for new beginnings.  We’ve just finished seasons of thanksgiving and celebrating Christ and I am often filled with feelings of hope and desire to do better.  I’ve found that it is often the simple changes I make in my life that make the biggest difference.

This holiday season, I’m teaming up with Justine from Little Dove and other talented bloggers to introduce the Simplifying the Season series.  The series will go from 11/21 to 12/26.  Each week there will be a post on Little Dove in this series: The Great Christmas Round Up (11/29), Focus on Family (12/5), Focus on Traditions (12/12), Focus on the Savior (12/19) and #SimplifyingTheSeason Link-Up Party (12/26).

If you’d like to participate in this series, it’s as simple as sharing how you are going to refocus and simply.  As Justine says on her blog:

“Share it on your blog, share it on your social media, just share it!  Maybe you have some tips about how to stay calm with holiday guests, maybe you have a family tradition you want to share that helps you focus on family time, whatever it is I want to know how it helps you with simplifying the season!  This should not be something that adds yet another thing to your holidays, just something to help you enhance them, helps to refocus them on what truly matters to you and your family this season.”

Be sure to use the hashtag #SimplifyingTheSeason and then link-up the week after Christmas.  Justine will be picking her favorite posts that she feels best exemplify the spirit of simplifying this holiday season to send a special gift to!

I encourage each of you to simplify and refocus during this season.  One of my favorite decorations I put up this time of year says “Simplify Christmas, Celebrate Christ”.  I truly believe that if we put even just a little bit of time and effort into doing this, we will be filled with the Christmas spirit.  Our burdens will feel lighter.  We will feel a stronger desire to help and serve others.  I love the magical feeling that accompanies this time of year and wish it could last all year round.

What are your favorite ways to simplify during the holidays?

DIY Elf Door

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

I’m always trying to think of new traditions for my family to incorporate during the holidays.  Right now, we just have a handful of Christmas traditions but I’ve been wanting to add another one.  In August I got an email from Jane.com with a cute little elf door.  What at fun idea! I thought to myself as I clicked on the link.  As cute as it was, I didn’t want to pay $24 for the door plus the other accessories (fence, lights, etc) and then pay for shipping.  I knew I could do it for cheaper myself and starting looking around online.

It turns out that Hobby Lobby’s miniature dollhouse collection was the perfect solution.  I’ve been watching for those items to go on sale and when they did, I went over and picked up what I needed.  Using my 40% off coupon, I was able to get the door for $6.59, plus the doorknob and key for $3.49 (30% off) and some mini Christmas light bulbs for $1.39 (30% off), which brought my total to $12.26 with tax.  I already have acrylic paint and brushes to paint the door and instead of using miniature fencing, I decided to cut some out of vinyl using my Silhouette Cameo, which I could then stick to the wall and remove at the end of the season.  So by doing this myself, I was able to save myself more than half of what it would have cost to buy it from Jane.com.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

*Note: I did look on Amazon for the supplies to make this, but it was less expensive to buy it at Hobby Lobby.  But definitely feel free to shop around a bit.  You might find a better deal or decide you want a different kind of door or doorknob set.  The great thing about this craft is that you can totally personalize it!

I’ve been thinking about what kind of activity I could do with my kids to incorporate this little elf door into our traditions.  Ultimately, I kept it simple and told my kids that there is a magical elf door that leads directly to the North Pole.  Elves can come through it and check to make sure the kids are being good and then report to Santa.  You could be more elaborate if you want and do Elf on the Shelf type things but I don’t want to stress myself out by committing to do that every night.

So here’s what you’ll need to make your own Elf Door:

  • miniature door
  • miniature doorknob
  • miniature fence (vinyl or wood)
  • miniature Christmas light bulbs
  • acrylic paint (in desired colors)
  • paint brushes
  • glue
  • thin jewelry wire (silver or gold)

First, I painted the door frame white and the door a bright red and let it dry.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

Then I glued the doorknob on using some Tacky Glue and let it dry.

Meanwhile, I opened up my Silhouette Studio software and grabbed a picket fence silhouette from Google.  I was able to get the silhouette by using the ‘Trace’ function, then I saved the image in my library to use later on.  To determine the size of the fence, I measured the height of the door (about 7.5″) and then used a ruler to visualize the height of the fence.  Then I resized it in the Silhouette Studio and cut it out on my white vinyl.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

To make the strand of lights, I removed the gold wires that were strung through the lights.  Then I cut a length of wire about 24″ long.  I strung the first light on and then twisted it at the top a couple times so it wouldn’t slide around.  I threaded the next light on and spaced it about 1″-1.5″ from the first light and repeated the twist at the top.  I continued around until I reached the end of the wire, leaving about 1″ at the end.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

I decided to put the door in our kitchen/dining area because we spend a lot of time there.  I wanted it to be visible to the kids so they would remember that the “elf” is going to check on them.  I placed the door above the baseboards and stuck it to the wall using tape I had rolled up and put on the back, making it easily removable at the end of the season.  Then I put about 3″ of vinyl fence on either side of the door.  Finally, I strung the lights around the door, draping them across the top and bending the wire and securing the ends under the top part of the vinyl fence.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

As I was setting it up, I explained to my daughter about the elf and the magic door.  I tried to keep it simple so I could remember what I told her.  If I make a mistake, I’m sure she’ll correct me. *wink*  When my son woke up from his nap, he noticed it and went right over to investigate.  He’s not quite old enough to understand “elves” and “magic” but he thought it was fun anyway.  Hopefully he won’t mess with it too much.  If you have younger kids, you can always move the door up higher above a table or counter so it’s out of reach of little hands.

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

Elf Door--Start a new tradition with your family this Christmas!

I had so much fun putting this little elf door together!  I hope this will be a fun tradition we can enjoy for years to come.

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

Love Note Envelopes {plus a FREE printable}

Love Note Envelopes {plus a FREE printable}--a fun new Valentine tradition
I was browsing Hobby Lobby’s Valentine items the other day when I saw the cutest oversized felt envelopes.  At $3.99 for 2, I couldn’t pass them up and threw them in my cart, not totally sure what I was going to do with them.  I forgot about them for a few days when I had the idea to use them as love note envelopes for my family during the month of February.  These felt envelopes will be perfect for our family.  I know my kids (mostly my daughter) is going to love getting little notes throughout the month sharing reasons why they are loved. And this isn’t just for kids.  I plan on sending some notes to my husband too. *wink*

Love Note Envelopes {plus a FREE printable}--a fun new Valentine tradition

Love Note Envelopes {plus a FREE printable}--a fun new Valentine tradition

I think it would be fun to let your kids rotate who the “delivery person” is each day.  Maybe put each person’s note on their pillow after dinner and read them before bedtime.  Or you could buy an envelope for each child and place the notes in there each day as they are written.  The whole idea is totally flexible and adaptable to your family.

And to make your life a little easier (and cuter), I’ve created a FREE love note printable for you!  Sure, you could just use regular white paper but what’s the fun in that?  Print these out and set them in a little jar with a pen and let your family show their love for each other!

Love Note Envelopes {plus a FREE printable}--a fun new Valentine tradition
Love Note Envelopes {plus a FREE printable}--a fun new Valentine tradition

What Valentine traditions do you have?

Top 10 Posts of 2015

Top 10 Posts of 2015

Sunshine and Munchkins has been up and running for almost three months now and it’s been so much fun for me!  Lots of hard work and time, but I’ve loved being able to share my posts with you and hear from you as well.  As we begin a new year, I thought it would be fun to show you what my top 10 posts were for 2015!

Top 10 Posts of 2015

10. My FAVORITE Roll and Cut Cookies–The title says it all, but these really are my favorite cookies to make when using a cookie cutter.  They keep their shape, taste yummy and are so easy to make!  Be sure to save this recipe and use it for any holiday or event you want to decorate cookies for.  (Which is pretty much all of them, right?)

Top 10 Posts of 2015

9. 25 Easy Neighbor Gifts–Neighbor gifts aren’t just for the holidays.  They are great to drop by any time of year, for any reason.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

8. Traditions I’m Starting This Christmas–My family LOVED the traditions we started last year!  I’m excited to add some new ones this year.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

7. DIY No-Sew Burlap Table Runner with Tassels–Burlap is so versatile and this no-sew table runner has been part of my holiday decor for the last 3 months because it’s so darn cute.  Definitely one of my favorite and easiest projects I’ve ever done.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

6. Traditions I’m Starting This Thanksgiving–If you didn’t get a chance to see our Thankful Tree and Book of Thanks we did for Thanksgiving last year, be sure and check it out.  My family loved doing both of them and we will be continuing the traditions for years to come.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

5. Gift Guide: Men–So many of my friends and family have told me they struggle with coming up with gift ideas for the men in their life, so I compiled a HUGE list!  This is a great list for birthdays, Christmas, anniversary and Father’s Day.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

4. Gift Guide: Parents and Grandparents–Just like men can be hard to buy for, parents and grandparents are too because in many cases, they can just go out and purchase anything they might want or need.  Check out this list for a bunch of great ideas for birthdays, Christmas, anniversary and Mother’s Day/ Father’s Day.

Top 10 Posts of 2015

3. 23 Free Thanksgiving Coloring Pages and Activities–Lots of waiting goes on during Thanksgiving break and Thanksgiving Day.  Why not print off some coloring and activity pages to keep your kids hands busy while the food cooks (and maybe yours too!)?  Pin it now and print it out in November.  (Or October if you’re Canadian.)

Top 10 Posts of 2015

2. 6 Simple Ways to “Halloween-ify” Your Home–Besides including a cute, free printable for you, I also give 5 more easy ways you can decorate your home for Halloween without spending a lot of money.

And the #1 most popular post in 2015…

Top 10 Posts of 2015

1. Awesome Non-Candy Alternatives for Halloween–I was so excited that so many people liked this post!  As much fun as candy is on Halloween, I think that providing non-candy alternatives is a great option.  One person told me that they were specifically thanked by a family for providing something different than candy for their children.  I love hearing stories like that.  But don’t limit yourself to Halloween with this post.  Valentine’s Day is coming up and you could use many of these same suggestions for your children to give out to their friends.

Thank you so much to everyone who has read, commented, shared, liked and pinned my posts!  It means a lot.  I’m excited for 2016 and what it will bring!

What types of posts would you like to see more of this year?

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Can you believe Christmas is in two days?  I distinctly remember one Christmas where I was about 8 years old.  I was sleeping soundly, but woke up for some reason.  I looked towards my window where I could see a faint red light and then I heard the sound of bells.  We didn’t have red lights on our house and my mom didn’t have any bells around that I remember.  I told my mom what I’d seen and heard the next morning and she looked surprised.  Whether it was my imagination or something else, I have always kept that memory as a little reminder of the magic of Christmas.

Now that I have kids of my own, I want to create that same magic for them during the Christmas season.  I think that it’s valuable for them to learn to believe in things they can’t see.  Just as they can’t see Santa or explain how he does what he does, they also learn that even though they didn’t live at the time of Christ, they can still believe in the miracles He performed and the gifts He gave through His life and death.

So I’ve come up with some simple ways for you to instill a little magic into the Christmas holiday for your kids.  All of them, with the exception of one, are free and take hardly any prep, but they will leave a lasting impression on your children.  Plus, as the parent, you’ll get to see the joy, excitement and wonder on their face, which for me is more than enough to try out a few of these things myself this year.

Santa Key  Growing up, I moved a lot and as a small child at Christmastime, I had some concerns.  The biggest being: how was Santa going to get into our house if we didn’t have a chimney?  My mom solved this problem, whether through her own inspiration or someone else’s, by telling me that Santa had a special key he used to open the doors of homes that didn’t have a chimney.  This made perfect sense to me and I accepted it without further questioning.

In our current home, we don’t have a chimney and my daughter asked me the same question about how Santa as going to get into our house.  “A magic key!” I told her.  I have a metal key I’m going to tie a ribbon around and show her that we’ll leave it on the outside of our door for Santa.  You can get an idea for a Santa key from here.

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Cookies & Milk for Santa and Carrots for Reindeer  I loved leaving a plate of cookies and a glass of milk out for Santa on Christmas Eve and then running to check and see if he’d eaten them and drank the milk the next morning.  Of course, we couldn’t forget the reindeer, so we left them some carrots to fuel their all night flight.  It would be easy to buy or make a special plate for Santa’s cookies.  Check out this cute tutorial by The Pinning Mama.

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Note from Santa  Leaving a note using special Santa stationary is a fun way to get the kids excited (and maybe even give them a little extra motivation to be good!).  You could print out this free printable and use it throughout December, on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.  This year, we’re going to leave it by the plate of cookies and carrots for my daughter to see when she wakes up to see if the cookies have been eaten.

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Reindeer Dust  This is one of my favorite Christmas magic traditions!  Have you heard of reindeer dust?  It’s a special concoction meant to attract Santa’s reindeer so that Santa comes to your house more quickly!  And when I say special concoction, I mean oatmeal and glitter or sparkles.  Super simple to put together and your kids will love it.  Check out my Reindeer Day post for the recipe and a free printable.

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Santa Footprints  I saw this idea on Pinterest a couple of years ago and thought it was so fun!  All you need is a little flour or baking soda and glitter.  Make yourself a boot print template out of cardboard and sift the flour/baking soda over the top so it leaves a print.  You could make as many or as few as you wanted, leading from the door or the fireplace.  Add a little glitter and–voila!–you have Santa’s footprints.  Your kids will be in awe.  Oh to be little again.  (more details on Not So Idle Hands)

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Picture of Santa in Your House  How fun would it be to have a picture of Santa in your house to show your kids on Christmas morning?  That’s exactly what you can have by going to a website called Capture the Magic.  They let you upload a picture of the room in your house where Santa will be dropping off gifts and then insert your choice of over 100 Santa images into the picture.  Then you can download the picture and print it out or simply email it to yourself as proof to your kids that he visited.  It costs $3.95 for one picture and goes up from there.  *I do not receive anything for promoting their website.  I just think the product is fun.

Call to/from the North Pole  You can receive one free phone call from the North Pole by entering your information on this site.  You can choose if Santa calls or if it’s one of his elves and the message they give when they call.  (If you want more than one call to the same number, you can pay a fee, but the first call is free.) 

If you don’t want to wait for a call to come through, you or your kids can call the North Pole yourself.  This is the number you can call: 951-262-3062.  It’s a cute message from Santa and the kids can even leave a voice message for him. (The phone number itself can be tracked back to California.)

Simple Ways to Create Christmas Magic--fun and simple ideas that are easy and the kids will love!

Where in the World is Santa?  I heard about this website last year from a friend of mine and pulled it up for my daughter on Christmas Eve.  The people behind the website show what countries Santa has visited and where he’s headed next.  There is a map of the world and you can show your kids exactly where Santa is in the world.  It might also be a little motivation to go to sleep knowing that he is already delivering presents to other children around the world. *wink*  It’s completely free to access and lots of fun to watch!

I hope you have fun implementing these ideas in your family this year and in the years to come!  Merry {almost} Christmas!

How do you create Christmas magic in your home?

Splitting Time Between Family During the Holidays

Splitting Time Between Family During the Holidays--great tips on how to balance holiday time with family

The first Christmas my husband and I celebrated after getting married was probably my least favorite.  And it had nothing to do with him!  It had to do with the fact that we tried to split our day between five different places.  By the time we made it to our last stop of the day, we were tired and cranky.  We did our best to muster up the last bit of energy we had, but I’m sure everyone (including us) could tell that our hearts just weren’t in it.  On our way home that night, we vowed that we were never going to allow ourselves to do another Christmas like the one we’d just had.

My husband and I are in a somewhat unique situation in that our families and most of our siblings are all in the same state.  In addition to this, my parents are divorced which means we have three sets of parents.  While we love having so much family nearby, we don’t like it as much during the holidays because it always seems like someone doesn’t get visited or an event can’t be attended.  We’ve experienced a lot of frustration and guilt over the years as we have tried to make everyone happy, to the exclusion of ourselves.

Since that first Christmas almost seven years ago, we’ve gone through a lot of trial and error when it comes to planning how to spend our time during the holidays.  We don’t have it all figured out, but maybe you can learn from our experience and go on to enjoy the holidays a little more fully.

Splitting Time Between Family During the Holidays--great tips on how to balance holiday time with family

You can’t please everyone  This is a hard one for many people, including myself.  I love the holidays and I love spending time with family.  But there is no way to do everything everyone wants you to do every year.  That’s what my husband and I did our first Christmas and it wasn’t enjoyable for anyone.  We hated having to leave family after being with them for such a short time.  We hated having to reject their pleas to stay for “just 10 more minutes”.  And we hated knowing that we were going to have to go through the same thing at the next place we were headed.  We finally learned that no matter how well we tried to schedule our time to fit as much in as possible, someone was always going to be unhappy.  SO now we have to take a look at each major holiday and ask ourselves: “What is best for our family?”  It changes a little from year to year depending on who’s in town, the kids’ nap time, etc.  But we found that if we took care of our family first, everything else was easier to schedule because we already had our basic schedule in place.  This change didn’t happen quickly and it’s taken some time to implement, but compared to our first Christmas, everything runs much more smoothly and I think that everyone is happier because they know what to expect.

Establish fluid traditions  You’ve heard the saying that goes something along the lines of  “celebrating Christmas all year long and not just at Christmastime”.  The idea of course being that we can have the feeling that surrounds Christmas all the time.  I think that this applies to holiday traditions (and other traditions) as well.  We can do different activities throughout the holidays that doing have to happen right on or around Christmas Day (or Thanksgiving or whatever holiday you are celebrating).  By spreading them out, I think it just adds to the excitement and joy of the season.  Holidays are so busy and if the only time you do certain things are during the holidays, it’s possible that doing those activities might lend to more anxiety or frustration rather than the happiness of the event because it’s squished in between everything else you have going on.  (Which leads me to my next point…)

Splitting Time Between Family During the Holidays--great tips on how to balance holiday time with family

Be flexible and willing to compromise  Since having kids, I’ve learned to be more flexible with my time.  I still like planning and schedules and routines, but they aren’t as set in stone as I used to insist on.  Since being married, I’ve learned that true compromise, where both of us are happy with the final decision, is equally important.  Back to my husband and I on our first Christmas: we both wanted to see our families on Christmas, so the “compromise” we made was that we’d spend time with my family during the first half of the day and his family during the second half of the day.  This sounded great in theory, but in practice, we didn’t even make it over to his parent’s house until 8pm that night.  The next year, we spent a little less time with my family and more time with his.  Gradually, we’ve been able to work out a system that my husband and I agree on.  It changes a little from year to year, of course, but the holidays are actually enjoyed instead of dreaded or something to get through.

Splitting Time Between Family During the Holidays--great tips on how to balance holiday time with family

Reaffirm your love to those you can’t see or spend time with  I remember the first year I wasn’t able to make it to my grandma’s annual Christmas Eve party.  I don’t remember why I couldn’t make it, but I felt horrible.  It didn’t seem like Christmas.  When I saw her the next day, I made sure to tell her again that I was sorry I couldn’t come and that I loved her.  I never realized how much holidays and the traditions surrounding them meant to me until the routine I’d grown up with was changed.  Inevitably, there will be someone you can’t see or an event you can’t attend during the holidays.  But I definitely think it softens the blow when you sincerely tell that person(s) that you love them and they are still special and important to you, even though you weren’t able to see them.

The holidays can be challenging when it comes to splitting time between family, but hopefully at least one of these suggestions will help you.

What has helped you when deciding how to split time between family during the holidays?

Traditions I’m Starting This Christmas

When I think of Christmas as a small child, I think of all the different traditions we had growing up.  My mom loved (and still loves) traditions and Christmas is her favorite holiday so we had a lot of them.  Now that I have a family of my own, my husband and I have the opportunity to create new traditions as well as adopting some of the same ones we had in our family.

I remember loving Christmas as a child and wondering how it could get any better than unwrapping presents, playing with new toys and eating yummy food.  And then I became a parent and I was able to see the world from my parents’ eyes as I watched my own kids experience the anticipation on Christmas Eve, their excitement on Christmas morning and just the overall feeling of happiness that seems to radiate from their being.  I loved Christmas as a kid, but I love it even more as a parent.

My daughter’s first Christmas (2012)

My son’s first Christmas (2014)

We have a couple of family traditions already in place for Christmas, but I wanted to add a couple more now that my kids are getting a little older.  I’m sure that as the years pass, we’ll add or discontinue certain traditions to fit our family, so I think the practice of adding new ones each year will help ensure that there is something for everyone and all ages.

My husband and I want to make sure that our kids understand the true meaning of Christmas and not think that it revolves around Santa, elves and presents.  By starting now, we can instill in them at least a basic understanding of how Christmas came to be and why we celebrate it in the first place.  The traditions we are starting this year are simple, but hopefully ones our kids will cherish as they get older.

25 Days of Christ: The 25 Days of Christ is a tradition that was started by a woman who wanted her children to grow up having a more Christ-centered Christmas.  She was worried that they were becoming too engrossed in the materialistic part of Christmas and began thinking about a way she could create a Christ-centered family tradition.  She made ornaments and compiled stories, videos and quotes to go along with them.  Each night her family would read about the meaning of each ornament and take turns hanging it on the tree.  And that is how The 25 Days of Christ tradition came to be.

I absolutely love this idea for families of all ages because it helps us take time away from our busy lives and stop and think about the reason for the season.  I ordered my ornament kit last year (2014) and got part way done painting it but wasn’t able to finish in time to do it with my family.  So we are starting this year instead, which actually works better for us since my daughter is a little older and has a better understanding of who Christ is.  I have a smaller Christmas tree, about 2-3 feet tall, that we can put the ornaments on each night.  Another thing I really like about the kit is that it includes stories and scriptures from both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon.  You can also order it with just the New Testament stories and scriptures if that is your preference.

Unwrap Christmas Books:  I’ve been trying to collect a variety of Christmas books over the last few years so that we could read one to the kids each night in December leading up to Christmas.  I’ve got all sorts, ranging from The Polar Express (affiliate link) to Curious George (affiliate link) that I’ve picked up right at the beginning of the Christmas season or right after when they are on sale.  (I think the most I’ve spent on a book is $7.)  While I don’t have quite enough yet–about 15 books–I still wanted to start this tradition because I know how much my kids love unwrapping presents.  What kid doesn’t, right?  (My husband thinks it’s a waste of wrapping paper, but I just call him “Scrooge” and keep wrapping. *wink*)  They also love to read books and since we don’t read Christmas books at any other time of the year, I figure this is a good way to do it.  Plus, it goes right along with our daily tradition/routine of reading a book to the kids before bedtime.  It’s a total win-win!

If you want to start this tradition, but don’t have enough Christmas books for the days leading up to Christmas, you can do a 12 Days of Christmas, or however many days you have books!  And I don’t think they necessarily need to be Christmas books.  You could easily wrap your existing kids books and let them unwrap those.  This tradition is totally adaptable to your own family!

I am so excited to start these new traditions with my family this year!  Christmas is such a wonderful time and year and I love spending it creating memories and enjoying sweet moments together.

What are your favorite Christmas traditions?  Are you starting any new traditions this year?

Traditions I’m Starting This Thanksgiving

Traditions I'm Starting This Thanksgiving--New traditions to start this year that remind us to be thankful.

Family.  Food.  Football.  The three F’s of Thanksgiving.  In three weeks, families all over the U.S. will be indulging in these activities in abundance.  Homes will become full of the smells of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, warm rolls and three different kinds of jello salad.  Growing up, I attended Thanksgiving dinners with family and friends in their homes, apartments and camping trailers, with no two years being the same.  Each year holds special memories of talking and laughing over food, napping in the afternoon and, of course, football, both on the TV and out in the yard.  And with Halloween past and Christmas coming up, there’s Thanksgiving–tucked right in between the two.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a forgotten holiday.  I think that pretty much everyone celebrates it in some form or another.  But I do think that it gets overshadowed by Christmas and that has always bothered me.

I grew up in a family where traditions were a big deal and we had at least a few for each holiday (Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s, Easter, and so on.)  But I’ve been thinking a lot about traditions lately and I realized that I don’t have any non-food, non-sports related traditions for Thanksgiving and that makes me sad.  I take full responsibility for this and I haven’t really felt the need to start any until recently now that my daughter is getting old enough to understand the reasons we celebrate certain events.  Many traditions at Thanksgiving deal with food or football and while those are both fun things, they are not the reason we even celebrate Thanksgiving in the first place.  There’s nothing wrong with having those traditions but I want to make sure that the element of ‘thanks’ isn’t forgotten among everything else.  So this year I am going to be implementing two new traditions into our family.

Get this free printable at Remodelaholic!

Book of Thanks 
I know a lot of families who go around the table before Thanksgiving dinner starts and say something(s) they are thankful for.  I don’t find any fault in this in and of itself, but when you’re having dinner with 20+ people, it can take a while to go around the table!  And it can be hard to say what you want when you’re in a group and put on the spot like that.  I also feel like not everyone can participate, especially the little kids.  Which is how I came to the conclusion that I wanted to create a way for everyone to share what they are grateful for through what I’m going to call The Book of Thanks.  (My Book of Thanks tutorial can be found here.) 

Here is what I’d like to do:

  • For the adults, they can take a minute at any time during the day to write as much or as little as they want.  
  • For the kids, they can draw a picture or write what they are grateful for.  
  • Take a group picture of everyone who was there.
  • Include the menu and location.
  • Have a place to write down memories of Thanksgiving past and present.

I will have blank printer paper for everyone to write/draw on and then I’ll put it in a plastic sleeve in a binder.  I think this will be a great way for everyone to share their thanks with others as well as a fun way to be able to look back at previous years and remember who was there and the memories that will be shared with each other.

Thankful Tree 
I love this idea.  I’ve seen it around on Pinterest and have been waiting to start it until this year.  My daughter is old enough now that we can ask her what she is grateful for and she can tell us.  So what better way to put us in the thankful spirit than to have each family member take a moment each day to write a few words about what they are grateful for?  It’s not going to be anything fancy: a construction paper tree with construction paper leaves.  We are a few days late starting and while I’d love to do something a little more crafty, it’s more about the purpose than the prettiness.  There are some really cute ones though like this and this if you are feeling like you want to do something more.  (You can see how ours turned out on my Thanksgiving Day 2015 overview.)

What are your favorite family traditions for Thanksgiving?