Simple and special

With a world constantly telling us to buy, buy, buy and a to-do list a mile long, it is all too easy to let this time of year become crazy and stressful. That’s not exactly the message I want my children to take away, and so our family has been making a conscious effort to focus on keeping the holidays simple and special this year. Handmade decorations and a handful of thoughtful simple gifts (most of them handmade or purchased used from local thrift shops) are a part of that, as well as family traditions. Family. Friends. Love. Giving; the things that really matter. This year, more than ever, we are reminded to hold each other close and focus on the good we find around us in this sometimes big and scary world.

Some of our traditions are old and time-tested from my childhood: a family candlelight communion, reading the Nativity story, hot cocoa and real (not the yucky boxed) eggnog, new jammies and toothbrushes in the stockings (Mom’s proud of me, I’m sure), a flurry of paper snowflakes on the windows… others are new, added and tweaked each year as we make memories with our own children. We don’t do Santa, or elf on a shelf (I know, bad parents we must be!) as I have just never been comfortable with the idea of gifts being tied to how “good” we are (or lying to our children and potentially confusing them about the meaning of Christmas, for that matter). I better stop now before I offend someone! Lets just say that every family has to develop and hone the traditions that are most meaningful to them, and Santa just doesn’t fit into ours. Don’t worry, Miles won’t go spilling the beans or anything (at least I hope not!)

We have a real tree this year for the first time, adorned with our favorite ornaments both handmade and gifted by loved ones. Finding and cutting down the tree was a wonderful family adventure that will certainly find it’s way into our repertoire of traditions, with the contingency that we also plant a tree in the spring (Poor Miles nearly burst into tears when Stephen started cutting the tree, and once he calmed down enough to talk to me, I remembered that we recently checked out the Lorax from the library. Oh no! He was very excited about the idea of “replacing” our Christmas tree with one we plant together next Spring- I’m thinking another apple perhaps!)

handknit hats for all, I say!

stamped salt dough from last year, crochet garland from my sister, and origami from my art-teacher days

Hunting down Christmas and Winter books from the library was another fun adventure for the boys and a stack of them by a little chair next to the tree makes for a cozy reading nook.

Miles and I put a twist on the ordinary gingerbread house with this nativity idea we spotted on pinterest:

And we took advantage of Zeke’s naptime to make some handmade cards to send to loved ones near and far. We have a few extra, and I’m planning to take the boys by a nearby nursing home to pass them out and hopefully spread a bit of cheer.

We’ve been alternating between old-timey White Christmas and our standby Elizabeth Mitchell on Pandora, and adding a bit of our own music on our new (old 1947 Wurlitzer) piano, a family Christmas gift this year:

In other news, I’m hearing rumors that we may get the tiniest bit of a white Christmas this year?!? Hoping!

not this kind of white Christmas, little stinker! Although, what would Christmas be without a few kitchen messes?

And speaking of kitchen messes:
peppermint bark, of course

And of course, I can’t end this post without mentioning how truly blessed I am to be celebrating TEN wonderful years with this man today:
jodeanandstephen photo by our good friend, Lesa

We haven’t aged a bit, have we?

Wishing you and yours a holiday season filled with peace and joy and light!

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