Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Christmas On Purpose.
I honestly don't know anyone who loves Christmas more than I do.
As long as I can remember, I have appreciated the sacredness. The magic. The feeling. And contrary to what people say, the appreciation and anticipation I feel about the month of December doesn't lessen as I age. If anything, it strengthens.
I love the shopping. The crowds (which says alot coming from someone who is slightly crowd-phobic). The colors. The bustle. The parties. The full calendar. The music. The sappy Hallmark movies. The wrapping. The baking. The eating. Santa. Creating Ellie the Elf's mischief. The look on Abi's face as we get closer to the big day.
All of it.
With each passing year, I see my time with my children getting shorter and shorter. When I was at "home" for Thanksgiving (North Alabama), I thought about how when my grandparents were providing Christmas for my parents and their siblings, they didn't yet fathom the time when they would wake up childless on Christmas morning, their offspring scattered all over the map, snug in their own homes, creating their own traditions.
No, when you're a parent of small children, you are up to your eyeballs in class parties, Santa's lap visits, wishlists, and holiday shopping meltdowns. You start off with great intentions, but before you know it, crisis management itself steals December from your hands and it's January 2nd... And you feel like you missed it all.
I am all about doing living on purpose. If you follow my blog at all, you know I look for deliberate moments to teach my children in. Do I hit every moment? Nope. Do I try to? Nope. But I have learned that if I will find what I am looking for. So as best as I can, and as my energy allows, I look for opportunities to parent on purpose. Which brings me to Christmas.
My childhood is PLASTERED in good memories of Christmastime. I cannot remember one single bad Christmas... not even the year I remember lying on the couch with a stomach virus as there was some fun church party I was missing. Know why? My mom made Christmas something that was so tangible, so real, you could touch it everywhere. We didn't have alot of money. In fact, I didn't know how poor we were until I look back now. No telling how long they saved in order to get me that boombox that year, or that leather jacket I just had to have in 1991... But honestly, that's not what stands out in my mind. Know what does?
A lit tree, with colored lights because colored lights are my favorite.
Cookie crumbs from Santa's snack on Christmas Eve.
Chewed carrot crumbles on the driveway Christmas morning.
Mom attending every single school party, baked yummies in hand, until I was in highschool.
Christmas music wafting through the house all the time.
Watching the original Grinch and claymation Rudolph with my dad.
Sitting in the kitchen with Mom while she did what she does best.
Our kids are unfortunately becoming desensitized to simplicity. They prefer gadgets to board games. They'd rather text us than talk to us. They had rather see the movie than read the book. This is the age we live in. And there's parts of it that's ok. However, if we want our children to look back on Christmases with smiles on their faces, we have to make it so... ON PURPOSE. I have decided to outline a few ideas for you, one for every day of the month, so you can get back to the warm fuzzy feeling that is Christmas, and duplicate it in your kiddos. This isn't in any way to box you in, but to spur your creativity on to think outside the box. Some ideas will take an evening, and some only 5-10 minutes. Feel free to switch the days around, and feel free to omit and change what you wish.
DEC 1- Bake cookies. Together. Even if it's the pre-made pull apart kind. Pour milk and eat them all. Easy.
DEC 2- Visit a local park that's lit up. Even if it's cold. Play on the playground equipment. (Yep, you- an adult. **GASP**)
DEC 3- Write a card/email/letter to a soldier. www.letterstosoldiers.org
DEC 4- Turn off all the lights except your tree lights and play hide and go seek.
DEC 5- Watch "Elf" on USA channel, tonight at 6 PM EST. (Yes, I just recommended TV)
DEC 6- Hang candy canes all over your house while the kids are at school. On bookshelves, the tree, light fixtures, curtain rods, door frames... a prize goes to the person who finds the most as soon as they all get home from school.
DEC 7- "Christmas With a Capital C" movie at FB Church. Not local? Go to church somewhere. That's Christmasy all year. :-)
DEC 8- Make everyone wear a Santa hat from the time they get home until they go to bed. If you catch them without it on, they have to eat a slice of fruitcake.
DEC 9- All night Christmas movie marathon. ABC Family or Hallmark movies, pizza, soda, and then later egg nog and popcorn. Until everyone's asleep.
DEC 10- If you're in Lake County, FL, come to hayride and bonfire at FB Church's new property. If not, take a walk through a Christmas tree farm as a family. Breathe it all in. These smells will be gone in just a month.
DEC 11- After church, let your lunch settle and take your nap. Then, line the fam up for a chocolate milk relay. Divide into two teams. Everyone gets a straw. Pour two giant glasses or pitchers of chocolate milk. When the Christmas music starts, the first person runs and starts drinking with his/her straw. When you yell SWITCH, the player runs back and tags the next person proceeds. First team to finish their milk wins. Not enough players for teams? Have a contest, one-on-one to see who can drink his or her milk the fastest! BRAIN FREEZE!
DEC 12- Red and green dinner night. Be creative, but all foods must be Christmas colors.
DEC 13- The Twelve Days of Christmas begins today! Find as many variations of the song as possible and play it until your family pulls their hair out.
DEC 14- Santa Beard! Put Vaseline on a player's face. Then see how quickly you can put cotton balls all over the place and make the coolest beard ever.
DEC 15- Write a letter to Santa. Each person. Even your grumpiest teenager. And mail them to the North Pole.
DEC 16- Go to the library and check out at least 3-4 children's books on Christmas. Tonight, read them outloud. Then, read the REAL Christmas story, from Luke. Compare the fiction ones to the real one. What's hard to believe about each story, even the real one?
DEC 17- Put everyone's names in a bowl. Draw names. Give every person a dollar (plus tax). Go to the Dollar Tree. (Do this in shifts if you need to, to keep the secret). Each person buys for the person whose name they drew. The gift must be something that represents that person's place in the family. Like: "I bought you these Sour Patch Kids candies because sometimes you're grumpy, but inside you're really sweet." Or "I bought you this box of Band-Aids because you always make me feel better." Go home and each person wrap their gift. Put under the tree.
DEC 18- One week until the big day! Decide as a family to do an outreach together at some point this week. Sit down and discuss ideas like: cookies to police station, a plate of Christmas dinner to a shut-in, reading the Christmas story in a nursing home, or Christmas caroling around the neighborhood. Put it in ink on the calendar for a day this week. Leave space in whatever day you choose to bless people who cannot really "bless you back". (This is not to be confused with tomorrow's activity...)
DEC 19- Bake cookies and treats for special people in your lives and take them to them as thank yous. Leave some in your mailbox for mail delivery person, take to your child's pediatrician and dentist, and drop off some to your child's teacher at church. Nothing says "thank you" like something from your kitchen.
DEC 20- No TV tonight. Just Christmas music and board games. No overhead lights, either. Tree lights and candles. Just because.
DEC 21- The Polar Express comes on tonight at 8:30 EST. Seriously? Don't miss it. Everyone wears pajamas. Not optional.
DEC 22- Walk around your neighborhood and look at Christmas lights. No one lit up on your street? Walk anyway, and pray for each house, outloud. Take turns. Speak blessings on each residence. May feel weird at first. And if it's too weird to "pray," just say "I hope the people in that house are healthy all year." Or, "I believe the people in the blue house will get the new roof they've been needing this year." Speak blessings!
DEC 23- Getting CLOSE! Tonight, make everyone a cup of hot chocolate. Sit in a circle and play the ABC game. "This year, I was thankful for Allison. She's a good friend." Next person- "This year, I was thankful for the new Baby." If you have older kids/teens, do it the more challenging way, where each person repeats everything they have heard, adding their letter to the roster. For instance, the person with "E" as to remember what A,B,C,and D said before adding their E.
DEC 24- Christmas EVE! So many fun things to do. For starters, go to breakfast together as a family. Open your dollar gifts from each other. Find a church service to attend. Have communion together as a family. Watch "It's a Wonderful Life," tonight at 8:00 EST on NBC. Drive around and look at lights one more time. Somehow, they'll look differently after tonight.
DEC 25- The BIG DAY! Before presents are torn into, pray together as a family and thank God for His abundance in your lives this year. Draw attention to the fact that without His Gift, today would be just another winter day. After the demolishing of gift wrap, employ little hands to clean up before toyfest begins. Eat breakfast. Play. Be a kid all day long. Laugh. Snort. Take photos, both by camera and in your heart. Referee the fights. Let them "not" share their new toy, just for today. Through the day, take time to gather each precious face in your hands and look into their eyes and speak love into them. Send them to bed. Sit down. Breathe.
And enjoy the ride.
Merry Christmas, Moms. Merry Christmas, Dads. Make it count. All of it.