What are YOU Choosing for Christmas This Year?

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cross with love ornament

You know when you read a blog, a cookbook, or a curriculum handbook and there are so many choices and it seems like the authors must be wonder women to pull it all off all of the time?

Well, that’s just a figment of our imaginations. Folks who put these things together are creative people who conceive great ideas. They collect them together as a service to others to help them navigate their kitchens or homeschools or life in general.

But they don’t do all those things all the time.

I know this because I’ve met these women in real life. Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mind, told me and a group of other bloggers in her very own living room that she doesn’t do every learning activity in each of her books all the time with all her kids. She’s done all those things in certain seasons of life. She collects the ideas into books and then shares them so that others don’t have to recreate the wheel. She wants folks to choose from the many options available.

A cookbook author doesn’t regularly make all the recipes in her books all the time. She gets take-out sometimes. Or lets her husband cook. Or decides she’s bored with that chicken recipe and puts it on the shelf for a season. But, since she loves the recipes that she’s developed, she compiles them in a book so others can choose. She doesn’t expect you to make every recipe in every book. She wants you to make the things that speak to you, that say, “Yeah, that would be yummy.”

The same goes for Pinterest, Facebook, and the myriad of blogs and websites you read every day. The fabulous ideas that you see there? Those are things to choose from.

They are not things to feel guilted by, shoulda’ed into, or otherwise convinced, that yes, you, too should bake this ridiculous five-layered cake of many colors with five kinds of homemade sprinkles on top.

Buche de Noel Cake

Those things are for you to choose from.

We live in an information age that allows us too many choices to process, let alone do. So, we have to choose.

It goes without saying that my family doesn’t do every Christmas all the things that I’ve shared here in the bites and code of Life as MOM. We’ve done them and loved them. But, life is too complex to do all these great things all the time. We do them sometimes.

As a blogger and a fellow mom, I want to give you choices. I want you to have resources at your fingertips to be the mom you want to be, whether it’s just at Christmas or all year long. But, nowhere, nohow do I presume that anyone should tackle them all.

Life is too short to be a crabby mom. I’ve spent too many December nights staying up way too late spinning my wheels over hand-made gifts, handwritten Christmas cards, and homemade biscotti.

As good as those things are, if they prevent me from being the mom God wants me to be for this season in my family, then they aren’t worth it.

We have to choose.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure, here are the things that I’m choosing this year:

Intentional gifts

In seasons past, I was more concerned that my kids had “enough to open” on Christmas morning. It didn’t matter that they didn’t need or want the thing, I wanted them to feel like they had lots. After sorting through all our “stuff” recently, I’ve decided it’s just not worth it. I’m taking a trick from Kara’s bag and trying to be more intentional with my shopping.

FishPapa and I set a budget for each child and have opted not to give each other gifts. I’ve talked to the kids about the things that matter most to them, and am shopping for things that will add value to their lives and our home.

Someone might be disappointed when the last gift is opened, but aren’t we always?


Traditional foods

On Sunday I posted my selected menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I knew they were meals that my family enjoys. However, FishBoy13 threw me for a loop when he said, “We’re having tamales on Christmas Eve, right, like we always do?”

To be honest, I don’t think we always do that, but we have done it the last couple years, so my menu plan is changing and we’ll bump that make-ahead lasagna feast to a different day. (FishBoy16 insists we always have ham on Christmas, so there we are. Meals are chosen.)

It’s important to me that on special occasions I make the things that are well-loved by my family. They get enough experiments around here as it is. Ha!

Special desserts

The year I lived in France, FishPapa came to visit me at Christmas. My French mom was a wonderful hostess and pulled out all the stops for the meals. Dessert was a traditional Buche de Noel. We’ve kept up the tradition, though I bake my own, and usually use a mix.

And though I do want to keep our sugar intake low, there are certain things that we truly enjoy at the holidays: Jesus Cookies, Chocolate Minty Melts, Snowball Cookies, and Double Chocolate Magic Bars.

Casual Advent observations

I’ve always had a hard time with Advent. Not that I don’t enjoy it, but I feel guilty if I don’t light the candle, read the story, or do the craft on the day it’s supposed to be done. This year, we’re not formally counting down.

Since our tree isn’t up, we aren’t even ready to hang our Jesus (Jesse Tree) ornaments. Instead, the kids and I are reading through The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughren each day for our school devotions. If we skip a day, I double up the next day. I’m trying not to feel like a failure in the midst of it.

ceramic ornaments kids crafting

More crafts and games

My littles are really into crafting and games. Look at them? They are so picking cute!

I’m trying to make more time for these things. They’ve really enjoyed making the gift tags and the ceramic ornaments. We’ve got more of both to make. I personally enjoyed sewing the Fruit of the Spirit Christmas Tree Ornaments and still want to make a few more sets — IF time allows.

But, one caveat: I want these things to be fun, not to just cross off the list and say we did them. Three kids are pictured because three kids really wanted to do the craft. Three others did it later once their game time had been spent. That’s the way it goes sometime.

What we’re not doing

The list of all the things we’re not doing is much longer than what we are. We’re not participating in a Christmas play, serving at the local food bank, attending any parades, putting elves on shelves, or going caroling. We’re not making 12 kinds of cookies, decorating the front yard, or attending a candlelight service. At least not this year.

There are many, many fabulous traditions out there and no shortage of valuable, meaningful activities to do together as a family. But, unless you have endless money, time, and patience, I just don’t think you can do them all. At least I can’t!

While I am tempted to do so, I don’t think you should feel guilty about it.

Patience fruit of the spirit

Be the mom you want to be this season:

Be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. And if there are a few presents to open and some cookies to eat, call it a major victory.

What are YOU choosing this year?

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  1. What a great post. This past year I’ve cut back my blog reading to almost nothing (part of my bigger effort to take control of how I use time, no offense to bloggers!) but I’m so glad I stumbled over here today. We’ve mostly hit our groove as a family in terms of what we choose to do but it’s still necessary to be constantly re-evaluating in order to make sure we’re being true to what we want in the big picture. Especially with regards to the holidays as it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of all the things we “should” do and become overwhelmed.
    This holiday season we’ve but back on a few things and simplified others, like Christmas baking, and so far it’s been a great month.

    Speaking of baking, this post struck home for me in terms of my struggles with food. This year I lost 30lbs, just in time for my 40th birthday, and I feel great. But as much as successful as I’ve been dealing with some demons in terms of how I eat the holiday season has been challenging. I want to indulge in my holiday favorites but I have to be very careful so I don’t backslide into bad eating patterns. Being intentional about how and what I’m eating is a decision making process much like you describe for the holidays as a whole. Thinking of it that way makes me feel much more in control.

    Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I know how valuable that time is. I’m doing some reevaluating of my own this season. It must be the thing to do. It sounds like you’re doing really well, even if the eating is challenging, it sounds like it’s making you think and be more purposeful. That’s great. Have a great Christmas!

  2. Homemade presents. I finished my four year olds big boy quilt today, along with matching sleeping bag for his stuffed elephant (his most requested present). I have a doll quilt and mattress to made and playsilks to dye for the two year old and the baby is probably getting cute drool bibs.
    Santa has a basic toy for each of them, including the doll house I won here. We are hosting the church cookie party and celebrating advent with trader joes calendars and the little people nativity set. The rest, well, we will get a tree and put up a few more decorations, but three under five, this will be a quiet year

    1. Three under five? Yes, ma’am. Make it as quiet as you can. My husband and I didn’t understand why we were as tired we were until we did the math about our kids’ ages. Glad you’re smarter than us and downsizing where you can now!

  3. We are keeping it simple this year as well. We had a snow day last Friday. We used the three-day weekend to put up the tree and a few decorations. My 11 year old made a simple advent tree. We also are reading through The Jesse Tree by Geraldine McCaughren. Each night we sing Christmas Carols before bed. My girls (with some help from Mom of course) are making goody bags for our visiting family — cookies, fudge, peppermint bark and mini loaves of cranberry bread. My daughters are playing piano and guitar for the Christmas Eve services. As you said, the list of what we are not doing is quite long. Unlike years past we did not participate in the city’s holiday walk and tree lighting ceremony; we are putting a few lights on the front porch, but nothing on the roof line or on the trees in the yard; and we are not sending hand-written Christmas cards. My menus for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are smaller and easier as well. Last year I was exhausted by the time the holidays were over. I promised myself I was not going to overdo this year.

  4. I have tried to scale back as far as events so that we have more free evenings to just hang out at home and not be always coming and going. That means saying no to some invitations and not even letting the kids know about opportunities around town – what they don’t know won’t hurt them! My shopping is almost all done except a few stocking stuffers. No it’s not handmade items by me but as a non-crafty person that would just cause me stress. I narrowed down the list of baking and making to just a favorite few and for at least one I will be using a mix. Yes, I am talking to you gingerbread men – you are coming from a mix! 🙂 And of the ones we make, I am also cutting down on the volume so we don’t overdo the sugar this season. As for menu items – Christmas Eve is always an appetizer type party at my parents and Christmas Day breakfast is make ahead cinnamon rolls with scrambled eggs and sausages. Christmas Day dinner is taken care of by my mothers pan of Johnny Marzetti. For the last several years, as a gift to each other, I give my parents a pan of make ahead cinnamon rolls for their Christmas breakfast and they give us a pan of her johnny marzetti that I can just throw in the oven for dinner. After dinner it’s a walk to the town square Nativity followed by some hot chocolate.

      1. Yes, it does sound like a man doesn’t it? LOL Here is a link with a brief description. I think it’s a regional thing as it started in Columbus, OH by what is now the Marzetti Salad Dressing Company (based on Columbus). These recipes don’t exactly match my Mom’s, which I think she got from and old church cookbook, but it is basically a pasta casserole dish. http://old.post-gazette.com/food/19991104mailbox.asp

  5. Well, this year, we’re making settlement on 12/16…and moving officially 12/21! That’s kinda consuming our month. No decorations are up yet, but cards were sent early and all gifts are wrapped and packed in bins. We decided to focus on our favorite traditions. We baked most of our favorites thanksgiving weekend. Wel’ll do the candlelight service at church and most of our schooling has revolved around Christmas themed lap books of different kinds. But we’re saving that Fruit of the Spirit ornaments for sometime in the new year!

  6. I love this blog! I tend to completely over extend myself during the holidays. With 5 kids and a full time job I need to know when to say no. My husband would be thrilled. He’s not a fan of stressed out Mama.

  7. I love this blog, and it’s always my first stop when I have free time on the computer. 🙂 This is confirmation to me of what I have been thinking about lately. I am one of those stressed out people at this time of the year too. I can never seem to feel like I am not always behind or not good enough at whatever we are doing.

    I decided this year that only the very important things will be done, and I know what the important foods are and the traditions that make my family happy. I’m giving the rest up so that I can have some joy this season without the plastic smile I usually paste on. The only exception to this is the Christmas cards that I SO wish I could give up. It is very important to my hubby, although he doesn’t feel the need to do them and just hounds me about getting them out every year. I’m doing them FOR him this year and not going to be resentful.

  8. Uh, last year I was 6 months pregnant and tried to do so much I started having contractions! Totally scaling back this year. I have some guilt but I really really don’t think my 3 kids 5 and under have noticed. 🙂