Give Santa a Break!

The holidays are such a fun time of year and should be filled with so much joy! I think there is something so magical about everyone everywhere celebrating something! It’s a beautiful thing.

Growing up, Christmas was a fun time of year and something you look forward to all year long. Once you become an adult it’s like the fun changes to stress, and the countdown of excitement, turns into the dreaded “How much longer do we have to pay for everything or get all the things done”. I’ve seen the effect the holidays can have on some people, and unfortunately it’s not all merry and bright, if you know what I mean!

I know for my family personally I want my girls to have the most incredible Christmas, filled with all the festivities and events, with the perfect photo with Santa, and the most sparkly festive Christmas morning! I see so many people including myself get caught up in the stress of the holidays and totally miss out on all the good.

No matter what you celebrate this rings true! This time of year is about spending time with your family, making those lasting memories together. Engaging in traditions that have been in your family forever, things your great great grandma started. It’s about inviting people into your home and loving on them. Serving and giving to others.

Don’t get me wrong! Every mama loves to see the look on their babies face when Santa came to visit and left them some goodies under the tree. I thought I loved getting gifts but after having kids, nothing beats the feeling of lighting up their little world! In my opinion the gifts do have their place in the holidays. I mean it’s a celebration, a party, a big ol’ birthday bash! But the holidays don’t revolve around the gifts. That is what I am trying to get across to all the moms out there stressing over Wwhat are we going to get the kids?”, or “How are we going to afford to buy everyone gifts this year?” Santa has a lot of kids to visit so don’t stress yourself out too much thinking about what he will leave your kiddos.

If you are anything like me then you love a good practical list! I put together a little list of things you can do with your family this season to keep your hearts joyful amidst the crazy.

1. Serve others! Do some sort of random act of kindness as a family. There are so many options when it comes to this, whether it’s serving in a soup kitchen, baking holiday treats and delivering them to your neighbors, or taking gifts to your local fire station/police station. The options are endless! Think “How can I make someone else’s holiday magical?” Ask your kids that question and let them be creative and brainstorm some ideas!

2. Teach your babies to give! I know for sure my girls have way too many toys for them to love. Have your kids go through their toys, books, clothes, really everything and donate it! Give it to a family that you know may not be able to give gifts this season. Involve your little ones and explain to them that it’s time to pass some of their toys onto another little boy or girl to love. My daughter gets so excited when she thinks about gifting it to another little girl. If you don’t know where to take your items, Goodwill is always a great place to donate! 

3. Give your kids the opportunity to gift someone else. There are so many opportunities to buy gifts for other little ones this season. Give your children some money or if they are a little older have them raise money and take them to a store and let them pick out something to gift to someone else. We have let Charlie do this a couple times but this year will be the first year she can really grasp what she is doing. She’s only three years old but their hearts definitely understand giving…ya know after mom and dad tell them about 10 times “we’re not here to buy a toy for you!” 

4. Ask your kids what they want to do! I am so guilty of planning all the activities that I think would be so fun and they would all love! But kids are simple. Sometimes your babies just want to snuggle up with you and watch Charlie Brown. Some of my greatest memories with my girls and husband have been on our lazy weekends just spending quality time together!

5. Lastly, give Santa a break! I mean Santa’s not supposed to have a sleigh full of toys just for your kids! Plan your gifts. Your kids don’t need the whole Disney aisle at target. Trust me I want to buy my girls all the princesses too because I know they would love it. But how many dolls can two little girls play with? Kids actually play better with less! This year our family will be buying each other four gifts! Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read! Four gifts from mommy and daddy, and of course the few gifts Santa decides to drop off!

Speaking of the big SC! Kids talk and share all the things Santa left for them on Christmas morning. Be mindful of other families and the money that is being spent. A seven year old doesn’t understand why he got a basketball and little Johnny over there got an xbox one. Be mindful, mommas and daddies. Don’t crush the magic for other kids or make those parents have to have that uncomfortable conversation. Keep the expensive gifts from you and leave the simple stuff to Santa!

Now enjoy the most wonderful time of year with your family!

I hope this encouraged you this holiday season to soak it all in and not stress about the little things. Let’s go out this Christmas season and spread all the holiday cheer! Make some new family traditions with your kids and show them the real reason for the season!

How to Make Christmas Magic

It’s that time of the year, and if you ask me – it’s the best time of the year

It is the warmest, most beautiful,  most emotional and the most spiritual time of the year -Christmas !

Unfortunately over the years it has become the most expensive and most stressful .

There is constant pressure that everything has to be perfect, which can cause you a lot of stress. But it doesn’t have to be really that complicated. Enjoying Christmas doesn’t have to cost that much.

Christmas magic is already in the air – you just need to add a little glitter.

The key is to keep everything simple and fun. Here are some ways to do so!

  • Decoration

Every time I go into any shop, Christmas decorations are so tempting and I want to buy them ALL! I always end up buying a lot of decorations that, let’s be honest, I don’t even need.

How about this? Instead of spending a lot of money on decorations- make them. Make them together with your kids. Kids will be happy because you are doing something together and they will have a lot fun making them. There will most likely be a lot of glue and glitter around the house, but also a lot of fun.

And yes I almost forgot…Put an orange peel on the heater vent. It looks nice and smells even nicer.

  • Dinner is ready !

           First – don’t overcook. Second- be smart when picking the menu. What would make you think that your kid will eat something that he or she doesn’t usually eat, only because it’s Christmas?

Don’t experiment with new things. I don’t know about your kid, but it’s easier for me to get him to brush his teeth than it is to get him to try to eat something new. So make something that everybody likes.

For example, my younger son likes broccoli ( not my child, I don’t know how that happened) so I will make him a Christmas tree from broccoli.

I like butternut squash, so I will make butternut squash in the oven with extra cinnamon on top. It is delicious and the house will smell like heaven.

My husband likes beer. I will put antlers, eyes and a red nose on the bottle so he will have reindeer beer.

And my older son…oh well he likes chips. How festive is that?! But since I will be making Christmas magic, I will make him home made sweet potato chips. Bon appetit !

  • In vino veritas

“In wine lies the truth” – Latin phrase

Hot wine, mulled wine, gluhwein, vin chaud – call it whatever you like. Red wine or white, you pick. There is no need  for it to be expensive and good  since you can add spices to give it some flavour. Just add oranges, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom… That’s something for you, so you can survive all those Christmas preparations.

  • Family traditions

Start your own family tradition. This year I’m planning to start new tradition where we watch home videos from when we were young. It will be very interesting for my kids to see what my husband and I looked like when we were little.

They will remember this all their life, and maybe one day they will sit with their kids telling them how their parents had this tradition when they were young.

This way you will stay with them forever…

  • Gifts

I don’t remember any present I received back when I was kid, but I do remember my father serving dinner dressed up as Santa. We were laughing and my younger sister was crying because father didn’t come to Christmas dinner.

I used to spend a lot of money on presents so that my kids could end up playing with a box. So keep it simple. It’s better to have a few small gifts, but wrapped nicely. I just love wrapping! Use your imagination here too. Write nice cards. Let your kids draw something on the paper and wrap gifts with that.

Wrap them experiences and memories, not the gifts.

  • We are not alone in this world

Use opportunities to teach your kids empathy and the beauty of giving and sharing. Let them go through toys that they don’t use anymore and have them donate them to other children. It teaches your kids giving, and helps make other kids happy as well.

Fifteen years from now your kids will not remember gifts. They will remember you being there.

They will remember their brothers poop explosion during Christmas dinner. They will remember their father falling asleep and his snoring during the Christmas movie.

They will remember the smell of hot chocolate, orange and cinnamon.

They will remember magic that YOU, their mother, put together.

And you…you don’t need magic, you already have it. Your magic is your kids laugh and having your family together…

Ok…and hot wine.

Salt Dough Christmas Crafts

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year! There’s nothing like a cold winter night cuddled up on the sofa with the fireplace going, sipping a cup of hot cocoa with the Christmas tree lights illuminating the room.

Growing up, my mom had a tradition. Each year she’d get my brother and I a new ornament. I love keeping that tradition alive to this day. It’s so much fun adding a new addition to the tree each year.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a crafty lady. It’s fun to go out and buy a new ornament but it’s even better to make one of our very own!

Salt dough is such a fun and easy project to do with the kiddos. It just takes a few simple kitchen ingredients for hours of fun. It’s non-toxic and safe to use, even for the youngest of children. Kids can have so much fun rolling out the dough and it helps with their fine motor skills. You can also let them help you measure out the ingredients for a math lesson!

This is a fun project I did for many years with my students. It’s a great keepsake for parents to collect each year to watch their children grow.

It can be fun for grown ups to get in on the action too. Make hand prints of the whole family to add to your tree!

Now, while making salt dough isn’t an exact science, I’m going to give you my recipe. You may need to tweak it a little bit to get the exact consistency that works for you.

Start with a large mixing bowl

Add flour and salt

Mix together

 

Next, slowly pour in the water mixing as you go.

 

You may not need the whole cup but if you do use the whole thing and find the dough to be to sticky, just sprinkle a small handful of flour and keep mixing until you get the consistency that you like.

 

Once I have it mixed fairly well in the mixing bowl, I lightly flour the counter, dump the mixture out and knead it, just like bread, until it’s nice a fluffy. Sometimes during this process I add a few more drops of water or sprinkles of flour. There’s really no right or wrong consistency, just as long as the dough doesn’t end up sticking to the counter.

When you have your dough mixed..now comes the fun part!

Roll your dough in to a ball, place in front of your child and let them roll it out! Slowly roll the rolling pin back and fourth across your dough until it’s about a half of an inch thick. You can make your ornaments as thick as you’d like, just remember the thicker they are the heavier they will be when they dry and on the flip side, if the dough is too thin, it will rip.

You can use cookie cutters to make fun shapes. We chose to make hand print ornaments. Hand print crafts are my absolute favorite. It’s such a precious memory to look back on and see how tiny your kiddos hand were.

Once you have your shapes, lay the ornaments out on a greased cookie sheet or parchment paper.

Make sure to poke a small hole at the top so you can thread it later to hang on the tree

(I used a Capri Sun straw to poke the holes)

 

Next, just pop them in a 300 degree oven for about an hour. Times may vary depending on how thick or thin you rolled your salt dough. I like to keep a close eye on my ornaments as they dry just to prevent any cracking. You can also leave your ornaments out to air dry but that can take a day or two.

Once your ornaments have hardened, take them out of the oven and let them cool down.

 

Now you’re ready to paint!

I love Craft Smart Acrylic paints. They come in lots of colors, they’re non-toxic and they wash off little hands easily.

That’s it! Easy peasy Christmas ornaments you’ll treasure for years to come, along with all the precious memories you’ll create while making them!

If you have any questions about anything mentioned in my article please feel free to comment!

Merry Christmas, Mama’s!

When You’re the ‘Small’ Family for the Holidays

The holidays bring about memories of everyone gathered under one roof, sharing presents and meals, laughter and cheer. Our home is a little more quiet and our place settings are fewer. The day is still special, yes; but far more simple. You see, we’re on the opposite side of the country from the rest of our families. We are the ‘small family’ for the holidays, with it being just myself, my fiancé and our son. Small in size, big on love.

When we made the decision to move from Massachusetts to Washington state, we knew the holiday season would be different. We knew our son, an only child, wouldn’t be bustling back and forth between different families houses over the celebratory days. We knew we wouldn’t be going to the same tree farm Patrick and I grew up going to every year. But that was okay; because as we grew older and started our own family, things changed in our extended families and the generations who seemed to uphold those traditions passed on. It was up to us to start new ones.

It can be hard, seeing other families at the school assemblies with tribes of people there to support their kiddo while it’s just you two, the parents. It can be hard, waking up on those holiday mornings and knowing it’s just on you to make this day special. It can be hard, remembering what the holidays were like when you were a kid and it seemed like there was a house full of people but your child only knows a morning of you three.  You wonder if he’s missing out on some fundamental part of childhood because he’s not building forts with cousins or careening down the hill going questionably fast on a sled in your grandparents backyard. (Though some would argue that we also miss out on the logistical nightmare that is holiday air travel!)

But it’s not the size of your dinner table, your tree, your list of gifts, or visitors cars in the driveway.

It’s the laughter in the room, the smile on his face, and how he will always remember the traditions we are making, Here and now. Instead of getting sad or anxious about how things aren’t quite the same for our son as they were for us, we’ve taken on the season as our own and made our own traditions. We found our own favorite tree farm here in Washington. we visit our favorite Christmas lights attraction and make our own playlist. We spend the morning in our home, laughing and enjoying simple gifts and a good meal.

It is always enough for them, mama. No matter what you do, the day is magical for them because they believe that it is. Don’t get so caught up wondering if you’re ‘big’ enough for them and forget to enjoy the wonder of the small things.

Podcast: Bring On The Holidays: Our Busy Holiday Schedule

Listen on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and other major podcast apps through here!

 

Co-hosts, Paige + Leslie talk about their holiday schedules witb their kids, and some tips on how to make the hussle and bussle a little easier for their little ones. Paige talks about accidentally telling her step-son that Santa isn’t real.


Show Notes

Co-Hosts: Paige Martinek + Leslie Caruthers

 

What holiday traditions do you have? Comment below?

Podcast:How To Have A Minimalist Christmas ( And More) With JoLynn Graubart

 

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Listen on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and other major podcast apps through here!

 

Co-hosts, Paige + Leslie with Outnumbered Mamas contributor and guest, JoLynn Graubart discuss minimalism. JoLynn is a minimalist- in- progress and gives us tips on how her family celebrates Christmas with their two children.


Show Notes

Co-Hosts: Paige Martinek + Leslie Caruthers

Guest Host: JoLynn Graubart

Links from this podcast:

How To Have A Minimalist Christmas

Letters From Afar

How to Have a “Minimalist” Christmas

Okay, Mamas. This is an upfront disclaimer that I am a “minimalist in-progress.” Can we just agree that there is a middle-ground somewhere between shaming people who have throw pillows and keeping every book you’ve ever read? Maybe room for a family still clinging to their dying DVD collection, but intentionally inching towards minimalist living? That would be the category my family fits into.

Minimalism is all the rage, right? But what does it have to do with our families? One study found that an average 10 year old owns 238 toys, but only plays with 12 of them on a regular basis (1). Raise your hand if you just started mentally counting all of your children’s toys? (Yes, every Barbie shoe and Lego block counts.)

When I chose to embrace minimalism it was because I saw it as a way to raise content, grateful, and creative kids- the kind of kids who use the things they have with the fullness of their imagination; kids whose general state of happiness floats above the “need” for more and more stuff. Firstly, you’re right if you think that it must be BOTH satisfying and also completely terrifying to purge mass quantities of stuff with small people living in your house. Secondly, the peace found at the end of the process outweighs the energy and time commitment it takes – I promise.

As I’ve introduced this concept to the people in my kids’ lives (in other words, the people who give them gifts), they almost always get around to asking, “but what about Christmas?”

What about Christmas? Won’t there be a full-scale revolt if the pile under the tree shrinks suddenly?! How do you even get started with something like this? First…

Get your kids on board – I think most of us underestimate our kids. Children tend to be open to new ideas when they understand why something is happening. Talk to your kids honestly. Explain how wonderful it would be if their lives (and rooms) were only full of the things that they love and the things that they use. Talk up the beauty of simplicity! They’ll have less things to pick up at “clean up time.” They’ll be able to find that treasured item that always gets misplaced under a pile of junk.

They will follow your lead – Before tackling the playroom, demonstrate the process in other areas of the home and let them be part of the process. Cleaning out the pantry? Mommy is getting rid of things she doesn’t love and doesn’t use. Let them see how you make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Watch an episode of Marie Kondo’s new show on Netflix together, and then hit their closets asking, “Does this bring me joy?” (my girls LOVED this part! They even made Daddy do it). Make it fun and exciting, a whole new way of looking at things.

Start the process now, not on Christmas EveBut what about Christmas?! This is a lifestyle change, guys. It’s going to take some getting used to. So the sooner you start having conversations the better. That also gives you the chance to work with your kids towards simplifying their playroom and bedrooms before a huge influx of gifts.

One thing that’s worked really well with my kids is giving them the option of only picking up the things they love. This is a winner in my house especially when the playroom floor is trashed. I frame it like, “guys I’m going to do you a huge favor. All you have to do is put away the things that you use and that you love, and Mommy will handle the rest.” Note: be careful to preserve trust and to respect your children during this process. At our house, the kids know that those trashbags go to the basement before they head to Goodwill. I stash them there for 2 months, and if they aren’t touched in that time, they get donated. The girls understand this process, so they are way more willing to let me haul that singing Elsa away in a plastic bag.

Clue in the relatives –  People are going to think you’re crazy. Get comfortable with that. They’re also going to be really uncomfortable NOT buying loads of stuff for you and your kids. Don’t apologize about going against the grain, but do give them ideas! If you need some, keep reading. Make an Amazon list for each of your kids and share it with family members. Most people want to get gifts that really bless you, and are thrilled to know exactly what that is.

What do you buy them? 

  1. Subscription boxes & magazines: what’s better than one gift that gets ignored in 2 weeks? A give that comes 12 times in a year! There are subscription boxes for everything from cultural cooking to woodworking. Google your child’s age/interest and I bet you find something amazing. Our absolute FAVORITE is Letters From Afar.
  2. Experiences: Museum & Zoo passes, Aquarium memberships, movie giftcards all fall under this category. My in-laws made the sweetest “box of dates” for our girls last year. Each 1st of the month they would open an envelope with a pre-planned date with Nana & Grandpop in it. It was super fun!
  3. Classes: How about getting grandma and grandpa to invest in a skill your kids are dying to work on, like gymnastics, swimming, karate lessons, space camp?!
  4. Open-ended toys: These are toys that can be used in more than one way, and for more than one age-group. I’m convinced that my kids could have happily survived the last 7 years playing with just silk scarves, Animal Figurines, and Magnet Blocks. Those are our top three for sure. (your standard cardboard box also fits in this category)
  5. Consumable items & Handicrafts: Art supplies are a hot commodity around here, and are always a crowd-pleaser. I mean who doesn’t love a fresh box of crayons or an elaborate coloring book.  This is also a great time to invest in a hands-on creative skill like crocheting, felting, sewing, beading, woodworking, or musical instruments.

Focus on the stuff that isn’t “stuff” – Since down-sizing our Christmas, we instead have time, energy, and mental space to pack the whole month of December with memory making. In fact, Advent kicks off the week of Thanksgiving in this house with a cranberry/popcorn/orange garland making fest. We read all the Christmas books, sing all the songs, watch all the movies, eat and bake and just generally pack this month full of good times. Here’s five ideas to get you started:

  1. Read good books together as a family: Sarah Mackenzie at Read-Aloud Revival has a great reading list! Grab a bunch of Christmas picture books from the library, wrap up 24 of them, and open one a day to read as a family. Or better yet, pick a big juicy classic novel like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to read over dinner each night (with Turkish Delight of course).
  2. Drive around the neighborhood with cocoa looking for Christmas lights.
  3. Make homemade salt-dough ornaments or sugar scrubs to give out to friends and family as gifts.
  4. On Christmas Eve make (more) cocoa and have a night picnic under the stars. We always take our popcorn garlands outside at this point, and hang them up on the trees for the animals.
  5. Set up a card making station for your kids full of stickers, stamps, and glitter. We make cards while listening to carols or audio-books all month long, and then bring them to a local nursing home. Focus on the GIVING, not the getting.

 

Further reading suggestions: Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquilyn Smith

Listen to JoLynn on The Outnumbered Mama’s Podcast to hear more about her minimalist lifestyle, and how she and her family celebrate Christmas.

 

  1. https://www.uctv.tv/RelatedContent.aspx?RelatedID=301

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