Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Traditions in our Home

Unless you've literally been buried under a rock, everyone knows how crazy our economy is right now. And like most families we know, we've cut back on a lot of our spending. As the holidays approached, we had to decide what we were going to do, and more importantly, what we were going to do without.

It wasn't only an issue with finances...we had a special treat lined up for our kids this year, and we wanted (very badly) to continue with it. I know that sounds very cryptic, but I'm afraid I can't tell you more about it just now...you'll have to wait!!

So anyway - Jason and I had a big sit-down and discussed the things we usually do for the holidays, and decided what we could let go this year. I am REALLY big on traditions...I feel strongly about the bonds they create within a family...and we have several traditions that revolve around the holidays. For example, there are certain foods we always prepare. I usually start baking candies in November, and cookies in December. All in all, I have about 20 different kinds of cookies and candies that I make each year, and I make A LOT...we give them away to teachers and neighbors and friends, take them to holiday events and to Jason's work for his staff, besides the treats we have for ourselves and Santa. Most of the stuff I make comes from my mom, and stuff she made from HER mom and my Dad's mom, and there are a couple recipes from Jason's Grandma, and some are recipes I've gotten from friends or discovered on my own that made the grade and stayed in the mix.

My mom had a cookbook called Betty Crockers Cooky Book that she used to bake from. Every year, she'd let my sister and I pick one or two new recipes to try. I remember sitting at the counter in our kitchen, thumbing through the book with my sister, looking at the delicious, amazing, sugary confections pictured in it's tattered and stained pages, and trying to decide which amazing new cookie we would try. I remember the smell of vanilla and cinnamon and ginger. I remember the sun filtering through the lace curtains in the windows. I remember my moms flour-covered apron and hands, and the sound of the spoon hitting the sides of the mixing bowl. These are precious...almost sacred... memories for me.

A few years ago, I spotted a vintage copy of the Betty Crocker Cooky Book for sale. It was just like my moms 1960's version...minus the torn and vanilla-splotched pages...and I begged Jason to buy it for me for Christmas, which he did (of course). So now I have the pleasure of having my kids sit on my kitchen counter and look through the book and choose a new recipe to try while I bake cookies. While we bake, we spend time together, and tell stories of Christmas' past, and just BE. We laugh, and they try different doughs, and they beg to be the cookie-roller, or sugar-dipper, or decorator. And I hope that when they are adults, they remember that time as happily as I do.

So - hopefully, as you've read through this, you can see what a HUGE sacrifice it was for me to nix several holiday activities around our house.

My cookie and candy making was the first to go...I also decided to not write a big Christmas letter or include a family photo in our Christmas cards (cut down on postage). Another tradition we have is that everyone gets three presents on Christmas - one from Mom and Dad, one from Brothers and Sisters, and one from Santa. We do this help us remember that Jesus received three gifts on his birth from the Wise Men. This year, we severely reigned in our budget on these gifts, which required a lot more creativity. And we opted to give things that were more "needed" than "wanted".

But before you get all sad that we cancelled our Christmas, there were some traditions that we kept in place. One was the giving of ornaments. Every year, everyone gets a new ornament to trim the tree...usually they're from Hallmark...but not always. We usually put up the tree on Thanksgiving after dinner, and the kids open their new ornaments, and we talk about why they were given that particular ornament, and then we hang them up, and add all the ornaments from years past. Its fun to hear them open their box of ornaments a say: "Oh!! I remember this one!! This was the year I was really into Harry Potter!!", or "Oh, look!! It's the ornament I got when I was a baby! Isn't it cute?". My favorite is: "Mom? When did you get this ornament?" which usually turns into some story about my (or Jason's) childhood and ends with the kids rolling hysterically on the floor (they think anything we did as kids was hilarious ).

We were delayed in putting up our tree this year because our artificial tree (I'm SUPER allergic to pines) had a stand that was so crappy that the last couple years, we'd more or less leaned the tree in a corner, and Jason REFUSED to try and work with that stand again this year. So I had to order a new tree stand, and it took about a week to get here...but FINALLY, on Saturday night, we were able to trim our tree. The stand arrived in the afternoon, which was great, because I was able to put up the tree and get all the lights on before Jason got home. Jason usually does the lights, but he's not very patient or artistic, and he just kinda throws them on. Since I got to do it, I was able to wrap them all up and down the individual branches, and put the beautiful twinkling ones INSIDE the tree, and the solid lights on the outer tips, so our tree looks EXTRA sparkly (I can't tell you how many times a day one of the kids or Jason comment on how BEAUTIFUL our tree looks...even Kaitlyn can be caught just standing and staring at it. I must've used 10 strings of lights...it took a couple hours). So it was ready to go, and we commenced opening our ornaments...
Kaitlyns ornament is a gift bag with a diamond ring, and a car, and a fur coat spilling out from it. It plays the song "Santa Baby", and if you're familiar with the song, and with Kaitlyn, there is really no need to explain the meaning of this ornament any further.
Josephs ornament is part of a series that I started when he was a baby. It is called "Snow Buddies". I started it because he was this chubby little baby and we called him "Buddy", and the the ornaments were these fat little glittery snowman with different animal friends for every year. We've stayed with the series, but sometimes, if something REALLY momentous happens to Joseph, he'll get a second ornament. I don't know if we're going to keep with the series next year, as he's kinda growing up, yet I'm torn because I hate to end the series before it's finished. Luckily, the last couple years, it has still worked. Last year, for example, the snowman had glasses, and that was the year Joseph started wearing glasses. And this year, the snowman is fishing, and Joseph learned to fish at Cub Scout Camp (which he was very excited about).
Savannah also has a series. It is called "Snowball and Tuxedo", and features a fuzzy baby polar bear and penguin doing different winter activities together. She likes it because they are soft and cuddly...like her. This year, the two were sharing a cup of hot chocolate, which is Savannahs FAVORITE winter treat...and a morning request staple from November to March...even here in Florida.
Brigham got a train filled with presents and treats. Brigham LOVES trains, and for the last few years has gotten ornaments featuring Thomas the Tank Engine. It was nice to give him a slightly more "grown-up" train this year. His favorite part? The wheels spin!!

Nicolette also has a series of little Flower Fairies. This year was the Lily Fairy - and the darn thing actually looks like her. I wish you could see it better in this picture...I've got to remember to take a better picture of it. It's really cute.

Dad has gotten ornaments expressing his interests and ranging from exercising, grilling, home improvement, and playing the piano. This year, he got this cute little ornament of a group of Elves all decked out for a day of watching sports. In case you can't see it, they have ESPN painted across their chests...and yeah - that is a real, miniature, foam finger on the third little elf dude.
I hate pictures of myself. Have you noticed I'm never featured on this blog? But I knew people would say something if I wasn't included...so here is a really terrible picture of me taken by my husband. Lets talk about all the things wrong with it, shall we? Firstly, he took it while sitting on the chair and looking up at me - so it looks like I have massive boobs and body, and a teeney-tiny head. Plus - it highlights my chubby face (note: double chin FULLY exposed) and you can look right up my nose, which is so very attractive. Plus, my make-up wore off, like, hours before while I was putting on lights, so my face looks shiny and red and in need of concealer.
Okay - now that you've all had a lesson on how NOT to take a picture, lets talk about my ornament. My kids love it. It is a little Elf with a badge that says "No Peeking Police". He's standing on an ornament with a motion sensor light that detects whenever someone gets too close to the tree, and then it says, like, 12 different things to alert the "peeker". Things like: "STEP AWAY FROM THE CHRISTMAS TREE!" or " Hey!! I can see you! I'm reporting you to the Big Man!". My kids favorite saying: "Back away from the presents, cookie breath!"
And finally...the finished product...
(See - told you it was sparkly...)


Mel said...

I LOVE the ornament tradition. It's one of my favorites. And, in my family, it's like a snowball effect. My mom got them from her parents when she was growing up, and they continue to give them to grandchildren and great-grandchildren. My mom and dad continue to give them to us and now to Kyle, and we give them in our little family. So, everyone gets at least 3 new ornaments a year. We're going to have to get a bigger tree soon!

Julie said...

You are gorgeous to me oh great goddess of all things Christmas and oh so brave to tackle the tree and lights, I so leave that all up to Paul:)