Christmas with Kids

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November is not even halfway over, and Christmas is in the air!  As we all know, stores have been getting a jump-start on the holidays, placing Christmas items out as early as October.  Well, I guess I am as guilty as they are because I begin planning for the holiday season in September…

Christmas is my all-time favorite holiday of the year, and being a mom makes it all the more exciting.  There are presents to buy, traditions to follow, and magic to spread.  I realize that my boys are only going to be little for a short while, and I am grasping onto every bit of Christmas wonder that I can possibly spend with them.

As I said earlier, my holiday season planning begins in September.  This is around the time that school shopping is done and Halloween costumes have been purchased (Yes, I do that early too…right after school shopping).  I started a new system for holiday gift shopping this year that turned out well: Each month, I purchase a gift card to a store that I would normally shop for Christmas gifts.  I save all of the gift cards in a shoe box until it is time to begin the shopping in September.  Granted, we went low and bought $25 or so gift cards…but the amount saved still added up nicely.  Next year, we will probably raise the amount spent on gift cards to closer to $50 so that there is more saved.  Nevertheless, I was still very satisfied to have a nest egg for my shopping.

I openly admit that our children are spoiled rotten.  Santa is good to them each year, with no real budget on gifts.  They usually get most of what they ask for and of course a ton more.  I know there were over 50 gifts under our tree last year, and this year is looking to exceed that.  Again, this comes back to my thinking that they are not going to be little forever.  The joy on their faces Christmas morning is well worth the money, time, and effort.

When the gifts arrive, which I order mainly online, I try to wrap them shortly after.  They are then hidden away in a tote so that they are completely tree-ready for Christmas Eve.  I know one year, we waited numerous hours for both boys to fall asleep and were quite exhausted ourselves by the end of it.  The less work that night, the better.  Also, wrapping the presents ahead helps me to keep track of the exact amount of presents each boy is being given.

As you may have guessed, Jesse and Kayden write out their Christmas lists months ahead as well.  I use the ruse that family buys early, but it is really Santa who needs the heads-up!  The method works favorably, as the lists are hung on the fridge and added to as Christmas approaches.

November is the time that I try to get my present purchases wrapped up.  As I mentioned, I go by evening out the amount of gifts that each child receives.  I figure that I can set an amount to equal them by when they are older, but they care more about the quantity of wrapped items at this point in their lives.  Black Friday is when the last hurrah of purchases are made, and I aim to have the buying done by then.

Speaking of November: This is the month that Elfie, our family’s Elf on the Shelf, makes his appearance.  Usually arriving on Thanksgiving night, our friendly fellow leaves his book on one of the boys’ beds and chooses his first hiding spot.  This year should be interesting, as the boys will be introduced to “Elf Pets: A Reindeer Tradition.”  They each got their own book and reindeer, to send the North Pole the affection that they show to their special pet reindeer.  Though the boys’ reindeer may be held and cuddled, Elfie must remain up high to keep them from touching him and stopping his magic.  Every night, Quentin and I scramble to find a sneaky hiding spot for Elfie.  Some spots are concealing, while others are fun ideas like “zip lining” through our living room on a piece of thread.  It’s fun to see the boys compete each morning to see who can find Elfie first, and we love that the purpose is to instill good behavior for Elfie to report to Santa each night.

After Thanksgiving is a Small Town Christmas tradition in our town.  The event takes place at night, with Christmas lights hung through the street and the smell of hot cocoa in the air.  There is ice skating, cookie decorating, crafts, and contests.  Jesse and Kayden look forward to sitting on Santa’s lap and mailing their letters to Santa in his special North Pole mailbox.  They even get a letter in response!  This year, we plan to also see a Christmas movie at the theater and the tree lighting ceremony.

The first weekend of December is another Christmas event, held in a town near ours.  This is geared more toward an old-style Christmas theme, with many of the vendors decked out in immaculate Victorian costumes.  This is especially fun, as we can walk the streets to check out the many craft exhibits.

Afterward, it has become our tradition to hunt for our perfect Christmas tree.  We travel to a tree farm nearby, looking to cut down a giant, full beauty.  Quentin always has to cut a large portion off of the tree and trim it further just to get the monster I chose to fit into our living room.  But, in the end…I think he is also glad for our gorgeous Christmas tree.  We decorate that weekend, with the boys hanging the ornaments with us.  I love to take pictures of this moment, their eyes shining and smiles on their faces.  They are growing too fast, and this is one of the many moments that I realize how much taller they are standing next to this tree.

This year, Jesse and Kayden have something special planned for that Sunday: They are going to eat lunch with Santa!  There is a holiday Open House planned at a glass museum that we have visited before, and I thought that this would be the perfect way for them to wrap up the weekend of Christmas fun.  I will be home, as there is food involved and difficult for me to participate in…but I couldn’t resist giving the boys this wonderful opportunity with Quentin.

In between all of those Christmas celebrations are numerous other activities we take part in for the holiday.  Gingerbread decorating, Christmas movie watching, homemade present creating, and other Christmas crafts are just a few of those traditions.  This year, I plan on a bucket list for the kids to complete.

Christmas with relatives is spread out, as it often ends up being with everyone’s work schedules and other plans.  We are actually doing Christmas with Quentin’s family early this year and Christmas with my family a bit later.  It always depends on the way that everything falls.

Either way, Christmas Eve is spent preparing for the big day that is to come.  The boys are ready for bed early; we read a Christmas story; and we set out milk, cookies, and food for the reindeer.  One year, we even set out “Elf donuts” for Elfie!  Elfie leaves Christmas Eve, usually leaving the kids something special that morning to remember him by.  Jesse and Kayden get to bed, and Quentin and I fight to stay quiet and awake till it is time to place the gifts under the tree and fill the stockings.  Of course, we help ourselves to the treats on the table as well!

Christmas Day, Quentin and I are sure to wake up extra early to get around before either of the boys get up.  I always make a special Christmas breakfast, and we cover the boys’ eyes to walk down the stairs and into the kitchen.  Our rule is to eat breakfast first, then presents.  This works the best, as the kids have no appetite after they see their new treasures.  Surprisingly, they do not complain.  They know that there is a time for presents, and they are excited for their special holiday breakfast.  The two get themselves around after breakfast, and then I record and take pictures of every moment I can grasp at the magic that unfolds beside that tree.  Watching them open those gifts is the very best part of it all, and I can’t imagine missing it for the world.

The rest of the day is spent with the boys relishing in their new gifts and us shaking our heads at the way that we have spoiled them—but we do it with a smirk on our faces.  We always have family over to join in the afternoon, and I cook a special Christmas dinner.  The whole process is so much work, but there is nothing more worthwhile to me.

Jesse is 8 years old now, and Kayden is 5.  These two are not going to be mini human beings forever, and they’re not always going to believe in Santa. I was reflecting today that we made a good run of conserving the Christmas magic for them, and we really have.  By the end of the holiday, I am exhausted.  But, my kids will always know how much they are loved and cherished.  I hope that they grow to do the same for their children, building memories that will last a lifetime.

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