12 Days of Christmas – Sweet Memories

We took down our Christmas tree today.  I didn’t realize until today that it lasted all 12 days of Christmas.

Our real Fraser Fir was nick named Mr. FFR (fluffy, Fraser) by my kids, and yes, we name our trees.  It’s a thing…maybe just our thing? Anyway, Mr. FFR really lasted a long time.  Sure the needles were falling, but he really looked full and beautiful adorned with lights and ornaments until the very end.

Just look:

mr ffr 2018

Our tree in 2018

Every Christmas Tree Tells a Story

I couldn’t help but feel a little sentimental taking down the tree with so many stories behind the decorations on our tree year after year.  Our grandparents and parents gave us so many beautiful ornaments from little on, and some of them have become our daughter’s favorites. My dad handmade wooden sled ornaments years ago.  My mom made both the angel that tops our tree and the tree skirt at the bottom.

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Big Sumo Kitty loves sitting on the tree skirt my mom made.

Ornaments remind me of places we’ve lived or traveled – two more recent ones from the Grand Canyon and South Dakota.

There’s ornaments from Germany and Austria to remember my high school foreign exchange program and my semester abroad in Vienna. There’s a hang gliding Santa that my best friend gave me because I went paragliding in Switzerland.

One plastic orb holds freeze dried flowers from my wedding bouquet.

Another high heel ornament reminds me of our favorite girls’ nights with my sister, cousin and aunt.

Each one of us have ornaments from the year we were born – mine and Daddy O’s looking a little more well-loved than our kids’ numerous baby ornaments.

This tree is our life as a family.  It’s adorned with a whole lot of love through many years.

And then there’s  the ornaments and gifts that our kids have made.  Each year more ornament crafts make their way from backpacks and onto our tree.  Today, I have to confess, that some of the ones in bad shape (sticker, foam type) went in the garbage! Many, however, are part of our annual holiday decor.

christmas crafts from kids go mama o

Most recent craft – top left: hand print trees, reindeer painting (2018, Little Brother), reindeer flower pot (2017 Big Sister), hand print tree (Little Brother), ribbon tree (2017 Big Sister).

While most of these projects were made at school, I remember Big Sister making the reindeer flower pot craft in our basement inside of a patio furniture box that transformed into a “workshop / fort” for our her.  She had glue, paint, pipe cleaners and the flower pots all assembled in her work station down there.  In the end, she gave me, Daddy O. and her brother each a reindeer flower pot.  They turned out adorable, and we were proud of her for putting so much effort into these gifts.

The hand prints are getting bigger through the years, and I can’t help but wonder when they’ll stop doing these hand print crafts.  At seven and nine, my kiddos are growing up for sure, but still firmly believe in the magic of Christmas.  Big Sister wrote a letter to Santa for our elf Fred to deliver to him. Elf on the Shelf proved to be an amazing way to motivate the kids to get out of bed in the month of December. It was really fun and very sweet.

Here was a new event that Big Sister created at grandma and grandpa’s house this year:

jingle bell sing along

Big Sister’s first concert for family

What will next year hold for our family? How much longer will these sweet traditions last?  I can’t predict for sure.

And while some traditions fade away (and I may will be a little sad), I hope we’ll find a way to make new family traditions. Until that day comes, I’m just going to soak up and savor all of the sweetness and joy that this parenting gig can hold.

This is what I found on the back of Little Brother’s hand print craft:

thank you for being my mama

A sweet note just for me

 

 

When does a House Feel like Home?

As I’ve mentioned before, we have moved within the last year. I even wrote about songs for house hunting back over summer. We found our now house last winter, but didn’t close and move until almost summertime. Since then, we have did our share of “breaking it in” and making it our own through painting, a lot of cleaning, hosting cook outs, a backyard camp-out, dinners, lunches, and birthday parties. With each event, we’ve had to look for that one thing that we only use occasionally (which box is that in, now?), and we’ve been able to figure out what works best in our new space.

Now with the  holidays quickly approaching, we have decorated our house and it truly feels like home. No other holiday holds so many memories of loved ones and special traditions than Christmas.

I’ve had the chance to re-arrange and play around with our existing holiday decor and find some new pieces for our new home. In our last home we didn’t have a fireplace or mantle, so I hung our stockings on a bookshelf or on the side of an entertainment center. In our new home, I am so happy to have our stockings hung up on the mantle. I took a recent selfie with my kids in front of the fireplace.

go-mama-o-selfie-and-christmas-stockings

Yay – all dressed in red and posing so cute in front of the fireplace.

It was really special putting up our tree and decorating it as a family. The kids helped put on the ornaments so quickly and only minor adjustments were needed. So many ornaments tell our families collective story, from baby 1st Christmas ornaments, to ornaments of our grandparents who live on in our hearts. The ornaments on the tree are so very personal – and so at home in our house. Our cat even approves and has assumed her usual place hanging out under the tree.

cat-by-christmas-tree

Good kitty!

As I mentioned in my post, A Time of Patience, we have enjoyed lighting the advent wreath during family dinners. With the first real snowfall, we even managed to light a fire. Once it was going, we hung out together, playing games and reading. It was peaceful and cozy – very homey.

christmas-decor-go-mama-o

Top – Our advent wreath centerpiece, enjoying Christmas lights on our tree, and our first fire in our fireplace. 

All of these decorations and moments that we have shared as a family as we prepare for Christmas and the coming of the New Year have solidified the feeling of being home. As the song says, “There’s no place like home for the holidays,” and I couldn’t agree more.

It’s good to be home.

 

5 Things in my Holiday Survival Kit

I’ve had good intentions of wanting to blog this month, but have been distracted with the busyness that is typical of the holiday season. In the spirit of wanting to share some thoughts, I put together a top 5 list of things in my Holiday Survival Kit.

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A few things that make our holidays easier: Coffee, heated blanket (see snow & cold), Christmas lights.

Side note – I know we all have moments where we think about just “surviving” through the holidays. There is certainly a negative connotation with the word “survival.” Certainly we want to absorb, enjoy and relax in the company of loved ones during this special time of year instead of merely survive.  In other words, here are some things to make the holidays easier and more pleasant in my humble opinion:

  1. Coffee / select beverages: Late nights of wrapping gifts or celebrating too hard at holiday parties make coffee a necessity in my book! I discovered an organic coffee from a local roaster at our neighborhood Italian bakery. Love it! Other selected beverages in our house mean some apple cider, mulled cranberry juice / red wine (like we enjoyed at Austrian Christkindl markets), and a classic old fashioned mixed drink – make mine sweet with brandy.

    old fashioned mixed drink

    Old Fashioneds – a classic family get-together drink. Daddy O. makes the best ones!

  2. Gym Membership: After having a double header of Thanksgiving meals, I felt a little lethargic and lazy.  A few trips to the gym just make me feel and sleep better.
  3. Heated Blanket: It can get COLD in Wisconsin, so we love turning on our heated blanket to be cozy & warm and catch some needed Z’s!
  4. The Internet – This is one big old category, but it IS the BEST for shopping, streaming Netflix, and streaming variety of holiday tunes. What would we do without it?! Kids, ignore all of the boxes.
  5. Christmas Lights: There is something so peaceful about sitting in the glow of our lit Christmas tree. As a family we love looking at holiday lights, shouting, “lights out big sister’s / little brother’s side.”  It is pure joy seeing their excitement and sense of wonder at it all. Lights in general are an excellent reminder of the true spirit of Christmas.
enjoying our Christmas tree as a family

Last year I captured the magic of seeing our Christmas tree fully decorated. I just love these pictures!

The Light of Christmas 

It’s more than simply the lights that decorate our trees and homes. It’s the light we hold in our hearts and share with others not only at this time of year, but the entire year through. We need to be the “light” for one another, spreading joy, peace, hope, and love.

There are so many ways to share and care this time of year through giving of gifts, time, and money to so many causes. My kids and I shopped for presents to be given to the less fortunate in our area, and I was so impressed by the time and thought they put into selecting their gift to give away. There was no whining, complaining or fighting at the store, so this mom was quite pleased! This was one small way of giving back, and hopefully teaching my kids a little about being “light” for others.

The best cure for surviving the stress of the holidays is to look to the light.  Appreciate the season and reflect on its core meaning: peace, joy and love.

Wishing you all happiness this holiday season!

What helps you through the holidays? What traditions do you have to help spread or be the light?